UConn Health Fire Service Too Much For Farmington

Since the announced transition away from a stand-alone fire service at the UConn Health Center, the firefighter community in Connecticut has stood in shock and disbelief.

I was a member of the UConn Health Fire Department for 27 years. Do not be fooled: This decision is reckless. It will put patients, staff and visitors at the health center at risk.

What is even more troubling is that as of June 1, the town of Farmington will be relied on for fire and emergency services.

Two studies commissioned by the UConn Health Center have shown that the town is ill-prepared to assume these duties.

In fact, Farmington’s director of fire and rescue services, Mary-Ellen Harper, said in one study that the town fire department was “in no way capable of handling the Health Center the way it needs to be handled.”

The mostly volunteer fire departments are good, but complex responses to a large research facility attached to a hospital far exceed the town’s capabilities.

Are the residents in Farmington ready to pay for a full-time 24/7 fire department just to handle emergencies at the UConn Health Center?

And what exactly has changed in the recent past that now leads UConn Health administrators to believe the town is ready, willing and able to assume those duties? What has the UConn Health Center promised to the town that now makes the town think it is capable of assuming this financial responsibility?

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security recently alerted hospitals to potential terrorist attacks. Is the town ready to respond to those as well? I know the men and women of the UConn Health Center Fire Department are because they train every day for any and all unique responses on such a complex campus.

Carmine J. Centrella, West Simsbury

The writer was chief of the UConn Health Center Fire Department from 1977 to 2004.

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