Merging services deserves thought
Thursday, October 10, 2013
It is a story being told in communities across the nation:
Because of improved fire protection devices and because of successful fire protection education provided by local fire departments, the number of fire calls has dropped.
That was the point that Brian Gleason made to the Amherst selectmen recently and it is a point to be pondered given an idea, raised by Gleason, who heads the towns Emergency Medical Services Department:
It might be a good idea to combine the town’s fire and ambulance services.
How it would be done, what it would mean to each service, who would head it, how would firefighters be trained in emergency medical care, how would EMS personnel be trained to fight fires ... all these things are, of course, open to conjecture.
But as towns look to slash their spending, this is an idea that should, at least, be considered.
Gleason made one very important point, and one that might make it easier for both departments to accept such a radical change:
He said that if the choice is left to fire and EMS personnel and not forced upon them by town officials, it could be successful.
He’s right. No department wants to be told that it must accept being folded into another, especially by town officials whom the departments’ personnel might believe know little about their problems or duties. But put the idea on the table and let fire and EMS personnel kick it around? If nothing else, it will get them talking about the future.
And that is what Amherst officials are thinking about now as they discuss strategic planning with local department heads. They are looking several years out and asking those department leaders to do the same.
Thinking about the future of fire and EMS is part of that, and a very important part.