After talking with some friends from Maine, it occurred to us that it might be worth considering an alternative to the current fire and rescue model, which is to house fire and rescue operations under the same roof. Perhaps there is a better way to go about it.

In many towns in Maine, for example, fire and rescue operate as different departments. It makes some sense.

Fire operations are broad-ranging. Firefighters, of course, put out fires. But they do a lot more. As was recounted in a July story in the Enterprise about a particularly busy weekend, firefighters responded to a dog trapped under the seat of a car, transported police to Washburn Island, dealt with a customer who was trapped in a restaurant’s elevator, and provided backup to the Bourne Fire Department, which was fighting a structure fire. Nothing out of the ordinary; it’s what our fire department does, and the work is greatly appreciated by the people of Falmouth.

The work of EMTs is more focused; they respond to medical emergencies, and their work requires a very different expertise.

Maybe it’s time to separate these functions in Falmouth.

Mashpee Fire Chief Thomas Rullo, and many others, took exception to our editorial last week in which we wondered why it was that a patient was being rushed to the hospital, despite not having a life-threatening condition. Paramedics, Chief Rullo pointed out, are not physicians and must respond according to the symptoms they see.

Well, perhaps emergency medical services should be provided by physicians.

Perhaps emergency services should be provided by Cape Cod Healthcare or another healthcare organization. We have no idea whether this is feasible or whether there is a health organization willing to undertake it, but ambulance service represents a fair amount of revenue. Fees in Falmouth range from $1,300 to $2,400, depending on the nature of the call. The busy week the Enterprise reported in July involved 200 calls, about 80 percent, or 160, of which were medical. If 100 of those calls involved ambulances, that represents from $130,000 to $240,000 charged over three days.

If emergency medical services were separated from general fire safety, it could change what the town needs in the way of a new building to service North and West Falmouth.

From the response to our editorial about the ambulance accident on Route 151, we expect our musings will not be well received. But sometimes it’s important to question the status quo; there might be a better way to do things.

(1) comment


Boston has a Fire service AND Boston EMS. They need to-they have lots of fires. But do other cities in Mass. split their services? The Editor is making this proposal based on one incident. And physicians in ambulances? Let's be realistic. I think most people are satisfied with the way it's done now, but that doesn't mean that the current procedures should not be reviewed and debated. Legal issues may enter into the way it's done now as well.

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