Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

Calling on 911

February 23, 2006

There has been much hand wringing since the Feb. 13 fire that destroyed the Stottses' home at 818 Indiana. That's good, because a wake-up call was needed. But, we need to be careful of which hands get wrung.

Less than a week before the fire, the Signal ran a story pointing out the desperate need for more volunteer firemen. Obviously, that need hasn't lessened. The courageous fire fighters who risk life and limb to save property and lives are as good examples of what serving and community mean.

We owe a lot to them, which means our support and admiration. We can never lose sight of that. Next time you see a volunteer, thank him. Next time you can, volunteer. We need all the volunteers we can get.

The Baldwin City Council was rightfully concerned about the status of the city's 225 fire hydrants after the one in the Stottses' yard failed. At Monday's meeting, the council pressed for answers on status of the hydrants and testing procedures. That was needed, too, and promises were made that the hydrants will be tested on a regular basis by city employees and hydrants that need to be replaced will be.

The council also pointed to the need for a full-time fire fighter, something that was requested for with a grant, which wasn't approved. The council agreed that the time has come for them to bite the bullet and see that it happens, grant or no grant. That would go a long way toward solving the weekday problem of a lack of fire fighters.

While these concerns were all warranted, there wasn't a single word mentioned about the single biggest reason this simple candle fire turned into a blaze that destroyed the family's home since 1989.

No, there can be no doubt that a misdirected 911 call to Lawrence allowed this fire to go out of control. A rookie dispatcher failed to enter the call correctly, twice missing the fact that the fire was in Baldwin, not Lawrence.

By the time the problem was corrected, it was too late. If those 15-20 minutes lost in responding would have been there Feb. 13, problems with fire hydrants or lack of volunteers wouldn't be the talk of the town. Those problems are being addressed.

What also must be demanded from us all is that the 911 surcharge on phone bills every month goes to providing the protection we expect. We've been taught and we have taught others to always call 911 in case of emergency. It must work.

Bless Jane Stotts' heart, she has even said it herself -- it could have been worse.

Yes, it could have. It could have been a medical emergency call that was misdirected. A heart attack victim could have died as a result. For that matter, one of the fire fighters, those brave volunteers, could have been killed in a fire that got out of control because response time wasn't better.

We demand better 911 service. We deserve it.

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