Editorial : Helping first responders to your door
"In our business, seconds matter. Not minutes. Seconds."
Oak Bluffs ambulance Chief John Rose is making an exceptional effort this week to alert Islanders to a problem facing first responders in our old, somewhat disorganized, and dispersed communities. The business Mr. Rose is talking about is the business of finding you when you need help. Long dirt roads and driveways and deep woods, even in larger, less rural towns like Oak Bluffs present hurdles for emergency services personnel to find someone beset by a medical, a fire, or even criminal activity.
Mr. Rose's Oak Bluffs Ambulance Service and the Dukes County Sheriff's Department are cooperating to encourage Oak Bluffs residents to add numbered signs, provided at no charge to homeowners, that will help guide responders to the correct location. Mr. Rose is promoting this sheriff's department initiative, but the need is common across all six Vineyard towns and the offer extends to Islanders everywhere
The 9-1-1 call you or a loved one makes to the county communication center starts an emergency response that depends upon timely and correct information. As Times writer Steve Myrick explains in a news story this morning, "Sometimes, dispatchers are able to give first responders very precise directions to a house. The reverse 9-1-1 system gives dispatchers an exact address, and pinpoints the location on a map. But that system is far from foolproof. It only works with landlines, not mobile phones. Police say when the reverse 9-1-1 system was implemented, some homeowners refused to change their house number as required, so the number dispatchers relay to first responders may not match the number on the house. [And] police, fire and ambulance crews cannot always rely on the person making the emergency call to guide them, either, or meet them at the location."
The Times is happily the recipient of Letters to the Editor from grateful Islanders who have been cared for, and perhaps saved, by Vineyard first responders, by firefighters and police and EMTs. The bracing encouragement those letters offer ought to be matched by a practical effort to make the first responders' stressful jobs easier by furnishing them with accurate location information, now available from the sheriff's department.