Town, Fire Company Disagree On Special Event Coverage

BERLIN– The town could soon be issuing a request for proposals for ambulance coverage at special events.

A discussion at this week’s council meeting highlighted the fact that the town and the Berlin Fire Company haven’t been able to come to an agreement regarding special event EMS coverage.

“It’s a difference of opinion on the placement of the apparatus,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said. “We as the Town of Berlin have determined that the best place would be on site, that is a best practice. They believe the best placement would be at the firehouse. It’s a matter of agreeing to disagree but we’re not going to fund something that goes against what we’ve requested.”

At the end of Monday’s council meeting, Councilman Jack Orris asked for an update on EMS coverage during special events. In October officials agreed to spend about $8,000 to fund extra shifts for Berlin Fire Company EMS to ensure there was adequate coverage during certain special events—including Ice Ice Berlin and New Year’s Eve.

Tyndall told the council that though they’d requested an ambulance on site during those events, the fire company indicated that wouldn’t be happening.

“The fire company believes that’s not something they can do,” Tyndall said. “With that we still want EMS coverage downtown for events. I think we’re at a point where we probably need to start looking at issuing an RFP to see if we can get some coverage for downtown.”

He said the best practice was to have EMS on site

“For Ice Ice Berlin, there were a number of issues that were cited, one of which was medications getting exposed to the temperatures,” he said. “No matter where you look it is not a best practice to turn the unit off during extreme temperatures. They keep idle for that very purpose, whether it’s in the summer or the winter… With that being said, I even said to the fire company that in addition to the charges for staff time the town would pay reasonable fuel costs if they speculated how much that would be in advance and they said they couldn’t comply with that.”

When asked if the town had the extra shift requested during Ice Ice Berlin, Tyndall said it did not. He stressed that the town should have on site coverage during special events though even if proposals had to be sought.

“we just need on site coverage. It’s something we can work toward I hope. But I think and RFP should and would be a prudent route to take for EMS coverage.”

Councilman Dean Burrell said he was sure the fire company had a professional reason for recommending the ambulance be stationed at headquarters rather than within the event space.

“Try to be just a little more gentle when you’re dealing with the fire department and expect they would use their professional expertise when they’re offering an opinion of this nature,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday, David Fitzgerald, president of the fire company, said there were indeed reasons for the ambulance crew to cover the shift from the station on Main Street.

“Mr. Burrell put it nicely,” Fitzgerald said. “The mayor and council should be listening to the professional opinions of our EMS officers.”

He said the ambulance was stationed at headquarters, which was only 500 feet away from the event perimeter, so traffic and crowding didn’t impact service.

“We can provide a much better response from headquarters,” Fitzgerald said.

He added that the fire and EMS study the town commissioned several years ago supported that.

“This is the mayor interfering in the operations of EMS and not respecting the opinions of EMS officers,” he said.

Fitzgerald added that the extra crew had in fact been on duty, at the firehouse, during Ice Ice Berlin.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.