It might be difficult for those who now live with 911 and OnStar at their fingertips to believe, but there once was a time when it was a toss-up if you could get to a hospital in time to save your life if you were seriously injured or sick. If you were dying of a heart attack you were as likely to get picked up by your local mortician's wagon as a private ambulance service. Or you hoped a loved one would break the traffic laws to get you help. And rarely did any of these means have the medical knowledge to keep you alive until you got there.
Then "Emergency!" came on the scene in the early 70's like, well, a screaming red fire engine and gave a lackadaisical America a shot of epinephrine to jolt it to its senses. Created by hit writer/producer Jack Webb (Dragnet; Adam-12) "Emergency!" was a fictionalized but still realistic look at how firefighting and emergency services were being dragged into the 20th century, particularly emphasizing the new-to-most and still dubious field of paramedical treatment. The show got its point across to the average American by showing dedicated but regular professionals going about their jobs of helping people and saving lives. Even when the general public wasn't always forthcoming in their gratitude.
Most of the show's action centered around the fictional Fire Station 51 (real-life Station 127 in Carson, CA) and its 6-man A-shift crew, but also emphasized the ER staff of Squad 51's base station at Rampart General (Harbor-UCLA Medical Center). Plus, LA County had no lack of children stuck in trees, linemen electrocuted by downed power lines, unwary boaters smoking too close to fuel tanks, and your garden variety chemical plant infernos to keep the action hopping. The show did occasionally slip into schmaltz and cliché but it still managed to make firefighting and medicine look not too-overly glamorous yet still an exciting challenge. Stories of the 1000's upon 1000's of young people the show inspired into emergency careers are legendary.
The show has recently been released on DVD by Universal so a whole new generation can now see what all the fuss was about. Plus, how shows like "ER" and "Third Watch" got their way paved. Emergency services have evolved with time and technology and, yes, hairstyles have *definitely* changed since its heyday, but "Emergency!" still has a timeless joy and energy to it that will never be dated. And it's still a thrill to hear Station 51's call-out klaxon go, "beep-boop-BRAAAKK!"