Editors note: Featured blog at firefighternation.com
On July 14, 2011, the Philadelphia Inquirer printed an article about the City of Camden vital statistics office being honed to half its allocated staff, the result being that the office is now making a profit even if the backlog of work is so huge that the office now has to shutdown once a week to get caught up. And they no longer take a lunch break.
But the story does not end there. The City of Camden was so impressed with this example of efficiency displayed by vital statistics that it applied the organizational template to emergency services, which were already allegedly short staffed. Now Camden employs no firefighters and one minimum wage 9-1-1 dispatcher per 12 hour shift, 24 hours a day except for holidays, which is a much more efficient use of taxpayer money.
We visited Camden dispatch to observe the model of modern self-service government that would make even governors Walker and Christie marvel.
Camden 9-1-1. Thank you for calling. Please describe your emergency. You’ll have to speak slower. Ma’am you did not enter your credit card information. We cannot take your call without that information. Please hang up and dial 9-1-1 and try again.
Camden 9-1-1. It is our pleasure to serve you. Please describe your emergency. Sir, can you tell me if the fire is inside or outside your apartment? Okay. Can you tell me if more than the couch is on fire? And how high are the flames? We need to determine the appropriate response. Sir? Sir! You need to stay in the apartment until we have completed the description. Without an accurate assessment, we can’t send fire department equipment to your location. Please hold, I have another call coming in.
Camden 9-1-1. Your emergency is our concern. Ma’am thank you for calling back and properly entering your credit card information. How can we help you? How long has your daughter been choking? Are her lips blue yet? Have you followed the instructions on our website for the infant Heimlich? Okay. Please go to the website to complete the instructions, then call back again if you need assistance, but be advised that our medic unit is in the shop, and we’re down to one rental van from Enterprise this evening.
Camden 9-1-1. We’re here to assist you. Sir. You need to remain calm. We do not tolerate abusive language, and we will not send assistance until your manners improve. Thank you, and I’m sorry to hear the fire in your apartment has spread. How many rooms are now involved? I see. You left the building. Is there anyone remaining in the building who could provide an assessment? I see. Everyone left the building. Again, we encourage people not to abandon property until a proper assessment has been completed.
Please answer yes or no to the following questions so we can determine which size hose to deliver to your location. How many floors are in your building? Two? How close are the buildings on either side of your building? Okay. You live on a rowhouse block. How many doors from the nearest corner is your house? Sir. Sir. You’ll need to work with me here. I know you’re anxious and think you see fire in the front windows on the second floor now, and we’ll have someone deliver the self-suppression equipment you need just as soon as you complete the assessment questions. Please hold.
Camden 9-1-1. How may we help you? Ma’am. Thank you for calling back. Were you able to complete the infant Heimlich procedure? Well why didn’t you say you did not have a computer? Ma’am shrieking into the phone does not help. Call a cab and take your daughter to the nearest emergency room that operates after normal business hours. No. I don’t know where that would be. Ask the cab driver. Have a good evening.
Camden 9-1-1. We meet or exceed your fire suppression needs. Sir, I am sorry to hear the fire is now through the roof of your apartment building. Based on that assessment, would you prefer the Interior Attack Line Package for only $499.99 that includes a hydrant wrench or the External Heavy Stream Appliance Package for only $699.99 that includes two 2 ½ lines, the appliance, and the hydrant wrench. Yes. Instructions are included. We can complete delivery in the next 10 to 15 minutes unless you wish to pay the added $25.00 fee for accelerated delivery with lights and siren. Yes, we do offer payment plans, and your insurance company may pay part of the cost, although I should inform you that failure to complete the initial assessment in your first call could nullify your policy.
Okay, the External Heavy Stream Appliance Package will be expedited. Your total is $724.99 plus tax. If the fire moves to either exposure before delivery, you receive an automatic upgrade to the $1599.00 Conflagration Package. I know sir. But I just work here. Those are the orders I have to follow. I’m sure you share our interest in the safety of this city. If you’ll excuse me, I have not used the toilet in the four hours since my shift started. Please hold.
Camden 9-1-1. We help you help yourself. Please describe your emergency. Yes ma’am. We do offer vehicle extinguishment services for cars with mileage under 100,000. Would you please give me the odometer reading, the VIN number, and your credit card number. No ma’am. Sometimes when you enter the credit card number, it does not appear on my computer screen. Please stand by. I have to take another call.
Camden 9-1-1. Sir, thank you for calling back. You’ll need the conflagration package. We’d also strongly suggest that you solicit the assistance of your neighbors. Good luck.
Camden 9-1-1. Ma’am, thank you for calling back. I’m sorry to hear ma’am that your vehicle has an odometer reading of 105,992. We cannot be of service. Please use your own fire extinguisher and make certain your vehicle is not in the proximity of other vehicles with odometer readings of 100,000 miles or under. Ma’am, if you continue with that language . . . Ma’am, I have to end this conversation. My time is needed by people who value public services. Yes, I know Camden contracts out dispatch services. Yes, I am aware that I have a slight accent . . . That’s due to my dentures. Ma’am, I have to take another call. Good evening.
Camden 9-1-1. Thank you for calling back. Yes, sir, I am sure those who may be in city hall can see the glow from your rowhouse now that two others are on fire, but city hall is closed at this time and is operating on limited summer hours to save money for the taxpayers of Camden.
No, actually Camden now operates entirely with self-service fire prevention and protection. Individual responsibility is assumed and required. No. I’m afraid neighboring communities preferred to continue with socialist tax supported fire suppression in spite of the cost savings our company can provide. Excuse me. I have another call coming in.
Camden 9-1-1. My apologies for the delay and thank you for properly entering your credit card information. Please describe your emergency. No we don’t offer a response to dumpster fires. You’ll need to use your own garden hose or extinguisher and, if necessary, follow the instructions on our website, but please be sure to register first and pay the small membership fee. Thank you.
Camden 9-1-1. Sir, there is no need to keep calling . . . I see. You’re calling from across the street? Which street would that be, sir? I see. Across from the block of rowhouses that are now on fire. Was the conflagration package delivered? Okay. I am glad to hear you have one heavy stream appliance connected and operating. I see. Did the stem on the other hydrant break off completely when you tried to open it? I see. You did open it but no water came out of either port. I am sorry to hear that. Would you like the number of the water department? Excuse me? I am a what? Sir, I have to terminate this call.
Camden 9-1-1. It’s our pleasure to serve . . . No, we do not provide hemorrhage assistance unless the bleeding cannot be stopped or contained within two minutes. Please call back in two minutes if necessary or refer to the instructions on our website where you will also find directions to the emergency rooms that operate after hours. I do not have that information in front of me. Have a nice evening.
Camden 9-1-1. No sir. We do not give refunds for defective equipment. Our equipment is tested and certified by Underwriters Laboratories and the Consumer Union. We are not responsible for defective hydrants. I suggest you evacuate the block and re-stage at another location with the heavy stream appliances. If you wish, you can order a second conflagration package. Yes sir, I understand that you have to leave because of the heat.
Camden 9-1-1. It’s our pleasure to serve you. Please describe . . . Yes. We have a report of that fire, and I understand your concern, but a glow in the sky does not necessarily mean the fire will spread to your block. If you wish, you can order your fire suppression package at this time to be prepared if the fire does move in your direction. We offer three packages that are listed on our website. Please hold.
Camden 9-1-1. We deliver for your emergency. I’m sorry, but brush fires, grass fires, and trash fires are the sole responsibility of the building owner or occupant. Our contract with Camden provides only for major fire emergencies. Yes, even if the grass fire was started by flying embers. That is still your responsibility. Thank you for calling.
Camden 9-1-1. We help you protect and serve yourself. Please describe your emergency. No, you are personally responsible for any hazardous liquid spill. You can flush the gasoline down the nearest storm drain. Yes, the hazmat ordinance was rescinded for not being cost effective. Thank you.
Camden 9-1-1. It’s . . . How may . . . Yes, I remember that you called about the glow in the . . . I see. Do you wish to order the conflagration package with expedited delivery? Did you enter your credit card information. I see. Please hang up and complete . . . No sir. The mayor is not working at this hour. She is on a part-time schedule in any case, and this is not . . . I see. Yes. Please hold.
Camden 9-1-1. We guarantee customer satisfaction, but we don’t deliver to that address. You need to contact Philadelphia emergency services. Oh, I see. I misunderstood. You are calling from Philadelphia fire dispatch. No. We have no report of another warehouse fire in Camden. We have received numerous reports of a glow in the sky, but that is being contained by our premiere total conflagration suppression package. No, I can’t actually see the glow from here. Our call center is in the basement of the Golden Years Senior Center where we work part time to pay for senior services, and if you’ll please hold, I have another call to take.
Camden 9-1-1. Only the best . . . Yes, Madam Mayor. Thank you for calling. Yes, we did receive the rowhouse fire call, and we did deliver the equipment ordered by the occupant. I’m sorry. No one called to report five other blocks now involved. Well, yes, we do have five other conflagration packages in stock and we can deliver them at a bulk rate with one expedited delivery charge for all five, but our contract with the city specifies that we keep at least one package in reserve. No. No ma’am. As you may recall, we no longer have mutual aid agreements with county fire departments or with Philadelphia.
No ma’am. No fire trucks remain in service. You may recall that they were all sold by order of Governor Christie to generate revenue for the emergency services profit center. Correct. The Camden fire boat was also sold. Perhaps you could recommend to the taxpayers that they leave town until the emergency is over or take a ferry to Philadelphia. I would imagine the view of the fire from there would be quite spectacular.
My apologies, Madam Mayor, but I have to hang up and switch over to automated response. We have been given instructions to evacuate the senior center.
Camden 9-1-1: Thank you for calling. We appreciate your emergency business and our operator will be with you shortly. Please enter your credit card information and choose from the following menu items . . . Your wait time is approximately 17 minutes.
Copyright © 2011 PipeNozzle