The cities and towns of the SouthCoast are committed to working together to protect each other. Local firefighters, police officers, and EMTs back each other up.

One of the positive developments after World War II was the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the free nations of Europe baned together to defend themselves from Soviet communism. Each nation recognized it was more efficient and economical to maintain a locally-controlled defense system within a larger mutual system that could be called into action in the face of a Soviet onslaught.

There are tensions in our local NATO. Some public safety professionals in and out of New Bedford are pointing to the city as the cause of the tension.

The men and women on the ground are feeling the strain and they are sending out alerts to the folks they serve and protect. Just like NATO, the cities and towns of SouthCoast are committed to a common defense. If New Bedford has a major emergency, the fire, police, and EMS departments in the towns of Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Acushnet, Freetown, Westport, Mattapoisett, and other communities, including the city of Fall River, can be drafted into action.

Our local NATO has been successful for generations. Life and property have been well served by our local system of mutual defense. The taxpayers have benefitted from spreading the costs across a larger population. The cost of insurance is lower when the level of emergency services is optimal.

Among the experts sounding the alarm are the professional firefighters of New Bedford, Dartmouth, and Fairhaven. The men and women of those departments are deeply concerned about the reduction of equipment and manpower in the city.

Local 1555 President Edward Freitas said whenever Fairhaven responds to mutual aid calls, the department has to call people in from home to man their stations and that has an added cost for the town's department.

"We end up supplementing NBFD's budget," Freitas said. "As far as mutual aid goes, the surrounding communities provide more coverage than what they receive. In fact, Fairhaven, Dartmouth, and Acushnet provide more coverage than what they receive combined and then some."

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According to a Standard-Times article in June of 2020 about mutual aid, "Local 841 president Billy Sylvia said New Bedford is cutting the fire department's budget to save money, all the while putting the burden on surrounding communities to spend money to help cover fires in New Bedford.

Sylvia described cuts to the fire department's budget as 'passing the buck to everybody else' and said he brought up the pressure the cuts would put on surrounding departments' before."

How much longer will the taxpayers and elected officials of the region ignore the warnings coming from the local police officers, firefighters, and EMS professionals in their own town?

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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