Sue Smith Birkoff Statement to Middletown Township Council
Good evening council and community members. I come before you tonight not to speak about issues related to pipelines, as that is not my area of expertise. I come before you tonight as a critical care pediatric nurse to explain to you what a true tragedy looks like. I am a CHOP nurse and I have worked in all 3 ICUs and have been a critical care flight nurse taking care of the sickest children at remote locations. I know firsthand what death and dying looks like. On the agenda tonight is a vote to allow an easement at the Glenwood School Side Open Space. As previous community members have attested to, if a dangerous gas leak were to happen, our Glenwood children would have 5 minutes to evacuate before asphyxiating. Worse, if an explosion were to happen, our precious children would be sitting ducks. If a tragedy like this were to occur, ambulance rigs would be forced to stand down, as a safety perimeter would need to be established. Furthermore, we would not have enough first responders and not enough equipment to respond to all these pediatric emergencies. I can tell you there would not be enough supplies, oxygen tanks, or manpower to go around to critically manage 450+ children who attend Glenwood Elementary. Medications are administered based on weight and placing breathing tubes to mechanically assist ventilation takes time and skill, even in the most optimal of settings.
From my experience, community first responders are more well versed in adult emergencies, than pediatric emergencies. Most first responder equipment is geared toward adults, not children due to the prevalence of adult emergencies rather than pediatric emergencies. So who are we going to call for help? CHOP? St. Chris? AI DuPont? Each hospital only has only 1 helicopter a piece and that said helicopter is at a remote location not standing by with a pediatric crew. Estimated time of arrival would be 30 minutes from first call and only one pediatric crew can come out with each helicopter and only 1 child could leave in each helicopter. Therefore, this would leave most of our children without the medical care they would desperately need.
We must stop and think about the consequences of our future actions. Is it really necessary to run this pipeline directly through our populated community? Could a compromise be struck if there is no hope of stopping the pipeline by re-routing the pipeline to a more rural area? We are not equipped to handle a mass casualty event resulting from a highly pressurized pipeline explosion or leak right next to an elementary school. Riddle Hospital would not be equipped to handle a massive influx of pediatric emergencies. As I said in the beginning, I know what death and dying looks like from being a critical care pediatric nurse for many years. I do not want to be faced with the prospect of experiencing a needless tragedy near our elementary school. As elected officials looking out for the best interest of your community members, I implore you to vote with your conscious and vote no tonight. Our children are depending on you to make the right decision to protect them.