r By Ken Wright
From the advent of modern EMS systems in the mid-70’s until 1986, Payson and Spanish Fork provided ambulance service for Salem. Extended response times inspired the formation of a first-responders group of Salem citizens. These first responders would provide aid until the ambulance arrived. Twenty Salem residents volunteered and completed a course taught by Spanish Fork Ambulance personnel in 1987.
In the early days, Salem EMS personnel sometimes responded to SR 198 and waited on the side of the road to be picked up by the responding ambulance or responded straight to the scene. “CQI” or Continuous Quality Improvement is the bedrock of EMS and, more than a goal, is an obsession. The original Salem EMS contingent determined to become trained at a higher level and start an ambulance service that would respond from Salem, greatly reducing response time to life-threatening incidents. Crews initially responded in an old “brush truck” from the fire department until an early member found her uncle had a 10-year-old “retired”Provo ambulance at his auction in Benjamin. The rest is history.
Most of the original ambulance crew have moved on. Only Erman Stone, the original (and current) captain remains. We now have two ambulances, both a little newer than 1978. The folks who work the ambulance today are just as dedicated and enthusiastic.
Karen Booth, with 30 years on the service, said that during her kids’ entire lives growing up, the first question before asking to be taken anywhere was, “Are you on call?” They knew if she was, they couldn’t be taken anywhere beyond her four-minute required response time to the station.
Brian Jensen moved from Salem, but didn’t give up the service. When he’s on call, he sleeps at his sister’s house in Salem to meet the response-time requirement.
For some it’s a family affair. Jim Ealey, also the Salem fire chief, works a crew with his wife, Marcia, and now their daughter, Monica, who is completing the EMT-Basic course.
Richard Seitz was driving past the open station doors one day and saw the ambulances. Feeling he should do something to help, he stopped to ask if he could help with washing the ambulances or straightening up the station. Little did he know he would become one of the favored ambulance drivers. Although Rich never certified as an EMT, he is a valuable member of the team. No equipment gets left behind, no paperwork is unsigned with Rich on the job.
There are many other great people that make up this team, but whom space prevents me from mentioning.
It’s highly likely that you also have something to offer even if, like Rich, you never become a certified EMT. Do you design websites? Is your organization looking for a great entity to sponsor? Something else? Send an email if you are interested in supporting SEMA’s life-saving work. Also, let us know if there Is a special condition, cultural consideration, or other information we should know when responding? Email kenwrightsalemEMS@gmail.com.