Tag Archives: Death

Fire Death in Philadelphia:Smoke Detectors the only answer?


On February 24th, 2013 at around 11:30 PM  Firefighters from the city of Philadelphia responded to an alarm in the Southwest part of the city.  They were met with heavy fire showing on the first floor of a row home.  As always they acted quickly to douse the flames and save anyone inside.  Tragically one man on the second floor died in the fire and two escaped with injuries.  Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers took to the airwaves to tell the story and predictably he came up with the most obvious answer.

If there had been smoke detectors this man would be alive today.  Bravo Commissioner for stating the obvious.  But what about the cause of the fire.  Before you can claim that a working smoke detector could have saved a life there were so many other factors that led up to this tragedy.

The home had been divided up into five separate apartments, described in the news video from NBC 10 as a boarding house. Was this compartmentalization legally done? If there a record of this being an apartment building?  Remember that potentially five or more people could have roomed here. The owner of this building also let the heater, which according to the news reports was an oil heater, stop working.  Another negative to the situation.

As reported by the news the electrical box was “a mess”.  So what we may have here is an overloaded electrical service device bought on by the renters having to use portable electric heaters.  Just one heater requires a 15 Amp breaker.  If all five tenants had one heater we are talking 75% of the total load on a 100 Amp box.  Unless this home was upgraded to a larger box to accommodate the multiple tenants the die was cast long before  the failure to put smoke detectors in each unit.

To make matters worse the Smoke detector system (actually Fire Detection) in an apartment building is required to be integrated to alert all residence.  Individual smoke alarms would not be enough or legal.

The Fire Commissioner should be talking about ensuring proper living conditions for residents and quit blaming the lack of smoke detectors.  The problems of the poor in the city go way beyond the presence of a device.

Eight fire deaths this year already.  The city is on it’s way to 48.  That would be tragic as is each untimely fire death.

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A Love Story


My parents left this earth on April 12, 2012 and we have received many condolences. It is a sad day when you lose a parent it can be even sadder to lose both. But this is not a story of loss. This is a story of love. Dad used to tell us the first time he saw Mom he knew he was going to love her. Mom was the ticket girl at a local movie theater and Dad was going to the movies and found his dream girl. What happens next has shaped the lives of everyone they touched. On June 6, 1949 Dad and mom got married at an Upper Darby Justice of the Peace. Yerkes was the name of the man who presided over their wedding. Mom and dad lived a life of devotion to each other and to the children they would bring into this world. Neither was a perfect person, who is? But they did the best they could to instill a sense of right and wrong in all of us. Their partnership was so strong that even the toughest question posed to one of them by us kids would be answered with “go ask your mother “ or “go ask your father”. You can imagine we did not get very far with that partnership at the top.

It is a testament to their parenting their children have beaten the odds on all the really big negatives of society. None of us are in prison or living with addictions that could kill us. While divorce has touched a few of us even there the percentages weigh in favor of a firm foundation of commitment. And that is the message Mom and Dad delivered to us consistently after that day in June of 1949. They would be committed to each other and show us that faith was important. Not all of us keep up with going to church and some of us find our faith again later in life but we all know the lessons they taught us were based on that faith. Devotion to God and each other, Commitment to your vows, and a willingness to give to the other. Dad would do anything for Mom and the same applied to her. Even as Alzheimer’s took most of his memories Dad never forgot his “honey”. He called her that daily.

They gave us more than we knew. We had yearly summer vacations to the Poconos. They forced themselves to save money so that we could get away every summer. Even in that act of caring for us they in their own style forged life long friendships with the people who every year would rent the cabins at Bush’s Golf Course and Cottages during the same week. Der Munster Meister is one of my favorite stories. When a tricycle and some wood and a coil become a beer tap there is some engineering happening. The adults logged some miles pushing that from cabin to cabin. Many great memories came from our time in the Poconos. The funniest and worst was moms ride into the lake on one of the kids bikes. The front wheel jammed in the mud at the bottom and the handle bars snapped to one side bruising her spleen. That was mom.

As we got older they started to travel on their own. With such a range of ages babysitters were challenged. But moms cousin and Grand mom Madden survived the seven of us maybe a bit worse for the wear, the hamper was a great hiding place.

You can imagine that with the seven of us in the house things might get a bit out of control. Even as our parents were leaving us the conversation was still touched with lots of humor in between the tears. But imagine if you will, we kids don’t need to imagine, Dad lying on the living room floor with his glasses tucked into his waistband taking a nap. To this day I still don’t know how he did that. Never rolled over and I never heard him yell to keep it down. Although Mom did remind us dad was napping in her special way. The kids that mom and dad brought into this world are all very different, which is not unexpected, but when you are all within 14 years of each other tension get can high and youthful indiscretion can lead to some conflict. Mom and Dad handled that pretty well too and never played favorites. Although I know I was.

The friendships my parents developed over the years were strong and many of those friends are here today. Even the couples from the Poconos were still friends after the vacations ended. They were, to say the least socially active. Many of us sat in the house on Wednesday night and listened as Mom called her friends and told them they were dying. As we sat and listened to Mom tell the story, one of her friends asked if there was anything they could do. Mom said “No we are fine” we know she meant that they were being taken care of but to hear her say that at that moment gave us all a chance to smile and laugh. The love Mom and Dad showed us they reigned on their friends too.

In the end Mom and Dad got their wish. Mom woke up on Thursday morning feeling worse than she had in a long time. This was mere hours after Mom gave my sister and me a real mom style beat down on her health. She demanded we check her pulse and blood pressure. I took her pulse and my sister took her blood pressure. Mom’s rally was in full swing on Wednesday night. She told us she had come to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with her. She drank her last evening hot chocolate and went back to bed around 1:30 am. My sister and I sat for a few minutes after she went back to bed and discussed what just happened. Knowing she was sicker at that point than she knew. Even through the pain she experienced in the following morning our Mother was telling us what she wanted, to be near her husband. What could we say? We rearranged the furniture and put their recliner next to the hospital bed that Dad was in and made them comfortable together. This is the love part folks. Even on their last day on earth they could not bear to be separated. Mom took Dad’s hand and that is how it stayed until Dad left us in the afternoon. We made Mom comfortable in the bed after that and sat with her many of us not wanting to leave, but some had to go to take care of their families and work obligations. As Mom left to join Dad in the presence of our Lord she was surrounded by many of her children and grandchildren.

Taken by my niece the morning of their passing. It says it all

One grandchild wrote very beautifully about watching at that moment. I would like to share it with you.

“That was the most beautiful exit i have ever seen. Surrounded by family. As I held my grandmoms arm and watched her chest raise then fall for the last time…i felt like the luckiest guy in the world to be a part of this family. Seven hours later and she is back with her honey. Watching over all of us forever. It was a blessing for them to go together. They got their wish. Rest peacefully. Much love.”

You know what they are right. We are all blessed to have had these two people in our lives for as long as we have and to witness one of the greatest love stories ever told. Joe and Dee said in 1946 till death do us part. But even in death they did not part. They did it together just like they always have. We will miss you Mom and Dad but the lessons on life and love you have taught us will be with is until we join you. As the verse chosen for the remembrance card says.

From Mark: 10.verse 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

Even God wanted them together. May God Bless you all with the same love my parents shared with us and the peace of knowing they are together forever.

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Is that a Fact?


Today the mouthpiece of the Nutter administration, The Philadelphia Inquirer, published a defamatory story about Local 22’s publicity campaign to make the citizens aware of the hazards of the station closings and the brownouts.The article written by an Inquirer staff writer.(which is a rare breed these days with this rag running AP rehash stories all week)  named Troy Graham.  Graham obviously is a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative and clearly anti-union.  Which would strike me as odd since the Inquirer writers are unionized.  Actually I should not pick on Graham he is just blindly believing what he is told by Lloyd and McDonald.  If you care to read what Troy wrote you can find it here. One is left to wonder if this reporter did any real fact checking, because if you put the facts within the story in a different order you will see the city had to brown out companies to hide the fact that they stopped hiring firefighters and let the DROP program cause massive attrition.

Here is a paragraph from later in the article.

The department is projected to absorb $4 million in overtime costs this fiscal year, but that’s because of low manpower, Ayers said. An academy class of 60 to 80 firefighters is being assembled.

Really? 4 million in overtime in a department that is 7 companies smaller since Nutter took office?  Let’s not forget the Mayor said in 2006 that closing fire companies was misguided.  What they did not tell Troy Graham or the people of this city is that the overtime is generated by too few firefighters.  Well actually Lloyd said it, but it was in passing and he is being misleading about the brownouts and what they achieved.

Why do I say he is not being forthcoming?  Look at this comment.

The city says brownouts have been used for years when firefighters and equipment go out of service for training. They were backed up with firefighters earning overtime.

The difference with Nutter’s policy is that firefighters from browned-out stations are used to fill vacancies around the city, working regular time.

This folks is pure fiction.  I retired in 2005 and the rule was companies out of service for training could not exceed a specific number and there was no back fill or reserve companies used to fill the void.  They were never called brownouts.  Never heard the word until the Nutter Administration came along.  With the 7 closings and 3 brownouts a day that number is exceeded already. As far as the vacancies, once again we need to make it clear that they were created by the city allowing an attrition of personnel.  This was a calculated move to reduce the cost of benefits to this city service.  They let the overtime grow.  Only to use it as a club to say the firefighters are greedy.

They insist this is a safe thing to do.  Lloyd constantly repeats it.

The city has saved $3.8 million under the policy, said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, without jeopardizing the public.

“We stand on that,” he said. “We have the information. We’re monitoring that every day.”

This might be a bit of horn tooting on Ayers part. Fire deaths are down but it is not the first time and let’s not forget the population is down too.  If anything is saving the public it is those men and women in the firehouses that are left in the city busting their butts and sacrificing their bodies to make sure the people of Philadelphia can live for another day. Here are the numbers

TEN YEAR FIRE DEATH RECORD
2000    2001    2002    2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008     2009
51           45          32         44          45          52           52        47            39         30
Fires resulted in injuries to 315 citizens. Of these injuries, (296) occurred in accidental
fires and (19) injuries occurred as a result of incendiary/arson fires

Odd that there is a similar dip back between 2000 and 2002.  Maybe it is not Lloyd Ayers brilliant leadership and visionary plan.  Wait,  what maybe?  It is not! Because he doesn’t do either.  It appears to be a combination of luck, skill and the dedication of the field forces in the department.  While bragging about his decrease in fire deaths is seems that Lloyd fails to mention this little nugget  The civilian injury rate..  Take a look

TEN YEAR INJURY RECORD
2000    2001    2002    2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008    2009
251          212        242      247        193        239       159        165        271       315

*  This from the 2009 report by the PFD.  Next post we will look at the 2009 vs the 2011  report. Very interesting!

Is it me or did the injury rate to civilians go up since 2007?  Maybe these are just not important numbers since these folks were lucky enough to not die or pulled from the grips of death by a firefighter.   Look at the death rates they have dropped and risen before.  So have the injury rates.  But wow  never have so many been injured in one year as they had in 2009.  When did they close firehouses?  2007?  That big spike can’t be a coincidence.  It is, as I said, luck and the dedication of the field forces that lower the death rate in the city.

Get this information out to the people of the city.  Oh and for 2010 and 2011 the death rate went up to 33 and 32 respectively.  What Lloyd Ayers does not say is more important than what he does.  He won’t tell the people they are at risk.

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Whitney Dies!


Yesterday a publicist announced that Whitney Houston died.  The entertainment industry acted as if this was a shock.  They are planning tributes to the permanent silencing of what was an extremely talented voice.  But we need to be realistic here.  Whitney’s voice was done years ago and she could not find her way out of the drug use hell she was in.  Worse it turns out she had prescription medication and not street drugs.  Let’s see Michael Jackson felled by drugs given by a doctor, Whitney Houston dies in a bathtub with prescription drugs in the room. What could be the cause?

I have always believed in the word grounding.  Grounding is where you came from and no matter how powerful or how rich you get you should always stay grounded.  Not confined but certainly always remembering where you came from.  For people like Michael and Whitney that grounding was the world of entertainment  Their inherent talent was the beginning of the end for both of them.  Put on the stage at an early age both lived in the limelight for most of their lives.  The money was big and the isolation off stage had to be bigger, but her tumultuous relationship with singer Bobby Brown had to have had an effect on her.  Nobody is saying which one turned the other on to drugs or for that matter if both had been using drugs before they met but the word rehab was probably mentioned more than I love you in their house. The decline of Whitney Houston was rapid and at the time tragic.  What happened yesterday sadly seemed inevitable. Here is an interesting piece of information.

In September 2007, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, led by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), released its annual study, which surveyed approximately 67,500 people. SAMHSA reported that illicit drug use has declined among American teens ages 12 to 17. Studies show that the rate of teens ages 12 to 17 who acknowledge using drugs in the last month dropped from 11.6% in 2002 to 9.8% in 2006. In particular, marijuana use significantly declined among teens ages 12 to 17—most notably among male adolescents—from 8.2% in 2002 to 6.7% in 2006. The survey also indicates that cigarette use among adults ages 18 to 25 decreased from 2002 to 2006.

Prescription drug misuse is a growing concern, however. The nonmedical use of prescription drugs among adults increased from 5.4% in 2002 to 6.4% in 2006, largely as a result of the nonmedical use of pain relievers. According to the 2006 survey 22.6 million Americans have had substance abuse or dependency problems in the past year.

Does this piece of information give anyone any pause.  The rise in prescription drug abuse should be an alarm bell for the country.  Here is a little anecdote for you.  I was at the doctors one day and actually asked him why he feels a need to have me walk out with a prescription at every visit.  His reply?  Because if I don’t people feel like I am not doing anything for them.  Imagine now that your Whitney Houston’s doctor and her career is in the dumps (it was) and she is telling you she is depressed.  Would you not feel like you would need to give her something to make her feel better? Whitney Houston’s problems may not have been chemical (which reportedly anti-depressants are supposed to counter)  If that was true her depression would not improve with the medication.  Our demons are those we create sometimes and those can be particularly hard demons to overcome.  Fame can be the cause of many demons too.  The adulation foisted on these stars can cause that high-low feeling that might mimic manic depression.  The life of a star can be a roller coaster ride.  One that they need to be prepared for.
  Am I saddened by the death of Whitney Houston?  You bet but not nearly as much as I am saddened by what happened to her life and the lives of her family,   Her demons won.  Should we hold her up as an icon?  Only for her voice but as a hero? No but she is a fine example of why we need a strong root system in our lives.

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