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.”