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Beginning Aug. 27, the towns of Johnston and North Providence and the city of East Providence will no longer send ambulances to Rhode Island's capital city.

Officials from all three municipalities held at a joint news conference Thursday to make the announcement.

"We are subsidizing service to the city of Providence and at the same time jeopardizing service to the residents of our town," said North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi.

Last year, East Providence rescue vehicles rode into Providence 562 times. Providence, however, made 44 trips to help out its neighbor.

"I don't know if they're taking our kindness for weakness. I don't know if they're all on vacation because of the summer. But we gave them more than 30 days and nobody ever got back to us. I find it insulting, not only to myself and my two colleagues in government, but also to our taxpayers," said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena.

"I don't have an easy solution. We're working on it and we're not ignoring them and I hope they're not reacting because they feel that way," said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

Pare said 911 is called too often for non-emergencies, and if the city's neighbors don't help, first responders will have to prioritize what calls they make.

"Well if that's what they decide to do then we'll have to deal with the results of that, and unfortunately it puts people at risk. We're going to come to them," Pare said.

"I was asked what happens when someone needs a rescue in Providence, you wouldn't send them. My concern is what happens if someone in Johnston needs a rescue and the rescues are in Providence," Polisena said.

Johnston, North Providence and East Providence will still send fire trucks to help in the capital city.


Well, well, well.


The chickens have come home to roost. I've been bringing this problem to the attention of anybody who would listen for ten years. Nobody listens, nobody cares. People call 911 for whatever they wish, and we respond. Providence's rescue division cannot, and should not be responding to 911 calls non-stop, with no breaks, thirty-eight, sometimes forty-eight hour shifts, meals eaten on to run, bathroom breaks when we can get them, unmotivated partners detailed to an ambulance from a firetruck because there is nobody to fill the spots due to burned out EMT's and an overall sense of impending doom.

Yes, things are ugly. Our leaders, both administration and union have ignored the EMS division in Providence's shortcomings far too long. We the people who take the calls, and treat the patients and miss the sleep and meals do so because we are good at it, and enjoy the nature of EMS-but there is a limit, and that limit has been reached.

Kudos to Johnston, North Providence and East Providence for having the temerity to say enough is enough.


Some unheeded squawking from years past, far from a complete list of published stories addressing the situation.






When Seconds Count….

Michael Morse

When disaster strikes, illnesses arise or accidents happen in the City of Providence help is only a 911 call away.  Or is it?  Far too often when a rescue is needed there is nobody to send.  Providence’s six Advance Life Support Rescues simply cannot handle the volume of calls generated by the people living in and visiting Providence.    Responding to an emergency in a timely fashion is critical.   Tragically, here in the Renaissance City, when seconds count, help is often minutes away.  Surrounding cities and towns fill the gaps in coverage with mutual aid agreements, but due to a lack of reciprocation that safety net is eroding.

Each of Providence’s six advanced life support rescues handle nearly five thousand emergency calls a year, far above the national average.  Cranston, East Providence, Johnston and Pawtucket routinely send their rescue crews into Providence when needed.  Providence, the biggest city in Rhode Island and second largest in New England does not have the resources to repay the favor.  Smithfield, Lincoln, Cumberland, Warwick, Central Falls; all send rescues to Providence.  Are the taxpayers of those communities paying to subsidize Providence’s irresponsibility?  What are these communities getting in return?  Not much.

A progressive fire department, properly funded has a responsibility to the public it protects.  Emergency Medical Services are the most used aspect of the fire service.  Many departments report upwards of eighty percent of their calls are emergency medical responses.   The cities and towns surrounding Providence have properly staffed their departments to handle the need:

  • Warwick,                       population  87,233*                  4 Rescues
  • Cranston,                     population  81,617*                   4 Rescues
  • East Providence,         population  49, 515*                 3 Rescues
  • Providence,                  population 176,862*                 5 Rescues

*(2005 Census)

In 2006 Providence added a sixth rescue to help address the mutual aid problem.  The truck operates on a temporary basis and has no assigned personnel, using overtime to fill the seats.   While the number of mutual aid calls into Providence from surrounding communities did decrease slightly, it did nothing to improve working conditions, morale or number of calls responded to by the firefighters assigned to the rescue division.  Most days the city’s six rescues run non-stop.  Experience in the field is invaluable.  You just can’t teach a person lessons learned in the street.  All of the knowledge and experience doesn’t do much good if the person in possession of such life saving skills no longer serves on the rescue.

The stress of the job has taken its toll on the Providence Fire Department’s Rescue Division.  Qualified Rescue Officers have given up their rank, handed in their bars and left the division, leaving the positions vacant.  In their place, inexperienced firefighters have volunteered as acting officers on the rescue trucks.  While they have performed better than anybody has the right to expect, the loss of leadership is palpable.  Morale is at an all time low, firefighters who would rather be fighting fires, some with decades of firefighting experience are sent to the rescue division to act as rescue technicians.  Some crews have an acting officer with five years experience in charge of a rescue with a technician who has twenty years on the job.  The calls are non-stop, the crews deal with the situation the best they can.

Twelve people manning six rescues in a city of 180,000 is woefully inadequate by anybody’s standards.  The dozen medics on call manage to provide Emergency Medical Services to the people of Providence in an efficient, professional manner when they are available.  Their lack of availability is the issue.






  • Patrick Creeden says:

    It's about time.  Now, my idea would be to prioritize the calls let's say as Priority 1, 2 or 3 or something like that.   priority 1 would be the most emergent calls. 2 would be the not so much so like a broken leg or arm, isolated fractures. 3 would be the non emergency bullshit.  Don't send a fire company to the non emergencies to keep them available for the real emergencies.   And if a rescue is on a low priority call and a higher one comes in around the same area, diverty them to the other one.   Make the lowest priority calls a no lights no siren resonse to minimize the risk to the crews.  And the people who called for non-emergency BS will have to wait.
    who knows whether any of this will work, these are just my random musings.

    • B says:

      You'd have to train all the dispatchers, most of which are firefighters or civilian police dispatchers, in EMD to do that.  And theyd want more money for it.  Plus it would cost money to implement even if you didn't pay them extra.  So it won't happen.  

      • EMT-C says:

        That argument doesn't fly. I'm a dispatcher with 6 years behind the radio, and 13 years on the street as a volunteer.
        I started with my EMT-A, then got my C, also have Firefighting I & II, Active Shooter, Domestic Violence Response, Suicidal Callers Powerphone EMD, NFPA Response to Terrorism certs. It isnt the "Dispatchers" who are unwilling to train, it is the depts that they work for who are unwilling to spend the $$ on them. I can tell you that I've walked a person through CPR on the phone wile dispatching police, Fire & Ems to scenes while the 9-1-1 operator sits on their rear-end and doesn't do a damn thing.  
        I invite you to ask any dispatcher in the state what their feelings are about the 911 dispatchers and you'll pretty much get the same response. (USELESS)

        • B says:

          Which is pretty much what I said- the cities don't want to spend the money, my only addition is that in the departments that don't have career professional dispatchers like yourself, it's often the junior guy on the shift. He's there serving a sentence, and could likely care less about EMD.  Either way, what won't fly is changing the job description without a re-negotiation.  

  • John says:

    I'd like to agree with Patrick-but it won't work. The only ones calling that will be Priority 3s will be the good honest people, and they will wait an hour while some dirtbag who knows how to game the system claims chest pain when he has a cold. And since the dirtbags demand for services exceeds the good people by 10-1, it won't offer any relief.

  • Michael Morse says:

    It seems like this problem goes on and on, lots of good ideas but the only thing that will change is an entire shift of priorities from the general public, and i don't see that happening anytime soon. We need a mass exodus away from the nanny state, I hope I get to see it but I'm not holding my breath.

  • Bob Lincoln says:

    John's absolutely right.  This is no solution.  And more and more, Providence sends rescues to NP.

  • Northcentralmedic says:

    Why is it that Rhode Island doesn't allow private services to back up the fire departments when their resources are depleted?  This system works extremely well in many other busy urban EMS systems.

    • Michael Morse says:

      Hello NCM, my guess is money, politics and fear of the unknown. Mention a private ambulance service around here and people go nuts. It wouldn't help our situation, personell wise anyway, the city would run us into the fround, then use privates when we ran out of rescues rather than mutual aid, our runs would still be in the 6-7000 range.

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