Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cost of Bad Judgement

 Top of The Notch

In addition to the Amherst tax dollars consumed for a gaggle of first responders, the cost of rescuing a hiker on Bare Mountain last week needs to be measured in more than just dollars--even if it was $10,000.

According to AFD Chief Tim Nelson the late night rescue, "Came close to negatively impacting a medical emergency. The guy on the mountain made a bad choice but he had a choice. Those people who truly need our help don't have a choice."

Not to mention the potential harm to first responders negotiating dangerous conditions in order to carry out the mission, as evidenced by a police officer injured in the incident.  

Yes, you don't want people to hesitate calling 911 in an emergency if they think a bill will be presented for services rendered as a penalty, but at the same time you don't want taxpayers to subsidize irresponsible behavior.

And setting off on a hike in mountainous woods, late at night, in the middle of the winter is by most standards of measurement, a bad call.

In Alaska, Colorado or even our neighboring New Hampshire White Mountains, if someone gets into trouble on a hike and requires a tactical rescue, authorities send them a bill (assuming they survive).

Or if our ambulance picked up an unconscious citizen on the side of the road and transported them to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital their insurance company would cover the cost or Amherst would send them a bill.

And it would not be hard to itemize.

Amherst Fire Department costs:
Personnel – $2830.89
Apparatus Equipment $4800.00
Total – $7630.89

Amherst Police Department costs:
4 patrol officers at the scene times 3 hrs each: $437.04
1 Sergeant at the scene for 3 hours: $131.10                                        
1 Lieutenant at the scene for 2 hours: $104.64
And 4 shifts covered for injured officer 32 hrs. Total: $1165.44
Grand Total:   $1838.22

And these are just Amherst's costs.  South Hadley Fire District 2 also had a major response and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

What else AFD did that week (Dispatch statistics)


Anonymous said...

Colorado Alpine Rescue Squad :

Seems like a good idea to me. Not mandatory for someone in distress to receive emergency response but helpful for emergency response teams.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure they don't receive a bill? Everywhere I've lived, a bill is sent - and this does hit your credit report if you don't pay.

LarryK said...

Yeah, I'm sure.

The venerable Gazette and Bulletin have articles today touching on the subject, and confirm it.

Anonymous said...

Kudos with the publicizing the itemization, there ARE costs associated with these important services most do not think of. A quick correction for you....the hill is Bare Mountain, not Bear. Cheers.

LarryK said...


I think "The Horse Caves" confused me into thinking the mountain destinations all have animal related names.

Anonymous said...

"Kudos with the publicizing the itemization, there ARE costs associated with these important services most do not think of."

This could just be the economist in me but I find it unlikely that the $4800 is the cost. More likely, it is the price. I am curious as to what the cost actually is and how the fire chief come up with that price (if he is the one who did). The overtime and backfill is pretty easy to calculate. $4800 for apparatus? No new equipment or vehicles were purchased for this operation. They were purchased by our tax dollars in anticipation of an operation like this, and all would have been in the station otherwise. Just like much of the equipment that the fire department and police department purchases.

So if this rescue had not happened, should we not purchase that equipment and train our responders on how to use it? I think not. I don't think the public safety personell would like to give that up either. I hope that they would continue to stay prepared, equipped and trained regardless of this incident happening.

I am a supporter of people taking personal responsibility and agree that it is a good thing to calculate the actual cost of operations like this. But, just like I don't believe a syringe at a hospital costs $10 on my itemized bill, I also don't believe that $4800 was spent on apparatus that night.

Any of the firefighters out there know where this number is calculated from? Taylor?

LarryK said...

A lot less wear and tear on our vehicles when they do stay in the station--which, in Amherst, is not all that often (lower fuel costs as well).

Anonymous said...

Typical b.s. where the departments cry about needing more equipment and personel, and then cry all over again about performing the services they're paid to do. If everyone just stayed at home and watched TV, they'd be complaining about more electrical fires.

Anonymous said...

So there was $4800 in wear and tear and fuel costs associated with this one operation? Where's the journalistic integrity in that one Larry? You're quick to criticize cost analyses of other town departments, why the complete pass here?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing me to the Gazette. I'm glad they're happy to throw my tax dollars to the wind. I'm sure not happy with that. I've paid my fair share of rather expensive ambulance bills in my life. How do we get these folks out of there?

Cowardly Anon Nitwit said...

I agree about the billing, but passing on bills to rescuees due to depreciation is ridiculous. In that case the PVTA should tuck it to the town even more.

Anonymous said...

Hello folks,

I'm not sure of the exact formula that chief used to calculate the $4800 cost for apparatus at this incident, but please consider the following. The fire department response to this incident was comprised of the following pieces of apparatus; Ambulance-1, Ambulance-2, Rescue-1, Engine-3 (student volunteer engine company), Engine-4 (part-time/on-call engine company), R-5 (15 passenger van used as a personnel carrier), and 3 staff cars (1 chief, 1 assistant chief, and 1 used to transport personnel). By my count that is 9 vehicles, all of which were burning fuel and incurring wear to their engines. We all know what the price of gasoline is, and those who drive diesel powered vehicles know that fuel for them is even more expensive.

The next thing I’d like to mention is billing. While it’s true that the department could in theory generate a bill for a technical rescue, there is really no mechanism to compel anyone to pay. Several states and the federal government have laws in place which require people to pay for thier own rescue if their actions or lack of preparedness are found to be the cause or to have contributed to thier need for rescue. Our state has no such law. The young man in question, or his insurance company will be billed for the ambulance service, but the rescue itself will be absorbed by the town.
Finally I’d like to clear a few things up. I have heard many different lengths of time with regard to the duration of the incident, most of which have been incorrect. The call was received by the fire department at roughly 11:30pm. I know this because I was one of the first to fire department members to respond. The last fire department unit cleared the scene just after 4:30am. I know this because I was one of the last 2 fire department members to leave the scene. After returning to the station it took about one hour to rehab the technical rescue equipment that was used. The ambulance that transported the young man to Baystate Medical Center returned to town at roughly 6:30am. A rough estimate of the time expended in relation to this incident is 7 hours. A fair estimate of the time actually spent on the mountain performing the rescue itself would be 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Finally, I would like to mention the fact that in addition to So. Hadley District 2, DCR, and Amherst P.D. we had assistance from Northampton Fire. Two members of that department are part of our technical rescue team and both responded to this incident and were instrumental in its successful conclusion. This has been overlooked thus far in the press.

Jeff Parr
Amherst Firefighters
IAFF Local 1764

LarryK said...

Thanks for the clarification Jeff.

My "journalistic integrity" feels vindicated.