SF Fire Department by the (wall-clock) numbers

Today, while I was driving out of town on vacation:

  • 13:19: Sitting at red light, I’m in the front car in a left turn lane. The lights just turned red when I was approaching, so I have time to watch the world around me. Its another warm sunny day here in San Francisco, and everyone is out enjoying the weather. I’m at a busy intersection in the Mission district, multiple lanes of fast moving traffic, lots of cars, a bus at the corner bus stop, and crowded sidewalks.
  • 13:21: Bus starts pulling out of bus stop, heading away from intersection. A women running along sidewalk at full speed, without slowing, runs out across the busy road, in the intersection, dodging traffic to try to catch the departing bus. She was crossing the road *behind* the bus, so the bus driver never saw her, and continued driving away. She continues running through traffic anyway, dodging narrow gaps between cars, determined to catch the bus, and makes it most of the way across the road before she stumbles and falls awkwardly. She lands half in the road, half on the sidewalk at the corner, and doesn’t get up. I watch her lying there, clutching her leg in pain. Somehow all the cars missed her. Stuck on the other side of the busy intersection, I watch oncoming cars turning right-on-red barely miss her without even seeing her lying there half in the road.
  • 13:23: Lights finally change to green. I turn through the intersection, and pull into corner bus stop, positioning the car so anyone turning the corner would go wide to avoid my car (and at the same time the woman). Another car pulled in to help at the same time. Another pedestrian stops to help also.
  • 13:25: Finish quick assessment of her state, and start call to 911. Location. Female, 20s. Sprained/twisted ankle. Small bloody scrapes to her face and a broken nose ring, from when her head hit the sidewalk in the fall. Never lost consciousness. Breathing and pulse reasonable. Awake and talking coherently. No visible bleeding. No major skull bruising. Mild shock, crying, concerned for her lunch appointment, lack of medical insurance.
  • 13:27: Finish call with 911.
  • 13:31: SFFD unit rolled through intersection with lights & sirens. We try to flag them down, thinking they dont see us. They pointed acknowledgment back, but were already in transit to another call and didn’t stop.
  • 13:33: SFFD fire tender arrived on scene
  • 13:38: SFFD ambulance arrived on scene
  • 13:53: Patient being loaded into ambulance, on backboard, with head and leg bound. SFFD crews finished repacking equipment before both units depart. After some last questions, I’m cleared to leave, so drive away.

From when I finished the call with 911, to when the first unit arrived on scene was 6mins. Also, it was really great that two other people stopped to help.

5 thoughts on “SF Fire Department by the (wall-clock) numbers”

  1. Wall clock numbers for actual real life services! Awesome! Though, there didn’t seem to be much damage according to what you said. Why did you need to call 9-11?

  2. Glad to hear that you were able to be an effective first-responder. Thank you John.

    (I was an EMT in New Hampshire during university so did this often for those years.)

  3. Hi Havvy;

    Yeah, its always a tricky decision – whats serious enough to merit calling 911?

    In this specific case, decision factors were: Hitting head on sidewalk potentially serious. Watching her not get up or attempt to move from where she lay in traffic was a concern. Even when we were all with her, she never once attempted to sit up or want to move off the road. Most people in that situation would have tried to sit up or stand up – and usually have to be told to not, but she never attempted to move from where she fell, lying half on her side, half face down. This atypical behavior combined with the head impact made me decide to call 911.

    I’ll probably never know if I was over reacting or right on the mark, but even now, a couple of days later, it still feels like the right decision.

    (ps: Gen – I didnt know you’re a former EMT!)

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