“Successful guilt is the bane of society” - Publilius Syrus
Fire Starter has written regarding the reckless cuts to emergency services in both Johnson City and Endicott. We have repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at the respective mayors, Dennis Hannon and John Bertoni. We have also repeatedly highlighted the toady Joint Fire Administrator, Stephen Hrustich, as the architect of the dismantling of these vital services.
The Mayors and Hrustich have been playing a dangerous game. They have cut the fire departments nearly to the point of ineffectiveness. And this has been the plan all along. Once the departments can no longer function, it will be easy to eliminate them entirely. All the while, Hannon, Bertoni and Hrustich have been crossing their fingers that not tragedy would ensue. It now appears that their luck has run out. And a citizen has paid the price.
One month ago, Hrustich issued an order that if staffing in the fire department fell below five on duty fire fighters, the fire fighters would vastly curtail EMS calls. Specifically, fire fighters were ordered to no longer respond to "delta" calls if there were fewer than five fire fighters on duty. A "delta" call is a high priority call where advanced life support is required. An "echo" call is a maximum priority call where cardiac arrest has occurred and death is imminent.
Two weeks ago, a citizen collapsed at the Schaeffer bus terminal in Endicott. The 911 dispatch call came in as a "delta" call. Since there were four fire fighters on duty, Endicott Fire EMS was not allowed to respond the four or five blocks to the scene. Instead, the Union Volunteer Emergency Squad (UVES) was dispatched. Unfortunately, the UVES ambulance was unavailable and the UVES "fly car" with one paramedic had to come from Johnson City. As a result, the citizen waited on the ground for 5-6 minutes before he received ANY medical attention and another 5-6 minutes before the ambulance arrived. In these precious minutes of waiting, the citizen died.
While all of this was going on, four able Endicott Fire Fighter EMTs sat by helplessly in the fire station. Prohibited from responding by their chief, they were left to watching the clock while an elderly man's life slipped away.
There is no way to know for sure whether the fire fighters could have saved this man's life. But a significantly shorter response time would have certainly increased his chances.
What is patently clear is that Bertoni and Hrustich's wreckless slashing of emergency services in Endicott has placed citizens at risk. They are playing political and fiscal games with your safety for their own political and financial gain. If a citizen dies, so be it.
Enough is enough. If this was your husband, brother or father who laid helplessly on the ground, would you merely shake your head and remark "what a shame it is" or would you demand answers. Would you hold the officials accountable or merely file it away as a bad memory.
The time to act is now. Next time, it might be your mother, son or wife. Or perhaps even you. And the blood will be on Bertoni's and Hrustich's hands.