When I go to sleep at night, I still fantasize about building a guillotine and chopping my own head off. If I had a fire in my house, I would immediately call the fire department and they would instantly come and help to put it out. They would never ask me to pay beforehand for their public services or for the water that passed through their hoses, and they would never request payment from me afterward. If I had a house-fire, my local Fire Department would work diligently, valiantly and, indeed, heroically, to save me and my neighbors from danger. But who will help me to extinguish the raging fire in my head? Is the fire in my head any less dangerous to society than the fire in my house?
Lately, as I consider killing myself, and as I nurse the grudges I hold against those I feel have wronged me, I wonder a lot about the strange lack of rapid public response and intervention for people in my condition who request or demonstrate an urgent need for help.
Three months ago, Aaron Kyle Huff, a pizza delivery man with a "vaporous background", strolled into an early-morning party after a rave in Seattle and shot eight people at random, killing six young partygoers before he turned his pistol-grip shotgun on himself. He had written his brother beforehand, "I hate leaving you behind, but this is something I have to do." Where was the HeadFire Department when that blaze was burning out of control? "The police know that before the Seattle killings, Mr. Huff was charged after a violent outburst; he had shot up a moose sculpture in Whitefish." http://www.nytimes.com/... Where there's smoke, there's fire. Where was the Head-Fire Department when we needed them?
Should Aaron Huff's brother have called the Seattle Head-Fire Department when he saw smoke billowing out of his brother's head? Would the head-fire department have come on the double? Or was this head-fire really a "private matter," relevant only to Mr. Huff, who as a pizza delivery man probably did not have enough private head-fire insurance to cover this five alarm head-blaze? Was this really a private matter at all? Ultimately, Mr. Huff's "private" head-fire was actually a very public concern that went spectacularly neglected and then quite predictably burned completely out of control.
According to Wikipedia, " `Public Safety', involves the protection of the general population from all manners of significant danger, injury, damage or harm, such as may occur in a natural disaster, and the prevention of the same. Although this protection is provided by those traditional organizations known as Emergency Services: the police, fire and rescue, and ambulance, in the preventative sense "public safety" must be the priority of all those who, in any way, engineer circumstances for others." http://en.wikipedia.org/... "Emergency services are [those] public services that deal with emergencies and other aspects of Public Safety." http://en.wikipedia.org/... Why was no "public safety" agency immediately available in the Aaron Huff case? Should someone have called the Headfire Department? Can you reach that department by dialing 911, and if not, why not?
When I lived in B[XyTP* , struggling with law school and the bar exam, I often fantasized about commandeering a gasoline tanker truck, parking stopping it deep within the **XPTY** Tunnel that runs under downtown B[XyTP*, and lighting it ablaze during rush hour. Thankfully, I did not do so. I was not a terrorist, but I did have a fire blazing in my head and there was no one to help me put it out. During this period, I had three intentional car collisions, lost my driver's license after intentionally speeding through a red light on a rain-slicked road, was charged (but not found guilty) of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and a warrant was issued for my arrest. Manic depressive, I took out tens of thousands of dollars of governmentally-subsidized student loans which now go unpaid and defaulted because I am unable to work.
Where was the headfire department to non-judgmentally respond to the scene and help me to extinguish my emotional flames? Should not a competent public authority have been responsible for coming to the scene, and assessing and addressing the danger my headfire presented to me and to others? Shouldn't all those who are arrested for crimes against people and property be evaluated for signs of headfire, and at least offered treatment should they desire it?
Certainly, you can call the police when someone has a headfire, but do the police have the training, expertise and tools to extinguish a headfire? Of course not. Calling the police to extinguish a headfire is like calling the police to extinguish a house-fire. Without real firemen who respond simultaneously, all police can is warn you and the public of the dangers at hand and then stand by and watch as your house burns to the ground. That's why each city and town needs and deserves a public fire department.
Because of the futility of calling police to headfires, they are usually called only after the damage has been done, when the headfires have already burned out of control. Unless the public is willing to assume the cost of putting out Mr. Huff's head-fire, what would be the point of going to the scene to watching his house burn down? What good is a public response to the scene without public, governmental "respons - ibility" for addressing the headfire itself?
Each American city and town needs a rapid headfire response force, a permanent, salaried multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, social interventionists, police and personal advocates who will respond to the scene when people show signs of head-fire and who will be responsible for helping the individual to contain and extinguish his mental illness before its consequences destroy him and others.
These public servants will need to use the latest technology, offering the public evidence-based and cost-effective treatments founded upon a profound technical understanding of how head-fires get started, what fuels them and how to put them out. The science of headfire fighting is not for amateurs, dilettantes or un-skilled volunteers. The public deservers headfire fighters who are professional devoted to diagnosing and extinguishing head-fires, and who will not throw gas on the flames. The risks that headfires present to the general public are too great to be treated lightly.
For example, on Sunday, June 25 2006, 22-year-old Michael Julius Ford, a Safeway warehouse employee, walked into work and opened fire on his co-workers, killing one person and injuring five, including one member of the Denver police Swat Team. "I seen him", said Safeway worker Jesus Lopez. "He was just shooting and lighting fires. He wanted to turn the building on fire." Ford's mother and sister told a local TV reporter that Ford wasn't the type of person to hurt anyone but that he had complained that he was being teased at work because he's a Muslim. http://www.thedenverchannel.com/...
But, what was Michael Julius Ford trying to tell the American public by lighting those fires before he shot himself and so many others? Was he telling us he had a "fire" in his head? Was he asking us to call the Head-Fire Department? If he had called them himself, would they have come? Where was the Denver Head-Fire Department last Sunday and where are they today?
Would any public employee in Denver, Colorado have had the training, expertise, responsibility, budget and resources for diagnosing and treating Mr. Huff or Mr. Ford's head-fire without presenting a bill to him or his family beforehand or afterward? Wouldn't their families have called the Head-Fire Department had help been available and absent the preoccupation with being presented with a bill or denied service? Maybe the absence of public head-fire services is precisely why Huff and Ford ended up killing so many people? How much longer can we afford to be without fire protection?
If called, would head-firemen have come with five ladder trucks and opened a public head-fire hydrant to extinguish this head-fire with public water? In this case, simply intervening to stop the illegal ridicule might have been enough to put out this head-fire, if only his parents had known who to call. Why is a cat stuck in a tree more important than a head-fire?
Should someone have called the Head-Fire Department before Columbine? Can I call 9-11 and say, I have a head-fire! Come quickly! Why is help not available?
The question will surely arise, "Shouldn't the police just arrest crazy people like Aaron Kyle Huff and Michael Julius Ford?" People like me? But, as we so often see on television, the police can only arrest crazy people after they strike, but not beforehand. Unless head-fire case express a definite intention or begin carrying out a plan, the police's hands are usually tied. Meanwhile, few people with fires in their heads are willing to come forward seeking assistance because they know that no help for them is available. Would you call the fire department at the first sign of fire if you thought that your house might be impounded? No, you only call because you trust that the fire will be extinguished in the least invasive manner, non-judgmentally, and then your house will immediately be given back to you as much like before as is possible.
The good news is that prevention and putting out head-fires is far less expensive and more useful than passively waiting for head-fires to burn out of control. Prevention such as therapy and medication are much less expensive then arresting head-fire cases after they kill people and destroy property. When head-fires go untreated, the public can receive no satisfaction in the form of trial and punishment. People like Aaron Kyle Huff and Michael Julius Ford Head very often kill themselves and save society the trouble. But their damage has been done. Head-fire prevention is much less expensive - in lives and property - than waiting and fighting open blazes.
Where house fire-fighters use water and foam, head-fire fighters might need medication and therapy and sometimes in-patient hospitalization. Where house fire-fighters break open windows selectively, head-fire fighters might open lines of communication selectively. Where house-fire fighters seek to isolate the blaze, head-fire fighters must need to do the same. Who will pay? Of course the public must, because the risk of head-fires is greater than the cost of their containment.
Fires are extremely expensive, and head-fires are no exception. Responding to the scene can be dangerous and require many firefighters, expensive equipment and great technical skill. This requires a public acknowledgement of the danger of fires and a public commitment of resources to prevent them from happening.
That's why we have fire prevention programs: In addition to putting out open blazes, is highly cost-effective to address the physical conditions that lead to blazes before they occur. It is relatively more expensive to ignore those conditions and then rush to the scene of a five-alarm blaze with sixty firefighters, ten five ladder trucks and twelve police cars, cordoning off the block.
The Headfire Department's first duty must always be to the public - to recognize the level of danger - even to the "homeowner," and take steps to put out the fire. Where the "homeowner" is not "present" mentally, the Headfire Department must act on its own to secure the interests of the homeowner and society, if the danger is great. But the public and homeowner are always allowed to return by degrees, as soon as the fire is fire is under control. No neighborhood is ever abandoned, and any member of the public can seek to restore a house, even after it has been completely demolished. No one place blame when a fire breaks out, unless it was knowingly and intentionally set. As with house-fires, and as a matter of public policy, the focus must be first and primarily on extinguishing the flames, not on punishing the "homeowner" who is the victim of a headfire.
Because of the expense of open fires, the conditions that lead to fires are as much a public concern as the fires themselves. To prevent fires before they occur, we need to be guided by public experts who set standards and impose regulations. With benchmarks for fire safety, the conditions that lead to fires can be controlled and contained. Where is our public Head-Fire Department to help us study conditions that lead to fires, develop prevention strategies, warn and confront those who engage in risky behaviors? Who will come when a member of the public sees smoke, and will they come with an appropriate sense of urgency? Will they come with public resources, or will they tell you to rely on private insurance even when you have a fire that threatens to become very public.
What would happen if all those who could not afford to pay the for a call to the fire department were referred instead to their local fire Medicaid office. Why don't fire fighters carry applications for fire Medicaid? The answer is simple. By the time an application was approved, the fire would already have burned out of control. Are head-fires any different?
Who are our public experts for head-fires? Where are the public standards? Where are the government forensic head-fire experts, and when will their findings be reflected in our state and local Head-Fire Codes? If psychiatrists and medicine can sometimes treat head-fires, why doesn't the government mandate that these head-fire extinguishing aids be within reach of workers in the workplace? If the availability of psychiatrists and medicine are mandated for the workplace, like fire-extinguishers, then should workers have to pay first before they can use them? What would happen if fire-extinguishers only worked when after a coin was deposited in them?
Putting out head-fires is extremely expensive once they are burning all out of control, so prevention is usually cost-effective. Will it be sufficient merely to ban head-fire blazes and arrest them when they occur? Or will we not need regulations designed to contain the conditions that lead to head-fires? Who will write these regulations?
Every city and state needs a Head-Fire Department, with heroic workers on hand who will respond to the scene of a head-fire and help put it out. We need diligent head-fire fighters who will remain at the scene until the last embers are extinguished. Once a fire is burning, those professionals need a blank money check, written against the public coffers, to put that fire out. Because it really is just as important to put out head-fires as it is to put out house-fires and car-fires and brush-fires.
As you go about your day today, look for head-fire smoke. Are there some head-fires about to burn out of control in your workplace, at your child's school, or six car lengths ahead of you on the highway? If that person whose head is on fire calls the head-fire department, will they respond? Why not? Do you have a responsibility to call the Head-Fire Department when you see smoke coming out of someone's head? If so, mustn't the Head-Fire Department necessarily be supported by your tax dollars, so they can come when you need them? Someday soon, you may have a head-fire, in your house, in your neighbor's house or at your place of work.
Each day the United States is attacked numerous times from within, not by terrorists but by garden-variety Americans whose heads are on fire. Pound for pound, public resources could be much better spent treating the head-fires next-door than searching for terrorists beyond our borders.
Before investing in expensive head-fire detection techniques, we should first of all begin responding to those head-fires that are open and obvious, that can be spotted and reported like billowing smoke by any layman with a cell-phone. Before spending hundreds of millions of dollars detecting hidden head-fires, we should publicly fund in each community a Head-Fire Department with competent professionals to respond to the head-fires that are called in by average attentive citizens using their common sense, particularly those reporting that head-fires are raging in their own homes or in their own heads.
Think about this: If you don't have a Head-Fire Department in your community, you need to start one. It must be public and it must have staff and equipment and a budget proportionate to the actual risks and the high costs to your community of uncontrolled head-fires. How many firemen do you have per capita in your community? Based on the number of recent murders compared with the number of fire deaths, don't you need just as many public head-firemen as you need firemen? Perhaps each city and town's Head-Fire Department should be part of its existing Fire Department, since fire departments are accustomed to coping with emergencies, protecting the public and never request payment for their services.
Today, I have a fire in my head and I don't know who to call. Like all fires, this one requires a governmental response because it requires the deployment of resources that none of us individually can muster alone. Welfare will not work, because this fire cannot wait until my application is approved. Police will not work, because I will not request my own incarceration. What I need are therapy and medication to put out this fire. Isn't it worth the public investment? Can you help me to institute Headfire Departments in each city and town of the United States, with support and guidance from the Federal Government, so that I and others like me can receive the treatment we need before it's too late?