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Holyoke City Council calls for end of late night ambulance sirens

Holyoke City Council calls for end of late night ambulance sirens

HOLYOKE โ€“ Ward 3 Councilor David K. Bartley said constituents are tired of sirens blasting from the Cataldo Ambulance Service on South Street. The City Council took up Bartley’s order during a January 31 meeting of the Development and Government Relations Committee.

In October 2022, Mayor Joshua A. Garcia selected Cataldo as the city’s ambulance provider. Cataldo works in a former firehouse, previously occupied by Action Ambulance.

Bartley invited the ambulance service to the meeting to discuss sirens, parking, maintenance and other relevant issues with South Street residents.

A representative from Cataldo, Frank McNeil, and Fire Chief John Kadlewicz appeared before the committee. McNeil runs Cataldo’s western Massachusetts operation, which includes the Holyoke facility.

While Bartley thanks Cataldo for her efforts, residents of Elmwood Towers, a senior living facility across the street, complain about hourly sirens from the ambulance service.

“There’s a time and a place for sirens,” said Bartley, but not at 3 a.m.

Before Cataldo came on board, previous complaints focused on ambulance crews congregating outside and talking loudly.

Bartley also mentioned staff cars parked on Cataldo’s front lawn or “wherever they feel like it,” which does not give the councilor a “warm feeling.” Although spaces are tight in the neighborhood, he suggested contacting Elmwood Towers from Cataldo for parking arrangements.

“People have to look at it all day. I get calls, and I don’t like getting called anymore,” Bartley said. He understood to use the siren during morning and afternoon rush hours, but not late at night or early in the morning. “Discretion should be used at 2 am, 5 am”

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Bartley said a constituent informed him that the siren was on. He called on Cataldo to fix the sirens, parking and maintenance conditions on South Street. “It would be nice if the building looked a little nicer,” he said, starting by closing the station doors.

Bartley said residents are grateful for Cataldo’s service to the community.

McNeill said he agreed with Bartley’s assessment, but the contract required Cataldo to field six ambulances. So once the contract was awarded in October, Cataldo had 30 days to implement the transition.

McNeil hopes the parking issues will “solve themselves” by adding an ambulance base outside Holyoke. Cataldo also introduced a tiered dispatch response based on the priority of the call.

For example, a priority two call considered non-critical or non-life-threatening does not require sirens or lights. McNeil said the new leveling system should reduce the use of sirens. Forty percent, or 4,000 to 5,000, of calls annually are priority two.

“It should calm the neighborhood down,” McNeil said.

McNeil said traffic backs up on that stretch of South Street at peak hours. โ€œYou’re absolutely right. It shouldn’t be in the middle of the night. It’s not our protocol,โ€ he said. โ€œThere’s no excuse for honking at 3 in the morning.โ€

McNeil said Cataldo conducts 3,500 inpatient or non-emergency transfers to hospitals annually. Cataldo dispatchers who work at the Fire Department Headquarters are under contract and use separate equipment.

Kadlewicz said the Holyoke Fire Department’s experience with the ambulance service was mainly positive, despite “growing pains in the beginning” with the transition between Action Ambulance and Cataldo.

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“Since then, they’ve been doing a really good job,” he said. “I haven’t had too many complaints.”

In addition to the main operation at South Street, the chief said Cataldo has two dispatchers at Holyoke Fire Department Headquarters and one ambulance at Station 5 on Whiting Farm Road. Kadlewicz said the department maintains an “open line of communication” with Cataldo. “It seems to be going pretty smoothly,” he said.

A joint committee was formed between the fire department and the ambulance service to resolve the issues.

Bartley praised the recent responses by the Holyoke Fire Department and Cataldo during the two emergencies. About 90% of Holyoke firefighters have EMT certifications.

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