The main question I have been attempting to find an answer to over the past few weeks is whether the Bay Area’s emergency services are prepared to deal with a potential public health crisis when the pesticide planes start flying over the cities in August, exposing nearly 7 million residents to known toxins.

The SF Chronicle has just published an answer to my question with their article, SFs Emergency Responses Fail to Meet Goal.

Here are the quick facts you need to know:

  • The 911 call center, plagued with problems from low morale to a proliferation of calls from people who don’t speak English, is the weakest part of San Francisco’s emergency medical response system
  • Since 2004, 439 people have died waiting for emergency services to arrive
  • Fifty-seven percent of the time, the 9-1-1 call center has failed to meet the city’s goal of dispatching urgent medical calls within 2 minutes

OEHHA Dismisses Respiratory Damages – 9-1-1 Calls Them Priority Emergencies!

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has dismissed, out-of-hand, the hundreds and hundreds of reports of asthma, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing and respiratory failure following the 2007 spraying as unimportant without having spoken to a single one of the doctors or patients invovled. This article goes so far as to refer to these health harms as ‘minor self-reported symptoms’.

9-1-1 emphatically disagrees. As the Chronicle article states:

In San Francisco, the most serious emergency medical calls fall into two categories
- Echo and Code 3. Echo-priority calls require immediate resuscitation, such as cases
of stopped breathing, choking, drowning, severe allergic reaction and cardiac arrest. Code 3-priority medical calls, such as severe hemorrhage and difficulty breathing, are also presumed to be life-threatening.

As this quote shows, both difficulty breathing and severe allergic reactions are considered to be life-threatening by emergency responders.

This means that the night the planes start flying over California cities, dumping documented irritants and toxins on millions of people, and those people begin experiencing the same symptoms that were experienced in 2007 including difficulty breathing, heart abnormalities, severe allergic skin rashes and choking, 9-1-1 will classify those symptoms as Echo or Code 3 Priorities and attempt to rush ambulances to the victims.

But Will Help Arrive?
As the SF Chronicle article indicates, emergency services in San Francisco are understaffed and experiencing numerous problems that are causing serious delayed response times.

As we know, no one died in Santa Cruz or Monterey when the residents were sprayed with the 11-chemical pesticide compound. However, symptoms were severe enough for people to seek urgent care. Baby Jack Wilcox became delirious, his eyes rolled back into his head and he went into respiratory failure. Other residents believed they were having heart attacks because of racing or irregular heart beats. Others began to choke as the airborne microscopic capsules lodged in their lungs. Symptoms of this severe, potentially-life-threatening kind merit 9-1-1 calls.

What can we expect in San Francisco, when the spray enters the bodies of residents and they begin to react adversely to it? As our earlier article Health Math of The Moth Spray determined, .1% of the families in Monterey and Santa Cruz were able to report their illnesses. Though this in no way represents the many families who were unable to find a way to report their symptoms or seek medical aid, it is a number we can work with.

San Francisco has a population of some 760,000 people. If .1% of San Franciso households begin to experience symptoms of respiratory failure, heart failure, choking, etc. in one of more family members the night the spraying starts in August, this could potentially generate 760 9-1-1 calls. Is SF’s 9-1-1 ready to handle this?

Statistics indicate a resounding ‘no’.

As the Chronicle article explains, San Francisco’s 9-1-1 handles about 50,000 priority emergency calls annually. This means about 137 calls a night – certainly not 760 of them. And, if on a normal night, 57% of callers experience a delayed response, as indicated by the Chronicle article, what will happen if the lines are suddenly jammed with hundreds of unexpected emergency callers starting in August?

Imagine this scenario: your husband has an actual heart attack on August 1st. You are desperately trying to get through to a 9-1-1 operator, but the operators are all occupied taking calls from hundreds of people who have just felt their throats and lungs close up from pesticide poisoning. The understaffed emergency responders simply can not get to your call fast enough and consider your husband’s heart attack of equal priority to the heart arrhythmias being experienced by all the neighbors who are experiencing pesticide poisoning. Like the people in Monterey and Santa Cruz, the neighbors, hopefully, will not actually die…but your husband may well do so because no one will come to his aid quickly enough in the chaos of the tsunami of calls flooding the 9-1-1 switchboard.

Now, let’s add this to the scenario: it’s the evening of August 2nd. Everyone in San Francisco has been exposed to their first dose of particulate plastic pollution (See American Lung Association) and toxic chemicals. Many of the 9-1-1 operators, ambulance drivers, firemen, doctors and surgeons have called in sick because of their first symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Now every public service in the City is critically understaffed, but the 9-1-1 phones keep on ringing as more and more families fall ill. Imagine that August 2nd is the night your husband has a heart attack. Imagine that your 9-1-1 call receives no response at all because of the critical staff shortage created by CDFA exposing the entire city to known irritants and toxins.

Maybe you try, frantically, to get a hold of someone in Berkeley or Oakland…only to discover that everyone there has been sprayed as well. In fact, you realize you are sitting on a lonely island in the middle of a sea of sprayed cities, each of which is experiencing a critical shortage of public servants in their already-overtaxed emergency services departments.

Does lawless chaos break out over the cities now? Are police, wheezing and coughing, experiencing listlessness and confusion, attempting to get into their squad cars, having to stop to vomit by the roadside as they try to rush to the neighborhoods where panicked, unaided citizens have lost their marbles while their loved ones fall ill and the planes keep passing over, over, over their homes again and again? Are the criminal elements in the cities using this evening of mayhem to begin shooting and looting? Are the bridges blocked as tourists who, moments earlier, were coming out of restaurants and theaters downtown begin to run to their cars to get out of town as the planes pass by and the spray begins falling down on them? What if, God forbid, someone goes really nuts and starts shooting at the planes? Are the police prepared to respond to airplanes crashing into apartment complexes and high rises? Or, are the police all hunched over in their cars, coughing and vomiting uncontrollably?

This worst case scenario presents a ghastly picture of a night of mayhem in the densely populated Bay Area. The trouble is, we’re not talking about a single night of chaos here. We’re talking about up to 5 consecutive nights of toxic aerial pesticide bombardment happening every 30 days, 9 months out of the year for up to ten years or more. We are talking about a chemical assault that is sure to make people sick, sure to make people crazy and sure to change the SF Bay Area into one of the world’s most dangerous places to be.

For all of CDFA’s talk about the wondrous safety of their untested chemicals, we know what happened in Santa Cruz and Monterey, and not one word has been spoken, not one conference has been held, to my knowledge, to address the very real emergency public health crisis that may erupt in San Francisco and all of the cities surrounding it when the spraying begins to make people ill.

Are our police, firemen, paramedics, nurses and doctors being prepared by the state for a region-wide emergency? Every one of us remembers the chaos of the Sept. 11th attacks and the horrific flooding of New Orleans. No one was prepared. Once again, here in the Bay Area, despite the fact that we know trouble is coming, no one seems to be preparing.

And This Is Only The Short-Term
Let’s look 10 years into the future in the Bay Area. Perhaps, by then, after some 450 nights of being sprayed over the decade, people have gotten used to the sounds of pesticide planes in city night skies. Perhaps, after 450 exposures to pesticides, people in the Bay Area consider wheezing, coughing and rash-covered skin a norm of life. What other things may have become a norm in the Bay Area, after 10 years of chronic, daily pesticide exposure?

1) An extraordinary number of our children under the age of 10 live with ever more bizarre birth defects from the documented mutagens in the spray which cause genetic mutation
2) Our women citizens pretty much expect to die of breast cancer after 10 years of exposure to the xenochemical in the spray which is a known cause of breast cancer
3) We haven’t seen a sea bird at Ocean Beach in years now, since the spraying started
4) The last of the frogs in the marshes in Marin disappeared a long time ago
5) Golden Gate Park is called Desert Park now because the honey bees stopped coming to pollinate the rhododendrons, the tulips, and all the other flowers. The honey bees are gone.
6) Organic food is a distant memory now – Whole Foods is likely out of business after all the lawsuits convicting them of selling chemical-laced produce to people as ‘organic’
7) We may be trying to chemically create water, because the San Francisco Bay and all of the rivers in California now consist more of plastic and surfactant foam than H2O.

Are these norms the people of the SF Bay Area, Santa Cruz and Monterey are prepared to embrace? Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura says we should just learn to tolerate the aerial spraying and its effects on us.

“When will it become obvious to the public that environmental alarmists take whatever position stands in the way of human progress?” asks Dr. Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute.

Is the worst case scenario picture I have painted the kind of human progress you want to see in San Francisco, in Albany, in Berkeley, in Marin in all of the 9 counties set to be fouled and poisoned with substances bearing warning labels that call it a federal crime to introduce them into water sources and firmly warn that they must be kept away from children, not inhaled by humans, not applied to skin?

And, more immediately, are our public servants – our doctors, paramedics, firemen and police officers prepared for what will happen in the summer of 2008, when CDFA begins spraying human beings in the name of human progress? Will these valued and vital public servants step forward now to defend us from the public health crisis CDFA intends to create?

I want to know who is prepared. I want answers to my questions. We are now only a few weeks away from the first spray date.