By Nancy Lindsey
Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce criticized and ridiculed two items in the Office of Emergency Services budget at the April 11 meeting, but in the end the $41.9 million county budget was approved with no changes to any departmental request.
“This is a $17,000 bouncy house,” Boyce said of the request for a three-lane decontamination shelter with a plumbing kit, costing $12,936.95, according to the quote from the manufacturer, ProPac. “That’s a lot of money for something you don’t need. That’s the kind of thing that makes me nuts about government.”
Steve Allen, county emergency management coordinator, had requested the shelter because the old tent had become unusable and one was needed in cases when victims are affected by hazardous materials, such as methamphetamine from “meth labs.” (Allen was not present at the recent meeting.)
Boyce said he had asked social workers what they did with children who had been present when meth was being manufactured. They said, “take them to a relative’s house and leave them there,” he said.
Boyce said guidelines for dealing with victims of hazardous materials recommend that emergency personnel “do not decontaminate children at the scene.”
“Meth labs are mostly dangerous when they’re making meth, when there’s potential for fire and explosions,” Boyce said. “I’ve worked in situations with contamination of deadly agents on large numbers of people, and the solution was containment and dilution with water. Turn a fire hose on them, or find a large body of water and jump in it.”
Victims can be taken in ambulances without first being decontaminated, Boyce said.
Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, captain of the Smith River Rescue Squad, told Boyce (a veterinarian) that she respects his knowledge of animal issues, but she had worked a case when children were exposed to a meth lab, with one child having “meth sores.”
Harris said she followed her protocols in putting the kids in a tent and washing the contaminants off them. In one case, she said during an earlier discussion, an area television station was at the scene trying to take photos of the young victims, and the tent provided privacy for them.
Boyce also criticized what he called a “$20,000 video game,” described by the manufacturer, Bullex, as a trainer’s package for attack digital fire training.
The package with a digital hose line and nozzle “allows firefighters to conduct hose line training without flowing water,” the manufacturer’s information states. “The system is constructed using an actual fire hose nozzle…The nozzle is equipped with infrared lasers, which interact with the Attack’s self-generating digital flames. This package includes the digital nozzle, 50 feet of weighted hose, and transport case.”
“It’s not going to train anybody about the claustrophobia and disorientation” firefighters experience, Boyce said.” It’s a joke and a toy. Both should be stricken from the budget.”
“We need to give our volunteer firefighters and rescue squads every source of training we can give them,” Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss said. “Now we’re going through it without the person who made the request here. It’s not fair to talk about it without him being here to explain it.”
“He lied to me,” Boyce said, referring to Allen. “Either he didn’t know or he was incompetent. He said there couldn’t be small children in an ambulance without being decontaminated. Don’t tell us false information.”
Boyce said the two items were among many things “we don’t need to spend if we’re going to really support fire and rescue.”
The board approved the county budget 4-1 the same night, with Boyce casting the only dissenting vote.