The 50-year-old employee of Waldron Inc., an air-conditioning and heating company, was having a heart attack, and all his colleagues could do was watch and wait, the business's owner said yesterday.Wow. Just... wow. This poor man actually died... of beauracracy. Unbelievable.
Medics arrived 14 minutes after Waldron workers first called 911. The man, whose name was not released by the company or by authorities, later died at Inova Alexandria Hospital.
[Company owner Floyd] Smith said an employee called 911 shortly after 8 a.m. to request an ambulance.
The employee was told that he had reached the wrong call center but that the information would be transferred to the appropriate jurisdiction, Smith said.
"He was told that Fairfax County would call back for the information, but Fairfax County did not call back," Smith said.
Minutes passed. The employee phoned 911 a second time, Smith said, and again the call was answered by an Alexandria call-taker.
"This time the transfer to Fairfax was made with [him] on the phone," Smith said. "The two dispatchers were going back and forth as to which had responsibility for the call. The Waldron co-worker told them he didn't care who came, but to send them right now."
If I didn't know it was real life, I would have guessed Terry Gilliam movie (You're Mr. Buttle? Oh dear, we were sent to revive Mr. Tuttle). Seriously... the two dispatchers were actually arguing over the phone who's responsible for saving this guy's life? I know that, in Washington, we're slavishly devoted to official procedure and carbon copy forms that must be filled out in quadruplicate, but maybe this is one of those times where you just have to let that all fucking go. If you have to send the paramedics a block outside their usual turf, just fucking do it and worry about the consequences after they've saved the guy's life.
ARGGHHH. And the trademark why.i.hate.dc running joke, of course, is that you'd better not need 911 inside the District, because every day, they don't come correct, etc. etc. I always assumed that Virginia was more or less on top of things as far as emergency services, and that the greatest risk you would face would be, say, calling 911 from a cell phone in Rosslyn but getting the D.C. call center, and having them not know what to do. I never imagined that calling from a jurisdictional border inside Virginia could also be fatal.
Come to think of it, when I was in that car accident last year on GW Parkway (my wife thought I was covered in blood, but it was just smoothie), I called 911, got the Arlington dispatcher, and she transferred me to the Park Police, who handled all the details (because that's Park Police jurisdiction). That went OK, but it's another potential wrinkle in the system.
Fascinating. These humans are fascinating.