Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Firefighters Gone Wild
Valid concerns about extended fire department emergency response times in Olivenhain are overshadowing serious competency and conduct problems within the Encinitas Fire Department.
Having more fire stations or faster response times will not improve public safety if the Fire Department is negligently managed.
In January 2011, the Encinitas Taxpayers Association was informed by Fire Department insiders that numerous acts of neglect of duty and dangerous violations of San Diego County EMS protocols had taken place under the command of current Fire Chief Mark Muir and his management team. Those acts are outlined below.
Attempts were made to clarify the circumstances surrounding the misconduct with the Fire Chief, City Manager and eventually the City Council. The Fire Chief did not deny the occurrence of the incidents, but attempted to obscure the misconduct, and refused to explain what his policy was for disciplining firefighters who endangered the public.
We are suspect that the Fire Chief grossly failed to take appropriate management action.
Unlike in other jurisdictions, the City of Encinitas does not regularly report to the public information on disciplinary action. Unlike other cities, Encinitas has refused to release any information related to disciplinary, corrective action or investigations of misconduct.
All appearances from the Fire Chief, City Manager, and all five council members are of a city-wide cover up.
The taxpayers have a right to know the circumstances surrounding these acts, how this misconduct has been mitigated, and if the root cause leading to these acts has been identified and addressed. The public deserves to know whether or not negligence is rare or has become commonplace in the city’s fire department.
We are asking the citizens of Encinitas to simply contact the city council and request that they see that the fire department report their disciplinary history, just like other California cities.
Below is a subset of acts reported to the ETA by firefighter insiders:
ACT 1. Failure to Respond / Abandonment / Neglect of Duty / Making False Statements
A Fire Captain repeatedly and maliciously neglected his responsibility to respond with his fire company to emergency medical incidents. To avoid having to respond to emergency calls, the Captain would deliberately and intentionally place his company out of service or state that his company was located farther out than other companies by manipulating the apparatus on-board dispatch computer system.
In the fire service this action is rare and when it does happen it is call "sand bagging." Firefighters figure this act of negligence out quickly and know when a unit sand bags. Why did it take numerous incidents to discover this misconduct? Is this an acceptable practice in Encinitas? In any well managed fire department the Captain would have been fired.
Act 2. Neglect of Duty / Violation of San Diego County Emergency Medical Services Protocol
A Firefighter/Paramedic assigned to a Paramedic Assessment Engine Company responded to a critical medical call and initiated Advance Life Support. In the treatment of the patient, he was required to use drugs and other life saving equipment.
Following the transfer of care to an ambulance crew and subsequent transport to a medical facility, the Firefighter failed to restock the medical box with the necessary drugs and equipment as is required under the San Diego County Emergency Medical Services Protocol.
The remainder of the 24 hour work shift passed and there were no emergency responses that required use of the medical equipment.
Upon relief the following day, the on coming Firefighter/Paramedic never conducted an inventory check of the medical equipment. The medical box containing life saving drugs and equipment was depleted and not ready for service. Responsible paramedics review the medical boxes’ inventory by upon starting a new shift. The Captain is ultimately responsible for the readiness of the apparatus, crew and equipment.
There were no emergency responses on this shift.
By the next shift, almost 72 hours after the medical call that required Advanced Life Support intervention, the inventory of the medical box had still not been checked. The Firefighter/Paramedic during this particular shift was called to respond to a critical medical incident. Upon arrival the Firefighter/Paramedic found that a citizen was in serious condition and would need Advanced Life Support intervention. When the Encinitas Firefighter/Paramedic opened the medical box, he discovered that he didn’t have the necessary inventory and supplies that should have been used to help save a life.
Standing over a patient in need of emergency care is not the time for a Firefighter/Paramedic to discover he/she is out of supplies. That is why cities that value public safety are managed diligently, have strong leadership and discipline. Fire department members should be dedicated, loyal and adhere to strict policies and protocols.
In well run Fire Departments, emergency responders are responsible to ensure that all of their emergency equipment is ready. They are mandated to perform daily, weekly and monthly checks of there apparatus and equipment-both medical and firefighting. Encinitas firefighters failed to do their job, they neglected their responsibility to serve the public and threatened the safety of the people they serve.
We have been informed by one fire department insider that the initial Firefighter/Paramedic who failed to restock the medical box had a history of disciplinary problems including an arrest for DUI, possession of cocaine and concealed handgun.
ACT 3. Delayed Response
A Paramedic Assessment Engine Company in the Village Park area of Encinitas regularly responds to a housing track that has access through a fire gate. This gate greatly reduced response times to this track of homes. This company was unable to open the fire gate due to the fact they were unable to locate the keys to the lock. The incident they were responding to was a cardiac arrest. The unit decided to drive around to the community entrance. This added an additional delay of over 10 minutes before vital life saving intervention could begin. The patient died.
The home in which the patient resided was within walking distance of the fire gate.
Again the department displayed a lack of readiness and discipline by not ensuring that the apparatus inventory is complete and prepared for emergency response. There seems to be a pattern.
There are other act of unprofessional behavior, which we think the residents of Encinitas would be disappointed to discover. We hope the city will promptly release the department’s disciplinary history to the public, as in other California cities, and once they do we will gauge the city’s reporting against the list of acts for which we have knowledge of.
Fortunately for the citizens of Encinitas there are some honest and diligent firefighters who work for the City.
It is up to you decide if we want a fire department with just some good Firefighters or a fire department that is well managed, loyal and dedicated to serving the citizens.
Please, email your representative at city hall and ask that they release the fire department’s disciplinary history.
The council’s email is email@example.com.
Leucadia Resident, 26 years
Active Los Angeles City Firefighter/Paramedic, 31 years
Board Member, Encinitas Taxpayers Association