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Talking to the local firefighters... - Elf M. Sternberg
Talking to the local firefighters...
One of Kouryou-chan's friends had a birthday this past weekend, and the parents chose what turned out to be quite the nifty activity: a field trip to the fire station. What might have started out as a school activity with just the kids turned out to be an educational experience for the adults as well. I put on my writer's cap and tape recorder, thinking this might be a good setting for a Yowler story, and spoke with the guys working the station.

We spoke about the psychology of fire victims and how they respond to crises. I talked to one guy about the amount of paperwork they do (he grumbled a lot that the cops have figured out how to push a lot of paperwork onto the firefighters). Another and I discussed the physical construction of the trucks: who makes them, what powers them, how they're protected, why they spend so much time cleaning them. "You people spend a lot of money on these trucks; we had better keep them in the best working order." It was a mantra with him; whether he really meant it or it was just the best line he had (or some combination of the two), I couldn't tell but he seemed sincere. He also mentioned the new exhaust lines hooked up to the trucks that vented to the outdoors when running the engines in the garage: "We have six times the national average for lung cancer among non-smokers from all the diesel fumes." Another showed me the calendar: they have blue, gold, and red teams, like on submarines. There was no pole: "Too expensive to insure."

The commander told me that the standard shift is 53 hours over three days, then four days off. "Every night on my shift this week, I've been on two calls a night after 11pm." I asked him if that was unusual. He shrugged and said, "It used to be. It used to be that we'd get a full night's sleep two out of three nights. Now we never get one."

I asked him if that was because city services hasn't kept up with growth. "No, it's all medical. People don't have insurance, so they can't see a doctor. They let it go and go until they have to call 911. Our call rate for medical has nearly tripled in the past nine years. It's up 185%."

I was reminded of this conversation today, when I read that John McCain's health care policy advisor has a plan for dealing with "the uninsured":
The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American - even illegal aliens - as uninsured ... Anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort.
Eric Martin observes the truth once again: "The Republican Party is deeply unserious about governing. That the American people have been beaten over the head with this reality for eight years and somehow half the country still can't quite make out who it is that's been swinging the cudgel is a source of immense frustration."

Amusing final anecdote: while talking to the firefighters, I learned that there was a plan to tear down the station and replace it someday. While researching the demolition aspect of the project, the engineers discovered that the current building is not up to statewide earthquake safety standards. A seven and up (the last one was a 6.8) might pancake the place. The schedule has been moved up accordingly.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: Edenbridge, Terra Nova

3 comments or Leave a comment
danlyke From: danlyke Date: August 28th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Back when...

Re the increase in medical calls, my grandfather was a volunteer fireman, and the last time I got together with him before he died one of the things we talked about was how, in a town just outside New York City with a relatively stable number in terms of population, over the time of his involvement with the fire department the number of medical calls per year went from tens to on the order of a thousand.

And that keeping people interested in being volunteer firefighters when there were now two or three calls a night because someone didn't want to drive themselves to the doctor, or didn't know basic first aid, was becoming a huge problem.

It's one thing when getting called out was an occasional time to go get together and hang out with your buddies for a few hours, quite another when a good night's sleep meant turning off the radio.
kengr From: kengr Date: August 28th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort.


As someone who had to resort to that in my younger days (and may have to again now), this man is so far out of touch with reality that it's not even funny.

First off, the government *only* pays if the hospital can't get the (very high!) charges collected from you via legal action.

Second, you can't go to an emergency room for checkups, or other routine care, nor to get "maintenance" drugs (like my diabetes meds).

Plus, ER are not designed for that sort of use, and can't really handle it well *and* still do hat they are supposed to do.
ladyallyn From: ladyallyn Date: August 29th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
But did they tell you the difference between a "fire truck" and "fire engine"? (that's one of the tidbits from my visit to Station 5).

Edited at 2008-08-31 08:03 am (UTC)
3 comments or Leave a comment