Lunch with the Chief returns: Marco Police Foundation holds Hideaway event

Lance Shearer

The Marco Police Foundation “Lunch with the Chief” event is a popular outing for people to hear what is going on in the community, especially after a year in which several of the lunches had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday (May 12) at Hideaway Beach Club, Lunch with the Chief was back, but with a noticeable absence – Police Chief Tracy Frazzano. Chief Frazzano is recovering after cancer surgery, said MPF president Vernon Geberth, doing well post-op but unable to attend.

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“She’s a fighter,” said Geberth. “She’d be here if she could. I spoke to her husband; he said her prognosis is good.” Geberth has been a guest speaker at the forum himself, recounting the story of his involvement as a police consultant into the O.J. Simpson murder investigation.

There was a chief in attendance – two, if you count Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Chris Byrne – Tabatha Butcher, longtime chief of the Collier County Emergency Services Division, who filled the role of speaker. Butcher spoke to the approximately 100 attendees after their lunch of chicken cordon bleu and Caesar salad, updating the audience on the state of emergency medicine in Collier County as a whole, and Marco Island in particular.

With many in the crowd preparing to head north for the summer, this was the last hurrah and chance to rub elbows (safer than handshaking) before the snowbirds fly to their summer roosts. At the same time, it was as another data point in the island’s ongoing emergence from the hibernation of COVID – “just like we’re waking up and coming to life,” said former city councilor Larry Honig.

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The state of EMS is strong, said Butcher, with Collier experiencing a 37 percent “save rate” for patients with cardiac arrest, versus the national average of 10 percent. Utilizing 26 ambulances and one helicopter, the 196 emergency medical technicians and paramedics of Collier EMS responded to over 44,000 calls for service in 2020, transporting nearly 29,000 patients to area hospitals. In addition, they participate in special operations including med flights, search and rescue, hazmat situations, tactical and active shooter incidents.

Her department, said Butcher, operates on a three-tier approach. Tier 2 is basic life support, which ideally is provided within four minutes of receiving a call. Often that comes from police officers or fire-rescue personnel, she said, as they are generally the quickest to reach the patient.  Tier 3 is advanced life support, which the paramedics provide on their ambulances.

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But tier one is the rest of us – “public response,” as she put it. The first few minutes are critical for a patient, particularly one in cardiac arrest, as a human generally has about eight minutes worth of oxygenated blood before significant brain damage begins to occur. Butcher urged her listeners to learn CPR – even if it’s “hands only,” and pointed out there are over 1,800 AEDs, or automated emergency defibrillators, in the county, and their locations are posted on emergency responder websites.

Butcher did not address publicly the attempt by some Marco Islanders to create an independent emergency medical system but said before her talk she was against the concept at the time and remains convinced a unified county-wide system is the best choice. She did point out that Marco has a second ambulance on a seasonal basis, 12 hours a day, and as soon as an ambulance is called out on Marco, another is dispatched to take its place.

While Marco Island remains one of the most crime-free municipalities in the state or the country, it has undergone a mini-crime wave in the past few days. On Sunday, six cars were stolen and 16 were burglarized, all in the South Barfield area, said MIPD Capt. Richie Stoltenborg, acting in place of Chief Frazzano. He noted that in virtually all cases, the cars were not locked, and urged citizens to take that basic precaution.

Stoltenborg also introduced the newest members of the force. Officers Johnny Rosario, formerly with the NYPD, Anthony Pruchnik, from Pine Beach, NJ, and Michael Garner, recently of the U.S. Capitol Police, have all joined the department within the last month. Another officer from NYPD is expected to start in June.

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Stoltenborg, along with Geberth, spoke for everyone present when they wished Tracy Frazzano the best possible outcome and a speedy recovery.