What the Wade Out proved

At the Wade Out, the following was demonstrated:

1. Several Mutual Aid requests can and should be made–standard operating procedure—at the outset to ensure an effective reponse, e.g., if requested by the AFD, Alameda County and Oakland Fire departments could have been onsite and effected a rescue before Mr. Zack succumbed to the cold water and died. On May 30, 2011, our AFD failed to request mutual aid from even a single agency.

2. A middle-aged (50-65 year old) human being standing almost 200 yards into the water can hear another human being using a bullhorn from the shore.  On May 30, 2011, neither the APD nor the AFD attempted communication with Mr. Zack despite the fact that ‘negotiation’ with a suicidal victim in a public location is often successful.

3. The water is fine out there. Look, if a dozen middle-aged women can saunter out 200 yards, and back, in that water at high tide with nary a problem—the water’s warm, mid 60 degrees; there’s no current; it’s like a wading pool for crissake!—then our police and our firefighters could certainly have waded out waist deep, halfway to Mr. Zack, and engaged him in a conversation, in negotiation.

Recently, APD Chief Noonan said …..   “the independent  investigation that the mayor and the city manager are asking for is essential and I support that completely.” Good sound bite, and I believe he means it. But it’s hard to understand why, under a man with years as a negotiator on the force, a suicide negotiation was not even attempted by the APD for Mr. Zack. Something really doesn’t make sense here, right? I spoke with Chief Noonan last week about this; he appeared just as flummoxed as me: the death of Mr. Zack with all of our first responders on scene is simply not understandable. Something is very, very wrong.

I spoke with AFD Chief D’Orazi yesterday. He says moving forward with the firefighters contract in no way impedes his ability to update policies and extract improved performances from his employees. But this cannot be true. Employment contracts cannot be so easily separated from employee performance; in fact, employment contracts are critical management tools.

Mr. Russo said “It’s unacceptable what happened.” Again, a good sound bite (perhaps he took heed of our cries at city hall?!), and he wants us to believe he means it. But that’s pretty hard to swallow considering his aggressive move forward with the firefighters contract.

The files Mr. Russo sent out bout the firefighter contract yesterday make it all sound all right, even good for us…but that couldn’t be further from the truth: approving a contract while major issues between the parties are unidentified and unresolved is evidence that he does not expect the independent investigation of the Zack Assisted Suicide to be relevant. This is very disturbing.

It looks like Mr. Russo intends to preserve the status quo.  

I’d rather he prioritize what’s best and safest for Alamedans, wouldn’t you?!

The entire city population of Alameda has wholly unnecessarily been contaminated from controlled substances in two significant events, contamination contributed directly and only to the significantly substandard AFD incident response, command, and management of the 2009 FISC fire and the 2010 Crude Oil events. The AFD’s inability, incompetence, and/or unwillingness to perform–when engaging other agencies is required in order to get their job done–is proven in these two events and, sadly, was proven again on May 30th, 2011. The city’s April 2011 VanderHeiden settlement is further evidence that something is seriously wrong within the AFD. All of these events taken together indicate endemic, systemic, and cultural organizational problems at the AFD and within the IAFF Local 689.

NOT ONE DISCIPLINARY ACTION HAS BEEN MADE WITHIN THE AFD RELATED TO ANY OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED EVENTS.

Until the city admits the AFD has internal problems and that these problems correlate directly to performance failures that have harmed us in the past and may harm us yet again, we are not safe enough, and the city is not doing enough. These problems are complex. They must be understood. The independent investigation is only one small step towards this; small because the scope is not wide enough.

Where are the assurances to the public that everything is being done to fix this?

Oh, right: the city is assuring us that they got a great deal from the firefighters….again with the focus on them, not us!

Where’s OUR great deal?! Where’s OUR improved fire services?!

NOT ONE INTERNAL PROCESS AND PROCEDURE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO ENSURE PERFORMANCE MEET CONTEMPORARY INDUSTRY STANDARDS.

From what I’ve seen, most the AFD P&Ps (protocols & procedures) are outdated, substandard, incomplete, and ineffective. Hell, their Water Pollution, Spills of Oil, and other Hazardous Materials document is dated 1986! We discovered that during the FISC fire, the AFD has no policy in place for 3 and 4-alarm fires!  How are earth, then, are we safe?! Until they are compliant with current standards in the firefighting industry, we are not safe enough.

Submitting the firefighters contract for approval at the City Council at this time is, at best, disingenuous.  It is evidence that those politically aligned and indebted to the IAFF Local 689 are prioritizing the AFD’s interests and their own over those of the Alameda residents.

I EXPECT THE CITY TO OUTPERFORM FOR ME. Not for city employees and their unions to my detriment. Going forward with this contract at this time signals to everyone that the city is happy with business as usual. Well, I’m not, are you?!

THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO EVEN SUGGEST THAT ALAMEDANS ARE SAFER TODAY THAN THEY WERE ON THE DAY OF THE FISC FIRE.

In 2009, the city spent $1.6M to clean up the very toxic FISC site after the fire….but not one dime to protect residents. THAT’S WRONG.

THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO EVEN SUGGEST THAT ALAMEDANS ARE SAFER TODAY THAN THEY WERE ON THE DAY OF THE CRUDE OIL TRANSFER & SPILL.

Despite my efforts bringing this to the city council and city management, nothing has been done in response despite evidence of the seriousness of the issue found in the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s several ‘public nuisance’ violations numbers A49471, A49472, and A48473.

THE ZACK INVESTIGATION IS NOT EVEN BEGUN. THE WATER RESCUE TEAM IS NOT YET IN EFFECT.

YET THE CITY THINKS IT MAKES SENSE TO APPROVE THE FIREFIGHTERS CONTRACT?

Nothing has been done in years to address the very real, very significant performance problems at the AFD. And Mr. Russo and Mr D’Orazi, literally days on their jobs, are going to move forward with the contract?

Evidence shows that in certain kinds of incidents, Alamedans continue to be worse off, harmed!, when the AFD arrives on scene than if the AFD never arrived at all!

UNTIL THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE SAFER, UNTIL THE AFD MANAGEMENT SHOW US WHAT’S BEEN DONE AT THE AFD TO ENSURE PROPER RESPONSE PROCEDURES, THAT MINIMUM PERFORMANCE STANDARDS WILL BE REQUIRED FROM FIREFIGHTERSM, NO CONTRACT SHOULD BE APPROVED!

Until we know what is wrong and there’s a good plan in place to fix it, no contract with the firefighters should be approved by the city!

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About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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