Lives depend on emergency responders arriving as promptly as possible. But what do we really need to spend to obtain a sufficient level of navigational technology on fire trucks and ambulances?
The conclusions to be drawn from the possibly avoidable death of Tom Gallagher in Queens NY are not as obvious as the NY Post or many of the commenters on this colorful local blog seem to think.
Tom Gallagher, 69, a retired stationary engineer for Fordham University, was in his bedroom at his Little Neck home on Van Nostrand Court just after 10 p.m. Monday when he lost consciousness, his distraught family said.
While his son tried to revive him, firefighters rushing to his aid drove by his cul de sac several times without spotting the entrance.
Their rig was not equipped with GPS or electronic maps — which are not installed in any FDNY or EMS vehicles.
Instead, they relied on a 2005 Hagstrom map they keep on their dashboard.
Oh snap. Might as well have dispatched a donkey cart loaded with leeches and bottles of Lydia Pinkham’s tonic.
I was not there with that driver. I do wonder whether they radioed the dispatcher “Where the heck is this Van Nostrand Court?” and if so, what happened. Could someone at the office have checked the properly updated wall map, gone online, called the family back for clarification or perhaps asked someone at the scene to step outside and flag down the ambulance? (I am so old I remember being taught to stand and wait by the call box!)
I would allocate at least some blame to what looks to be a vanity address:
Google Street View of Van Nostrand Court
Van Nostrand Court does not look like a city street to me and I guess it did not look like like one to the responders either. It looks like a driveway. Perhaps the plaque in the gatepost, unreadable in the photo, names it, but there does not appear to be the kind of street sign anyone would be looking for when looking for a named street. If the official address of this little court was “52 Glenwood Street” and the responders had been dispatched to it, they would have rolled right in. Could this be the embodiment of the developer’s assumption that “Everybody who needs to find this little private street will be able to follow their GPS?”
It is much too easy to think that since this person may not have died had new navigational technology been in use, the technology has become a must. According to one commenter, “A decent system with an external antenna is only $300 and can be properly installed and hardwired by any shmuck with a cordless drill, crimping tool, grommet and some silicone sealer in an hour.” First of all, it would hardly be responsible for the city to let “schmucks” install discount-store electronics on emergency response equipment. Appropriately expert installation of heavy duty equipment on hundreds or thousands of vehicles, followed by inevitable repairs and maintenance would be an enormous expense. Most importantly, the irate taxpayers who populate comment threads should be glad their city knows darn well that even with the latest GPS system on every vehicle, something will go terribly wrong about as often as it does without the gizmos. They should be be relieved to know that firefighters and EMTs are still being hired from the ranks of people literate and generally competent enough to find their way by reading maps.
The printed map business has declined disastrously. Maps are getting harder to find, many publishers have gone out of business, and the survivors are hard pressed to maintain update schedules and editing standards. Advertising and general love for the latest gadgetry has convinced many people that printed maps are obsolete.
Save your “If onlys” for the saddest detail of all: The 2005 map. The 2009 edition of the $4.99 Hagstrom Map of Queens correctly shows Van Nostrand Court in Little Neck although the name was not added to the alphabetical index. We can never know if Mr. Gallagher would have been saved for $4.99, let alone $300, or $30,000,000.
I do not know what I could possibly say to comfort the Gallagher family. I am terribly sorry for their loss.