DC Fire(d)

Fatal Accident Data Missing

On March 9, 2018, DC Fire and EMS Engine 26 was involved in a fatal accident at 12th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE.

Now, WJLA reports that the data card for the on-board camera is missing.

They say, “Investigators are trying to determine when the camera stopped recording, and how did the card disappear.”

I’d go with March 9th as the probable disappear date for starters.

This is the same firehouse which refused to help a dying man across the street despite the fact that three people banged on their door pleading for help.

It’s also more evidence of an agency riven with incompetence and a lack of accountability.

But let’s not pick on Engine 26.

It’s only been two years since Truck 17, Engine 8 and Ambulance 26 were dispatched for a heart attack and in a not-so-comic tragedy of errors managed to assume they weren’t needed when they most definitely were.

That patient (also) died.

A fire department spokesman said “they had assumed the call they saw was the call they were on” for the heart attack. But, the spokesman said, “that was not the actual call.”

Then there is the heartbreaking tragedy involving Engine 20.

“Paramedics who were about a mile away were sent to [a choking] child’s Tenleytown house on March 13, 2015, while others only blocks away were never dispatched. The boy, about 18 months old, died Thursday, officials said.”

In fact, things are so bad at DC Fire and EMS that even the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) chimes in.

“A shortage of ambulances, inadequate training and a poor strategy make the district “one of the worst EMS systems in the country when compared to other major metropolitan areas,” said Lori Moore-Merrell, assistant to the general president of the International Association of Firefighters.”

In 2016 firefighters “failed to notice a patient they were caring for had a serious gunshot wound.  The initial assessment was that the man was just high on PCP.”

IAFF Local 36, the union, loves to blame various fire chiefs for the dismal state of affairs but even a casual observer can conclude that the actual problem is an embedded culture comprised of equal parts laziness, ignorance and lack of professionalism.

At this point there is no other rational explanation.

They can’t find you when you call for help, even if you are in plain sight, and if they do, may not even notice you’ve been shot.

DC Fire and EMS needs to look to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for a lesson in professionalism.

MPD may not be perfect but they show up every time and are meaningfully involved in the community at every level from the chief to district commanders to the cop on the beat.

DC Fire and EMS may or may not show up, won’t return a phone call or even leave the station to investigate a life safety hazard.

Case in point where engagement with the public is concerned, in my Northwest neighborhood we recently noticed late night prowlers on our security cameras and notified MPD.

They promptly arranged to come by and retrieve a copy of the recordings.

Then, an odd thing happened, we began to see other late night images:  MPD officers, on foot, patrolling our property in the wee hours.

That’s engaging with the community.

Two years ago DC Fire and EMS outsourced EMS to a third party provider, AMR,  thus admitting they had neither the ability nor interest in providing comprehensive and adequate pre-hospital care.

Try to imagine MPD out-sourcing law enforcement response to Allied Universal or Securitas; it would never happen as it would be seen as the sellout that it obviously is.

AMR may be good for DC citizens but it just allows DC Fire and EMS to further disengage from the public, if such a thing is even possible, locked behind firehouse doors as they refuse calls for service.

Those delighted by irony will enjoy WJLA’s report that, “On Friday, the DC Fire Department said they have hired a company to make sure dashcams are working in all fire trucks”, another ill-advised outsourcing gambit.

As a lifelong union firefighter I am amazed that IAFF Local 36 allowed AMR in the door; they are mired in the false belief that the occasional low crawl down a smoky hallway is a guarantee of future job security in the 21st-century.

To my civilian friends, the next time you see a DC Fire and EMS vehicle arrive at an incident where there is no smoke or fire evident, note their leisurely pace exiting the rig, gathering their equipment and entering the building and ask yourself whether they believe that seconds really count.








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