In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day. Each year we pause on that day to recognize those law enforcement officers that have died in the line of duty. We also use the week that May 15 falls in to recognize our brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community, for all the great work they do to serve and protect our communities.

This week we are just finishing, May 17 through the 23, is National EMS (Emergency Medical Services) week. Since 1974, this week has been set aside each year to recognize the nation’s first responders who provide pre-hospital emergency care and transportation to the emergency department. It provides us with the opportunity to recognize and honor the dedication of those special individuals who are on the front lines of providing lifesaving day to day emergency medical services to our citizens and visitors.

The Scarborough Rescue was the first ambulance service in the State of Maine formed in the 1950s by local Dr. Phillip Haigis due to the unusually high incidents of serious motor vehicle accidents particularly on the very busy Route 1 corridor before the Maine Turnpike was built. In those early days, it was completely staffed by local volunteers, many of whom were members of the Scarborough Lion’s Club, a longtime supporter of the Scarborough Rescue Unit.

In those early days, there really wasn’t a formal EMS system. Our local family doctor trained those early volunteers in basic first aid and they transported patients to the hospital in an old panel truck. The EMS service that the Scarborough Fire Department provides has changed dramatically over the past 70 years. We now employ 31 full-time EMS professionals, the majority of whom are licensed to the Paramedic level. Additionally we have dozens of call and per-diem members that are an integral part of our EMS system. We staff two ambulances 24/7/365 and have a third that fills in when one of the other units is being serviced, or as a third responding unit for calls with multiple patients, or when we have to respond to multiple calls at the same time.

Our modern EMS system is truly an integrated first response system where trained communications professionals in our dispatch center answer 911 calls and gather critical information through emergency medical dispatch protocols. Police officers who are out patrolling town-wide, and firefighters responding from the neighborhood fire stations, are trained and equipped with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) so they can respond promptly and institute life saving measures to cardiac arrest victims throughout the community even before the ambulance arrives. We work as a team to provide the best possible emergency pre-hospital care available.

As you might imagine the best EMS system in the world is only as good as the individual providers who constantly train and work hard every day to provide competent and compassionate healthcare to our citizens and visitors. National Peace Officer and National EMS weeks are our opportunity to pause and give thanks for the outstanding Law Enforcement and EMS services that we are fortunate to have here in Scarborough. It is also a great time to thank all our first responders for the dedicated and professional service they provide each and every day, particularly over the past three months of being on the front lines of the town’s pandemic virus response.

I would like to close by noting the recent passing of the last charter member of the Scarborough Rescue Unit, Wendell Whitten. Wendell was the unit’s first captain, and was a great mentor and roll model for dozens of us that had the pleasure of knowing, learning, and working with him in those early years. Wendell was 99 years old when he passed a few weeks ago, and he represented the last surviving charter volunteer from the distinguished group that came together to form the first rescue unit in the state, and the integrated emergency medical system we proudly maintain today. Wendell’s foresight, compassion, and service to others, along with that of Doc Haigis and the other early pioneers built a solid foundation that continues to provide life-saving care to the citizens of Scarborough today.

If you have any questions about his article or any fire department issue you may contact me at [email protected] or 730-4201.

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