Why Yes on EMS

Three things spell EMS to me. The first, those were my mother’s initials… but you’re not interested in that. The second, a dream I had this morning… but you’re not interested in that, either. Or maybe you are, for the dream spoke to the third EMS meaning, our island’s Emergency Medical Service.

In my dream, I saw a tiny column of smoke emerging from a spot in my carpet, which quickly became a flame. I poured a cup of water on it, to no avail. I then spotted a second flame three feet away and decided to call 911, but I couldn’t reach them. Outside the living room window were neighbors, a huge crowd of them, looking distressed and frightened, and I realized they had emergencies of their own that were much worse than mine (which could be addressed by bringing in a garden hose from outside). It was obvious that they, too, could not reach 911.

Now, in waking life, our 911 calls go to the sheriff’s office, which then directs it to the appropriate service — the fire department, the sheriff, the EMS, if it is a medical emergency, and so on. Suppose, just suppose, that we vote down the EMS levy… no reason to do so, by the way, it’s our regular levy that we’ve always approved, with an increase of only a few cents. But just suppose we cut off funds for medical emergencies.

What’s next? Tax revolts that make the fire departments go under? and then the 911 call center in the sheriff’s office? Like Josephine County, Ore., which has voted down funds for public safety four times, are we going to have to radically cut the sheriff’s staff and services? Will people here calling 911 after 9 p.m. hear a message saying “Not tonight, Josephine,” for no one will call them back until 9 a.m. the following morning? Are we left milling in the streets, looking for help, not knowing where to turn, as in my dream?

If my dream seems a bit off the wall, even to me, it is because it leaves both our common sense and our humanity out of its scenario. We can restore both, and help make our community whole again, if over 60 percent of us vote Yes on the levy and keep the EMS operating. Then, maybe we can all dream happier dreams.

Wendy E. Shepard has contributed articles to the Journal for over two decades. She is the author of “Lucky to be Alive: A Love Story,” set in San Juan Valley.