How far should taxpayer-funded first-responder organizations such as police, fire services and paramedics go when it comes to trying to protect staff from witnessing trauma?
With post-traumatic stress disorder rocking many departments and depleting them of staff on long-term leave, there are opposing views about what efforts those in charge should take to shield employees from bloody or gruesome scenes that might affect them down the road.
The subject took centre stage in early May after a 52-year-old woman jumped to her death from a bridge over Hwy. 400 in Vaughan.
On the road below, drivers were stuck after the highway’s southbound lanes were closed completely for just under three hours.
Northbound traffic was severely affected, and even after the road reopened, chaos continued for several hours.
According to a source who used to work for York Region police, Vaughan Fire refused to attend the scene when called at 4:35 p.m. for a “washdown” — a first-responder term for removing blood, vehicle fluids and other remnants from the roadway.
Const. Andy Pattenden said the highway was closed an extra hour because of the denial of service. It left police scrambling to find a solution. Eventually, Miller Paving was called in at 5:29 p.m. to carry out the cleanup.
When the highway reopened at 5:41.p.m., an hour’s worth of bottled-up traffic, amounting to thousands upon thousands of commuters, slowly got moving again.
Pattenden said he was advised that Vaughan Fire — which had been at the scene and provided CPR following the initial incident but had since left — wouldn’t return to avoid exposing its firefighters to the traumatic scene.
Vaughan Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi said the department denied this was the case, explaining the service chose not to attend for multiple reasons, although she said the “safety of our citizens and emergency workers” plays a role in each decision.