Please take a moment to review the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department’s official response to the Board of County Commissioner’s July 26, 2016 meeting as it relates to Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt’s claims.
The members of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. are compelled to respond to comments and accusations made at the July 26, 2016 Commissioner’s meeting, that portrayed our department in an extremely negative light. As servants of the citizens of Calvert County, our reputation means everything to us. To have one of our County Commissioners verbally attack us in such a public forum is disheartening to our organization. We take this opportunity to defend ourselves with accurate information and credible facts, to ensure the public we serve has an accurate picture of the organization and people who respond in times of crisis.
At the July 26 meeting, Commissioner President Evan Slaughenhoupt was participating in a discussion regarding the replacement of the current buildings for the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department and the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad. President Slaugenhoupt proceeded to deviate from the topic at hand, and instead launched into a discussion on Emergency Medical Services (EMS). He proceeded to severely criticize the EMS service provided by, the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, which in turn cast a negative image on our hard-earned reputation in the community. During the course of his statements, which he called a “soap-box,” he quoted statistics and examples that were inaccurate and proceeded to use the same information to make multiple accusations. The Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department was blindsided by the attack; we learned of his allegations, opinions and concerns along with the rest of the county while watching the televised broadcast of the meeting later that evening. In order to preserve our reputation and to ensure an accurate record of facts, we have attached a point-by-point rebuttal to President Slaugenhoupt’s slanderous, negligent and erroneous claims.
The Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department has proudly served the citizens of Calvert County for over 75 years. For the past 18 years, we have done so without failing to miss a call when we were dispatched. This is a record unlike any other in the county. We do this as volunteers – all of our training, responses, daily preparation, drills, fundraising, fire prevention, and much more, is done without pay. To say we take pride in what we do, care about the citizens and service we give unselfishly, is an understatement. Our members have the desire, character, training, morals, integrity and dedication to serve the citizens of Prince Frederick, Calvert County and all surrounding areas. We do it for the satisfaction of helping a neighbor in their time of need. It is as simple as that.
To have an elected official attack the integrity and call into question the stellar reputation of a group of quality people who work tirelessly for nothing more than the satisfaction of helping others is unacceptable. This is especially true when the individual making the accusations is in a key leadership role and bases his opinions on inaccurate, one-sided information. The damage his comments could cause between our department and the citizens we serve does not appear to have been taken into account prior to President Slaugenhopt’s remarks. The members of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department request a public apology from President Slaugenhoupt for his actions and the repercussions they have caused. We also ask you review the attached documentation so you can see the effort Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department provides the citizens of Calvert County, and the EMS program at Company 4.
The entire membership of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, Inc
“I found it unconscionable when I learned that Company 4, which is an ambulance company, having trouble getting people to volunteer to get an ambulance to make a call, whereas the Company 5 Dunkirk Chief (William Rector) volunteered, drove an ambulance out of Company 4, only to see members of Company 2 standing out in the parking lot waving because they didn’t want to go over and drive an ambulance. And it was because they were not yet needing the extra training to be a live training exercise.”
This is an incorrect interpretation of facts concerning assistance to Company 4, as it relates to assistance for ambulance calls. To date, there has never been contact by President Slaugenhoupt or any representative of the county government with any leadership representative of our department to discuss this alleged incident. It would seem more probable that Chief 5, William Rector, was in the Prince Frederick area and heard a call for service and took it upon himself to respond. We recommend further discussions with Chief Rector on the circumstances of this incident.
As for our members waving as they went by, the process is more complex than simply “running over” to get the ambulance out. People must have the proper qualifications to drive, or have EMT to serve as the medical provider. Additionally, we don’t want to sacrifice staffing for our own units, so we must have enough drivers for our apparatus before we can send an extra over to Company 4. None of this was considered before making the generalized statement that Company 2 members were waving because they were happy they didn’t have to go over and get the ambulance out. We believe President Slaugenhoupt’s comments did not take into account the full range of circumstances in this event, thereby leading to inaccurate, irresponsible and negligent comments that are unwarranted toward the department.
President Slaugenhoupt stated during the meeting that the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department has 70 Emergency Medical Technician’s (EMT’s), who did not support Company 4 with staffing of their ambulances.
This statement is false. Although we have 70 members on our membership roster, only 39 of those hold EMT certifications. Some of these 39 maintain their EMT certification, but are no longer active members, and therefore no longer run calls. EMTs do support the EMS program in Calvert County to the best of their ability – without sacrificing the ability to staff Company 2 units at any given time. Available EMT’s are often sent to Company 4 to staff their ambulance.
It is important to note we not only send individuals to Company 4 to assist with calls, but we respond to medical emergencies as well. Company 2 members are dispatched on every single priority medical call in the Prince Frederick area, and sometimes surrounding areas. In 2015 alone we responded to 648 calls to help treat patients in an EMS capacity.
Additionally, if we are unable to help with Company 4’s ambulance response, we often respond in a Company 2 vehicle to ensure medical care is not delayed. This ensures the patient receives help as soon as possible while they are waiting for the next ambulance to arrive. This is analogous to stations that have one ambulance already on a call, and do not have enough staffing for their second ambulance.
In another example, President Slaugenhoupt referenced a call for an ambulance at Hallowing Point Park, where Company 4 failed to respond (a date and time for the call was not provided when giving his example). Benedict also failed to respond, and ultimately Huntingtown had to take the call. He specifically stated, “of course Company 2 wouldn’t support getting an ambulance out.”
Since President Slaughenhoupt failed to provide a specific date and time, we could not research the call in question. We routinely respond to calls at Hallowing Point Park for medical assists, especially on weekends. On many occasions, members from our station may already be in the park (kids ball games/practices, their own games, etc.), and the Control Center may cancel incoming apparatus. Additionally if units are already on another call they may not be available to respond to the call at that time. In some cases, we receive multiple calls within the park, so we are already in the park for one call, when we receive a second call. For a variety of reasons, President Slaugenhoupt has spoken without all the facts, and has not provided all the information to allow us to adequately address his concerns in this particular incident.
President Slaugenhoupt stated he was unaware there was an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council, and that the EMS Council works for the Board of County Commissioners.
We were surprised to learn that President Slaugenhoupt was unaware of the EMS Council given his prior remarks. The EMS Council, which provides recommendations and guidance to the Commissioners on topics related to issues to emergency medical services in the county, is comprised of members of the community who are appointed by the Commissioners.
In fact, the Commissioners appointed the most recent members within the last year. The Commissioners not only receive recommendations and guidance from the EMS Council, but they also approve funding for the Council recommendations.
President Slaugenhoupt stated the problem with EMS in this county is because of the way things grew within the Prince Frederick area. He said, “You have two families that couldn’t get along and they created separate companies. One is a fire company and one is an ambulance company. That has manifested itself over the years where most citizens probably don’t even realize Prince Frederick has two separate companies that don’t communicate with each other.”
It is completely inappropriate, not to mention totally inaccurate, for President Slaugenhoupt to make these comments in such a public setting. They show his lack of intelligence regarding the history of the Calvert County fire service, as well as his lack of communication with members of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department and the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad. We realize President Slaugenhoupt is not a native of Calvert County, so we have provided a brief summary of the relationship between our two stations, and why they remain separate today.
• The Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, Company 2, was established in 1941, as a fire department only and was specifically called the Calvert County Fire Department. In 1967, 25 years after the operation of Company 2 began; the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad, Company 4, was established.
• In 1965, when we operated as the Calvert County Fire Department, our station housed Company 4’s ambulance until they could build their own station. We worked hand-in-hand with the future rescue squad until they left our quarters. In addition, during these six years, their volunteers purchased a second ambulance. Unfortunately at the time we did not have the space to house that unit as well, and it was staged out of a local parking lot until Company 4’s building was established.
• Volunteers who wish to cross-train in other areas are encouraged to work with both of our stations, and are permitted to ride with them while taking classes to get their certifications.
• Routine meetings are held between the administrative leaders and the operational leaders of both stations to look for ways to improve working relationships, responses and training opportunities. We also have a current policy in place to ensure the companies are not competing against one another with regard to fundraising within our direct community. We also coordinate many community outreach events together.
It is worth noting, having separate fire and EMS departments is not an unusual concept. Many of the departments throughout Southern Maryland function in this manner quite effectively. In the case of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, this model has been effective for nearly eight decades. This is not to say support is not needed for the Rescue Squad. EMS has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, but the incentives, equipment and facilities we offer our EMS volunteers have changed little.
“We ought to make a county fire department for Prince Frederick that is a county owned, county employee firefighters, county employee EMS. We pull the notes back from Company 2 and Company 4 and their equipment comes into this paid service in Prince Frederick, and that would provide a lot of relief that actually affects other volunteer companies in the county. Huntingtown is responding to calls that they should not have to respond to because Company 4 is not able to respond, and meanwhile a call goes out for EMT’s are needed and there’s no response and a fire call goes out and fully manned fire trucks, the flashy part of it, from Prince Frederick is fully manned. “
President Slaugenhoupt made a bold statement that neither the members of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department nor the citizens of Calvert County should take lightly. While it is clear President Slaugenhoupt has given his idea serious thought, there are several reasons why this would be detrimental to the county.
• President Slaugenhoupt said the commissioners should take back our “notes,” collect our equipment, and give it to a paid service that encompasses the Prince Frederick area only. This is not a simple task. There are no clear “notes” to take back – our equipment is titled with the county as the lien holder, not as the note holder. The county has agreed in writing to release the lien as long as the company provides the expected service for the agreed upon number of years on the apparatus agreement. (NOTE: This is the case in most of the departments in the county, not just PFVFD)
• A paid staff does not necessarily create the ability to respond to every call. The county will only be able to pay for a minimum number of people on a shift at a time. This means if the crew is on one call and receives another call, they will not be available.
• This would be a significant tax burden on the citizens of Calvert County. It is important to note that President Slaugenhoupt is targeting the department that is the highest functioning in the county. Given our station’s impeccable record that does not seem like a prudent use of taxpayer dollars. We recommend the Commissioners explore methods to attract more volunteers to Company 4, rather than discuss dismantling Company 2.
The doors of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department are always open, especially to President Slaugenhoupt or anyone who wants to discuss any of the information in this letter. We welcome any questions, concerns and comments. We also encourage you to reach out to us directly for an open dialogue on these issues.
• We have learned the hard way that data can be manipulated and misinterpreted if the right questions are not asked. When looking at response data in the future, we ask you not take it at face value, but instead ask for details about the data (such as time of day, were there other calls dispatched at the same time, were these calls in the 2nd and 3rd due areas).
• President Slaugenhoupt referenced several pieces of information that he obtained from “sources,” but we are unaware of these sources. We request that President Slaugenhoupt share with us the source of his information so we can correct the record.
• We understand you receive information from a variety of sources. We are always happy to resolve any discrepancies.
• Please be aware of the consequences of your public comments on other organizations. In this case, there were many inaccuracies in the speech and unfortunately they were disseminated to everyone watching the televised broadcast of the meeting. This allowed citizens of the county to form an opinion of the PFVFD organization without allowing us to defend ourselves. This impacts our reputation; our credibility with citizens and businesses; our fundraising program; and most of all it hurts the members who give so much to our organization.
The department wishes to thank Commissioner Nutter during this unfortunate meeting. Out of the many positive comments stated for both of our stations Mr. Nutter said this, “… all the years I’ve been in this county and have dealt with the volunteer rescue squads and fire departments. I know how they work. I’m convinced enough to know that these people have put their blood, sweat and tears 50 years ago to do this and for me to come along and to start second guessing them, is wrong.” This comment shows his heartwarming support for our department and our long-standing building project, a journey for funding we’ve been on for nine long years. Our hope is that by providing hard facts and information to the public, the Commissioners will consider moving forward with funding our station so we can continue operating a non-profit efficiently for the citizens of Calvert County.
We appreciate your time and patience in reviewing this response.