Fox 911 Worst Example of Emergency Services!

Dwayne Clayden

What TV and Movies Get Wrong

Sometimes they just make it too easy to write this blog. Two weeks ago a new, highly touted TV show on Fox hit the screen. 9-1-1.

Within minutes I was shaking my head and before the first commercial I was screaming at the TV. This is without a doubt one of the worst emergency services shows ever made. It is touted as showing real emergency services—it fails. If it was satire it would fail. If I was a member of any Los Angles emergency services I would be embarrassed.

In the opening scene, a 9-1-1 dispatcher takes a call and says for the benefit of the audience, that she is the “actual first responder”. This is a theme that dispatchers have been pushing, that they are the forgotten part of an emergency response. I don’t disagree, but it does rankle the traditional first responders, those who put their lives in danger at the scene.

At the scene of a drowning, the Los Angeles Fire Department Paramedic leader makes a diagnosis from across the pool and gives orders to his partners to continue CPR. Yes, paramedics evaluate the scene as they enter, and make decisions and give orders. But just because a lady was doing CPR, doesn’t mean CPR is required. Every paramedic has at least one story of someone doing CPR on a person who had a pulse and, in many cases, was conscious. That is why upon arrival a ‘real’ paramedic would assess the patients breathing and pulse, before continuing CPR.

That same scene has a young firefighter saying ‘come on kid’. I have seldom heard things like that said to patients. Frankly, if it is that serious, I don’t have time for sayings like that. I am wracking my brain to think of everything I can do to help the patient. Lines that that don’t help.

The drowning patient is resuscitated. The dispatcher is back in the scene and says, “…the crazy part is that most people just hang up when help arrives.” What does the dispatcher think the person should do? Stay on the line and give a play by play? In most dispatch centers the dispatcher is the one who tells the caller they can hang up when the firefighters or paramedics arrive. And, in large centers, like Los Angeles, the dispatcher is needed to answer the 9-1-1 calls that come in non-stop!

Then we see a fire truck racing through traffic. We anticipate a major fire or horrific traffic collision. Nope. It was the young fire firefighter—alone—racing to catch up to a lady in a fancy car so they can have sex in the firetruck. Worse yet, is that when he gets back to the fire station, he is mildly scolded. That whole scene was wrong on so many counts—actually it was wrong on every account. That behaviour is not tolerated now, and I don’t any time in the last 40 years or more where it was!

The fire department and ambulance are called to the scene where a man has heard a baby crying in his wall. The firefighters determine that the baby may be in the toilet pipe. They cut and pull of the drywall. They discuss that there is likely 5 floors worth of excrement in the pipe. Then they go ahead and cut the pipe—without goggles or face masks. The young firefighter (the ‘come on kid’ and sex in the fire truck guy) is in a short-sleeved t-shirt and no personal protection except gloves. They get sprayed with who knows what—well, maybe we do know with what! And that pretty much describes this whole scene!

The baby is rescued and rushed to the ambulance. Meanwhile, police have found the mother, and she needs medical attention as well. There is a confrontation when the police sergeant wants the ambulance crew to take the mother as well as the baby. This is a totally reasonable request, but not to the young firefighter who tells the sergeant, ‘if the baby dies, it’s on you!”

We aren’t at the first commercial yet! My blood pressure was up watching the show and is back up now writing this. Truly there has never been a worse example of emergency services, of the way the services work together with mostly a bunch of made up stuff.

This show is a really good example of why I write this blog. Every service I have worked with promotes a high degree of professionalism. That is absent in this show. The people I have worked with in all emergency services are professional, caring, and respectful. The wooden characters in this show and in particular the young firefighter in no way reflect the true emergency services. But sadly viewers will believe this.

To the writers and producers of this show—shame on you!


About Dwayne Clayden

Dwayne Clayden has served in many roles over his 40 years in Emergency Services including as a police officer, a paramedic, an educator, and as an EMS Chief. Dwayne is a respected writing instructor teaching authors the craft of writing and storytelling. Dwayne previously published four paramedic textbooks and has spoken internationally at EMS conferences over the last twenty years. He also speaks to fiction writers Associations (ARWA), Calgary Crime Writers, and Writer Conferences like When Words Collide (WWC). Dwayne also uses his knowledge of EMS in his crime thrillers. His first novel, Crisis Point, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Unhanged Arthur. Dwayne is the author of “What TV and Movies Get Wrong” series. He is also the writer behind ‘First Aid for Writers” which helps fiction writers incorporate accurate medical and police procedures in their writing scenes.

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