The readers’ forum

Budget cuts and another South Florida tragedy

 

Our deepest sympathy goes out to each of the families and loved ones that are suffering right now because of the fatal Fourth of July boating accident.

This tragedy, as gut wrenching and unfortunate as it is, brings to light a serious issue that our community has to address. The July 5 Herald article quotes the Miami Fire Public Information Officer as saying that the city was simultaneously dealing with another mass-casualty incident involving four people injured as a result of a car accident on Coral Way and 32nd Avenue.

It was implied their response was affected because of two major incidents in the same service area.

Currently there is a shortage of public safety personnel in most of our fire departments. To the average person, that might not be too alarming. Some people would probably even say that is just government fat, it needs to be lean, anyway. Understaffing translates into fire stations being closed, as we saw last year, service demand overload in areas and delayed response times.

Delayed response times is the worst-case scenario. Without oxygen, the brain suffers traumatically as every minute goes by. After four minutes without oxygen brain damage occurs. Without proper staffing, there are fewer paramedics, fewer Advanced Life Support fire engines, fewer Fire Rescue teams and, in this case no fire boats. All the while residents are still paying for the service through their taxes.

As a result of budget cuts and the personnel shortage, there are specialized units out of service. For instance, it has been reported that one of the people who passed away was the son of a retired firefighter assigned to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue boat. Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, the two county fire boats are out of service.

Could another fire boat or two have made a difference? Could more of a fire rescue response made a difference? I would certainly like to think so, especially when it is reported that citizens used their private boats in the initial response and patients were being transported back and forth.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, how much longer are we willing to accept service reductions and staffing shortages? If one life lost is too many, what is the cost of four lives? Would any of these families say government is too fat?

David Perez, president,

South Florida Council

of Fire Fighters, Miami

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