Town Council mobilizes to reduce rescue calls

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 6:30pm
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Concerned about the number of calls the Volunteer Rescue Squad has been making this summer season, the Town Council met in an emergency session to see what could be done about reducing accidents and injuries, and to provide relief to the EMTs if possible.

It was Rescue Squad Capt. Tracy Fredericks who sounded the alarm a couple of weeks ago, and Second Warden André Boudreau issued a statement on July 28 that said, in blunt and colorful terms, that bad behavior was not welcome on the island.

In an effort to reduce moped accidents in particular, the town and Police Chief Vin Carlone have been working with moped operators to increase safety measures and to perhaps hire monitors that could call in infractions by moped riders.

“We have some suggestions on things we can do. It’s been a lot of work and it’s hard to watch people get hurt like that. We want to talk about what we can do to make some changes,” said Fredericks at the meeting that was held on Wednesday, July 29.

Fredericks shared a breakdown of rescue calls and injuries. The majority of injuries and accidents pertained to the mopeds, along with an assortment of other medical issues, on the previous weekend.

“Sunday was the most difficult because we had all three ambulances out. A total of 14 calls on Sunday, starting early in the morning with a moped accident resulting in a total of five Life Stars – one moped accident resulted in three Life Stars alone. It pretty much took our entire crew” reported Fredericks.

Fredericks noted “everyone was exhausted… just when you think you are getting a break it goes out again.” She added in terms of staff, there were “26 [volunteers] on the roster last year. Right now, we have a group of primarily 12 people total, six that are going on a lot of the calls… two EMTs to come out when we need them, and will continue throughout the summer; 14 people”.

Councilor Sven Risom asked Fredericks if she had numbers for accidents and calls to compare to last year, to “try to get a sense of scope and scale.”

“Last year it was 18 [for moped accidents], and 34 [moped accidents] this year. Overall calls, this year in June we had 24 calls and last year we had 52 [calls] in June. The total calls to date are 163 calls. So far, our calls are 103 in the month of July. The latest date I have is for July 25 [2020]. Last year, a total of 120 calls for the month of July. We are going to be over that from last year. The moped numbers are up. The bike accidents haven’t been a big issue, medical issues yes,” said Fredericks.

“Moped calls are roughly doubled? Overall calls are close to the same?” asked Risom.

“Yes – I don’t have the numbers up today, I have them from last Saturday. Everything hasn’t been put in the system yet. All of July last year [was] 18 mopeds accidents. This year [is] 34 moped accidents.”

Fire Department Chief Kirk Littlefield went on to share some suggestions with the council.

“One of the things we would like to reestablish is the Moped and Bike Safety Commission,” said Littlefield. He also said something should be done to improve shoreline access in Old Harbor.

“One other request for the Town Council is to have a rock on the breakwater moved a couple of feet so we can access the beach down there,” adding that “some signage at Old Harbor dock” could also help. “We had a few people jumping off the dock getting hurt this year and last year. One other thing – voluntarily ask the moped dealers to have only one person on a moped at a time,” said Littlefield.

Littlefield added that he had been in contact with the mainland Disaster Medical Assistance Team. “They will be sending people out every weekend until the end of summer. They have contacted Dr. [Tom Warcup] and are working to help him out, with possibly some nurses coming out to alleviate the congestion at the Medical Center.”

Town Manager Jim Kern mentioned a couple of updates, having had “conversations with the Police Chief [Vin Carlone] this week. He wasn’t happy with the activity on the mopeds. He’s had some conversations with the individuals responsible for operating the companies already.”

Kern added there will be “security monitors that will be watching behavior around the island” and have the ability “to suspend contracts on the spot and get contact with our law enforcement so that operators can be summonsed if it is appropriate. [Carlone] also communicated having a monitor at the bottom of High Street – where people were putting themselves in circumstances and bad outcomes.”

“There’s going to be changes to the moped operation before this weekend…We have already augmented the law enforcement piece, we are going to change the behavior and the way the moped operators are operating this weekend with respect to security monitors and suspending contracts immediately, and then continue to work with them on ideas that the chief has had,” adding ideas from the council and rescue squad will be included, said Kern.

Councilor Martha Ball asked “Why can’t we just pull the licenses and have the [moped operators] come to us with a solid plan?” She stated “we are pushing our Rescue Squad to the limit. I don’t think bringing in more people to deal with accidents is approaching a solution… now we have accidents in a pandemic.”

Lacoste said “it seems to me that it should be obvious to the moped businesses here, and the problem is creating unnecessary stress on the emergency medical system. You have people who can’t operate, and then you send a second person behind them. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Risom asked Kern if he could meet “early in the weekend” with the moped operators, as “a way to update the Town Council on the status of your meeting and how it went. I think it would prepare the councilors when we get calls this weekend and how to be able to manage.”

“Yes,” said Kern. 

“We can also put it in the queue on Monday night’s meeting – follow up how the weekend went,” added Lacoste.

Boudreau asked ”what is our plan for the weekend?”

“Chief [Carlone] and I will meet with the moped operators, and communicate a number of things, some of which have already been communicated. Summarize what they have agreed to and initiatives we intend to pursue in the weeks following,” said Kern.

Lacoste shared a number for a COVID hotline, “to submit a COVID-19 complaint or question… you can complain to the government.” The number to submit a complaint or question is (401) 889-5550.