Making a mountain out of a molehill

Via Witterings from Witney comes this rather depressing tale of a dinner party. No, it isn’t the dinner party which is the problem, it is the massive over-reaction from the emergency services to something that wasn’t an emergency.

Assuming that Matthew Norman isn’t exaggerating matters we have a dozen members across three services pitching up at a non-event having presumably rushed there with their blues-and-two’s on and sirens blaring and a large number of opportunities to resolve the matter without a huge waste of time and effort going begging.

Let’s start from the beginning…

We have a fire in a flat and an alert neighbour or passer-by knocks on the door to notify the residents who proceed to quickly put it out before anything more than minor damage is done. Considering the matter resolved and after checking on the baby asleep in a different room they and their guests sit back down to continue eating.

However someone, perhaps the person who knocked on the door, has informed the porter who has dialled 999 without checking to see if it was really a necessary thing to do. Why? Probably because such a course of action has been drilled into them at the expense destroying any common sense.

Having been summoned, the fire brigade arrive and the hosts, rather than telling them ‘Thanks but the matter has dealt with’ and shutting the door, let them in and thereby surrendered control of the situation to the ‘professionals’.

Said professionals, deciding to make the most of the opportunity presented to them, did what all power hungry fools do and ensured that the resources poured into the situation didn’t go to waste. Instead of taking a quick look, agreeing with the owner’s assessment of the situation and departing, they evacuated the property, had the accompanying ambulance staff check out everyone including the baby and then lecture the mother on fire safety.

Mother, annoyed, responds – supposedly mildly – causing the fire brigade call for back-up from the police and as a result mother and baby are escorted by police to the hospital where upon staff there confirmed what has already been said and mother and baby are allowed to leave the next morning after being kept in over night for observation.

All told I make that five missed opportunities to stop the situation from escalating: firstly by the porter, secondly by the mother followed twice by the fire brigade and then finally by the police with the end of result being an utter waste of time and money and a tale that 9 people will no doubt dine out on for some time.

The only silver lining I can see is that plod didn’t feel the need to get social services involved but if I were the mother I’d be careful as no doubt something has found its way on to a database of theirs somewhere…

The moral of this story? Two actually. Firstly that people in uniform are no long the friend of the law abiding having been turned into target chasing drones with little or no initiative. Sure, not all of them are but as you can’t tell what sort you are dealing with at first glance always assume the worst. Secondly their authority does not extend past your front door unless you indicate otherwise or a court has agreed that they can legally force their way in – so don’t let them in if there is no need to.


  1. Demelza says:

    This is as much about the litigious society as overzealous emergency services, and the “something must be done” reaction to any tragedy.

    I suspect that, once the porter had called them, there were no options for common sense to be applied. Indeed, “putting in place systems and processes to make sure this never happens again” means “ticking boxes to make sure we can’t be sued” and replaces the use of judgement. This is even more noticeable in issues of child protection: after the Holly Wells/Jessica Chapman case, jumping through the hoops of CRB checks replaces the exercise of whether a candidate appears to be suitable.

    Sometimes the right thing to do is the most difficult: to accept that tragic accidents will happen, and that the right thing to do is be sorry, and carry on. The alternative path leads to madness.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      Unfortunately we seem to be well on our way down the second path with no discernible end to it in sight. Will it end or are we all going to disappear up our own backsides as everyone becomes too afraid to do anything fear of making the wrong choice?

  2. WitteringWitney says:

    My humble and grateful thanks for the link. Will add you to my blogroll.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JuliaM and Clarissa, Clarissa. Clarissa said: [New Post] Making a mountain out of a molehill […]

  4. Bob says:

    A number of years ago I owned a business which imported and distributed all sorts of ladders and access equipment.
    I regularly got enquiries for throw out escape ladders. These are a sort of fold up or roll up ladder which can be fixed or stored near an upstairs window. The idea being that if a fire develops which would trap a person, the ladder can be deployed and a safe escape made.
    After an increasing number of such requests I decided to explore the possibility of adding them to our catalogue.

    Being a responsible citizen, I decided to first make enquiries with the county fire safety officer.
    I was put through to the local office and engaged in a most bizarre conversation with this so called fire safety officer, a very strange, totally obstructive, and unhelpful idiot.
    I explained my situation with the enquiries I was getting. I wanted to know if there was a standard for these ladders, and if there were any recommendations he could make from the fire brigade point of view.
    He immediately harangued me for being irresponsible in suggesting that people should fit these devices.
    I, very surprised, responded that in many situations they would save lives. He immediately denied this.
    I asked what would happen if someone was trapped and could not get out. He insisted that people should wait for the fire brigade to arrive and do its job.
    I pointed out that many people die because the brigade cannot get to every fire on time. I also pointed out the number of times we have seen people jumping to their deaths rather than be burned alive.
    He was adamant that I was totally irresponsible, and demanded that I refrain from giving anyone such a degree of self help. I was shocked to say the least!
    It seemed that he had the perfect fire situation going around in his imagination, where the brigade could arrive and do a heroic rescue. The idea of anyone helping themselves to safety was anathema to him. It was as if I was trying to put the Fire Brigade out of business.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      FFS! I note that on the fire brigade’s website they say:

      “Put together an escape plan in case a fire does break out and ensure you have working smoke alarms.”

      So either the officer in question pre-dates this advice or he would prefer that people didn’t follow it. Muppet.

      All in all I am reminded of the ‘when seconds count, help is only minutes away’ quote. Can’t think why…

  5. Hadrian says:

    Found you via the link on Anna’s blog – and I’m glad did! Marvellous post – ‘target-chasing, box-ticking drones!’ (I paraphrase.)