Since Congress seems to be hell bent on creating laws to restrict scanners, then I guess that I better get this onto the Internet as soon as possible.

February 28, 1999 - typed up by Peter Szerlag

Yes - like the rap song says - "911 is a joke" - at least in Arlington, Massachusetts it is. Well - not a complete joke - but a pretty screwed up operation sometimes. Let me explain.

Arlington is a bedroom community of Boston. 44,000 people live in a 5 square mile area. Multiple 2.5 story wood homes line the tree lined streets of this upper middle class suburb. All roads in the East end of town are flat and level. In the West end of town, all the roads are hilly and crooked. (Sorta like the people - :-))

The police and fire departments in Arlington are both fully paid, fulltime operations. Approximately 75 people are employed fulltime by each agency. All 911 calls are answered at the Community Safety Building/Police Station by the 2 onduty police/fire dispatchers. (The Community Safety Building houses the Police Station, Dispatch Center, and Fire Chief's Office.)

OK - are you with me so far? Sounds pretty tame ; doesn't it? Well - please read on.

February 25, 1999 - snow storm hits the area - motor vehicle traffic is slow due to slick roads and reduced visibility - in the weeks prior to the snow, the FD had 3 pumpers plus 2 ladders plus 1 rescue truck on duty - on the day of the storm they had 3 pumpers and 1 ladder and 1 rescue - on the day after the storm (which only put about 4" of snow on the ground) they had 4 pumpers, 2 ladders, and 1 rescue on duty - seems to me that the smart move would be to have more rigs on duty during a snow storm because rigs cannot travel as fast as ususal.

Feb 28, 1999 - alarm box is activated at a local school - due to some sort of problem, the dispatchers had no idea which alarm box had been activated - the school followed excellent procedures and immediately dialed 911 to give them an supplementary report on the alarm activation - there was no fire - if no one had been at the school, then the FD would have had no idea where to repond - I wonder if any of the 3 fulltime employees who are assigned to the fire alarm box maintenance division had done any preventive maintenance on that fire alarm box in the last ?3 years - I wonder if any school custodians have ever been trained to do maintenance on fire alarm boxes. (the same sort of problem with a fire alarm box occurred about a year ago down around Arlington Center).

Feb 13, 1999 - emergency units are sent to 20 Tufts St on an ambulance call - the correct address was 20 Foster St

Jan 21, 1999 - fire units went to School St - one dispatcher was telling the units to go to #66 - the other dispatcher was saying #44 - I do not know what was going on with this.

Dec 28, 1998 - at 0953 hours Cambridge FD requests 1 pumper to cover in at their Porter Square Station on Mass Ave - at 1001 Arlington Engine 2 is blasting down Mass Ave past the Arlington Town Hall - lets see, that is 8 minutes to travel 1 mile - I wonder what the problem was?

WHAT DO YOU THINK SO FAR? - Do you think that I have a huge grudge against someone? Do you think that I am an idiot that does not have a clue? Do you think that I have all my facts wrong? Do you cling to the belief that all is wrong in the world but that you can still call 911 and someone will come to save you? Are you afraid of facing your mortality head-on? (Hey : wait : this is about Arlington 911 : not you!)

Anyhow - whatever - If you need some more good reading material about the Arlington Fire Department, then please see the file titled "BETTER LEFT FORGOTTEN?" that is also on this webpage. Look down near the bottom of the list of disasters.

Here is a neat little exercise in reality that you can do. The next time that you see the Arlington Fire Dept Rescue blasting down Mass Ave, start counting the seconds until the Armstrong Paramedic unit comes blasting along. The number of seconds will be - drum roll please - 90 or 120. Then ask yourselves - if they are both going to the same call (and they will be - guaranteed!) - and if they are both coming from Mass Ave at Brattle St - then why does one have a huge lead on the other? (Hint - 911 is a Joke).

For other fun exercises - look at the latest Town Report - it says that all the roofs on all the Town building are in ?great shape - Did not the Arlington Advocate just run an advertisement for the Town of Arlington seeking bidders to bid on major repair work on the fire station roofs?

Another fun exercise - If the Arlington Advocate runs a story saying that the ambulance service in Arlington is "one of the most pro-active in the world" - and then within ?two weeks there is a near deadly house fire where the paramedics take 15 minutes to travel half a mile to the scene - who are the bigger chumps? - the citizens of Arlington or the employees of the Arlington Advocate?

One more fun exercise - look at some old town reports - look at the total number of FD calls - then say to yourself - didn't I see a note in the 1994 Town Report that said the FD was now including many more miscellaneous calls in their run totals? On a related note - did you know that a police car is sent to every ambulance call in town? Would you believe, out of these 1,000 calls per year, police assistance is only required (once/twice/three/times - you fill in your favorite number here).

Would you believe that the Selectman, Town Manager, Town Counsel, and various elected officials are all aware of this state of affairs? Would you believe that they all embrace it whole-heartedly? Do you think that you can sue anyone to fix these problems? Do you think that you can even get ahold of any official documents relating to this subject? Would you believe that the former fire chief claimed that they do not record the response times of the paramedics? (I got that in writing - yikes!)

Stand by - more disgusting news to follow.

March 1, 1999

Instead of continuing ad naseum with hundreds of screwed up incidents, let us just get to the fixes.

1. Train all dispatchers to give medical advice - this is called "Emergency Medical Dispatcher" (EMD) training. It is available from several organizations.

2. Institute a realistic quality control program. Review all unusual occurences and prepare plans and procedures to prevent their reoccurence.

3. Strive to cut all dispatch times in half.

4. Upgrade the radio systems to allow the dispatchers to transmit and receive at the same time.

5. Completely re-evaluate the mutual aid systems.

6. Purchase 1 hydrant assist valve for each pumper. HAVs cost $1,000 each - Arlington has 4 pumpers - $4,000 total - right? (this $4,000 expenditure will obviate the need for the Arlington Advocate to say : "there were water supply problems which led to the total demise of the structure"). (A HAV is a special valve placed on a hydrant by a firefighter in order to allow a pumper to subsequently boost the water pressure from the hydrant.)

7. Continue to upgrade all items in a timely fashion BEFORE a disaster happens. We can continue with items 8 thru 88 if you wish!

I sincerely wish that these improvements can occur in 1999.

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