Pay to Play? No Way.

Imagine its late in the afternoon. You’re home doing some chores around the house, and you look outside, and notice smoke coming from your garage. What’s the first thing that you do? Pick up your phone and call 911. Somewhere, a dispatcher presses the magic buttons, and a Fire Department is en route to you.

What would your reaction be if the Fire Department said “Nope. We’re not showing up.” What would you think as you watched that fire spread to your house and consume all of your possessions? I’d be pretty angry.

That’s exactly what happened in South Fulton, TN last week. For the full story, take a look at this link and come on back. Article

What it comes down to is this: A family lost their home, their pets, and all of their belongings over a $75 subscription fee that was unpaid. I’ve seen many different view points about this as I’ve surfed the Blogsphere this morning, and some of them really bothered me. There are Firefighters out there who stood up applauded saying that everything went just as planned, and rules are rules. My question to them is: Why are you a firefighter? Why do you do the job? Thats right. I’m questioning your integrity, and your willingness to do what you pledged to do.

I have no experience as a firefighter. ZERO. I am very content standing outside of the burning building, so I’ve never walked in your shoes. I have, however, been to many, many fire scenes, and I’ve never once heard a firefighter ask “I wonder what kind of home owner’s insurance these people have.” They are there to help, and do what they have to do to put the fire out and save both life and property.

With the help of some twitter friends, some research about the South Fulton Fire Department was done, and here’s what we came up with:

The Department is staffed by approximately 20 Fire Fighters, only one of which, the Chief, is full time. The rest of the Department is Volunteer.

They have five pieces of Apparatus. Two Pumpers, one Tanker, a “Command Unit” and one Brush unit.

Finally, according to what The Happy Medic found out, the money from the $75 annual fee charged to residents does not go to the Fire Department. Check out his Blog for more information on that.

I have a subscription to Radio Reference. If you’ve never heard of the site, it is, in my opinion a good one. It contains many radio frequencies for numerous Departments around the county, South Fulton included. As part of my subscription, I have access to Scanner Feed Archives, so I took a listen to South Fulton’s activities that afternoon.

At approximately 2:27pm, three Departments: South Fulton, Union City, and Rives were dispatched to the address in question for “A garage on fire near a house.”

Units began signing on, and at approximately 2:30pm, the South Fulton Chief came on the air and canceled the response because the caller in question “was not a subscriber.”

Now, the dispatch information that was given was exactly what was written above. At no point was there any mention of entrapment or occupancy. Its possible that information was given somewhere else, but with such a quick cancelation prior to any units arriving on scene, I don’t see how a full scene sizeup could have been performed. How was the determination made that there was no risk to anyone’s life?

Fast forward almost 30 minutes. A neighbor calls 911, reporting a fire in their already cleared corn field. Thankfully, they ARE a subscriber to the South Fulton Fire Department. Within minutes, units are responding.

I’m sure the Cranicks were relieved to finally see Fire Engines rolling up to their house. Imagine how they felt when those trucks drove right past and started putting water on that corn field while their house continued to burn to the ground.

Take a look at the South Fulton Fire Department’s mission statement:

“The mission of the South Fulton Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of its citizens, and provide good public relations through fire safety education to all businesses and schools.”

Does anyone think they failed at that? I do.

So, how do we fix it? I like the solution that CKEMTP came up with. If cost is so tight, and you can’t or won’t pay the $75 annual fee, find a larger charge. Have them pay for the time put into the fire, the resources put in, and go ahead and make it costly. Just don’t let these people’s homes burn.

If I am taking care of a patient without any sort of insurance, I don’t tell them to go pound sand, and not do anything for them. I take care of them to the best of my abilities. They are fully afforded every ounce of patient care that someone with the best insurance available gets. Will they have to pay for it in the end? Yes. A person’s life and livelyhood should always be put first. Its far more important than insurance or subscription fees. The South Fulton Fire Department has seemed to have forgotten that.

Everyone needs some sort of funding, I’m not denying that. Fire Response, much like EMS Response, doesn’t happen at no cost to anyone. The service that we provide though should not be taken for granted, and should be provided to everyone, regardless of their economic situation. If fees and payments are required, sort it out later, but deal with the problem at hand. Don’t just stand there and watch these people lose everything.

Shame on you, South Fulton. The town and the fire department has failed to provide for its citizens.