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Please note: Town offices will be closed on Monday, January 20 in observance of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
News & Issues
Focus on Falmouth Fire-EMS
In January 2020, the results of a Falmouth Fire-EMS staffing study will be submitted to the Falmouth Town Council. In advance of that report, this special series will explore Falmouth Fire-EMS by looking at its history, the role of volunteerism in the provision of fire services, and the evolving function of the department and the service it provides to our community today. Click the links to see the first two installments: "A History of Service," "Generations of Service," and "Expanding Service."
Challenges of Service
Though still in use today, the title of “volunteer firefighter” is a misnomer. For many years, the Town of Falmouth has been paying individuals for answering fire and emergency medical service (EMS) calls. In the 1980s the payment was $5 per call. That payment increased from $7 to $10, until it was changed in the early 2000s to an hourly rate based on longevity and certifications.
Yet payment for call services is not always an incentive for recruiting and retaining new members. Fire departments across Maine note the societal changes contributing to a decline in those interested in call or per diem firefighting. The growth in two-income households, with both partners working outside the home, increased family commitments, and children’s extra-curricular activities often deter individuals from joining their local fire department. Additionally, individuals are also more likely to work outside their hometown. This lack of proximity means they cannot respond to calls during their work hours. Even for those who work locally, leaving their workplace to answer multiple calls each day is simply not feasible. Maine’s aging population is also a factor in recruitment and retention. Maine is the oldest state in the country with a median age of 44.6. Aside from the disinterest from many younger citizens, there are not as many of them as the current baby boomer generation, which makes up around 28% of Maine’s population. An article in the December 20 issue of the Falmouth Focus, discussed Falmouth’s recruitment and retention efforts in greater detail.
In the early 2000s, with a shrinking body of service members, Falmouth Fire-EMS began looking for ways to improve efficiencies. By 2009, Station 3 (Pleasant Hill) was closed and the monies saved helped pay for an overnight part-time per diem firefighter/paramedic to staff Central Station. This was the first paid overnight EMS provider in Falmouth. The town also reduced its fleet by one fire engine, saving approximately $500,000 in capital costs. In 2012 the department eliminated its heavy rescue truck, saving the town another $500,000 in future replacement costs.
Developments in new fire apparatus brought additional savings. Newer fire apparatus is larger with additional compartment space. While the new trucks carry the same number of firefighters (6), they can carry much more equipment. As a result, the department was able to reduce its fleet by two large fire apparatus. The loss of twelve seats in these two vehicles corresponded with the department’s decline in responding firefighters.
In 2014, the Falmouth Town Council passed an 8.5% budget increase for public safety which included salaries for part-time emergency medical technicians (EMTs), a first for the department. This budget increase ensured round-the-clock staffing by two EMS providers (one a certified paramedic) at Central Station. In another creative attempt to find more members to respond to calls, the department started a live-in college program which allowed students to live at the station in return for volunteer coverage time. Falmouth also started accepting EMS members who live outside of Falmouth. These members are required to provide a minimum of twenty-four hours of coverage at Central Station each month. Currently, over thirty Fire-EMS members reside outside of Falmouth.
Today in Falmouth, there are three tiers of Fire-EMS service personnel. Falmouth Fire-EMS employs six full-time staff: Fire Chief (Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician-Basic), Assistant Chief (Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician-Basic), EMS & Prevention Captain (Firefighter/Paramedic), EMA Captain (Firefighter/Advanced Emergency Medical Technician), Firefighter/EMT/Driver (Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technican-Basic), and an Office Administrator.and an Office Administrator. Many residents are surprised to learn that no full-time firefighters sleep at the fire stations. Instead, the Town employs thirty part-time per diem firefighter/paramedics and firefighter/EMTs. These individuals, working in shifts comprised of one firefighter/paramedic and one firefighter/EMT, staff an ambulance at Central Fire Station seven days a week, twenty-four hours per day. This ambulance responds to all EMS and fire calls in town with an average response time of seven minutes. A second EMS call at the same time, or a call requiring a fire engine, is handled by a combination of call members and available full-time members (if during day) who respond from their homes or place of work. The average response time for a fire engine to arrive on scene ranges from ten to fourteen minutes, depending on the location of the call. The department provides on-call emergency services from Falmouth’s three stations. The department currently has four live-in students at the Winn Road station during the school year. These students help supplement the call staff for emergency calls.
Medical calls make up about 70% of all Falmouth's emergency calls. Maine’s aging population has greatly expanded the need for health services, and changes in EMS protocols have increased the workload of Falmouth’s EMS providers. In addition to emergency response, crews provide stand-by coverage at numerous events, offer CPR and First Aid training, and provide emergency operations plans to area businesses and organizations. An article in last week’s Falmouth Focus described in greater detail the expanded services provided by Falmouth Fire-EMS.
Using a mixture of full-time, part-time, on-call, and per diem staffing, Falmouth Fire-EMS responds to over 2000 calls per year. This level of service is not sustainable going forward. As call volume continues to increase and as member levels decline, Falmouth Fire-EMS is at risk of not having enough crews to cover the emergency calls in town. In 2019, the Falmouth Town Council approved a staffing study to explore current and future staffing needs. At the January 13 Town Council meeting, Chief Howard Rice will give a presentation on Falmouth Fire-EMS Department’s current and past staffing structure and the pending staffing study. The staffing study will be completed mid-January and is expected to be presented to the Town Council at their January 27 meeting. The public is encouraged to attend both meetings.
Falmouth Police Department's Giving Tree was a huge success. Thank you to Officer Amanda Hogg for spearheading the program by partnering with Through These Doors to build awareness and to provide needed items to benefit those affected by domestic violence. Donated gifts were delivered on December 26, including over $2000 worth of gift certificates. Many thanks to all who donated!
Upcoming Meetings & Events
Responding to Maine's Opioid Crisis
The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary, a partner in the Town's efforts to address substance misuse, will host "Various Approaches to Recovery," the fifth event in its "Responding to Maine's Opioid Crisis" series, on January 12, from 4:00-6:00pm.
West Falmouth Crossing Public Forum Rescheduled to January 21
The Town of Falmouth initiated, with support of the West Falmouth Crossing (WFC) property owners, an effort to review the West Falmouth Crossing Master Plan (which was developed in the late 1990s) and to conduct a development feasibility analysis of the West Falmouth Crossing area. The Town will conduct a public meeting about this effort on Tuesday, January 21, at 7:00pm in the Falmouth Town Hall Council Chambers. This meeting was rescheduled from an earlier date due to inclement weather. The purpose of this meeting is to present a site analysis based upon existing conditions and information known to date as well as gather input from the public. This meeting will be recorded for broadcast on community TV at a later date. More information can be found here.
Route 88 Intersections Study Update
Last fall Town staff initiated a study of two Route 88 intersections: the one with Johnson Road and the one with Depot Road. This was in response to resident concern about the safety of these intersections. A traffic consultant was hired to assess speed and crash data from both intersections and to help identify improvement options. Town staff held a public forum on December 11, 2019 to receive initial public feedback on its concerns and potential improvements. Detailed results and a video of this forum have been posted on the Town website. Town staff is currently working on developing improvement options and will present an update on the project at a February Council meeting (date TBD). A follow-up forum date on this project will be announced in the coming weeks.
Future Anticipated Agenda Items
January 13--An agenda can be found here.
Please take note that the January 13 meeting and broadcast will begin at 6:00pm. The public hearing and all matters requiring Council action will begin after 7:00pm.
- Staff presentation on short-term rental regulation. The Council will be asked to provide high level policy direction for the Ordinance Committee.
- A Resolution for the Town of Falmouth to Join the Earth Day 2020 Network and to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and Maine's Bicentennial Through a Calendar of Events in Late April-Late May 2020.
- Ordinance amendments to Sections 7-7, 7-8, and 19-128 of the Code of Ordinances relative to abutter notification requirements for Planning Board site plan and subdivision applications.
- Public Hearing on an Ordinance for Pesticide and Fertilizer Regulations.
- Order to approve a supplemental appropriation from the Property Revaluation Special Revenue Fund and Unassigned Fund Balance to fund a statistical market analysis and the townwide property revaluation.
- Presentation and discussion on Falmouth Fire-EMS Department current and past staffing structure and pending staffing study.
Stay Informed with the Town of Falmouth Website and E-Alerts
There are many Town committees and boards that meet on a regular basis. The events calendar on the Town of Falmouth website homepage lists upcoming board, committee, and Town Council meetings. We send E-Alerts when Town Council, Planning Board, and Board of Zoning Appeals, meeting agendas and minutes are posted to the website. Subscribe via E-Alerts to those that most interest you. Agendas and Minutes for these meetings are also posted online. Town Council, Planning Board, and School Board meetings are live-streamed on Falmouth Community TV Channel 1301 (Former Channel 2). Recordings of these meetings are also available for viewing online. Board of Zoning Appeals Meetings are not broadcast live but can be viewed online within 24 hours after the meeting. E-Alerts allows you to subscribe to specific email lists about Town-related issues that interest you. Over 70% of respondents to our Communications Methods Survey found E-Alerts to be an effective means of getting info about Town activities. The Falmouth Focus, this bi-weekly newsletter, is another way to stay in the loop. Subscribe via E-Alerts. Please let us know what kind of information you would like to see included in your town newsletter.
Town of Falmouth, 271 Falmouth Road, Falmouth, ME 04105