After 20-plus years answering fire and EMS calls, one is frequently able to develop a fairly realistic and sometimes entertaining idea of what is going on at a scene even if one’s boots aren’t on the ground and the information is minimal. For instance, when the pager went off this morning and the dispatcher said an alarm company was reporting that an individual had triggered their medical alert button and was now not responding to phone calls, I knew that A) more often than not, these things are inadvertent and turn out to be false alarms, but B) you never assume so and everyone would be responding at speed (the call was beyond my range, so I stayed put).
There wasn’t much radio traffic for a while, just enough so that I knew how many folks were responding and from where. During the silences, I could picture the ambulance and the handful of responders in their vehicles, all converging on the address.
Shortly after the first responder radioed that he had arrived, he contacted dispatch again to report that the house was locked and he couldn’t get anyone to answer the door. His voice was a touch animated. I’ve been there. You don’t know if the woman in question is somewhere inside unconscious on the floor, or if she bumped her button while getting her car keys and is now happily motoring to the grocery store (and wondering where all those emergency vehicles are headed).
Almost immediately, a second responder comes on the radio, and says, “Comm Center, I am on scene and I have a door-spreader in my possession.”
Then there is radio silence for a long while. But I’m grinning. Not gratuitously – we still don’t know how serious this call is – but after 22 years of this, I have a pretty clear picture of what is going on out there. And I’m just tickled by that phrase: “and I have a door spreader in my possession.”
What is left unsaid: “…and I can’t wait to use it.”
Sure enough, it was a false alarm. An inadvertent button push, and the lady in question was off on an errand. So that’s good. And I don’t know anything more than what I’ve written. But if I was a bettin’ man, I’d say that somewhere out there a carpenter is standing before a splintered door jamb with estimate forms in hand…
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