Q: Describe your capacity at Brewster Ambulance Service.
TD: I was a full time paramedic and ALS Supervisor in Rhode Island, Wareham Division 4 and 5, but right now I'm temporarily on a per diem status with Brewster. I've accepted a full-time Civil Service Fire Department position with Fairhaven Fire Department. My goal is to learn the FD's interdepartmental ways in preparation to attend the Massachusetts Fire Academy. Once I've completed that training, I intend on returning full time to Brewster Ambulance. I miss working there full time!
Q: What were some of the responsibilities and things you did and still do at Brewster?
TD: When I was a full-time ALS supervisor, I was in fly car FS3. My primary role was out there doing field operations, making sure the crews had what they needed to have such as proper equipment, correct medications, that the medications were up to par and within date limits, and that the equipment was in working order for patient care, as well as their checks being up to date. Lots of equipment. I still do a lot of this today, but just on a per diem basis until I get through the Fire Academy.
Vehicles have safety checks with the state and are maintained through our fleet management with oil changes, service and maintenance. I am out in the field helping the crews, so when something that happens like a medical emergency, I have the ability to meet them at a scene. We cover a lot of highways with our 911 contracts. Otherwise, I help the crews out in the field with additional resources, interdepartmental command with the fire departments and making sure we're providing service in a timely fashion.
Q: What were your early days of working at Brewster like?
TD: When I first came into Brewster, I got put on a 911 truck in Brockton as a paramedic for about a year, and then I swapped to Division 4 and 5 in Taunton when we got the City of Taunton contract. I talked with Jeff Begin and he said, "You'd be a great addition to our team. You can get us going in the right direction. You're go, go, go all the time and that's what we need." So I hopped on Medic 1 and started there. I would help get the supplies with Jeff and Steve, help get the bases set up—it was a new thing and you're learning as you are going. The area includes Taunton, Fall River, and Middleboro. The actual geographical area I mapped it out and it was 537 square miles for Division 4 and 5.
Q: Can you share an example of how you support the crews?
TD: In early 2018 in Middleboro, there was a motor vehicle rollover at an interchange of I-495. The occupants were still in the car, and I was in the area and responded with the crews. I got on scene and our EMS crews were with the fire department. When you first get to a scene like that, lots of things are going on. The main goal is that the crew is safe, and have the resources they need. You're standing side-by-side with the fire department and it's like, "What do we need, 'hey, we may need MedFlight—how many patients do we have, do they need to go to a local hospital, or are their conditions more serious that they need a higher level of care?" All of these challenges are going on and decisions are being made in seconds. Helping on scene in real time with our EMS providers so that they have what they need. It's a form of orchestrated chaos and I love it.
There were three patients in a van who went to local hospital, three other patients in the rollover who had to be extricated and needed to go to a Rhode Island hospital. Once you figure that out, how long is it going to take for MedFlight to get there, what's in our best interest, how critical are the patients, can they sustain the drive to the hospital, etc. the crews need that information for their action reports later on, and there are lots of things going on. Things went very easy because we were all working together with one common goal: patient care.
Q: What directed you to get choose an EMS career?
TD: I went to Dartmouth High School and a couple of my buddies older than me and were doing this Call Firefighter thing. I found it interesting. In my senior year, I hooked up with a friend and he asked me to come to a meeting. I liked what I saw, especially the camaraderie within the fire department. I put in my application in February of 1989 and I got put on the Call Fire Department in Dartmouth. A year later, I got my EMT license. I went through the City of New Bedford and it cost only $150 to get your EMT license back then. I got my EMT and I said, "Wow, this is pretty cool. I'm going to work on the Town ambulance," which was STAT Ambulance. I went to work off of STAT ambulance as an EMT, and it never stopped from there. I had fire department training, EMS training, and I just loved the education in the EMS and fire field. I've been educating myself with something to do with EMS or firefighter related since then.
I worked from 1991 to 2002, and within that time I jumped over to the law enforcement side. I became Lieutenant Deputy Sheriff with the Bristol County Sheriff's Department and worked in Corrections and Law Enforcement for about 15 years on top of doing the Call Fire Department and EMS work. Within that time, I went to the Fire Academy, because why not. I continued to educate myself in the fire service, got my Firefighter 1 and 2 Certificate, Fire Instructor Level 1 Certificate, Fire Officer 1 & 2. Then, I wanted to get into the tactical stuff, and so I became the second in command with the tactical unit.
I got chosen out of multiple applicants to go to the FBI to be trained as a hostage negotiator. Real good people. During all of my training, Sheriff's Department, Fire Department, EMT and tactical, the attack of 9/11 happened. I got chosen out of a pool of people to go to NYC after the bombings to be placed on a detail. I met with special agents to do a detail, and they said, "You guys are going to be protecting a building on Broadway and 10th Street." I thought it was just a post office, as that's what was on the first floor. But it ended up being where the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Justice and a maximum security detention facility in that building. That was my detail for an entire week when it was all going on. We ensured the security of that building was top notch and we'd not drop the ball to assure our Nation's security.
I went back every year after the incident and my family and I recently took a trip to NYC and went to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and went through the museum and said, "I was standing right next to the ladder truck that got crushed when I came down for the detail." I was standing next to it. It brought back a lot of memories.
One of the parts that got me the most when I was originally there was behind the United Building there was a fence and you saw all the letters to the loved ones that they hadn't found yet. Those letters tugged at your heart strings. You got to see some of those letters in the museum. I spoke to a few people, and I spoke to a gentleman who gave me two books and he made the books they published and have at the Freedom Tower.
Q: What did you do after all of that?
TD: I just got right back to work as that's all I really knew. I'm a worker guy, I like to get involved and went right back to work and continued with my education. After I left the Sheriff's Department I got more into the EMS field. I was working for Cape Cod Ambulance when I first got my paramedic license. I ran into a friend who was working for Brewster Ambulance in Plymouth. He told me to come work with Brewster, so I filled out the application online. By the following Monday I was working for Brewster Ambulance. I did my interview, and they were impressed with all of my certifications and said, "When can you start?" That was 2015.
Q: What is it about Brewster that stands out for you?
TD: It's a great group of clinicians, awesome people, and the crews here have made my job as a Field Supervisor extremely easy. The Brewsters hire super smart clinicians and they make your job so easy. The biggest thing that stands out for me is that the Brewster family—the word family stands out across the board in every employee. They consider you as part of their family. You recognize the name Brewster, but they know who you are. The first time I met them, they already knew who I was. I'd never met them. It was as if I'd been there the whole time. It was the weirdest feeling, as I was already nervous coming into the office for the first time. I was impressed with how much they pay attention to knowing every employee by their first name. It's incredible.
Q: What would you say attributes to their success?
TD: The biggest part of their success comes from the top down. They relay to their operations managers, "This is what we're looking for when we go out there recruiting new members to be part of the Brewster family." The operations managers get it. They get it to the level that the person that we're going to interview to come into this family should have a good moral compass, and are highly trained people who truly enjoy their job. You do get burned out after a number of years, but they truly enjoy their job, they like what they do and it shows in their work performance. For Field Supervisors and Division Supervisors, we hire the best employees we can because our patient care will not falter and we want a great team and they've succeeded at doing that for a long time. They make you feel as though you are part of that family. To be part of a family and to know that you can have a conversation with a direct manager of a company and be honest about it speaks volumes.
Q: What do you look for when hiring people?
TD: When I talk to people I look for the person who has the drive, the desire to move forward—not the person who is just satisfied with what they're doing today. The person who says, "I want to be educated." That they are invested in their knowledge and they show it to you. It's one thing to talk about it, but it's another to show how they're doing it. That's a great employee right there.
During the initial conversation with someone and when they talk about what they've done, when they say things like, "As a group we can accomplish a lot," that's a team player there. If it starts out with, "I," you may want to consider that person to not be oriented with a team focus. Also, an attitude of, "We can do this," or, "What about this idea," and takes your feedback and implements that into their next call and their next training event and passes that information along—that's a good employee right there.
For example, I'll go back to that call with the multiple motor vehicle accident. As I shared, it went so easy because it was a group effort of educated individuals who shared a common goal: great patient care.
Q: What is on your bucket list?
TD: I've been talking about my bucket list and I don't have a large bucket list, but it consists of enjoying my family and friends, as good camaraderie is always great. I'd love to travel. My life revolves around public service. I'd like to go to Florida some day. The furthest I've been is South Carolina and that was to do training.
Q: Have you considered Tactical EMS?
TD: Chris DiBona and I had a conversation about that, primarily related to the Quincy area which is over an hour away, but I did offer to be an outlier. I became a member of the bike team, became a member of the Xfinity, Seekonk Speedway teams. I just like to be part of a group that gets the job done. I have the attitude, "What can I do to help, how do I move this forward, with you side by side all the way."
I've enjoyed what I've done here at Brewster Ambulance, have received nothing but help from the family and acceptance from everybody. They take your information that you give them and they implement it into the day to day operations where it's needed. Great group of people there. That's why I'm looking forward to going back full time after I finish at the Fire Academy, and knowing they want me to come back in that capacity is rare in this industry. They're being loyal to me, and I want to be loyal to them. Plus I miss working with my team full time.