Brattleboro first responders voted No. 1

Fire department is first responder service of the year

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BRATTLEBORO — Receiving recognition — the 2018 First Responder Service of the Year Award from the Vermont Department of Health, Emergency Medical Services, to be exact — came as a surprise to the Brattleboro Fire Department.

"We didn't even know we were nominated for the award," Fire Chief Mike Bucossi told the Reformer. "We don't know who even nominated us. We'll find out later, as I understand."

Bucossi said the department's staff members are really proud of the service they deliver to the community, and the award "only reinforces our dedication to making everything right."

"I think the part that is the good feel about it is the award recipients were selected by an outside committee," he said. "It wasn't by anybody we know. It was done by a state committee totally outside the Vermont EMS division. And so we must be doing something right."

The award is meant to recognize Vermont-based licensed EMS organizations for "their excellence in operations and service to their communities."

Criteria looks at whether agencies are active in public education or injury prevention efforts, have demonstrated positive relationships with the community and EMS District Board, have taken "meaningful and visible steps" to assure the professionalism of personnel and the quality of patient care, and have identified areas where quality improvement is possible and have taken steps in those areas.

The awards committee noted the department's early adoption of the SIREN Reporting System, and its high validation score and completion rate.

The committee also lauded the department for voluntarily opening its stations' doors for inspection.

"There were many fantastic nominees this year, but the committee truly felt that these were two meaningful areas of improving the health and safety of the community and showing leadership in the field," the Vermont Department of EMS told the Brattleboro Fire Department.

Bucossi said the department transitioned to the new state reporting system, used for reporting medical incidents, a few years ago.

"They initially kicked it off for ambulance transport systems to use, then they were going to transition in the first response squads," he said. "We didn't see any reason in continuing to use our existing system at that time. So as a first response squad, we just transitioned right into it."

Bucossi called the system "much more comprehensive."

"We create data from it, which is something we couldn't do with our old one," he said.

The system can track types of incidents, times and patterns. Bucossi said Cheshire Medical Center will "indiscriminately" review calls reported to the system and actions taken then follow up on the outcome to see whether best practices were followed and whether improvements can be made.

The goal, Bucossi said, is to ensure patients are getting the best care in the field.

"It's always a work in progress in terms of medical procedures and protocols," he said.

Bucossi said his department has definitely seen improvements in the delivery of the services it provides.

"The staff here is very proactive not only in this but in everything they do, obviously," he said. "As they're zeroing in on this topic, they're always looking to improve."

His department had volunteered to be the subject of a new state inspection that started last year. The focus is on first response and transport agencies.

Inspectors looked at the vehicles and equipment to ensure the department had certain items appropriate to its license to run an advanced care squad.

"I called Vermont EMS and said, 'Come down and do us,'" Bucossi said. "We would like to know not only where we stand but what do we need? What are we carrying that we don't need?"

The department, he said, was "basically a guinea pig."

"I'm happy to say we scored very well in this testing," he added. "And it helps the community."

The presentation of the award will be made in Brattleboro on a date to be announced. Also, the department will be recognized at the annual Vermont EMS and Healthcare Preparedness Conference at the EMS Award Convocation Ceremony in October at Jay Peak.

Bucossi said he was glad to see people around the state believe his department is "doing it right."

"And we'll always strive to improve," he said.

"We are proud of our firefighters every day," said Town Manager Peter Elwell. "They are dependable and professional and innovative in protecting people and property in and around Brattleboro. It is wonderful to see their excellent work receive this independent Statewide recognition."

Brattleboro Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald said the fire department's "professionalism and care for the well being of the community is demonstrated each and every day."

"Job well done and very deserving," Fitzgerald wrote in a public email to Bucossi.

Other town staff members also described the department as well deserving of the award.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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