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Follow the Rules or Save People

July 2, 2012

Raymond Zach apparently had a death wish. On May 30th, 2011 he walked into the San Francisco Bay fully clothed.

Someone noticed his odd behavior and 911 was called.  Dozens of rescue workers showed up to the scene…yet all the would-be rescuers did was watch…for about an hour.

The Alameda Fire Department’s water rescue program was discontinued in 2009 because of budget cuts.

“(The) Alameda Fire Department does not currently have, and is not certified, in land-based water rescues. The city of Alameda primarily relies on the United States Coast Guard for these types of events,” a police spokesperson said.

The Coast Guard did dispatch a boat, but the water was too shallow for whatever boat they had.

However, none of the other agencies on-scene, including the Alameda County Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff, Oakland Police or East Bay Regional Park Police District, went in the water to help rescue.

“The incident … was deeply regrettable,” Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi said. “But I can also see it from our firefighters’ perspective. They’re standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point.”


They were more concerned about following the rules than about saving somebody’s life.

One man told the board during the meeting, “It just strikes me as unbelievably callous that nobody there with any sort of training couldn’t strip off their gear, go in the water, and help this person.”

Ironically, Zack’s body was recovered by an off-duty nurse who swam out 50 yards to get him.

That story makes me embarrassed to be an American; it makes me embarrassed to be human. But here’s where I think the application lies for Contrarian Church Planters: we are in the life-saving business.  And to do that we sometimes have to ignore the “rules”.

Now by ignoring the rules I don’t mean ignoring the Bible. I don’t mean we do whatever we want and the end justifies the means.  What I mean is: are we more concerned about creating environments that can save people, or are we more concerned about how we’ve been told we need to do things?

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