I would like to respond to the recent article regarding fire and EMS expenses. I do so from the perspective of someone who spent 25 years in public safety serving in law enforcement, EMS and the fire service in two different states. Further I spent time as a fire protection district board member for a district in the foothills of Colorado. Finally, I served as a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Correlating Committee on Professional Qualifications and I was chairman of a committee which drafted a professional qualification standard.
All of us should be aware that the volunteers of our fire service have to meet the same training and standards that are required from full-time personnel. This relates not only to NFPA professional standards, but also to standards relating to protective and safety gear as well as standards for the apparatus. The same is true for our EMS personnel who adhere to rigorous training and performance standards.
I worked for a community that had to change from an all-volunteer fire service, to some paid firefighters for day-time coverage and eventually years later to a full-time department. The first step was to hire enough full-time staff to provide a three-person engine company to respond weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Later there was the need to add the same level of coverage overnight. Volunteers took over at 6 p.m. and slept in the fire house until 6 a.m. This continued until the department became full-time, supplemented by paid-on-call firefighters. The same thing happened with EMS where volunteers and private ambulance services could no longer provide 24/7 coverage. Suddenly though, the one open bunkhouse space that had worked when we only had male volunteers was no longer acceptable as females were working as EMTs and firefighters.
Cambridge EMS is currently paying for off-site housing for EMS staff. If we had adequate sleeping and bathroom facilities we would not have that additional expense. The Cambridge Fire Department is not at this juncture, but it is certainly on the horizon. Who has a crystal ball to know when this will happen? Might it be as early as 2023 when the new station would be completed?
The station is being designed for use over the next 40 to 50 years. What will the population of the fire and EMS service area be in 2060? What industries or businesses will there be? It is vital that our plans and vision be long-range. Otherwise we run the risk of having to remodel and add on year after year. Take the issue of a workout room. The typical turnout gear that a firefighter is required to wear responding to a call weighs about 40 pounds. In order to wear this and do the work required, these firefighters need to be in good shape. This is not a luxury, this is a necessity!
As residents and voters, we will need to decide whether we want to plan for the future or not. This building project will be funded by the taxpayers if the referendum passes. The villages and towns which are served by the Cambridge Fire and EMS Services have a responsibility to provide the communities the level of fire and EMS service the residents and businesses need.
- Ted Vratny, Lake Ripley