When representatives of the Bend Fire Department and Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District were campaigning for their respective five-year local option levies in 2014 they hoped to reduce response times. They did.
They’re back, asking voters to re-up on the same 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value levies for another five years. Their message is a powerful one: We’ve done what we said we would do. Continuing the levies (Measure 9-115 inside the city and Measure 9-116 in the rural district that surrounds the city) will allow them to maintain the improvements and maybe get better.
Among the improvements:
• Quicker response times and a new, tiered system of medical responses have boosted the survival rates of victims of cardiac arrest in the city. Before 2014, that survival rate was only about 20 percent. Now it’s above 50 percent, and in good years it’s substantially higher.
The new system allows the district to send emergency medical technicians, who can provide basic life-support services, to noncritical calls, and the more extensively trained and equipped paramedics to more critical ones. The EMTs hire on for what amounts to a three-year internship. The program includes 20 part-time EMTs.
• In addition, the department has added 18 firefighter/paramedics, more than it had even before the Great Recession.
• The city has been able to replace much of its aging equipment, including some firetrucks that were 23 years old. The newer trucks are better equipped than their predecessors.
• Training has improved both for medical service providers and firefighters.
• Firefighters as well as EMTs reach fires and medical emergencies more quickly. Five years ago the department reached in-city emergencies within nine minutes 80 percent of the time. Today, it reaches those same emergencies within six minutes 80 percent of the time and hopes to reduce response times further. The rural district has cut response times to 9 minutes from 11.
City and fire district residents face a simple question next month: Keep the improved service levels or let them slide back? Vote to keep them.