Fire Chief Says That ‘Time is Muscle’
Success of recovery from a cardiac event is dependent on how fast help can arrive.
Marion County Fire District #1 is celebrating EMS Week May 16-23, 2021 and encouraging the public to take part. The national event seeks to raise awareness for frontline workers who provide life-saving emergency medical care.
Fire Chief Kyle McMann says that EMS Week is happening at a time when the Fire District is facing unprecedented challenges. For the past year and a half, COVID-19 has stretched the agency’s resources thin with higher call volumes and costly response protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
Then, in the middle of the pandemic, MCFD#1 lost 30 percent of its operating revenue when its local option levy was not renewed. Twelve firefighter/paramedics were laid off, stations closed, and apparatus taken out of service due to loss of funding.
As a result, response times have increased by more than a minute. In 60 seconds, patients can experience brain and heart muscle damage from lack of oxygen due to stroke or heart attack.
“We have a saying in emergency services, and that is ‘time is muscle,’” said Chief McMann. “EMS Week comes at a critical time for our agency when we’re asking voters to help us reduce response times.”
The Fire District is back on the ballot for the May 18 Special District Election asking voters to approve a local option levy for a lesser amount of $0.59 per $1,000 of assessed property value. (A home’s assessed value is lower than its market value.) The levy would fund nine full-time firefighter/paramedics for five years to increase the number of responding emergency units to four.
“We used to have 5.5 units responding, and now we’re down to three,” said Chief McMann. “At times, there are no units available, or just one unit to cover all 80 square miles of our service territory. This is not safe. Response times will continue to increase if we can’t hire more emergency personnel.”
In 2020, MCFD#1 responded to 8,118 emergency calls – a 50 percent increase compared to seven years ago. The Fire District is an independent taxing district and receives no revenue from Marion County, the state or federal government. More information about the Fire District and the local option levy can be found at www.mcfd1.com.