Administration and Leadership, Patient Care

Not In My Backyard!: Build the EMS station somewhere else

Issue 3 and Volume 35.

Finally! A place to call our own. No longer would crews respond from borrowed parking stalls under the awnings of the emergency clinic. There was to be no more distress over potential vandalism or break-ins. No more cursing for delayed response times while chipping away at icy windshields. No more portable heaters in the patient compartment in a vain attempt to keep infusible fluids at body temperature (although the frozen IV bags of saline did make good head blocks and ice packs). Our days of homelessness were over.

Years of bake sales—82,739,405 cookies to be exact—had at long last granted us the funds for the land, building provisions and contractor to erect an EMS station in the bosom of our community. Our soon-to-be neighbors insisted on meeting with us the second word got out about our proposed development. No doubt they were anxious to welcome us with their own basket of cookies.

Do you remember the last act in the movie Braveheart, where William Wallace was about to be drawn and quartered and beheaded? At least he saw it coming. I guess I should’ve picked up on the torches and pitchforks in the room, but it became alarmingly clear from the first shrill proclamation of, “Not in my neighborhood!” that Mr. Rogers would not be joining us.

Call me naive, but prior to this town hall gathering, I hadn’t realized the construction of any building, regardless of its social benefit, would always be fought by any landowner who could visualize the proposed facility from any window. Homeowners instinctively want to preserve their immediate environment in its original condition.

One such homeowner easily identified himself as such by avowing, “I’ve lived in this town way before anyone ever heard of or even needed EMS. Just ask Tom Wagner. … No, wait. He died of a heart attack. Ask Mike Higgins. … No, he bled to death years ago from a chain saw accident. …”

Like most people in our society, the folks in the town meeting had no clue how EMS worked or what the acronyms EMT-B, EMT-P or NRCCEMT-P-TNS-CEN-FACS-RRT-FAAP-BSPA-RSO even stood for. (Note: RSO stands for Ridiculously Showing Off.) To be fair, I didn’t know their acronyms, either: NIMBY (Not In My Backyard), NIABY (Not In Anyone’s Backyard), BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) and NOPE (Not On Planet Earth).

Following someone’s distribution of odor-free aerosol Prozac through the town hall’s ventilation system, we were finally able to proceed with constructive dialogue, which helped ease the town folk of their visceral apprehension at being overrun by such land-raping pillagers as us greedy, non-profit EMS volunteers. By inviting them to have a voice in the outcome of the land development, we were able to eliminate most potential problems before they occurred.

Maybe it’s human nature to place one’s needs above the public’s best interest and to want the social benefits of a community without having to personally sacrifice anything for them. Because despite every effort to help empower the locals and calm their sense of sinister oppression by the EMS community, the BANANAs and NOPEs still resisted. A few who were desperate to validate their arguments (and I’m not making this up) demanded a debate over such embarrassing and trivial inaccuracies as: Ambulance drivers would bring disease by their very interactions with patients, the neighborhood would be at risk for a terrorist attack because EMS is a prime target, patients who couldn’t pay their bills would be put to work at the ambulance facility and would loiter and sell cookies to pay for their tab, the flashing lights would put some residents at higher risk for seizures, drug rehab centers would seek to build their facilities nearby, and EMS cartoons would start appearing on light posts. OK, I made that last one up, but I think you get my point.

Every now and then when I travel nationally, I see an EMS station built just outside its rural town’s limits and wonder if their response times are prolonged because their citizens didn’t value their service enough to keep them in the heart of their community. I hope not.

Thankfully, the town council passed the building permit I helped fight for even after the Prozac had dissipated. That was many years ago, before I went to work for an urban EMS system where such issues were irrelevant. But I still smile when I drive by the rural EMS facility that had once caused such a furor. The building stands at the same height as the other residences, and one would have to do a double-take to distinguish it from other homesteads. Children still ride their bikes on the street, and people still walk their dogs Ú stopping occasionally to look at the EMS cartoons placed anonymously on the street light posts next to the station.

Until next time, BANANA this! JEMS