On Feb. 9, 2022, citizens and city leaders gathered at the Salem Convention Center to hear Mayor Chuck Bennett’s State of the City Address. He covered important topics such as police, fire, homelessness, and the economy.
He recognized the Salem Fire Department (SFD) for having the busiest year ever in his address. “Call volume growth increased by double digits for the third year in a row – a 16.9% increase, 30,232 calls for service. Both are historic highs for the organization,” the mayor said.
Salem’s top elected official expressed concern that his council has mandated a response goal to deliver emergency services within 5.5 minutes, 85% of the time. With the city’s population rising 13.5% over the last two decades, the call volume for SFD has increased by 80%. Bennett said, as a result, SFD was only able to meet that standard 61.6% of the time.
“That translates to over 5,126 people in 2021 that experienced a critical, life-threatening emergency and had to wait longer than 5.5 minutes for emergency responders to arrive…we need more firefighters/EMT’s to keep up with the increasing demands for service,” the mayor said.
Mayor Bennett told the Salem Convention Center audience that SFD Chief Mike Niblock had “sounded the alarm” that the city is falling behind its obligation to meet safety standards for emergency health and fire response times with the equipment they currently have. He urged citizens and the city council to develop and support plans to meet SFD staffing, and equipment needs.
“That is ten new engine companies and 111 new firefighters,” he added.
Mayor Bennett applauded the Department and the Salem Fire Foundation for their efforts to place AEDs in the community and train over 3,500 8th graders each year.
“The concerted effort of our fire department community efforts, particularly in our schools, has resulted in over 47% of the time, during a sudden cardiac arrest in Salem, a bystander will perform CPR. Thirty percent of the time, they will use a publicly accessible AED, a defibrillator, to shock the victim, tripling their chance for survival. Our overall Salem area save rate was 60% which is phenomenal compared to the national average of 25.5%, complimented the mayor.
Salem Fire Foundation Executive Director, Mary Louise VanNatta, said she was so pleased that the mayor highlighted the work of the SFD and the challenges they face.
“The Foundation leaders were so pleased that the mayor recognized and called attention to the critical needs of our fire department. Citizens must invest in their emergency services as the city grows. In an emergency, seconds count,” VanNatta added.