Collaborative Fire/EMS Services

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Cumberland County is seeking a qualified consultant to work with town Fire/EMS departments countywide in order to study the needs, challenges and resources of Fire/EMS response programming within the County, and determine whether some functions could be more effectively met through regional collaboration. 

The successful bidder will also be prepared to work with Cumberland County and participating departments to develop models and cost structures that a regional compact could adopt, with the potential for flexibility and continued growth that would be driven by partner community needs and desires.

Cumberland County is located in the Southwestern corner of the state, with an eastern border against the Atlantic Ocean. The County is home to Maine’s deepest lake (Sebago) and largest city (Portland), and is the economic engine of Maine, with roughly 31% of all jobs in the state based there. The County is Maine’s most populous, with roughly 20% of the state’s population (303,069 people) in less than 4% of the state’s land mass. 

Despite Cumberland County’s relative population density in the urban-suburban communities along the coast and surrounding the City of Portland, much of the County is rural and wild - with lakes, forests, and complicated topographies separating sparse populations, and creating the typical challenges for emergency response programming in small communities. 

In conversation with town managers and fire department chiefs, Cumberland County offered to conduct a research project, with an aim to discover common pain points across departments in all emergency response positions, and search for potential opportunities for voluntary collaboration. The County first conducted a survey of town managers, who identified Fire/EMS as the departments that are facing the greatest challenges, with a heavy focus on staffing.

More specifically, that report identified EMS as the most pressing challenge, followed by fire and then animal control, with police services ranking last. The concerns around animal control and police did not rank as significant enough for further exploration at this time. EMS, however, has the most urgent needs. And EMS and Fire are inextricably linked in these communities; in almost all cases, they are managed by the same leadership and carried out by the same staff. 

Fire departments in Cumberland County are rarely staffed entirely by full or part-time exclusive employees. Shifts are often filled with a mix of per-diem workers and volunteers, who are free to choose the shifts they want - and oftentimes, per-diem employees are working in more than one community, or may be on staff at a department in one town and picking up extra shifts per-diem  in another. 

The County followed that survey with a more in-depth questionnaire of Fire/EMS chiefs, exploring several subjects including pain points and desired programming, system improvements and outcomes that are not possible currently.

22 out of 28 communities responded to the survey which took, on average, about 15 minutes to complete. The results indicated the same observation made by town managers, that the most significant challenges local departments face are related to staffing and shift coverage. But other areas, like training, complexity of calls and some administrative/educational responsibilities were identified as places where departments are either struggling, or see opportunities for improvement.

Cumberland County has offered to explore these subjects more deeply, with the goal of identifying potential services or programming that could be voluntarily shared in departments regionally, or county-wide.

There is some precedent for regional emergency response services and voluntary collaboration. Cumberland County manages the Regional Communications Center, which handles dispatch for 19 of the 28 communities in our county, and the Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement services county-wide. Examples of highly successful models in places like King County, WA and Southeastern MN demonstrate that a customized program designed by participating towns is likely to produce a program that reduces stressors, solves problems and improves outcomes.  

View the RFQ - 

Consultant for Collaborative Regional Fire/EMS Services in Cumberland County, Maine


View the Survey Results on Public Safety Needs and Challenges