When you hear the wailing siren of a South Kitsap Fire and Rescue emergency vehicle, it’s more than likely headed to help save the life of a community member dealing with a medical emergency, not extinguish a house fire.
The vital services provided by SKFR’s paramedics and support staff are essential to the burgeoning South Kitsap community and should be strongly supported at election time this fall. Voters living within the area served by SKFR are urged to cast their Aug. 3 primary election ballot to renew a levy that pays for emergency medical service (EMS) to our area.
SKFR, the largest emergency services agency in Kitsap County, provides fire and emergency medical services to 78,000 people over a 117-square-mile area in South Kitsap. That population is bound to grow as Kitsap County — and especially the southern part of the Kitsap Peninsula — absorbs a significant portion of the overflow generated by the overheated economic engine of urban King County and Seattle.
The reasons to renew the EMS levy are clear-cut and persuasive. SKFR and other fire services agencies justifiably grab headlines as crews mount operations to tamp down brush and wildfires that seem to have become annual summertime occurrences. And certainly, that’s an essential part of their fire-fighting mission.
But their expertise also is needed to attend to medical emergencies. In fact, more than 70% of the calls SKFR respond to involve helping people in a medical crisis — and that percentage is growing. That’s an increase of nearly 22% in call volume for EMS-related incidents since 2015.
There’s a cost to the community for that service, of course. But we believe it’s a reasonable one, considering that SKFR responds to an average of 10,500 calls a year. The six-year EMS levy before voters in August is capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the identical amount voters approved in 2015. It is separate from the current fire levy that’s capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The EMS levy funding provides the South Kitsap community with 24-hour, 365-days-a-year coverage provided by emergency personnel with the latest training and certifications, emergency vehicles, medical equipment and supplies.
Minutes count when paramedic crews respond to a medical emergency. And paying to adequately fund SKFR’s emergency medical services also counts immeasurably in allowing residents, and their loved ones, the assurance that help is just minutes away.