Nov. 6 — To the Editor:
Recently an abrupt change was made to the Parking & Traffic Safety Committee. Deputy Fire Chief Jim Heinz, who served on the committee for the past five years, was replaced by Fire Chief Achilles. It was explained that Jim will be retiring in 18 months, and this was a good time to transition. There was no opportunity for the committee members, or the public, to thank Jim for his service. He was there one meeting, and gone the next. It was all rather odd. Well-respected P&TS member, Harold Whitehouse, said it best, “I’m not satisfied with the way this was done.” I agree, Harold.
All due respect is given to committee members, especially the citizen members who donate many hours for a better Portsmouth. Where traffic safety is concerned, however, I want to hear from two members, Police and Fire. I want them to speak freely and honestly, without pressure to rubber-stamp City Hall-driven projects. Lives depend upon them, and their scope of responsibility continues to expand. They are responsible not just for our 22,000 residents, but also for the growing number of tourists and hotels. It’s a tall order to be able to expeditiously navigate our streets in an emergency. Police and Fire should be the last word on traffic-calming techniques, such as narrowing our streets, to avoid response times being negatively impacted.
While Police and Fire respond to an array of often dangerous situations where time is of the essence, the opioid crisis continues to increase, and active shooter situations are sadly part of our national consciousness. When the Deputy Fire Chief says “seconds matter”, we should believe him and not be skeptical. If you want to read an example of what Police and Fire understand to be true in one of the worst possible scenarios, read the Governor’s NH School Safety Preparedness Task Force final report. “Lives are measured in seconds during an incident.” “…during an active shooter event, a child’s chance of survival is measured in seconds…”
We do not live in a sleepy town. Police and Fire are our first line of defense as often as we need them. I’m content to leave it to them to decide how they can effectively do their job.
Thank you, Fire Deputy Chief Heinz, for your tenacious contributions to the citizens of Portsmouth.