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December 8, 2003
Tobia: Response to the Sun
Defends Anne Arundel County Fire Department's media attacks.... 

At long last, Sir, have you no shame?  It is not enough that you failed to check the accuracy of an article printed in your paper earlier this week concerning the AACOFD, but you compound those inaccuracies in your misdirected attack of Chief Simonds on your editorial page.

To correct some inaccuracies: 

1.  Baltimore City, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, and Fairfax County VA all use the two paramedic staffing matrix as their standard of care.  Nationally, any fire service organization committed to meeting NFPA 1710 is required to ensure the delivery of 2 paramedics to the scene of a medical emergency.  Your assertion that the single ALS provider system is the national standard is without standing. You fail to reference a single source that would support your position.  A commercial aircraft cannot leave the ground without 2 pilots – why should a paramedic unit be allowed to operate with less than 2 paramedics?  Who do you think makes more life and death decisions every day?  What safety net would you want for yourself?

2.  Of the 600 volunteers that you would like to see utilized, consider that in 2002, 90% of those volunteers failed to respond on even 10% of the calls that their companies were dispatched to.  Their companies responded because career firefighters staff their apparatus 24 hours a day, every day.  Do not misunderstand me. Volunteers are a valuable and important part of the fire service community in AACO, but you are setting up an artificial battle that will pit one type of responder against another – a fire does not make the differentiation – neither should you.  Volunteer firefighters could be used to help achieve the goal of 4 responders per piece instead of being used to offset alleged abuses in overtime.

3.  The 7.2 million dollar “excessive spending” you refer to is accurate in number only.  It is not Chief Simonds’ responsibility to bear the burden for decisions made by budget analysts in Annapolis.  The fact of the matter is that for 20 years it has been the position of the Executive and Legislative branches (not Fire Chiefs) to pay overtime rather than hire new people to offset that overtime.  Recommend the hiring of enough people to over staff 45 positions every day as in Baltimore County and I promise you that any overtime excesses you assert will disappear.  

Anne Arundel County firefighters and paramedics (career and volunteer) are some of the most professional, dedicated, hard working people ever placed in the field.  Your decision to attempt to sell newspapers under the thinly veiled blanket of “exposing abuses” is nothing more than one disgruntled employee “dropping the dime” on a boss who was forced to make tough decisions because of a system that remains unresponsive to the needs of its own department managers.  You are attacking the wrong person and you are listening to the wrong people.  You have done nothing to help improve public safety in Anne Arundel County – unless you are prepared to pick up an axe or become a paramedic, I suggest you spend more time getting your facts straight before you commit them to paper.

Matthew Tobia
62 Park St.
Harrisburg, PA 17109