Practice but no policy to notify officials of emergencies

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While Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur likes to be kept abreast of issues pertaining to his ward and the city, at least for the time being he won’t be notified of every emergency run affecting his constituents.

Ladouceur requested of Fire Chief James McLaughlin that the department implement a policy of informing him of calls.

As it now stands, McLaughlin said Wednesday his practice has been to first inform the mayor and then the councilperson of significant incidents such as a major fire and/or situations involving injuries or a death.

“I’ll let them know for sure,” he said.

McLaughlin forwarded Ladouceur’s request along to Ray Studley, Mayor Scott Avedisian’s chief of staff.

In an email reply to Ladouceur, Studley said, “As I have stated before, any day to day request can be handled by department heads. However, when you send a request to a department head asking for a policy to be created, the mayor’s office will weigh in on that. If we set a policy to contact elected council members on every call, we potentially could be facing HIPPA violations, as well as diminishing the response time of our first responders and putting lives at risk.”

In a telephone interview, Studley said he thought it would be a mistake to have fire personnel, including dispatchers, concerned about contacting officials in the midst of an emergency. He said he thought their first concern should be saving lives.

That doesn’t mean officials would be kept out of the loop.

“We have to put trust in individuals to make discretionary calls,” Studley said. He added, “On an every call basis, this is not a reasonable request.”

In his response to Ladouceur, Studley writes, “Also, on a prospective basis, will the next request be for the Police Department to also act in the same manner? As has historically been the case in the event that an ‘unusual’ circumstance: fire, etc. occurs within your ward, our fire chief as well as police chief have communicated this to the respective council member, and the mayor and I have great confidence that they will continue to do so. So, for clarification, the City of Warwick’s Fire Department will not be drafting any policy that states that fire dispatch or responding fire fighters on every call will contact the respective council member of the ward that they are responding to.”

Studley believes the system works, pointing to last month’s disappearance of a kayaker off Conimicut Point and the search mounted by first responders. In that case, he noted Mayor Scott Avedisian was out of town and Council President Joseph Solomon was notified. Solomon was at the mobile emergency operations trailer the night of the search and the following morning.

In an email to McLaughlin, Ladouceur expressed his disappointment that he didn’t get the courtesy of a reply. He also said he never limited his request for updates to emergency responses.

Ladouceur said in a phone interview that what he is looking for is to be informed of events by fire and police and if it was a matter of a policy, as a member of the legislative body, he could seek that. But that’s not his intention.

He explained he gets calls when constituents see a police car parked at a neighbors or see fire apparatus stopped at a house.

“I like to give answers to constituents…I’m responsible to provide answers to their concerns,” he said.

Ladouceur said he is not requesting that responders interrupt their work to inform him, “but at some reasonable time frame let me know.”

Comments

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Kammy

Could there not be something in place like there is with CCRI and emergencies? A text goes out to all those that sign up regarding an incident or inclement weather. Couldn't something be set up for specific people in each ward? You don't have to alert a large number of people and it would save having to make multiple phone calls. We do live in a world of technology. Why not make use of it and keep those that need to know up to date?

Friday, February 9
CrickeeRaven

Great ideas, Kammy. Local police and fire departments also post alerts on their social media accounts, so there's another way that residents can find out what they're doing.

I do take exception, though, to Councilman Ladouceur's request and reasoning on this -- if constituents are calling him about seeing police and fire activity near their homes, he should collect their information and contact the departments himself, instead of expecting that those departments will inform him. His elected status does not relieve him from actively seeking information for his constituents; on the contrary, he owes it to them to work on their behalf, instead of placing the burden on first responders and fire and police officials to make special accommodations for him.

Friday, February 9
MoeMedeiros1

OK . . . lets look at the practicality of this request . . . I think it is to broad to even warrant a response. You mean to tell me that people need to call the council person, who then make a request to the Fire or Police Chief, who will then have to research it, then get back to the council person, who will then get back to the neighbor who wants to know. And this is going to happen for what every call for service. Lets use common sense. If your neighbor is getting loaded into a Rescue . . . then it is a medical call. If you see smoke, flames then you should be calling 911 not your council person. If the Fire Department is already there then it can be assumed that something was burning that should not have been.

Now for the Police Department . . . again lets use common sense . . . if it is an active investigation which is in its infancy then the Police response should be "NO COMMENT" . . . unless the disclosure of information has been vetted and deemed to not hurt the investigation.

There is no need for police and fire to stop what their doing to call the council person, so the council person can know everyone's business.

There is a proper time for disclosure of information and that should be after proper notifications have been made to Law Enforcement agencies and family . . . etc.

Not politicians.

Friday, February 9
HerbTokerman

Wouldn't such a notification be a violation of HIPAA?

Why does a city councilman need to be informed of someone having a medical emergency?

What exactly do they need that information for?

Friday, February 9