March 19, 2012
Here’s the scene. It was an overcast day in southern England last March. That is to say, a normal day in southern England.
Attempting to retrieve something that had blown into the water, 41-year old Simon Burgess slipped and fell into a 3 1/2 foot-deep pond. He then suffered a seizure. His body, lying motionless and face down in the water, was spotted at 12:15pm by a witness who immediately called 999 emergency services (like 911).
Within five minutes, emergency crews began arriving. Then more. Then more. 36-minutes after the initial phone call, no fewer than 25 emergency workers were at the scene. They brought out a state of the art emergency medical tent, resuscitation equipment, several fire engines, ambulances, and specialty dive gear.
For more than thirty minutes, emergency crews set up a complex operations center. Fire fighters positioned their trucks. Police officers cordoned off the area for crowd control. Water Support Unit officers donned protective gear and checked the pond for underwater hazards.
Yet with all of this commotion, nobody bothered to fetch Mr. Burgess. For 36-minutes, he floated in the center of the pond, face down, while dozens of first responders scurried about with their ‘make work’ projects.
Why? Because they hadn’t been ‘trained and certified’ by their various government agencies to enter water that was more than ankle deep. According to the UK’s Daily Mail,
“When a policeman decided to go in anyway, he was ordered not to. A paramedic was also told not to enter the water because he didn’t have the right ‚”protective” clothing and might be in breach of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.”
And so, the emergency crews stood by waiting until a specialty team arrived, donned protective gear, and waded into the waist-deep water (at maximum depth) to retrieve Mr. Burgess. Needless to say, doctors formally pronounced him dead by the time his body arrived to the hospital, roughly 90-minutes after he fell in the lake.
Following public outcry over how Britain’s impotent bureaucracy could manage to cost a man his life, the government held a formal investigation into the matter a few weeks ago. As expected, public service workers and politicians closed ranks, defending their decisions on the ground and claiming that they were only ‘doing their jobs’ and following the rules.
It’s certainly not the first time this has happened. Last year, a 14-year old girl in London collapsed while in the middle of a cross-country competition. It took emergency workers 30-minutes to arrive, at which point they refused to carry her body through the muddy park to the ambulance as it was against health and safety regulations.
Then there was the case of 44-year old Alison Hume in Scotland; she had fallen into a mine shaft and was trapped there for six hours suffering from hypothermia because emergency service supervisors claimed that using their winch to retrieve her would be a violation of regulations.
Or the case of 10-year old Jordon Lyon of northern England, who was drowning in a local pond when two police officers arrived to the scene… and did absolutely nothing because they weren’t properly trained. Apparently you have to be trained by the government in order to jump in the water and save a drowning child.
The public outcry in each of these (and similar) incidents more often than not results in a call for more regulation. This is such a typical government reaction– the solution to a problem created by too much regulation is more regulation. It’s the only thing these people know how to do.
These examples focus on the United Kingdom… but the issue exists around the world. Common sense and human decency are becoming increasingly sidelined to what the regulation says. Any good people in the rank and file are being crushed by an amoral bureaucracy.
In the United States, the government has gone so far as to state that it has no obligation to provide police protection or emergency services; courts have routinely upheld that “a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen…” (Warren v. District of Columbia)
It’s all a stark reminder that government is a disease masquerading as its own cure… and that, ultimately, we only have ourselves to rely on. Trust me, this is good news. The sooner people wake up to how horrifically incompetent and amoral their governments are, the better off we’ll all be.