Watching City Hall
by h. brown
The new 911 sucks … big time
Long, long ago, I helped write some
insurance codes and if I am correct, San Francisco could very
well “modernize” its way into a lower insurance rating.
That could cost home owners and businesses billions! Let me
tell you a story.
I call 911 lots. Last Sunday though, I set a
personal record. Had to call 911 twice inside of five minutes.
The Packers and the Bears were inside the
two-minute warming and the Saints and Niners were ready to
kick off. I had a bowl of good green weed to smoke and a six
pack of beer and a half pint of rotgut bourbon.
Someone started banging on the door!
A young guy from upstairs said his
girlfriend cut her wrist and it was bad. I’m a champion
coward even when it comes to my own bones and brains and
blood. I handed the kid a couple of towels to stanch the flow
& sent him running back upstairs.
He has no phone so I went to dial 911.
It rang … then, it rang again …. then,
it rang again … then, it rang again!
A recording came on that went pretty much
like this: “You have reached 911 emergency system. This
number is for emergency only. If your problem is not life
threatening please hang up and call the appropriate
department. The following tone is for the hearing impaired:
brrrng-zzzzzz-rrrrrrr-bbbbbb-dddddd! If this is a life
threatening emergency, please hold for the first available
Pause. Finally: “Hello, this is 911.”
Me: “I have a tenant with slashed wrists and I need an
ambulance immediately! Operator: “I’ll shift you to that
number.” Me: “Your new system sucks!” New voice: “This
is fire department dispatch.” Me: “Your new system sucks!
I have a girl with slashed wrists at xxxxxxx & I need an
I cradled the phone & ran upstairs to
see how bad the situation was. About then, the Packers beat
the Bears. It was one slashed wrist and the kid had compressed
I ran back down to let the firemen in.
Firefighters always show up first. It’s part of that
insurance code I told you about. If you can get to a fire
within three minutes (as I recall), you get a class one
insurance rating for all the residents. Their fire insurance
is lots cheaper.
I ran to the curb in a (no doubt) agitated
state and looked at my watch. 1:01 pm. I guessed it had been
around two minutes since I hung up. I heard no siren. I looked
like an idiot standing out there.
Then I noticed that a big apartment house
down the street was on fire! Gray-to-black smoke billowed off
the roof in an increasing stream. People were stopping to
I ran back inside to phone good old 911
again. Rrrrrrrrrn. …. Rrrrrrrrrrng
….. Rrrrrrrrrng … You have reached 911 emergency. If this
is not an emergency ...
Somewhere around here, I heard the wail of a
siren & I slammed the phone down & ran back outside. I
looked at my watch.
1:05 pm. About six minutes since I phoned
911. If that’s a trend, the city’s insurance rating is at
risk. Apparently, the new system makes emergency response
I reached the street as the firemen were
turning the corner just below. They knew the address of the
slash victim. As they turned the corner, however, they too
noticed that there was a large building on fire.
I waved them toward me. As firefighters,
they were drawn to the fire. It was a toss-up.
The guy riding the “seat” (shotgun) is
in charge. He grabbed his radio & called in the blaze. He
dispatched the truck & the other three guys back to the
fire & brought two satchels of first-aid gear up to the
girl with the slashed wrist. I stayed at the front gate
awaiting the ambulance. And to watch the firemen.
Hey, it was better than the Niners. A crowd
gathered on either side of the street as the smoke grew and
the sound of blaring sirens began to descend upon the
neighborhood from different directions like the drone of
approaching giant bees.
The ambulance arrived. I’ve seen faster
turtles. Two female paramedics. I called out to inspire them:
“what the hell’s the matter with you!!! there’s a girl
bleeding to death and a fireman who needs to go to that fire!!”
Oddly, they slowed down. Lots.
The paramedics finally shuffled into the
Two cops on bicycles pedaled up. They were
there to check out the incomplete 911 call. (If you recall, I
hung up before getting the fire call in when I heard the
The cops said nothing. They surveyed the
crowd. I identified myself as a reporter for the San Francisco
Call & asked what they thought of the new 911 system. They
thought it helped out on the work load in the emergency center
by weeding out non-emergency calls.
The paramedics came down with the girl with
the slashed wrist. One turned to me: “You don’t know what
your’re talking about!”
Now, normally & about almost everything
else on the face of the earth, she’d be absolutely right. In
this case though … uhuh.
“I did your job for 5 years!” I shouted
at her & the cops and the crowd. “If you don’t like
your job, quit and get another!”
The other paramedic smirked. I copied the
number on the side of the ambulance (97-271).
“What’s your name!?” I queried. “I’m
gonna write a story about you!”
She shrugged: “That would be
Maybe she thought I wanted a date?
go in peace: sobonejuno.com