Recently in my area, a situation arose wherein the local Alameda City Fire department and Police department did not provide rescue and aid to a mentally ill citizen that committed suicide by drowning himself in the San Francisco Bay.   The man had attempted suicide in a similar manner before and was prevented.  The man was large, 6'+ and >200lbs and had waded out onto a long sandbar in the San Francisco Bay.  He stood there in 60 degree water for over an hour while police and firefighters waited on the shore for mutual response aid that never came.  I went to high school with one of the captains of the fire department, so my goal is not to bash any department.  But I have always maintained that fire department-based ambulance service is a conflict of interest of public safety and that a third service is preferable.  As sworn officers of the city, don't public servants have a duty to protect?  Wouldn't a fire department personnel be perfectly williing to risk his/her safety by running into a burning building to rescue somebody?  What about a SWAT member doing forced entry to secure the safety of a citizen in a domestic dispute?  Do you think that this couldn't happen in your fire-based emergency service?  Moral is low with all the financial problems that our state is facing in all sectors of civil service.  The fire captain in question, stated that his department had cut the budget for land-based water rescue, so they weren't certified for this type of rescue (I am paraphrasing).  I find it hard to believe that a city, that is an island wouldn't have a small boat/rescue craft.  But given the current economic situation, it appears that Alameda city didn't have a suitable rescue craft.  Even so, the personnel may not have current certification but presumably some of them had been previously trained.  The suicidal decedent was in standing water at the time although he was a distance away from the shore, reports said >100 yards and some reports said 200 yards.  It is my belief that the personnel had an ethical obligation to at least approach the patient within a reasonable distance, so as not to be in physical harm from the patient and engage the patient in discourse for as long as possible given the water temperature and impending hypothermia.  It is easy to monday morning quarterback this situation, I wasn't there and don't know all the details but this is a public relations nightmare, not to mention a costly wrongful death civil suit that is probable.  In the end, what can we learn from this event to prevent similar situations in the future?                                                

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Hard to say. In a recent event not too far from here AMR was attacked by a city council member for posting and not going into a shooting scene until law enforcement secured it. His argument was that the medics from AMR were contracted to the government and were being paid to take risks. I think what needs to be established is what constitutes “unnecessary risk”? The medic crew with AMR was only trained in being medics. Should they have drove their unit into an unsecure scene without the protection of body armor, or any defense from agitated bystanders or worse yet, if the person who shot the patient is still on scene they would not take kindly to the medics trying to fix up the guy he just shot and commence to put numerous holes in the medics. So what have you fixed? Instead of one shot victim you now have three or more. You now have need for more resources to mitigate the incident. Let us say that on this event the shooter was not on scene. From experience of going on scene of a shooting and treating a patient when the neighbors and family are there and no law enforcement is present. You try to treat the patient and emotions are at a high pitch. You are doing life saving things and the only thing the bystanders see is that you are not doing anything that they perceive as what is the right way to treat the patient. Hell on the TV they throw them in the back of the truck pat it twice and off they go. Never mind that the airway is blocked or the bleeding is not stopped. So they vent on the only thing that is now in their minds killing the patient. Medics who don’t act the way they think should act. The result, another shooting, stabbing, or serious beating of the medics. That scenario is different from the drowning one in many ways or is it? If the fire and police went out and approached the man without proper equipment or training and both they and the patient died, what was accomplished? I agree that there needs to be a change in the way things are done. The police and fire fighters wading off into the water without equipment or training is not one of them. The bystander who retrieved the body and brought it to shore, maybe he was trained in advanced life saving and water rescue, or was a US Navy rescue swimmer. If he was then he had more training than the fire or police personnel on the scene. This can only be remedied through training and the establishment of a water rescue program into the rescue division of the emergency service of the city. The city council will have to initiate the finance and back the initiative.
Dorian, as a retired Fire Engineer/Paramedic I am qualified to issue an opinion, what those firefighters did was reprehensible we are sworn to protect Life first, property, environment. So in answer to your question YES, as firefighters we are morally and ethically bound to do whatever is necessary to save a life irregardless of what City, County or State Administrations may dictate. Certified or not I know from personal experience that there were individual firefighters there with the ability to rescue that nimrod!

Hi, its very interesting topic and it happens frequently in pre-hospial care environment.Yes, as Roger said i agree with him that safety come first but doing what is necessary in this incident has not been applied.The ethical and moral duty was not considered by those respond to the incident.when paramedic or phycisian should do no harm before benifiting or helping victims but he should consider safest way to cure his patients.I think they should do more to help this victim according to what been metion above they had to do more starting from getting as close as safely they can and communicate with him to calm him down etc.


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