Fire department or taxi service: a first responder's dilemma
By Riley Johnson and Indra Lunder
Captain John Gregory, a firefighter, says that when he joined the department, he was shocked to find what the trucks and ambulances are used for. There are many emergencies every day, many of which the fire department deals with routinely. However, among the many emergency calls they receive are many unnecessary calls they must attend to.
Often they need to deal with calls that could have been handled by having a friend or neighbor drive to an emergency room or by taking better care of yourself. Instead, the firefighters told us many people abuse the system and call 911 for unnecessary things that aren’t considered emergencies, taking away from other important calls and using an extra trip.
When the fire department receives a cal, they are required to take their 70,000 pound, $960,000 truck for minor calls. Firefighters at Baltimore City Fire Department’s Number Four Truck Company say that they are disappointed when they receive a call and take a trip only to find out that it is something that could have been handled without them.
While the UHMP was visiting the fire station on Cold Spring Road, the first responders received a call for help. What they found was a woman with a stomach ache. On another visit, they found a woman who called 911 because she was hit in the leg with a shopping cart. Another firefighter said that they get called during MTA bus crashes when nobody is hurt, because people are looking to sue.
The bottom line is that the Fire Department is taken advantage of. The firefighters say that they would prefer to have a smaller vehicle for less serious trips. However, changes to the system are hard to make because the standards of care require a response using their emergency equipment and require that they not deny service to anyone.