I need to do some repairs under the ferry ramp on the Edgartown side. The recent run of extremely low tides and then the four-day northeaster have caused scouring beneath the retaining wall that separates Dock street from the ferry slip. In order to get the repairs done in one day, we need to start early and work late. We need to remove the decking from the ramp to access the area below, so while the work is going on we won’t be carrying cars. The tides are favorable on Saturday, April 6. We will carry cars in the morning between 6 and 6:45 a.m. We will continue to operate the ferry on the quarter hour to carry passengers only between 6:45 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. If all goes well, we hope to be back in full service by 9 p.m.
I checked with the police about overnight parking in town. You will be able to leave your car in any town lot or legal street spot overnight that Friday night and Saturday night without getting a ticket. Watch this column for further information. I’ll remind you with signs at the ferry as the date approaches.
So, a guy dials 911 and tells the operator, “My wife is unconscious. Please send an ambulance.” The operator asks, “Where do you live?” The guy replies, “I live at the corner of Chrysanthemum and Amaryllis.” The operator comes back with, “Can you spell those names please? I have to type them into the computer.” “No, I can’t,” he says. “How about if I drag her over to the corner of Oak and Pine and meet the ambulance there?”
Unfortunately, more often than not this is pretty much how it goes when Chappaquiddickers call for an ambulance. Not the part about the operator, because the staff at Dukes County Communications Center can instantly pinpoint your location when you dial 911 from your landline house phone. They know the address; they know whose house it is and they can give excellent directions to responding emergency personnel.
If you call from a cell phone, you may get an off-Island 911 center and have to do a lot of explaining to get connected through to our own Island Communications Center. So, from a cell phone, if you are lucky enough to actually have cell reception, you may do better by dialing the old 508-693-1212 emergency number. However, you will have to be able to tell them where you are. Telling them it’s a white house overlooking the pond won’t always work. You need a street name, an owners’ name and a house number.
My advice is to keep a landline telephone working and have at least one phone in the house that still works if the power goes out. Then all you need to do is dial 911 and yell “Help.” The Edgartown Police, the Edgartown Fire Department ambulance, the Chappy Ferry captain and Chappy Emergency Medical Technicians are all immediately notified by radio. A police cruiser and a fully-staffed ambulance hurry to the ferry. The ferry waits in the Edgartown slip for their arrival. Meanwhile, the Chappy EMTs who live right here among us on Chappy also head for your house. If we turn off of the main road we set out bright orange cones to reassure the ambulance crew that they are headed up the correct road.
Very soon after you dialed 911, help arrives at your door. During your brief wait you can even stay on the line with the 911 staff. They can tell you what to do in case of bleeding or choking. They can instruct you in performing CPR. All the while you are all warm and dry in your house with the telephone right at your elbow.
But the part about dragging the victim to another place does happen. For some reason, here on Chappy we often think that we can do better than just wait for help to arrive at our homes. We call for an ambulance, but then tell them that we will meet them at the Chappy Ferry or even that we’ll come over on the ferry and meet them in the Wharf Parking lot. I admit that I’ve done it myself. We don’t want to bother the ambulance folks with a trip to Chappy, or we figure that we can meet up with the ambulance quicker than help can get to us. If nothing goes wrong on your way to the ferry, you might save a few minutes. But things can go wrong and they actually have in the past.
A homeowner on North Neck cut his hand very badly while throwing a chunk of broken porcelain into a dumpster. His wife called 911 and we Chappy emergency people all started heading for their house. We knew right where it was and that it would take only a few minutes to get there. So far, so good. But then in a panic they decided that they should get into their car and head for the ferry to save time. They turned onto the paved road, hightailing it for the ferry. Halfway there, the situation became not good at all. The victim started to get woozy, lost his direct pressure grip on his cut, blood was flowing everywhere. The wife started feeling faint from the sight of all that blood and almost drove off the road trying to get direct pressure back on the cut and keep him from tipping over onto her. She pulled over and stopped. In the meantime, Chappy EMTs were headed up North Neck Road to an empty house. Just by chance I was headed to the scene from the ferry point. I recognized their car pulled over on the side of the road. I stopped and got out just in the nick of time to wave down the ambulance as it zoomed by. Everything turned out okay in the end. But don’t you think that it would have been a whole lot better if they had just stayed put at their house?
Of course, the decision is up to you. You will have to take into account any unusual circumstances in your emergency situation, like if you are out at Cape Pogue or on the beach. But if you are at home on Chappy and need an ambulance, how is that any different from asking for help if your house was over in Edgartown? Above all, remember that you need to make only one phone call to get help and that’s to the Dukes County Communications Center by dialing either 911 or 508-693-1212. Dozens of emergency personnel will be aware of your call for help even before you hang up the phone.
I consider the Chappy Ferry to be as much an emergency vehicle as is the ambulance. All of our decisions regarding the ferry, from preventive maintenance, to improved backup ramp hoists, to keeping the ferryboats readily available during storms are based upon our goal of getting the ambulance over and back without delay. Even during hurricanes when the Coast Guard stops regular ferry service, you should call 911. Don’t go looking for a rowboat or a kayak to get off Chappy. We always have a plan ‘B’ and ‘C’ to get you to the hospital.
On a lighter note: the Chappy Community Center potluck will be hosted on Wednesday, March 20 by the O’Rourkes. Appetizers are at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m.. Marvene and Bob recently returned from their daughter’s wedding in Cameroon. They will share slides and display the gifts and traditional costumes that they received from the king. A perfect way to spend the evening of the vernal equinox. Hope to see you there.