The Salem Fire-EMS Department has plenty to be proud of, and soon they will introduce a new, one-of-a-kind emblem, designed by their own firefighter, Erin Barger.
The department, founded in 1854, is one of the oldest in the state. The new emblem, with its intricate gold lettering and maroon background, is rooted in tradition, and is unlike any other in the nation.
“We really wanted to personalize the patch to our department,” Chief John Prillaman said. “One of the things things that I’ve tried to do in my short time here is bring a lot of traditions back. Really, we’re trying to step into the new age and embrace technology and all of the new tactics while remembering where we came from.”
The design, which will be formally introduced on Sept. 1, is inspired by a double-sided antique checkerboard that has been in the fire administration building for years, and has similar lettering.
“We can’t even trace the history of the table,” Prillaman said. “We’ve talked to our oldest retirees. It’s the classic look, just like our patch. It’s neat to see that it is something that someone did years ago. The volunteers used to play, and they’d have two checker games going on at once. The script, “SFD,” does have some history within our department.”
One of the things the department is proud of is their recent Insurance Service Office (ISO) Class 2 scoring. The scale ranges from ISO Class 1-10, with 1 being the best score. Ranking ISO Class 2 puts the department in the top 2 percent of fire departments across the nation. Only 1,164 departments in the nation are currently ranked ISO Class 2. The department hopes to move into the ISO Class 1 range, which is occupied by only 178 departments nationwide. The better the ISO score, the smoother a department runs. It is also a tool used by insurance writers when calculating premiums when local businesses shop for insurance.
“The things we can improve, we’re working to do that,” Prillman said. “We’ve already purchased an online software program to track our training and our meetings. We have implemented quite a few policies. We believe that if we make the changes that we have set out to make over the next couple of years, we can easily get into an ISO 1.”
Earlier in the year, the department was an ISO 4. Prillaman said the change is all about detail and documentation.
“We were doing good things, and what I consider above and beyond type work, but we weren’t documenting it as much as we should,” he said. “When we do training classes, we make sure that it is documented.”
Due to an increase in EMS calls, the department has added staff, and is now staffing ambulances with firefighters. Right now, the department has 63 full-time employees, and around 24 part-time EMS employees.
Also effective Sept. 1, captains in the department will now be considered battalion chiefs, and lieutenants will be considered captains. The change won’t instigate a pay raise, but will level the playing field when working with other departments in the area.
“It makes things a little easier,” Prillaman said. “If we have an incident where we have a captain and that captain does the same job as a battalion chief from one of the other localities, it has happened where they do the same job, but their rank was higher than we were.”
Prillaman has been chief for about a year and a half now. He said when Barger developed the emblem prototype, it was extremely popular with personnel. Some quickly made T-shirts displaying it.
The station recently received a grant to purchase a new ladder truck, which was dedicated with a traditional ceremony and retiring of the old truck, and a “wet down” of the new one, which was pushed into service by Fire Station 1 members on June 22. The new truck is the first piece of department equipment to officially adorn the new emblem.
The department plans to instate a two-year plan, gradually adding the patch to new uniforms. The current patch will be acceptable to wear for a while. Several staff vehicles have been ordered with the design.