North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Service

North Smithfield is considering adding more EMS personnel to its fire and rescue service.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield town officials may soon consider a plan to add more EMS responders to the town’s fire and rescue personnel after some officials expressed concern about long response times and too many calls for mutual aid from neighboring communities.

Last week, Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski referred to the privately managed North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Service as “woefully understaffed” during a Town Council meeting, calling a 25-minute response time a matter of life or death for residents. The comment came after councilors raised concerns about a resident who waited 25 minutes for an ambulance for his mother.

“If I had a heart issue, I’d make sure I had an AED in my house. I’m just saying, that’s something we should be looking into in the near future about getting another rescue on the road,” said Town Council President John Beauregard.

According to North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Service Chief David Chartier, the department has five personnel on duty across two stations on any given shift. In some cases, he said, all five personnel need to respond to an emergency, leaving no one left if another call comes in.

“I have two people that man the St. Paul Street Station, and three people that man the Providence Pike Station,” he said. “They take whatever vehicle needs to go for whatever the call is.”

In the event that North Smithfield personnel are not available, the dispatcher calls for mutual aid from a neighboring community. In September, North Smithfield received mutual aid for EMS calls 29 times and responded to 17 mutual aid calls from other communities.

Councilors expressed concern about the volume of mutual aid calls during the meeting on Monday, Oct. 18. Chartier told The Breeze those numbers are fairly typical for North Smithfield, with the town calling for mutual aid for EMS calls 23 times in August and 28 times in July. The 29 mutual aid requests in September represented about 15 percent of the department’s 195 calls for EMS service that month, he said.

While the department does not pay other communities directly for responding to mutual aid calls, the town is liable to miss out on third-party billing fees paid by residents or their insurance companies.

“In full transparency, no matter what we bring in for mutual aid, we’re not losing enough money to say that money we’re losing is going to pay for staffing. But there is a certain amount of loss when we have to have someone come in,” Chartier said.

Chartier said the response times vary greatly when the town has to call for mutual aid. In 2019, the average medical response time for a North Smithfield ambulance was six minutes from the station. Ambulances from Woonsocket took nine-and-a-half minutes on average to reach North Smithfield residents, while those from Smithfield took close to 11 minutes.

“If you’re going to have Woonsocket responding to Indigo Farm Road off of Log Road, that response is obviously going to be longer than nine-and-a-half minutes,” Chartier said.

Chartier said he and Zwolenski have discussed developing a plan to add more EMS personnel to North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Service. Zwolenski said he shares the concern about response times and is a proponent for increasing the town’s services, especially after hearing that a resident waited up to 25 minutes for an ambulance.

“I don’t like playing averages when it comes to life or death,” Zwolenski told The Breeze. “It’s a conversation that’s past overdue.”

Town officials have previously discussed adding more EMS personnel, but those plans never came to fruition. According to Chartier, the proposal would also include putting more emergency vehicles on the road.

Chartier said the plan is still in its infancy stages, but he expects to present it to town officials once complete. Zwolenski said the Town Council would make any final decisions on adding personnel.

(9) comments

sw02895

I grew up in North Smithfield and you probably do need more fire and police ... Sad for me to see the switch , but North Smithfield has become a big bustling heavily taxed city and Woonsocket is now a heavily taxed ghost town ... #SAD

Thomas Ficca

You speak the TRUTH ! Thankfully we have moved on from North Smithfield !

Here we go....

Personally, I feel this issue takes precedence over the police station & the Halliwell School situation. People are in need of emergency services more than ever & the town can't rely on volunteers like it used to be. People are busy & don't have the time to volunteer like they used to.

If my tax dollars have to be spent/go up, I'd rather it be for a worthwhile, needed reason like this. The situation does still warrant close examining of how many positions are needed & cost to the town, but overall, this is a priority more than other issues.

SteveC

Another money grab by the union.

Thomas Ficca

Some people are severely misinformed !

radar

We never had these issues when we had volunteers!! There were always plenty of dedicated, highly trained, and professional volunteers who did a fantastic job and provided service that was second to none. Unfortunately they were victims of the political circus that is NS.

Wooba

Maybe adding some volunteer EMS and firefighters to the mix could help.

RhodeHouse

With volunteers you run into the same issue as mutual aid with longer response times. people have to respond to the station, get in the rescue and then respond to the emergency. Plus volunteer departments are having a tough time getting volunteers to do the job for free these days.

Wooba

Maybe the volunteer role can be a bit different. Strictly speaking EMS, give the volunteers some essentials (Narcan, Defib, etc..)to be able to get on scene quick and take immediate action which allows additional time for crews to get there. With technology if could be much easier to dispatch to the volunteers. Simple text message to all asking who is available for immediate response to address. Reply back in route from their current address. I am sure I am over simplifying but it could be worth trying.

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