Crying wolf can have serious consequences

(From The Pasadena Citizen- January 28, 2004)

A child was reported to be abducted from the front of a high school Friday, and about seven hours later it was learned to be a hoax.

The girl, who appears not to be at fault for the incident, was on her way to see her boyfriend. However her friends reported that she had been taken by her hair into a car which was owned by the boyfriend.

Immediately an Amber Alert was sent out to notify agencies to be on the look out for the vehicle. The vehicle, driven by her boyfriend, was located in Laredo, Texas. Her boyfriend was taken in for questioning. It was later learned that the girl was one her way to the town by bus.

Various agencies responded to the alert and were actively on the look out for the vehicle. The school police focused on working on calling out organizations to help search for the girl. Other cases were put on hold because, it is my understanding, the quicker someone is found the less likely they will be hurt.

It is wonderful that the girl was found and that she was not hurt, but a great disservice was done to all of the groups who were attempting to find her.

When I was younger and reporting in a small town, the local fire department decided that it would be best for me to ride along with them instead of speeding hurriedly to fire scenes in hot pursuit of the fire vehicle. I would never run red lights but occasionally I might exceed the speed limit or not completely come to a stop at a stop sign. I was always the second or third vehicle on the scene, and I guess I am lucky to be alive, considering I was driving a small compact vehicle.

There was nothing more frustrating to the volunteers than responding to a false call. The fire department, which covered about a 12 mile stretch of Interstate 10, averaged 20 to 40 calls a week, depending on the time of the time of the year. There were many times when more than one thing was going on at the same time. I can remember one day, before I started riding on the trucks, going to three incidents in about two hours. Volunteer fire fighters responded to two fires and an automobile accident in that short amount of time.

Whenever there is a false call it takes away any real calls that might be happening at the same time. Emergency crews also have to get to the incident as fast as possible, which can also be dangerous because of the large vehicles.

Riding in a fire truck is exciting, but when you are going through heavy traffic it can be very challenging for the driver.

Being a volunteer is very demanding, and I have never had the time needed to be a volunteer fire fighter. However, while I was spending so much time with them, I realized morale is very important and false calls undermine everyone's morale.

Often times volunteer fire fighters will help if someone is missing. While there was not a foot search conducted, most people do not realize what it is like on a search party.

About three years ago, I volunteered to help on a search party to find a man who had been missing for three days. During the search, a group of about 20 people got in a line and began searching sections of the woods. The man was found dead about a mile away from where I was looking, about two days after I looked. To this day, I do not know what I would have done if I had found the man. During the search I was also lucky enough not to run into any snakes or other dangerous critters. It was amazing how dedicated those people were. I was by far the youngest, and I found the little bit that I did very exhausting. Hundreds of people participated in the search. I can't imagine how it would have felt if we would found out it was all a hoax. I do not mind helping out when I can, but I know it would come to an end if I found out it was for nothing. I felt bad that the the man was dead, but it also gave closure to everyone involved.

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