The Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, March 19, had standing room only as members of the Plympton Fire Department and numerous intrigued residents attended to hear firsthand the report of MRI, Municipal Resources, Inc.
Plympton had hired Municipal Resources, Inc. to conduct an assessment of the town’s fire and emergency medical services (EMS) and provide recommendations to help the town develop a plan to maximize its resources.
Bob Loomer of MRI spoke with the aid of a Power Point presentation detailing the scope of the report and its recommendations to the town. Loomer told the group that he himself is a retired fire chief of a small town and can empathize with the problems of maintaining a call fire department. The main goals of the report are to indicate the fiscal impact of EMS service on taxpayers, identify areas of improvement, and help assist with the beginning steps of sharing services with other surrounding towns, if decided upon.
The Plympton Fire Department provides fire, rescue, and EMS services at the advanced life support (ALS) level. At the time of the assessment, the roster listed three full-time personnel, and 25 part-time or on-call members. Of those 25, eleven were firefighters/paramedics, eleven were firefighter/EMT Basics, two were EMTs, and one was a firefighter.
The assessment of the fire and EMS services included a cost/revenue projection for a five-year period, response times compared to national standards, areas of concern within the Plympton Fire Department to be questioned and addressed by shared service towns, a comparison of success compared to privatized EMS services, to see if the needs of the town are being met, and lastly, the number of on-call workers and the distance to Plympton from their residence.
To conduct their research, MRI inspected the Plympton Fire Department property, including vehicles, response time logs, and conducted interviews with department members. The general consensus, Loomer reported, was that members of the Plympton Fire Department feel they are lacking direction, and are unable to fulfill the entirety of their job requirements, and that the department itself is small, with inadequate housing for the staff, and dangerous due to the lack of an exhaust filtration system. The report also expressed concern for the lack of staff with a Firefighter I/II certification, which is a national standard, not legal requirement, and also response times.
MRI revealed only 18 out of 35 personnel had documented Firefighter I/II training or certification. They also calculated that more than 50 percent of the time, first responders took longer than the national standard to arrive at the scene. Andrew Norton, a current member of the Plympton Fire Department, questioned the accuracy of the numbers reported, as the department takes pride in their fast response times. Norton said he can include instances of a hiccup in the system stating, “On the day of the storm March 3, it was clocked that first responders arrived at the scene of an electrical fire after 27 mins…It had actually taken us two minutes to arrive, but truck two arrived 25 minutes later.”
Other previous fire department personnel for the town of Plympton expressed the value of experience on scenes of events, and how their experience should be considered comparable to the Firefighter I/II certification. Town members also addressed the overwhelming amount of responsibilities put upon EMS and Fire services, and the lack of availability to receive the certification, which again is a national standard, not a legal necessity.
After close examination, MRI has suggested recommendations in order to maximize Fire and EMS resources for the town. Those included providing specific on-site training for members that would consist of six hours a month, or 72 hours a year. By doing so, MRI believes it will provide the members of the department with some of the structure they feel is lacking.
Next, MRI suggested aiming for a goal of eight minutes response time, 90 percent of the time for first responders, and to arrive in less time for calls anywhere under two miles from the station.
The report further suggested that the PFD bring its equipment down to the right size for the town and for the department. Loomer said that MRI found some equipment was not useful and likely cost more to maintain than it was of value to the department. Because there is so little room in the fire station, it is difficult to maintain the equipment there and things are not kept in good order. A review of the equipment on hand compared to the equipment needed would help the department.
MRI stressed it did not suggest privatization for the ambulance service, since their research shows that it would cost more than the town is currently paying, and that the town should continue to consider shared services with Halifax, or possibly other surrounding towns. The last recommendation is to apply for SAFER grants through the state, that would provide funding for improved equipment and property.
Selectman Chairman Christine Joy stated that the next step Plympton will take is to create a Fire Advisory Committee to help the town and the fire department to begin reaching some of the goals set by the recommendations from MRI. Any volunteers interested in joining the committee are encouraged to come forward.
In other business:
Kimberly DeWolfe was appointed as a full-time firefighter/paramedic for the town of Plympton. She has been an EMT since 2003, and a medic since 2010, where she has worked under intense situations of Dorchester and Brockton, and received her Firefighter I/II certification.
The meeting ended with positive feedback for the Historical Commission meeting on Saturday, March 17. There, it was announced there will be a Town Clean Up Day coming this spring, which will be announced at a later meeting.
There were also concerns for the marching band for the Memorial Day Parade, as the school is no longer available. Any interested musicians are encouraged to volunteer and may contact the town hall.
Dates to Remember:
Monday, March 26- Selectmen’s Meeting
Monday, April 2-Selectmen’s Meeting
Monday, April 9-Selectmen’s Meeting