Why We All Need to Play Nice… or; How Politics Ruins the Best Laid Plans

I was at the hair stylist the other day (because I my high and tight to be nice and neat) and they were asking what fire department I worked for since I was wearing a fire department shirt, of course I told them Memphis. We got to talking about work, and vacation days (since I was on vacation at the time), and they began comparing my line of work to what they do. It seemed a bit lopsided, then they said something that blew me away.

They proceeded to relay a story to me about a client that came in and had a “heart attack.” They were talking about the call to 911, to which I replaied “well at least this man didn’t go to the floor.” The stylists all said that he did, and they were doing CPR until an ambulance arrived, which they said was about 6 to 8 minutes.

Pretty good response time right?


This particular salon was situated on a main drag of roadway that runs from Memphis to Chattanooga and beyond that. No less than 2 miles from the salon is a City of Memphis fire station, Station #59. This station is an ALS engine with an ALS ambulance and either an EMS supervisor or a chief. That ambulance did not make this call.

A county contracted ambulance did. From twice the distance and twice the time.

Now, this is a not meant to be an efficiency study of a private contracted service vs municipal employed emergency responders. This is a post about how we all need to get along.

You see, a lot stands in the way of Memphis and Shelby County getting along. Mainly, the attitude of mayors of the southeastern suburbs who would rather keep all of their eggs in one basket and put people in danger when someone is able to provide a life saving service and is closer. This case is one of those situations.

A life in danger, lay persons with CPR in progress. Paramedics less than 4 minutes away sitting idle while paramedics from a station farther away respond. Am I missing something or is this not madness? No one cares WHAT is written on the side of an ambulance when it shows up, the only thing that matters is that SOMEONE showed up. It shouldn’t matter if the engine or ambulance says “Fire Department of Memphis” or if it says “Rural/Metro” or “Shelby County Fire Department.”

The cities and towns of this county need to figure out that lives are at stake. People are not pawns in a political game of chicken, figuring out who will flinch first. If we can dispatch the closest ambulance to s cardiac arrest, and have them arrive within 5 or 6 minutes of the person hitting the floor then why is NOT a good idea? I hope the family sues the crap out of the town for negligence, that they sent the ambulance farthest from the call, as opposed to the closest one.

We need a regional dispatch center, and trained dispatchers to operate it. We need common sense to prevail, we need to play nice.

This article was written by rstine