101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Monday, September 29

...for the asthma, worsening...


I hate it when my asthma acts up...while in Police custody. A fellow has decided to try to get out of going to jail by claiming his asthma has suddenly worsened.

THE EMERGENCY
A gentleman in Police custody tells officers his asthma is worsening while he has been in the holding cell. But for the full appreciation of this call, let's back track a bit, shall we?

THE EMERGENCY 5 HOURS AGO
A fellow in the Police holding cell claims he is having chest pains and difficulty breathing, prompting the boys in blue to give us a ring. No problem there. When rescuers arrive the fellow decides to berate them with profanity, insults, racial slurs and the threat of bodily fluids to fly in their direction. Being one not to enjoy such things, I decide to approach him and softy explain the situation and offer help while standing just outside of the reach of his feet, as he is handcuffed to a wall. While he explains in detail intimate moments with various members of my family he says the magic words, "I'll kill you if you don't take me out of here!" Threatening us on duty is kind of a big deal and the police take over at that point.
I only mention this event because sitting on the same bench, also handcuffed is the man who will ask for an ambulance in 5 hours time. I look to his frightened face and ask, "You OK pal?" He simply nods with a vacant look that screamed HELP ME!

THE ACTION

BACK TO PRESENT TIME: 2:36 AM
Our disagreeable friend from earlier has been taken away leaving my "Pal" from before. "Oh, it's you," He comments, "When do you get off duty?" I realized there were all new police officers on duty and that he clearly thought he could try a nicer version of what he saw earlier. "I get off duty long after you'll be in jail. Do you have an emergency?" I ask receiving the expected answer, "Never mind."

Friday, September 26

...for the overdose...

Illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol it could be anything when this is the chief complaint and since there are so many different varieties of things to overdose on, the treatments can vary just as widely. That is of course unless the reason you are high is your teenage daughter.

THE EMERGENCY
A woman has called 911 stating that she is overdosing and feels as though she is going to die. The woman also advises the dispatcher that her teenage daughter may also be ill but is unable to contact her via cell phone. Rescuers arrive at the scene to find a middle aged woman seated on her bed rubbing her hands together as if she is trying to start a fire. She mentions something about her religion in Spanish and reaches out to us, "Help me!" she calls out, "The cookies are making me crazy!" The package handed to us is a legally sanctioned, with prescription, THC marijuana laced 'pot' cookie. Half eaten. She and her daughter were going to share a cookie but the daughter took one whole one and left mom to eat hers alone.

THE ACTION
Seeing no life threat, and curious to know more about the conditions that warrant marijuana cookies, we decide to dive deeper into the need for the treatment. "I have arthritis" she tells us,"and my daughter said I should get medicine for it." The more we talk with her the more we learn that last week, the daughter, 16, gave mom a brochure for a local 'Marijuana Clinic' where you can receive a prescription for marijuana products for a wide variety of conditions. When we asked her when her arthritis got so bad she needed treatment we learned that it was the person at the clinic that told her she had arthritis and would benefit from their product. The daughter recommended to mom that she buy the cookies, in bulk, and that the daughter should have some too for her, well, lady troubles. So the daughter was gone and mom is paranoid. "Am I going to die?" she asks and I can never pass up answering, "We're all going to die. But you'll make it to tomorrow." "But the cookies took away my pain," "So will Heroin, Motrin, Beer, Meditation, any number of treatments could help, but keep them to yourself. Your daughter doesn't need to take part in your medication."

Thursday, September 25

Wednesday, September 24

...for the fall...

The following is an exchange between rescuers and a middle aged man. The names have been changed to protect my sanity.

THE EMERGENCY

Happy Medic (HM)- "Hi down there"
Momma's Boy (MB)- "Hello" Odor of alcohol
HM - "What happened? Did you fall down the stairs?"
MB - "No, I was told to lay down by my orthopedic surgeon." From the floor at the bottom of the garage stairs.
HM - "Are you hurt or in pain at all?"
Momma - "He hasn't felt anything in 20 years!" From the top of the stairs.
HM - "Can you elaborate Ma'am?"
Momma - "Look in his bag, he always has it."
MB - "No, you don't have permission to search me!"
HM - "Funny, I'm not a cop. Unless you can tell me why you're laying on the ground, I have to search your person for life threatening medications or substances that may require treatment."
MB - "No, it's mine!" Wrestling bag nearby as empty bottles fall out.
HM - "So, let's talk more about why you're on the floor. Are you often on the floor or is this a new event in your day."
MB - "I told you my orthopedic surgeon told me to lay down right away."
HM - "I notice you're not near a phone...wait...'surgeon' you said, what operation did you undergo?" Thinking the bottles may be to mask pain.
MB - "No operation. I hate doctors."
HM - "Why are you here. On the floor. In the doorway?" His lower back in over the bedroom threshold.
HM - "Sir, are you able to stand at all? Are you injured or in pain at all?"
Momma - "You get him up and out of here. He's not even supposed to be living here anymore. Get a job!"
HM - "Ma'am did you call just to get him out of the house?"
Momma - "Last time he was sober and they said he could stay but I waited until he got drunk again and called. Now I know you have to take him."
MB - "False arrest! False arrest!" At the top of his lungs.
HM - "We're not the police sir."
THE ACTION

Momma's Boy refused to get out of the doorway and never did elaborate on why he was on the ground. Momma likely changed the locks while he was away.

Sunday, September 21

...to investigate the odor...

An odd chemical smell in your home can be scary. Almost as scary as the cause.



THE EMERGENCY
Residents are noticing a foul chemical odor in their home and have been given instructions to evacuate and await rescuers.

THE ACTION
Arriving on the scene units note there is a slight smell in the entryway and there is no indications of hazardous materials so we head into the home to investigate. The odor is faintly familiar and focused in the kitchen. We bring the home owner in to tell us what he had been doing just prior to first noticing the odor and he pointed at the dishwasher. We opened the door to find the odor caused by a plastic container lid down against the heating element. It stinks. The homeowner was convinced some strange chemical had been released in his home and refused to accept our explanation. It took removing the melted lid to another area, bringing the smell, to convince him.

...for the unconscious...

Potentially life threatening, unconsciousness can be caused by a variety of conditions from the basic exertion (sleeping) to the dead (dead). So what does it mean when our unconscious patient waves us down?

THE EMERGENCY
Dispatch reports a woman has called and says that her elderly sister is unconscious, but breathing. Racing to the scene we discuss interventions that may be needed: Medications, oxygen, possibly defibrillation, maybe...wait...this is the address...is that a suitcase?

THE ACTION
The elderly sister has been pushed onto the front doorstep, dressed in her sunday best, hat and all, with a suitcase. We see this from time to time when folks with elaborate medical problems know they'll be staying in hospital for a few days.
"I want to go for my colonoscopy early." She comments while pointing to the suitcase. "We're not a taxi service Ma'am, do you have an emergency?" "I told you, I need to goto my colonoscopy and if I get there early I can be ready." "Ma'am, it's 330 in the morning, do you think this can wait until later in the day?" She stopped going down the stairs and looks back up onto the doorstep, where we're standing. "I'm going and you're taking me." "Is there any way I can convince you how inappropriate this is or are you set on taking an ambulance to get ready for your colonoscopy?" She thought about it for a minute then turned back down he stairs slowly and waddled to the ambulance and waited near the door. When the ER nurse asked the chief complaint when we arrived I asked, "Mine or hers?"

...for the labor and delivery...

A friend in the business passes along the following tale from another part of the country:



THE EMERGENCY


We were called to the local convenience store by PD for a person, identifying themselves as female, in labor. Our patient makes a beeline for the truck and attempts to enter the rescue before we stop. The "woman" weighed at most 110 lbs and was about 5'2" tall. Obviously not VERY pregnant. Well, she insisted she was in the first stages of labor. My driver asked how did she know she was pregnant and she yelled "because I am a(expletive deleted) genius." Clearly she had new information on pregnancy not previously known to science. She reported she was in labor for 4 days and the contractions come once an hour.

THE ACTION
She was determined to be transported to the ER that deals with psych emergencies but curiously has no OB facilities. The ambulance says despite her insistence she is in labor, the nearest ER is the place for her. So we prepare her for transport and ask about her medical history, to which she replies," diabetes." I ask,"Is that diabetes type 1, 2 or gestational."If someone really is diabetic, they know, if they're faking it(gasp surely that never happens) they hesitate. She begins screaming at me that she has not been castrated and she is in fact a woman. She gets on her soapbox and screams about what is wrong with society, health care and the Army. As she is yelling this she pulls down her pants to show us, ambulance and PD that she is in fact a woman. When the ambulance medic tells her to sit down and pull up her pants, she attempts to hit him. That's when PD jumped in and removed our labor patient in handcuffs. Good times.

Thursday, September 18

...for the auto accident...

Lives could be at risk! Red lights and sirens, opposing oncoming traffic, weaving here and there and we arrive to find...where did everyone go?



THE EMERGENCY


A cell phone caller has taken time out of their busy day to report a traffic accident at a busy intersection. Multiple vehicles involved, one person appears trapped. Sounds serious right? Do you think an accident that sounds that serious would be reported by only one person? If you have a cell phone from 2002 or later, and who doesn't, your phone transmits your approximate location to 911 operators when you call. This information is then relayed to rescuers in the form of a cell phone tower address, your distance from that tower, and a statistical probability of that location. For example, 123 Main street, 643 feet, 90%. So when for this call I noted the cell tower was no where near where the accident was, I asked the communications center to call the phone back and get more details since we had arrived at the intersection and there is not only no accident, but no vehicles stopped or even off the roadway. The operator comes back and reports that the caller is no longer in the area and saw the accident from a block away, wasn't sure what had happened but wanted to call.


THE ACTION


Nothing we can do here but laugh. All these resourced mobilized, all these lives risked because someone thinks they might have seen something a block away and didn't even stop to see if there was trouble. It would be funny if it only happened occasionally.

Sunday, September 14

testing a feature

Hi, It's me in the future, testing a new feature for the blog.

Wednesday, September 10

...for the abdominal pain...

One of the more vague complaints asiode from "I have a headache" or "I feel tired." We were dispatched to a very busy section of the financial district around 9 AM as we were already overdue for shift change. the call came from a pay phone, telling us it was likely of of the area's homeless, since they're the only ones without cellphones and the ones shop keepers don't allow to use the phone.


THE EMERGENCY
A male, self described as mid 30s has called 911 reporting abdominal pain and then hung up. We arrived at the busy intersection to find close to 300 commuters running from subway access stairs to buses and across the streets in all directions. we arrived at the intersection near the telephone and asked the communications division to call the phone back so our patient, who we assumed needed an ambulance, would answer. When the phone began to ring and noone moved towards it to answer, we got frustrated. We waited, ambulance in clear view for someone to approach us. When none of the busy folks came over to admit they called, I decided to use one of the many tools at my disposal, the public adress system. I grabbed the mic and said, "Attention please! If you called 911 from the pay phone because your tummy hurts, please approach the ambulance at this time." My driver looked at me with his municipal transit hat on, which he wore to protest this kind of run, and smiled. Every commuter in the street looked to us and broke into a smile if not laughter. When not a single person approached, I repeated my message and that was when we saw him stumble out of a nearby storefront.


THE ACTION
The gentleman approached the driver's window, which was up, and began to speak. My driver motioned him over to me, out of traffic and the man told me about how he hasn't eaten in days and is pretty sure he has "the AIDS" and needs a doctor. I asked him if he thinks his stomach pain has anything to do with not eating. "No" he replied quickly. "What do you want the doctors to do for you at the hospital?" I asked and he replied that he simply wanted something to eat and a quiet place to rest. I informed him that the cafeteria at the hospital is likely quiet as are a nnumber of local shops serving food. "But I have no money, can't you just give me a ride?" "We are not a taxi service sir, if you have an emergency we'd be happy to help but being hungry is not a life or death situation. How long have you been in town?" "2 days." You have a lot to learn about how things work here friend," I told him. He stepped back, rubbed his forehead and wandered slowly away and began pan handling for money. Haven't seen him since.

Sunday, September 7

...for the fire alarm...

Oh goody! A citizen has called reporting a smoke detector has been activated, which usually means there is smoke somewhere. Or steam, or bacon grease, or someone is refinishing the floors...well it can mean something, sometimes.



THE EMERGENCY
A local resident has called 911 to report that the smoke detector in the unit below them is going off and the person is not at home.



THE ACTION
The first in Fire Engine arrives to find no smoke or flame coming from the building and the crew goes upstairs to the reporting person to get details. While in the unit, firefighters smell no smoke and feel no heat. In the background there is a faint beeping noise. "Hold on," says one of the other firefighters, "Do you hear that?" Under the sounds of the sirens of the other arriving fire units, we hear the faint beeping. It is certainly not the familiar sound of a smoke detector, but more of a high pitched, not so loud sound. We began wandering around the flat looking for the source of the sound. Another unit had checked the apartment below and looked through the windows, seeing nothing and can hear no alarm. Where is this sound coming from? WE stood down from our sense of alert and began searching the apartment. The sound is loudest in the kitchen so we investigate. It was then I was drawn to the sink-side dish drying rack where a kitchen timer was slowly dying, beeping ever so quietly. I reached down and hit the reset button and the beeping stopped. The caller covered her mouth and turned bright red, then retreated into the other room as we left.

Wednesday, September 3

...for the heart attack...

Another run in the middle of the night to a local residence hotel. You know the kind of place. Seedy part of town, lobby looks like a garbage sorting station, complete with dirty employees. We rarely carry equipment without a plan on never putting it down and cringe about having to clean our boots afterwards. We're met in the lobby by a rather clean gentleman wearing headphones who waves us over like he knew we were coming. I can tell by his almost new shoes he is not a resident, nor has he been in town long.


THE EMERGENCY
"My heart is just beating away." Usually a comment from a citizen like this elicits my compassionate response of, "Can you be more specific?" but on this morning at 3:30 and on our 20th run of the 24 hour shift, I had lost my cheerful disposition. In response to the comment, "My heart is beating away" I responded, "Mine too. Do you have an emergency?" "I can't sleep," he responded after a slight pause."Me neither," I shoot back getting annoyed. Not annoyed so much at the fellow who called us, but that this conversation is occurring in the lobby of the garbage station like residence hotel. But be careful, if you get these folks outside, they think they automatically get a ride, so keep them on defense. After his, "I can't sleep" complaint crashed on take-off, he asked why I was so mean. I explained that there could be a baby choking or someone being shot who needs us but if he can tell me what the emergency is I can let him know how I can help. "I need some food, man, I'm broke." "I have a job," I reply, "You need to come up with something better. Maybe this line works where you're from but not here." "How did you know I'm not from here?" He wondered out loud while I moved towards the door. "Wait, can you give me a ride to the bus station or a shelter or something?" I moved towards the heavily fortified Manager's window in the lobby of the residence hotel we were in and knocked on the window. A sleepy man who may have been speaking a form of English I'm not aware of became visible."This guy needs a room, how much?" I ask. "Him stay 1 hour? or more to day? $10." I look over to the fellow who called us and motion towards the window. "You can get a room for the rest of the morning or keep that money in your pocket and call whoever you left behind wherever it is you're from and beg forgiveness and go home."


THE ACTION

The gentleman considered my words, put his headphones back on and stopped talking to us, just standing amongst the trash, waiting for something to happen. I asked if he wanted an ambulance to take him to the hospital and he gave me the universal one finger signal for "Go away."

Tuesday, September 2

...for the not alert...

2 AM, my favorite time to get a call. Mainly because 1 out of 10 actually need us, the odds are far better at night that something is wrong. So when the call comes in that someone is not alert, I often rub my eyes, roll out of bed and realize: "I'm not alert either, it's 2 AM!"

THE EMERGENCY
It seems dad, according to our caller, has been "Feeling bad" for 3 weeks now and the daughter, 55, would like him to be seen at the local ER. No complaint, no emergency, she just thinks he should be seen and demands that we take him across town to a fancy ER he's never been to.

THE ACTION
"That's not his regular hospital is it?" I ask as we confirm there is nothing apparently wrong with our patient who, by the way, feels fine and wants to know why we're there. "They wouldn't give him any medicine at his regular hospital and he needs antibiotics." the daughter tells us with an inflection that suggests we should have known that to begin with. "Does he have an infection?" I ask knowing the answer before I asked. "No, why? Can you give me something for my stomach pains while you're here?" I explained to her the purpose of antibiotics and that they were not indicated here and that she appears OK enough to wait 5 hours until the local pharmacy opens for some medicine if her tummy still hurt. "Can you take him now, I need to get some sleep before tomorrow, I have a job interview." She spouts quickly, bundling her robe in her crossed arms. "I don't want to go anywhere, I'm fine" States our patient. 2:30 now and we're getting tired. I explain that we can't kidnap him against his will and," she butts in with, "I have medical power of attorney and am ordering you to take him to the hospital. I know my rights." I hate that. No one realizes that when you call us and we walk in the door, we have final authority on the situation unless a physician is face to face with us and takes over the ambulance. That is the law of the land. We ended up taking the nice old fellow to his regular hospital where, it turns out, he had been earlier in the day and released with no problems. The nursing staff took pity on him and let him have a nap and breakfast. When we returned to the same ER later in the morning, the daughter was irate we had taken him to the "wrong" hospital. She had waited across town for 2 hours before coming here. "How was the job interview?" I asked. "The what?" I clicked my pen closed, picked up my clipboard and sighed. I love my job.

...for the police eval...

Our boys in blue are the first line of defense in a world gone mad, but when a chance to avoid paperwork comes up, you better bet they jump at it. For example, if someone claims they've been hurt, the officers can have the person cited and taken to the hospital, virtually eliminating follow up paper work, for them that is.
THE EMERGENCY
A pair of regulars have decided, again, to hit each other repeatedly and then get drunk and pass out in a well frequented tourist area. Locals pass by simply noting the stench of urine and feet that haven't been washed in weeks but when someone from out of town happens upon our regulars, they do what every concerned citizen does. See if they need help? Offer some food? No, call 911 from 2 blocks away because, "It reaks over there y'all." The police officers that arrive see the locals and how dirty their cars will get when the urine soaked pants sit down and...wait...is that dried blood? YES! No this is an EMS problem, not a police matter! We're sent out on the "pd eval" and arrive to see our regulars, intoxicated as usual and complaining that we're breaking their rights to be "good buds" in public. Neither is able to stand and have no real injuries but because they're intoxicated they can not legally refuse treatment or transport, and the cop knows it.
THE ACTION
We of course load both into the back of the ambulance and start towards the local hospital where the ER doc will "Medically clear" them from across the room and kick them out for being intoxicated.

My favorite part of this story is not that they are regulars, or that they can even get that drunk that often, but that they are both from out of town. They came to my area because their Social Security checks are bigger here, $300 a month bigger and they can buy more wine this way. When I asked the one fellow still conscious why he doesn't go back to the midwest where he was from he told me, "And give up all the free booze? Besides you firemans always pick uus up before anything bad happens. There's a lot of crazies out there you know."

Out there?"