EAST PEORIA — When moving to a community, people often look at education, taxes and amenities that a city offers. One amenity that people may not be aware of in East Peoria is that the cardiac arrest survival rate is twice the national average. This is due to the East Peoria Fire Department.

Editor’s note: This is part 3 of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast. Other commissioner’s presentations will be in the next edition.

EAST PEORIA — When moving to a community, people often look at education, taxes and amenities that a city offers. One amenity that people may not be aware of in East Peoria is that the cardiac arrest survival rate is twice the national average. This is due to the East Peoria Fire Department.

City Commissioner John Kahl, who is over public health and safety, presented a report about the Fire Department with statistics compiled by Fire Chief Al Servis.

Kahl emphasized the good service the department provides, including the cardiac arrest survival rate.

“I don’t know of any other community south of I-80 that has that,” he said. “Basically that means every engine company and every ambulance is paramedic.”

The night before Kahl gave his presentation at the Eggs & Issues breakfast March 4 at the Par-A-Dice Hotel, his fellow city commissioner Dan Decker, who is an East Peoria firefighter, was involved in saving a life. 

“Commissioner Decker was on duty last night and once again, they revived one of our citizens that was in full arrest,” Kahl said.

The Fire Department consists of 45 members with a total budget of $5.6 million for 2015-16. Under Servis, there are three assistant fire chiefs who have dual roles. One serves as a fire marshal, one does fire training and operations and another is an EMS coordinator. The Fire Department has three shifts with three fire stations. Each shift has three lieutenants and 13 firefighters. On Sept. 1, 2015, Al Servis was sworn in as the new fire chief, replacing William Darin, who retired. 

“Not only has he done an extremely outstanding job to date, he was our first paramedic fire chief that we have,” Kahl said.

On Sept. 1, other history was made as the first female company officer, Veronica Marmitt was promoted to lieutenant. 

In 2015, the Fire Department had 3,737 calls 

and 9,231 responses (any time a unit leaves a fire station). Of the 3,737 calls, 2,640 of these calls were emergency/medical and 77 were fires. The call volume in 2015 increased over 2014 by 11.5 percent, Kahl said.

“As you can tell,” Kahl said referring to a slide during a Power Point presentation, “That was the highest call volume we’ve had in the last decade.” 

The East Peoria Fire Department is unique in central Illinois, Kahl said, because the entire department is advanced life support. The average officer on the department has 18 years of experience and it takes 11 years of experience to hold an engine company. 

“We offer nearly 30 years of experience on each engine company and when combined with an ambulance crew that’s nearly 50 years of experience on every single call,” Kahl said.

The Fire Department purchased a $500,000 fire service apparatus (fire engine) in 2015. 

“The new fire engine is an upgrade. It replaces engine 3, which was replaced back in 2006 and this is based at Station 3 down on East Washington,” Kahl said.

In 2015, there were 28 structure fires. The Fire Department responded: 71 percent of the time in under 5 minutes; 82 percent of the time in under 6 minutes; and 98 percent of the time in under 8 minutes.

The total value of the buildings that caught fire in 2015 was $690,000. Of that amount, $155,000 was considered a loss. 

“That was due to quick response time and the type of service that we offer,” Kahl said.

The East Peoria Fire Department also offers mutual aide to four nearby communities.

Other ways the Fire Department is involved in the community include hosting the annual Center for Prevention of Abuse’s Duck Race, teaching fire prevention in schools, cooling off St. Jude runners, supporting breast cancer awareness by wearing pink shirts in October, raising money for MDA in September, being active with the Honor Flight and offering free CPR training, with over 300 students trained in 2015.

Some goals for the future include an emphasis on training, Kahl said.

“Part of that is fire safety inspections for all city public schools, which we will now be doing. Three officers currently are certified as public school inspectors,” Kahl said. 

“We had 850 business inspections by company officers and that’s going to be tied into one of the goals this year … a need to integrate code enforcement and inspections. We actually have over 1,500 businesses here in East Peoria, and as we continue to grow there’s a real need to change the way we do business from a life safety standpoint,” Kahl said.