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Watching City Hall

by h. brown

The new 911 sucks … big time

Long, long ago, I helped write some insurance codes and if I am correct, San Francisco could very well “modernize” its way into a lower insurance rating. That could cost home owners and businesses billions! Let me tell you a story.

I call 911 lots. Last Sunday though, I set a personal record. Had to call 911 twice inside of five minutes.

The Packers and the Bears were inside the two-minute warming and the Saints and Niners were ready to kick off. I had a bowl of good green weed to smoke and a six pack of beer and a half pint of rotgut bourbon.

Someone started banging on the door!

A young guy from upstairs said his girlfriend cut her wrist and it was bad. I’m a champion coward even when it comes to my own bones and brains and blood. I handed the kid a couple of towels to stanch the flow & sent him running back upstairs.

He has no phone so I went to dial 911.

It rang … then, it rang again …. then, it rang again … then, it rang again!

A recording came on that went pretty much like this: “You have reached 911 emergency system. This number is for emergency only. If your problem is not life threatening please hang up and call the appropriate department. The following tone is for the hearing impaired: brrrng-zzzzzz-rrrrrrr-bbbbbb-dddddd! If this is a life threatening emergency, please hold for the first available operator.

Pause. Finally: “Hello, this is 911.” Me: “I have a tenant with slashed wrists and I need an ambulance immediately! Operator: “I’ll shift you to that number.” Me: “Your new system sucks!” New voice: “This is fire department dispatch.” Me: “Your new system sucks! I have a girl with slashed wrists at xxxxxxx & I need an ambulance immediately!”

I cradled the phone & ran upstairs to see how bad the situation was. About then, the Packers beat the Bears. It was one slashed wrist and the kid had compressed it well.

I ran back down to let the firemen in. Firefighters always show up first. It’s part of that insurance code I told you about. If you can get to a fire within three minutes (as I recall), you get a class one insurance rating for all the residents. Their fire insurance is lots cheaper.

I ran to the curb in a (no doubt) agitated state and looked at my watch. 1:01 pm. I guessed it had been around two minutes since I hung up. I heard no siren. I looked like an idiot standing out there.

Then I noticed that a big apartment house down the street was on fire! Gray-to-black smoke billowed off the roof in an increasing stream. People were stopping to watch.

I ran back inside to phone good old 911 again. Rrrrrrrrrn. …. Rrrrrrrrrrng ….. Rrrrrrrrrng … You have reached 911 emergency. If this is not an emergency ...

Somewhere around here, I heard the wail of a siren & I slammed the phone down & ran back outside. I looked at my watch.

1:05 pm. About six minutes since I phoned 911. If that’s a trend, the city’s insurance rating is at risk. Apparently, the new system makes emergency response slower!

I reached the street as the firemen were turning the corner just below. They knew the address of the slash victim. As they turned the corner, however, they too noticed that there was a large building on fire.

I waved them toward me. As firefighters, they were drawn to the fire. It was a toss-up.

The guy riding the “seat” (shotgun) is in charge. He grabbed his radio & called in the blaze. He dispatched the truck & the other three guys back to the fire & brought two satchels of first-aid gear up to the girl with the slashed wrist. I stayed at the front gate awaiting the ambulance. And to watch the firemen.

Hey, it was better than the Niners. A crowd gathered on either side of the street as the smoke grew and the sound of blaring sirens began to descend upon the neighborhood from different directions like the drone of approaching giant bees.

The ambulance arrived. I’ve seen faster turtles. Two female paramedics. I called out to inspire them: “what the hell’s the matter with you!!! there’s a girl bleeding to death and a fireman who needs to go to that fire!!” Oddly, they slowed down. Lots.

The paramedics finally shuffled into the building.

Two cops on bicycles pedaled up. They were there to check out the incomplete 911 call. (If you recall, I hung up before getting the fire call in when I heard the sirens.)

The cops said nothing. They surveyed the crowd. I identified myself as a reporter for the San Francisco Call & asked what they thought of the new 911 system. They thought it helped out on the work load in the emergency center by weeding out non-emergency calls.

The paramedics came down with the girl with the slashed wrist. One turned to me: “You don’t know what your’re talking about!”

Now, normally & about almost everything else on the face of the earth, she’d be absolutely right. In this case though … uhuh.

“I did your job for 5 years!” I shouted at her & the cops and the crowd. “If you don’t like your job, quit and get another!”

The other paramedic smirked. I copied the number on the side of the ambulance (97-271).

“What’s your name!?” I queried. “I’m gonna write a story about you!”

She shrugged: “That would be inappropriate.”

Maybe she thought I wanted a date?

go in peace: sobonejuno.com

h. brown