Monday, May 2, 2016

Fire Response Times and Land Use on the Edges

Emergency response times in Salem - via Kailuweit for Council
Here's an interesting post over on Jan Kailuweit's election page. He cites it as evidence we need to reopen fire stations and raise emergency staffing levels.
ALARMING GRAPHIC. The Salem Fire Dept. responded to 20,000 calls last year, mostly medical emergencies. But for many Salemites the average response time is over 6-8 min. If cardiac arrest patients receive help within 1-2 min. the survival rate is 90%, at 7 min. it is 30%. Let's support our firefighter and work toward reopening at least one of the two closed stations....

I believe Salem needs to add back the public safety positions that were cut during the recession. It’s not ok that parts of Salem have no adequate police coverage at times. This also means working towards re-opening the two closed fire stations.
But, you know, there's another way to read this evidence.

Development and growth on the car-dependent edges
(from the May EOA-HNA slide deck)
The "red zones" of slow response time overlap quite a bit with vacant, buildable land on the edges of our urban growth boundary. Are we sure we need to spend lots of scarce resources to improve service times on super-low-density edges?

Age of water mains in Rockford, IL - vis Strong Towns
This brought to mind a post from a couple of months ago at Strong Towns:
This map depicts the age of water mains within Rockford’s water system, a rainbow radiating out from the banks of the Rock River that show the story of the city’s development. Those pretty pink and purple lines indicate pipes that were installed over a century ago, and in fact, there are 120 miles of pipe that were installed pre-WWII and have exceeded their useful life of 70 years. The City CIP indicates an additional $200M is needed, today, to replace those pipes (for perspective, the full 2015-2019 CIP totals only $139M). Public Works aims to replace 3-4 miles of pipe every year but a combination of unexpected breaks requiring emergency repair and deviation from the scheduled triage of replacement due to road work projects has led to only about one mile of pipe being replaced each year for the past decade.
In transportation, in water and sewer, and perhaps also in emergency response, we don't take seriously enough the costs, including maintenance and replacement, to service new development on the edges of the city. Rather than building new infrastructure or overinvesting in trying to serve areas distant from more centrally located city sites, which is a costly and inefficient way to deliver city services and adds to future maintenance obligations, maybe we should focus on making sure new development is near existing infrastructure and existing service areas.

Back to Salem, there still also might be a point about equity here. Two red areas on the map are also mostly already built out according to the EOA-HNA map: the far southeast and the far northeast. It may be that there is a stronger argument for improved service levels here.

Even if we might come to some different conclusions here, the question is a reasonable one. This is good example the kinds of data-driven, substantive discussions we should want more of in Salem.

(Comments are open, but please keep discussion on the policy questions here, not on Kailuweit's fitness as a candidate or that of his opponent.)


Jim Scheppke said...

I think there is a strong possibility that we are spending too much on our Fire Department already. I found this article by our former Secretary of State to be very informative:

I think our Fire Department needs a serious reassessment. We need to see why it costs so much and what we might be able to do to get more bang for the buck. Some strapped cities in Michigan and elsewhere have combined their police and fire departments to one department of Emergency Services, cutting out a whole layer of administration. There is also the question of why not consolidate with some the fire districts in our immediate vicinity. I'm sure there are many other ideas that an expert in best practices of fire departments around the country could recommend.

Diana Dickey said...

The "new" development in northeast Salem began developing in the early 90s and some a little earlier than that. The unincorporated sections of northeast Salem are serviced by Marion County Fire District. I would love to see coordinated fire service that serves both City and County. In the abscence of that, restoring fire service to previous levels is the way to go. There is definitely a challenge in providing emergency services on the fringes of the city. While substantial residential development has occurred in north Salem in recent decades (and a large number of older existing homes ) it has been frustrating to me that there is a noticeable lack of neighborhood centered commercial and retail services.

Unknown said...

Thanks for offering some critical analysis on this issue, it’s very much appreciated. I think at the very least it demonstrates that the problems Salem faces -- such as emergency services response times -- are complex and require this type of comprehensive critical thinking and thoughtful discussion to arrive at a good solution. Rarely does doing just one thing solve the problem.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Seven years ago my husband had a massive heart attack while walking on 45th St NE. He miraculously survived not because the Fire Department and Ambulance. They arrived in 4 minutes. He survived because a few passers by stopped and helped him. One who knew CPR actually made the difference in not only his survival, but his walking out of the hospital 16 days later with virtually no impairment.

Do not get me wrong. It was fantastic to have the Fire Department and EMTs get there so quickly and for them to have had the special equipment to begin his treatment. It took 12 minutes to get to the Hospital and several more once there to figure out the problem and get him the necessary therapy to open up the blockage that was causing the heart attack.

Getting service to a person as quickly as possible is a good point. But thinking that the Fire Department needs to be the first responder in heart attack cases is misguided. The doctor told us that the fact my husband survived was in no small way due to the fact that there was a person who could give good CPR within a minute was key.

No Fire Department or EMT is likely to be close enough (unless there is one on every other block) to help make this difference. That is why the Fire Department is pushing the idea of training people in CPR and launched the phone app that alerts people that someone close by has called for service due to a heart attack.

A good question is why is the EMT on the fire truck? Why can't they be on the ambulance. If the ambulance had the EMTs and the needed equipment aboard, then we could save the wear and tear on the very expensive fire trucks. Why are we sending two vehicles to one event? I mean I know the reason now. I am saying that we should look at changing that situation.

I wonder if we should not be investing more in basic CPR training and first aid training. I know that when I was in high school both were required as part of our PE classes. I think that we got away from that training in recent decades. Wouldn't it make sense that if the children were trained, we could be saving lives? Why doesn't the City's Fire Department offer free classes. I know Red Cross does some classes, but they are too few and cost money.

Response time is also very important in an actual fire. Some people say that the Fire Department wastes money on over-time rather than hiring more EMTs or firemen. I'd like to have that matter examined more.

In West Salem we have two fire stations but only one is manned. Why one is standing empty is a good question, but also, why are they both placed so close together? One is on Doaks Ferry and the other on Orchard Heights. In the Big One and if the bridge goes down, we are going to be in a lot of trouble!