Letter to Editor: Emergency services crisis

To the Editor:

Recently Chief Bender of the Mount Desert Fire Department made the Islander with a report on the combining or regionalization of local fire departments citing a lack of personnell to respond especially during working hours, also listing the reasons as cost of living, housing and good paying year round employment on the island as some of the reasons.

The chief’s report should be of no surprise to the town governments as not long ago both in the Islander and Ellsworth American did stories on this very crisis, yes a crisis. The chief cites in the article several alarming things which service chiefs have been trying to point out to local town administrations for years.

The local government response has always been “there will always be someone.” Well, the days are coming when there is not always someone, as the chief points out. The training requirements and cost and time needed to maintain training are on the rise. Increasingly, employers don’t have the ability to allow employees to leave work to respond. Most of the responders work more than one job to stay afloat, and they live off-island or work off-island due to lack of housing and cost of living on the island.

It is sad when someone responsible for protecting life and property does not get paid more than the person working at Dunkin Donuts pouring coffee. The days of someone off the street showing up to help are gone, equipment, skills, knowledge required, tactics, hazards, liability, state requirements have done away with this. The cost of training these folks is high. Increased training requirements, the stress of the work, low pay, and cost of living on the island all hinder long term retention.

This is nothing new to those of us that work in the field, we have seen this coming and have pointed it out more than once. There have been added burdens on other responders and services to increase their services and try to pick up and fill the increasing demands for service, due to the loss of providers and emergency services. Local emergency services struggle to maintain high levels of competency. MDI has in my opinion some of the best folks in emergency services from the chiefs down to the individual responders.

Unfortunately we are older and there are not many newer folks filling the gap, again as Chief Bender pointed out in his report.

The points are this, contrary to what town officials think, “there is always someone willing to do this,” there currently is not.

Town Meetings are coming up. Support your emergency services and their budgets and if you have the time become a member of your local emergency services. Thank you to Chief Mike Bender for putting this out there on a more official platform. We are an aging, fading group of folks with nobody in the wings to replace us doing a high stress and demanding job.

Lastly I want to make clear these are my opinions and do not represent any of the services I work for.

Sean Hall

Bar Harbor

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