2017-10-12 / Editorial

With Fire Prevention Week here, it’s time to honor city firefighters

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

This week is Fire Prevention Week, and it is a good time to recognize the contributions and hard work of our Biddeford Fire Department. We are fortunate to have a fulltime fire department that is staffed by a combination of career and volunteer firefighters. I have witnessed them at work – on everything from freeing a stuck elevator to providing safety coverage during a roof collapse in a heavy snowstorm. Their excellent reputation is well-earned.

The department is experiencing a steady increase in call volume. It's not uncommon for the team to respond to over 15 calls in a 24 hour shift with the average of eight personnel on duty at one time. Many calls are for emergency medical services (EMS) and keep two rescues busy. All firefighters are crosstrained in both EMS and fire assistance, and calls often require assistance from crews responding with a fire engine as well as an ambulance.

Biddeford Fire Department responds to an average of 5,300 calls a year, making our central fire station one of the busiest in the entire state.

The department also relies on volunteers to help provide coverage. These volunteers are highly trained. The days of being handed an air pack and gear on the day you walk into the department are long behind us.

Two hundred thirty hours of training – comprising about six months of evenings and weekends – are a starting point for most volunteers. Although this training keeps firefighters safe, makes them more effective, and comes with a nationally recognized certificate, fewer people can find the time to complete the training. The department is always looking for volunteers and is hiring for career staff as well.

Luckily, there is a great spirit of cooperation among fire departments. They assist each other with mutual aid if a neighboring town is shorthanded. But that can come with consequences, too. Increased response times because of long travel distances are not good when a fire has broken out or if there’s a medical emergency. So full staffing levels are important.

Our firefighters are always out in the community. Members of the Biddeford Fire Department have been in our schools all week providing fire safety training with their “Smoke House”, a safe way to learn how to escape a burning building. This effort helps keep students involved and educated on fire prevention and awareness. I think the most important thing is to have a ‘marshaling point’, meaning a place you all agree you will gather once you escape.

For our family, it’s the light pole across the street. The kids know that’s where we’ll meet once we get out, so that no one goes back in looking for a missing family member who has already escaped.

Lastly, the number one thing you can do to keep you and your family safe from fire at home is to test and replace the batteries in your smoke alarms. And as I found out the hard way recently when we started to get false alarms in the middle of the night (very loud and very distressing!), the detectors themselves need to be replaced every 10 years. If you need assistance with new alarms, the Red Cross will arrange a home visit in conjunction with any of our area Fire Departments to test your alarms and install new ones where needed. Get in touch with me if you’d like help arranging this – it is a great program.

During national Fire Prevention Week, let’s all say thank you to our Fire and EMS departments and their hardworking staff and volunteers. Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission. Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show. Find it on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman

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