Brickbat: They Call Me the Fireman


Medric Mills had a heart attack across the street from a District of Columbia fire station, so his daughter rushed across the street for help. There were reportedly five firefighters on duty that day. But none of them would cross the street to help. The daughter says she was told they couldn't do anything unless they were dispatched. Even the pleas of a police officer couldn't get the firefighters out of the station. Meanwhile, the ambulance that was sent for Mills was mistakenly directed to an address 26 blocks away. Mills died while waiting for help.

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  1. The Ambulance Union President also says the firehouse had all the necessary personnel and equipment to have tried to save a life ? had they bothered to walk across the street.

    “Five individual had access…nobody went over,” said Kenneth Lyons.

    Insane. Jobsworth at its most extreme. Surely these assholes ought to be prosecuted, but of course it’s DC so they’ll probably be promoted instead.

  2. I get that the dispatcher needs to know what resources are available to call upon, but the firefighters should have been able to call the.dispatcher and inform him.

    How.utterly infuriating.

    1. When I started my first business I discovered it only takes two people to create a bureaucracy, and it only gets worse from there.

    2. As a former firefighter (not DC) I find this almost impossible to believe.

      We were always able to “dispatch” ourselves in situations like this. It happened scores of times in my career. We called it a “still alarm”. We would call or radio to the dispatcher and advise them that we were on a medical still alarm. We would request whatever further resources we needed (ambulance, etc.). The dispatcher would then announce our status over the radio network: “Engine 1 is on a medical still alarm at 123 Main Street, etc”.

      It is beyond absurd that a group of firefighters would claim they need some other entity to call 911 and initiate the process.

      It is possible that they were following DC procedures, but they should have challenged those procedures a long time ago. The city, the firefighter union, and the firefighters are all guilty of extreme negligence.

      Hope the family gets big $.

  3. The Brits had a way of making their government employees get off their arses that might be of some application here

    1. That law seems it could be a bit counterproductive…lose your ship.in.pursuit of a superior force, because you could be.court martialed otherwise. No allowance for strategic retreat and living to.fight another day?

      1. Seems especially egregiuos because of this:

        When his flag captain pointed out to Byng that by standing out of his line, he could bring the centre of the enemy to closer action, he declined because Thomas Mathews had been dismissed for so doing.

        1. true to both of you, especially you Snark (scroll up the entry to see what happened to poor Baker Phillips) but OTOH…

          Byng’s execution has been called “the worst legalistic crime in the nation’s annals”. Nevertheless, it may have influenced the behaviour of later naval officers by helping inculcate “a culture of aggressive determination which set British officers apart from their foreign contemporaries, and which in time gave them a steadily mounting psychological ascendancy”. This in turn may have contributed to the success of the Royal Navy and the acquisition and defence of the British Empire, as commanders knew that while there was a chance of failure in battle, not to risk battle was certain to result in punishment. In the words of one historian of the Royal Navy, this “judicial murder” had brutally demonstrated that more was expected of naval officers than just courage and loyalty.

          1. According to the Aubrey/Maturin books, the English were usually outgunned by the French (and Americans) but they mostly won on guts, seamanship and captaining, so there might be something to that.

          2. Maybe for a navy of conquest it is a “good” thing. I wonder what fundamental values are best for a.primarily defensive military, such as a libertarian state would want.

            1. It deters potential aggressors, no? If you were looking for somewhere to invade, a place with “a culture of aggressive determination” would not be high on your list, especially if it were coupled with decent materiel and supply lines

              1. Maybe, as long as the senior leadership were careful.to.keep their sea commanders out.of potential trouble. I can.see a possible problem with promotion to high positions through the ranks when officers are.encouraged.to.be.aggressive throughout their.careers.

                It is.one potential failing point. True, it might require poor control by the.civilian government to.become a problem, but.it could be a.structural deficiency.in a government designed to.eschew adventurism.

  4. Mills died while waiting for his paperwork to decompose in a peat bog. And his daughter didn’t even fill it out in triplicate.

  5. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander is promising a full investigation into what happened at Engine 26.

    I can’t wait for the press conference where they report that they found out it was policies they themselves put in place which directly lead to this.

    1. I imagine the investigation will die a quiet death in a back-alley bureaucracy somewhere as the Deputy Mayor cries out, “Look drugs and guns are killing our children.”

    2. It had to be department policies. I’m sure they’ve been told that the only way they can really get in trouble is if they leave the house while on duty, but without being dispatched. Sad that no one involved was smart enough to get one of them to call dispatch…

      1. And that is the.infuriating part. If they really cared, they would have had one.of.their..umber do.exactly.that while.they hustled.across.the street.with.the lifesaving gear.

  6. They were scheduled to go on strike for better pensions soon after.


  7. Why do you all hate our heroic first responders?

    1. this group failed to live up to all three parts of the description. Makes you wonder if they are the exception or the rule.

  8. Kind of unrelated, but is DC still struggling to keep its ambulance fleet on the streets? Wasn’t it about a year ago that a cop died because all the working ambulances were dispatched when he needed one. Then they found out that only like a third of DC ambulances are functional at any one time.

    1. at most, only about 1/3 of DC is functional at any time…place is too fucked up for words

  9. I am a fireman in the Bronx, we get tons of situations like this. People coming up to us while we are out in the neighborhood or in the firehouse. You call dispatch and simply tell them you are handling a situation. These guys are a joke.

  10. Remember this the next time someone tells you that police and firemen are selfless souls who only want to help you.

  11. But they could have been hurt crossing the street and we all want them to return home safely every night don’t we?

  12. Why did the Chicken cross the road?

    I don’t know, at least he bothered.

  13. My unit doesn’t self-dispatch. If someone in the woods walks up to me and tells me that one of their party has gotten lost or fallen into a sinkhole or whatever, two things will happen:

    We will call 911, and if it seems reasonable, ask them to dispatch my unit.

    I will help them. My help may not be what they expect, but it will be what other rescue professionals would have wanted me to do before they arrive.

    If someone walked up to me and told me a story that amounts to “some person right up the trail needs CPR”, then the correct response is to RUN to that person and begin doing so.

  14. Dispatch issues are an ongoing problem for DC. There was a famous case back in the eighties when a tourist called in a medical emergency at the Washington Monument. Dispatch wouldn’t dispatch an ambulance without an actual street address. Like a tourist would know that. Like there is anyone in DC who doesn’t know where the Washington Monument is. The upshot was, predictably, that rules were followed but found lacking. Eventually the Washington Monument was assigned an address; typical bureaucracy.

  15. “…a District of Columbia fire station…would [not] cross the street to help….[while] an ambulance that was sent for Mills was mistakenly directed to an address 26 blocks away…”

    “Yet, given that its D.C., and our Government is SO responsive to criticism and self-improvement, I’m absolutely sure that this will result in tearing down of the bureaucratic red tape and regulations that reward inaction and prioritize ass-covering and instead foster an meritocratic environment of efficient, self-starting, problem solving, risk-taking, value-conscious…”

    [wakes up]

    …yeah, right. They should be glad if the Sanitation Department gets around to disposing of the corpse before it rots. This is Grade A government work. Im so sure the ‘Investigation’ – code for “bury this news deeper than Yucca Mountain radioactive waste” – will uncover the root causes of all this, and the age of municipal reform will blossom…

    1. You’re just figuring out that DC Government is the gold standard for dysfunctional kleptocracy?

      Also, the fact that DC City Council can’t fart without congressional permission may have something to do with that.

      1. “Tonio|2.4.14 @ 11:22AM|#

        You’re just figuring out that…”

        Was I not *already* cynical enough for you?

        here, add a dash of GILMORES HIGH-POWERED LIBERTARIAN CYNICAL SAUCE! it gives that added boost of contempt and disgust that instantly dissolves any hope for modern civilization *on contact*!

        mmmmmm. civilization-y…..

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