Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stuff, Things, and Background

 So if you’re a blog reader and stumbled on this one, you will immediately recognize that this is the ‘necessary background post’. One of those posts you, the reader will need to understand the writer’s point of view. If anything of value is written, you are bound to ask yourself “what is this guy’s angle?” (or “what is this guy’s Problem?”) You need a post like this to fill in the blanks.
 I do a short introduction of myself every class I teach for the benefit of the students that may not know me. I should do no less for you, the reader. Well, I have to do a little less. I can’t tell you my state, but I can tell you we have 90+ Degree (F) in the summer time and -5 or more Degree days in the winter. Yeah, it snows, and we get thunderstorms, hurricanes every few years, tornados from time to time, but I don’t think we’ve had more the a few small earthquakes in my lifetime. We are only about 20 miles from the nearest (very) small city that has a career department, and about 90-100 miles from the closest major city.  This is an anonymous blog so I need to be somewhat sketchy or elusive on most points, but I’ll try to give you enough to give you an honest, if general, picture.
 I’m a Firefighter. I’m an EMT. I’m a pro-board Fire Service Instructor. I am a volunteer. I am a line Officer. I’m getting near the end of my game (aging out), but I love this job. I also have a career that provides me with a livelihood and that involves working as a professional in the Engineering field. My job also permits (or demands, it’s a fine line) that I travel from time to time. I have a few kids, all growed up and sort of on their own.
 Everybody knows there is a lot of disparity between the Volunteer and Career Fire Service. The same holds in the EMS world. Most volunteers think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I do not. Most career folks think they are the only professionals. I do not. I have seen a lot of poor work, bad training, ugly decisions, sloppy tactics, lazy approaches, and downright unprofessional behavior from both sides to convince me that we ALL have enough problems to keep us busy. I have also seen glaring examples of extreme skill on both sides, be they paid or not. In the coming posts I intend to explore some of these issues in depth.
 Some time ago I was at our State Fire Academy taking a week long class. It was a rare week when alcohol was allowed on the campus under a special permit (this was intended to keep the students in my class, an experienced group, from leaving in the evenings to stay on campus to study and do project work). At any rate, there were a few of us sitting in the lounge and shooting the breeze. The normal exchanges of who belonged to what Department and what they did took place. As it turned out, the two fellas I was speaking with were from one of the largest and busiest city departments in the country and these gents were part of one of their specialty Rescue Companies. They do building collapse, high angle, dive work, recovery work, and all the ugly stuff. They are (in my eyes) the elite of the elite. They asked about me, and I sheeepishly replied that I was just a volunteer in a little rural department. One of the guys (the Lt.) perked up and asked me where exactly, my Department was. I told him and he immediately recognized the area. He said “Wow man, I don’t envy you. You guys get those NASTY high speed car accidents on that State road that goes through the middle of town.” I just mumbled that it could not possibly compare to the type of work these guys are called on to do every day. He stopped me cold in mid sentence and looked me straight in the eye as he leaned forward for effect. He said “Listen Mister Let ME tell YOU something, it doesn’t matter if you take a paycheck from this or not, dead is dead. You put your ass on the line, just like I do mine. I have an income and some protection for my family if I don’t come home, you don’t. You guys do it for FREE and keep asking for more. That just blows me away! Last year I drove through your town and saw one of those holiday weekend accidents. I couldn’t even tell where one car ended and the other started. I was gonna jump out and offer a hand, but you guys had everything nailed and I would have been in your way. To tell you the truth, I did a quick size up and realized I wouldn’t know where to start that job. Don’t ever sell yourself or your Department short!” We talked on into the night about everything from the routine nonsense we all deal with, to solving some problems in our state, to well…. most of you know what firefighters talk about.
 So what I learned that night was that it’s all about respect for each other. Since that day I have made a point of carrying that idea forward in how I teach, train, and work with others. The jobs are tough enough, why make them harder?
 Some days I feel like I’m in a cosmic void, stuck between planes of different existence. Career doesn’t play with Volley, EMS doesn’t play with Fire, and Battalion doesn’t play with the Line Officers. I want to scream “Does ANYBODY here realize we are all here with the same goal?!
 Anyway, more of that stuff to come in the future.
 Got to run, the pager’s dropping tones….

No comments:

Post a Comment