Fire/Rescue FAQs

Why are house numbers so important?

House numbers are the means by which emergency response personnel identify your house in the event of an emergency and are required by law. In the event of a fire, we might see the smoke or fire, but if you need an ambulance it will take much longer to identify your house if house numbers are not visible from the road. Also, we have to be able to identify your house in the day, night, and under many different weather conditions.
House numbers should be a minimum of 3 inches in height, posted on the house and in contrasting color to the house. If you cannot easily see the numbers on the house from the street, another set of numbers is required to be posted at the street, usually on a mailbox or post.

My smoke detector is chirping, what does that mean?

Most modern smoke detectors will chirp to alert you the batteries are low, you should replace the batteries and test your smoke detector. Smoke detectors can be purchased at any hardware or large commercial department store.

How often should I change the batteries in my smoke detectors?

We recommend you change the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months, an easy way to remember is to change batteries when you reset your clock for daylight savings time. Note: Even if you have hardwired smoke detectors, if it has a battery back-up it will usually have this function.

I have a smoke detector. Why do I need a CO detector too?

Massachusetts Law requires all residential occupancy to have carbon monoxide detectors installed if they have a fossil fuel burning appliance or an attached garage. Fossil fuel burning appliances are oil and gas burners/ furnaces, wood stoves and pellet stoves just to name a few. Fossil fuel appliances and motor vehicles produce carbon monoxide as products of the combustion process. Usually, these products of combustion are exhausted by a flue pipe or chimney, but if the vent gets blocked in any way, these gasses may back up into the house. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and cannot be picked up by the human senses. The only way to determine if carbon monoxide is present is by a carbon monoxide detector or by a special metering device used by the Fire Department. Exposure to carbon monoxide may produce serious health effects or death.

My CO Detector is going off, but I don’t see or smell anything. Should I bother calling the Fire Department?

Yes – after assuring a safe evacuation! Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas. CO detectors are very sensitive and designed to alert occupants prior to CO reaching deadly levels. If your detectors go off, call the Fire Department and evacuate the home. Be sure to notify the Fire Department if anyone in the home is experiencing flu-like symptoms. The Fire Department has specialized equipment to detect and measure amounts of CO in your home. Please DO NOT open doors and windows before the Fire Department arrives, because this makes it difficult to determine the cause of any CO that may be present. NEVER hesitate to call us.

Photo-electric detectors are less sensitive to these "nuisance" alarms such as steam and cooking smoke. Any smoke detector installed within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom with a tub / shower should be a photo-electric detector.

What is the difference between an EMT and Paramedic?

The difference between an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and a Paramedic is a significant amount of education.  A Paramedic goes through more education and training and can provide a higher level of emergency care including invasive procedures (ALS or Advanced Life Support procedures).  A Paramedic is an EMT.  There are different levels of EMT training: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, EMT-Paramedic.  Each level requires more training and education than the prior.  A Paramedic will have upwards of 1500 hours of additional medical training over an EMT-Basic.

What is (ALS) Advanced Life Support and how can this help me?

Our Ambulance is primarily staffed with Firefighter/Paramedics. This staffing enables us to take the Emergency Room right to the patient. Studies have found that the first ten minutes of an emergency are the most critical. Our Firefighter/Paramedics are trained not only in (BLS) Basic Life Support, but are trained in establishing I.V.s' and administering numerous lifesaving medications in the field. They can use comprehensive cardiac monitoring including 12 lead, pediatric advanced life support and advanced airway management

Why does the ambulance sit in front of my house after they get the patient into the back of the ambulance?

In many ways, an ambulance is like a mobile emergency room. The ambulance carries the same equipment as the emergency room has - and even does the same procedures as the emergency room. Sometimes, a patient needs some medication or a special procedure prior to going to the hospital. Some medical conditions need to be addressed rapidly to ensure a positive outcome for the patient.

When I call for an ambulance, why do I sometimes see an ambulance from another town?

During the course of a day it is not unusual for two, three or four calls for the ambulance to come in at the same time. If our ambulance is busy we will request an ambulance from the next available town. This is called a Mutual Aid system. Our Paramedics are also assigned to the Engines and Ladder company so in case of multiple medical aid calls usually a paramedic will arrive at the scene and begin care of the patient prior to the out of town ambulance arriving at the scene.

Is there always someone at the firehouse?

No. Most fire stations in the United States are only occupied until an emergency call comes in*. Falmouth is no exception. Although all 5 of Falmouth stations are manned  at the start of the shift, personnel assigned to particular  station are assigned to various pieces of fire apparatus and ambulances. Once an emergency call is received, the appropriate equipment is dispatched, many times leaving no one at the fire stations until the call(s) are terminated. 

* For this reason, if you have an emergency, it is always better to dial 911, rather than to drive to a fire station, which may be empty.

Do the personnel on the ambulance fight fires also?

All of our personnel are Duel/Roll, cross-trained Firefighter/Paramedics or Firefighter/EMT’s.  All of our firefighters are graduates of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, and must maintain National certification as either an EMT or Paramedic. We carry our firefighting protective gear on all of our ambulances, and 1st line medical equipment on all of our fire apparatus.  Frequently, do to location or call volume, it’s not uncommon that a fire engine is first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency.

Why do some fire trucks park down the street from a fire?

Citizens may see fire apparatus parked down the street from an incident for two primary reasons:     In situations when an EMS scene is deemed unsafe due to a potentially violent patient or family member, or there are dangerous drugs involved, apparatus may “stage” until the police department has secured (made safe) the scene.

On fire calls, an engine may stage down at the fire hydrant in case additional water is need at the scene for a building fire.

What should I do when I see or hear an emergency vehicle coming towards me when I'm driving?

When it is safe to do so, you should pull over to the right and stop until all emergency vehicles have safely passed. If you cannot safely maneuver to the right, simply stop and stay stopped so the vehicles can go around you safely.

Why do you block traffic lanes at auto accidents, sometimes more lanes than necessary?

We block traffic lanes for the safety of our personnel and our patients. Blocking extra lanes keep our personnel safe when they go back to our apparatus to get more equipment and help protect the victim we are trying to stabilize. Over 25 firefighters are killed or injured each year while working at incidents on streets and highways.


Why am I not supposed to drive over a firehose?

Firefighters are very concerned about running over fire hoses because the hose can be damaged and any firefighter at the end of a nozzle will have the water interrupted and possibly cause injuries or death. Any hose that is driven over without protection has to be taken out of service and tested.


Why do I need to keep weeds and bushes away from fire hydrants on my property?

Weeds and bushes should be kept three feet from fire hydrants for visibility and accessibility.

What if I smell Gas in my home?

You will need to get out of the house and then call 9-1-1 for the Fire Department from outside of the house or from a neighbor's house. The use of a phone could cause the gas to ignite if you called from inside the house.


What other responsibilities do firefighters have other than fighting fires?

The number of residential and commercial fires has steadily decreased over the years due to a variety of factors including improvements in construction, a greater public awareness of the risk factors leading to fires and a significant reduction in smoking nationwide. Fires, however, are only some of the emergencies to which the Fire Department responds. More than eighty percent of the Fire Department's emergency responses are, in fact, calls for medical aid, including illness/accidents at home and work, and injuries resulting from vehicle crashes. Other calls for emergency response involve hazardous materials releases, technical rescues, response to fire alarms and other calls for public assistance. Firefighters also spend much of their time maintaining equipment, training for all types of emergency responses and filling out the reports and paperwork associated with these activities.