Rescue runs to Providence show dramatic drop

Rescue runs to Providence show dramatic drop

NORTH PROVIDENCE - This town has seen a "huge drop" in the number of emergency calls its emergency responders are answering in Providence, said Mayor Charles Lombardi, and the lower totals are resulting in big savings to taxpayers.

According to Lombardi and Fire Chief Leonard Albanese, the number of "mutual aid" rescue runs to the capital city has dropped from 553 back in 2011 to just 128 in 2013. At an estimated $300 to $500 savings per call, said Lombardi, the new numbers are bringing a likely savings of between $150,000 and $200,000 a year.

Having local responders head to Providence less often also enhances public safety for town residents, said the mayor. If workers are available more to respond to calls in North Providence, then a resident with a medical emergency has less risk of having to wait the extra time for a mutual aid response from a neighboring community.

Communities like North Providence were getting reimbursed for all those extra rescue runs, said Lombardi, but the money coming back was never close to what was actually being spent for each trip.

"The bottom line is I want to be a good neighbor, but when we're responding to that amount of calls to the city and have our residents wait an extra 10 or 12 minutes for a rescue from a neighboring community, we couldn't allow that to continue," said Lombardi.

According to Albanese, the drop in calls from Providence is directly related to officials there instituting a new "tiered" emergency response system that rates calls based on the severity of complaints. Instead of immediately calling in a neighboring community for a situation that is not all that serious, Providence officials are instead having people who aren't in an emergency situation wait longer for a response, said Albanese.

The new system was implemented in response to complaints from mayors like Lombardi and Johnston's Joseph Polisena, who were among those in 2012 who announced that they would be cutting their mutual aid efforts in Providence.

Albanese told The Breeze that regional emergency response services "balanced out a great deal" in the months after the tiered system went into place and as other communities have taken steps to invest more in public safety. In Pawtucket, for instance, a third rescue has been added that should further reduce the need for outside help to that city.

Officials in Providence are also planning to add a third daytime rescue vehicle in June, said Albanese, a move that should further relieve the strain on neighboring communities.

"Regionally it's getting under control," said Albanese. "It's very good right now."

Providence only responded to North Providence about 75 times in 2011, according to a Breeze story in the fall of 2012. That number was dwarfed by the 553 trips that went the other way.

"The mutual aid situation had gotten really lopsided," said Lombardi.

Providence public safety personnel often have to respond to the same individual's complaints dozens of times in one year, said Lombardi, and North Providence and other communities are no longer sharing that burden.