Monday, November 7, 2011

The Best They Could

There is tremendous resistance to any criticism of emergency services.
Perhaps you have noticed this.

It is taboo for anyone to say anything negative about their own agency, or emergency services in general.
No one wants to talk about mistakes that are made, or problems that exist.

Saying anything about them in public, or ::gasp!:: online has cost people their jobs. We wouldn't want to alarm the public, would we?

The problem with this is that there are problems, more in some places than others, and ignoring them won't make them go away.

I believe the public has a RIGHT to know how emergency services functions, and has a right to know how their local system compares to both average and optimal. They are paying for these services, right? And depending on them, sometimes for their very survival.

And yet... not only is it not allowed to discuss it, for the most part, people seem not to want to know.

They have this image of heroes, and they don't want to consider that it might not be so.
They expect trained professionals to come when they call 911, and don't want to even think about how that might not happen.

Any suggestion that their local "heroes" are not what they imagine is met with indignation, and with accusations of trying to "destroy the fire department" (or whatever agency is in question).

Never mind, for the moment, that people seem to believe in THE Fire Department, as if there is only one, divided into infinite branches, perhaps, but all connected, with the same training standards and same training and experience. Similarly, it is THE Ambulance that comes.

The biggest problem I see with all this is that it's going to take a disaster to get people's attention.
It won't be until they are personally negatively affected that they stop and realize... wait a second. I called 911, and no one came and saved me.

Most of the time, around here anyway, it's "we're so grateful; they did the best they could" regardless of the quality of service or even the outcome.

But sometimes, "the best they could" isn't good enough.
It isn't good enough when there aren't enough firefighters to mount an interior attack.
It isn't good enough when the time it takes to get people on scene is too long to effectively rescue anyone.
It isn't good enough if a 911 call for a cardiac arrest does not elicit a response that includes an AED on scene within 10 minutes.
It isn't good enough if the people who show up aren't trained to do the thing that needs to be done.

If that's the situation, people need to stop saying "well, they did the best they could" and start asking questions about what that "best" IS, and whether it's good enough to GET THE JOB DONE.

It would be even better if they asked those questions NOW, before anything happens that proves it isn't.

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