D.C. Bureaucracy and Apathy Doesn’t Stop Outside the Capitol Building
For those readers living outside of Washington D.C. and unfamiliar with a local incident on 25 January 2014 involving the death of a 77-year old man, Cecil Mills, who suffered a heart attack while walking with his daughter outside a northwest D.C. shopping center and across the street from a D.C. fire station. The actions (or inaction) following Mr. Mill’s heart attack are at the center of the controversy here in the Capital City. That’s why I will call this blog, “The Death of Cecil Mills and Common Sense in America.”
According to the official investigative report, Mills collapsed on Saturday, January 25 at about 2:44 p.m. in the shopping center’s parking lot. A 911 call was made by a shopkeeper, and it was assigned to northwest. The caller immediately corrected the call taker, however, clarifying that their location was in northeast D.C. Emergency crews responded to the Northeast DC address instead.
To make matters worse, along with a call to 911, passers-by and Good Samaritans attempted to help by running to the fire station down the street from the shopping center to ask for assistance. Reports said that the Good Samaritans soon returned to the scene stating the fire station responders would not be assisting unless someone called 911.
Yes, you read that correctly, there were five firefighters inside the D.C. fire station during the emergency, and the report confirms that all of them were aware of a medical issue that required assistance. Unfortunately, not one of them took action.
Mills eventually died that afternoon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center as the city residents were left bewildered, angered and wondering how an elderly man can have a heart attack that close to a city fire station and it take 15 to 20 minutes for help to arrive.
Now, without making broad and intellectually short-sighted assumptions about the demise of general common sense and the rise of apathy in our nation today, I think we can all agree that the Mills incident should sadden, anger, and shake us to our core. Call me crazy but I’m not so certain that this is just an isolated case of one poorly operated, marginally managed fire house in D.C. and not an indication of the endemic lack of common sense, apathy, poor judgment, and systemic inability to think outside the box (or regulations) in our country today.
Mind you, this is the same city that restricts concealed carry for law abiding citizens but can’t control the criminals who could care less about gun control. So essentially, the criminals and the Police are the only gun-totters in the city. And the last time I checked, there weren’t enough Police officers in the city to guarantee I won’t get mugged next week at gunpoint.
But back to Cecil Mills: Did the D.C. fire house have the B-Team working that day? An unfortunate perfect storm of five fire fighters who all graduated at the bottom of the class colliding with a tragic medical incident where an elderly gentlemen needed their assistance?
Here’s a better question: even if the five fire fighters had regulatory restrictions preventing them from responding to a medical emergency outside of a 911 call, what were they doing at the time that was more important than, well… “saving a life?” As a first responder charged with protecting life, limb, and property, what activity demanded the fire fighters attention more than potentially giving Cecil Mills a chance at life? Were they updating their Facebook page status? “Bored to death today y’all…wish we has something to do…” a post might read.
Was it a little too cold in the Capital City that day for these fire fighters to leave the fire house and render assistance? Maybe?
The City did take action. According to the report, the firefighters and four OUC employees involved have been recommended for disciplinary action, which can range from reprimand to dismissal.
The report also says the DC Fire & EMS employees will go before the Fire Trial Board, a panel consisting of two battalion fire chiefs and two captains. The board will hear evidence and determine their guilt or innocence, and make a penalty recommendation to the fire chief. The report says one member has already and will appear before the trial board on March 4.
In addition, four OUC employees have been recommended for disciplinary action. Several recommendations have been made for OUC dispatcher protocol going forward.
Although the city is attempting to take the proper disciplinary actions to right an obvious wrong, Cecil Mills and his family deserved better than what the city of Washington D.C. had to offer them on that cold day in January.
I think it goes without saying, if you are a first responder, your job is to protect and save life. Rules and regulations are great on paper and make the upper management and attorneys feel “warm and fuzzy,” but when someone is on death’s door and needs help, it’s your job to save that life and ask for forgiveness later. If having the opportunity to save a human life is not at the top of your daily “priority list” as a first responder, to quote the classic line by “Bob Slydell” in the movie Office Space, “What would you say, ya do here?”
The family of Cecil Mills deserves an apology from the City of Washington D.C., and maybe a little something “extra” for the bureaucratic buffoonery that occurred on that cold day in January.
Written by: Scott McGinnis