Letter to Marbletown Fire Departments

Dear Firefighters, 

We thank you for your service. 

For more than half a century our organizations have shared the hard, often thankless work of keeping our community safe. We’ve all adapted over the years, incorporating new tools and techniques, managing a constantly shifting bureaucratic landscape, adjusting our strategies to bring on, train and keep new members. We have much in common. 

Over the last several years MFAU struggled with dropping volunteerism. This is a national trend that especially reflects the economic challenges people face in their lives. It has become more and more challenging to make ends meet. Both partners in most married couples work full time jobs and many people work two or even three jobs. We live in a time in which volunteering has simply become too steep a challenge for most people and, combined with the significant time commitment that EMS requires, MFAU’s roster became increasingly thin.  

Our fundamental mission is to provide fast, high level emergency medical care and transport to our community. Falling membership led directly to low call response rates. In 2016 MFAU had a response rate of 80%, in 2017 it dropped to 72% and in 2018 we reached a low average of 69%. We know that your teams often had to fill the gap while waiting for a commercial ambulance to respond. This is unacceptable and we have struggled intensely to turn things around. 

After reaching out to both commercial and volunteer agencies all over the state of New York and witnessing their struggles and successes we started to make hard choices about how to make MFAU a top ambulance squad again. We have adopted a hybrid, “partial paid” model where the agency has hired EMTs and drivers to staff hard-to-fill shifts. Even with paid shifts, adequate staffing is a constant balancing act. This move away from an all volunteer squad after nearly sixty years was gut wrenching, but based on an incredible amount of research, was the absolute right choice. The results have been extraordinary. We now have a response rate that is amongst the best in the state. We have a duty shift at the squad house 24/7 and our rig has been out the door in under 5 minutes from 1st dispatch. 

Change is never easy and this is no different. We have spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy working out an endless stream of details large and small. While our long term funding picture is anything but clear, we are working hard to solve the fiscal puzzle. What is clear is our commitment to maintaining a highest level EMS to our district.. 

For 60 years our agency has worked shoulder to shoulder with firefighters keeping our community safe. From our home on School Hill Road, we stand ready to meet the challenges of these remarkable times. Please join us at Marbletownrescue.com and on Facebook at Friends of Marbletown First Aid to stay up to date on our work to keep the squad strong. We need your support. Please share these details with your members and with the community in general. In the coming months we will be reaching out to you, town government and residents, about our work to establish adequate funding for long term survival of MFAU. 

Once this period of “social distancing” passes we would like to work more closely with firefighters on the training side. We are working hard to re-establish an EMT course at the renovated Harriet Webber Training Center and to establish an improved training program for our current staff. These training sessions will be open to firefighters as well. 

The good news: Our response rate for April, 2020 was 100%. The changes are working!  

Respectfully, Marbletown First Aid Unit Board of Directors.