Thursday, January 27, 2011


 This is an uncharacteristic plug for me. I often post short blurbs directing my beloved readers to other blogs with important, useful, or timely information. I usuually do not get into the blog world conversations and activities. However, with the big contest going on just now (or is it an Election?) I want to throw in my 2 cents, because I do, in fact, have an opinion here, thank you very much.
 I read about75 blogs as time allows. I catch up on all of them at least once a week (sick, I know) and have been doing so for several years now. Although I read all the blogs that have been nominated for this year's awards and enjoy yhem all. I have some preferences and I am going to SUGGEST that you consider voting for the Firegeezer as Fire Blog of the year because those boys have been putting in heart and soul everyday for years and years. They are my home page, the first thign I read every morning, and have given me tons of useful informatuion over the years. This deserves a your vote.
 On the EMS side, I am voting for Rescuing Providence for similar reasons. Thoughtful prose, well written, uplifting, educational, and inspirational. All these things define the Good Captain over the years in a very consistent way.
 I do very much enjoy all the other writers especially Justin, but HM, I think you understand when I say that these guys were the groundbreakers and I think we need to recognize those who set the standard and set it high.
 That's all I'm gonna say. Go over to the fire critic and cat your vote, we are about half way through it now. The last few days might get ugly. I still have blood spatters on my monitor from last year's election.
 May the best Blog win, but I hope it's these two.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger

 Or sometimes it just makes us wish we were dead...
 Last night (a few days ago by the time you read this), the temperature bottomed out at around 15 below zero Fahrenheit (about -26C for those of another system) and I was on Duty. I prayed that little old lady had curled up with a nice book and would not be requesting our company. The wind chill factor was just disgusting (around around 20-30 below). Thanks goodness my prayers were answered because if anybody had called us last night I would have been delayed at best.
 So here's how my day went:
 My trusty Dodge 2500 pickup (which ALWAYS starts and runs well) would not start for love, money, or pleading. I grudgingly scraped the ice off of our seldom used (this time of year) mini-van (the 'chick magnet') but found that the door was frozen shut. ALL the doors were frozen shut! This van has 5 freaking doors and they were all frozen shut. 15 minutes of working with tools that were NOT designed to be used on painted and polished surfaces and I managed to get a door open and get in. I drove that to work realizing half way in that I had left all my Fire, EMS, and cold weather gear in the truck.
 I arrived at work and tried to put the disturbance in the force created by my truck's failure, out of my mind. Stuff like that bothers me util I get it fixed and put things right.
 Around 9:30am my wife called to let me know the heat (oil burner) had decided to take a break several hours earlier and the house was getting cold. I told her to call for service (we have a contract) and call me if anything went wrong.
 At 11:45 I checked in with the wife and she informed me that she had yet to see the service guy. "Fine", I said "I'll come home at noon and fix it". I told the boss I'd take a long lunch and fix my heat and take a shot at the truck while I was there. Trudging out to the van I found that, yup, the doors were frozen again. More cursing and prying.
 I arrived home to find the 'burner dude' here and working. He soon said it was "all fixed" and was writing his report. I started on the truck but soon got too cold to function ( it had warmed all the way up to '5' degrees F) so I came in the house to warm up. I checked the burner just for good measure and found it off on 'safety'. I told 'burner dude' to 'try again'. The second time, he was pretty sure he had it fixed and so was I because he did what I suggested the first time. I put almost 2 freezing hours in on the truck until I could not stand the cold anymore. Mostly I worked that long to make sure the heat in the house stayed functional. I shoved a battery charger up under the hood and went back to work to get SOMETHING accomplished today. As I tried to get out of the van, I learned out that the door was again frozen. Now here I am on the INSIDE of the van, and honest to God I can't get the door open. I am throwing my weight against the door and it will not give. I had to climb over the console and force open the passenger door to get out. I should have stayed home.
 Now I know you are reading this and thinking I am whining, complaining, feeling sorry for myself, or looking for sympathy. I assure you that none of those options are my point. I tell you all this so that you get an idea of what it's like to live around these parts and how simple daily life can get very complicated and difficult. While I was trying to start my truck at 6:30AM, there were 2 working structure fires in our county. I felt really bad for those crews. at 10am one of those departments had their second worker of the day. This evening when I got home, another one went up. People do some crazy stuff when the temps dip below zero, like using a claw hammer to pry their car doors open, or using a salamander to heat their house back up. Imagine how the folks in Canada feel. 35 below, geez, I don't think I could handle that for very long. I have camped comfortably in 20 below weather, BUT I was prepared for it and had the right state of mind and equipment. (I was also a hell of a lot younger, a little less smart, and was looking for an adventure, not comfort.) For routine daily chores we are not always thinking about changing modes just to get in the car and go to work.
 Just thought I'd share that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


 I handled a call this morning for an MVP. Many times these calls are a pleasure to do, but on occasion they can be upsetting or depressing.
 An "MVP" is my term for Municipally Valuable Person. My cute way of referring to people in our community who have value to all of us. These are usually not politicians or other 'important' people. These are the people that make up the real fabric of our area. They are the writers, the local historians, the folks that go to the grammar schools and tell stories, the ones who have built this community. The teachers,  the musicians,  the contractors, the stone masons, the store owners, the folks that ran the Sunday schools for years on end, the Scout Leaders, The coaches, the school bus drivers. All of these are personalities that shaped the way we interact with each other, how our kids grew up, and what we, as a community, have become, as well as where we are going.
 George was a renowned local writer with national impact. He specialized in the history and preservation of a particular type of barn architecture, and he knew more about it than anybody else in the world. He freely shared that knowledge through his books, magazine articles, and workshops. He also put his hands to the task on many preservation projects. He had an interest in varieties of corn grown in our area during the colonial era and had managed to secure some strains of this 'blue corn' and waged a campaign to re-introduce it several years back. George was an MVP, no doubt.
 I used to see George all the time in the local coffee shop and say 'hi'. The last time we talked about anything of meaning was years ago, but we each recognized each other every time we met. Two months ago I happened to be at a garage sale at a friends house and somebody stopped in asking for directions to a particular road miles from where we were and on a lark, I asked the lost driver who's house he was looking for . He told me it was George's, and I said " Oh Hell, I know where George lives, you'll have a hard time finding it, just follow me and I'll bring you over." "Gee! Thanks!" the old guy said. I asked what the occasion of the visit was and he mentioned that it was George's 80th birthday. I told him to wish George Happy Birthday from me, and I led him along, pointing out the driveway as I passed the house. Never thought about it again until I got called to that house this morning.
 [knock, knock] "Who's There?" "Rescue Squad, did you call for an ambulance?" " Yes, Please come in, we're back here and my hands are full just now."
 I walked into the bedroom to find George naked and half standing with the assistance of a home health care aide. "He's had a rough morning and is not acting normally. He's has pooped himself which he rarely does and he is not talking to me as much as usual. Also he is leaning to one side a lot, something is wrong." George is smiling and appears truly happy to have a visitor. I call dispatch to let them know what I have, provide details so that the ALS rig can find the driveway and slow there response, and also warn them that the driveway is like polished glass. Then I check the basics and help the aide clean George up while going through all the questions. The Medic arrived and we put together a history. George had experienced a debilitating stroke over a year ago and has had home care ever since. It was tough to see him that way when weighed against the last time I saw him. Still he had a smile on his face and every question I asked him he gave an answer with the smile on his face that I had always known. He only had about 8 words he could use these days, but every one had a smile attached to it. His eyes still had that sparkle that could suck you into his enthusiasm for whatever subject he was talking about. It fully looked to me that George still had his passion, it was just focused in a smaller scope these days. I confess that I had a difficult time differentiating between treating a patient and helping an old friend. I think I split the difference.
 As I age myself, and attend these calls at homes, and for people I have known over the years, I begin to realize how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing at this age. I care for an awful lot of people with 'aging issues' that are younger than myself and it is beginning to scare me a bit.
 Fate wields a random sword stroke.

Monday, January 24, 2011


 Have you ever been homesick for a place you've never lived? Sounds pretty sick, doesn't it? Yeah, well, that's where I am now.
 Those of us lucky enough to travel a bit have most likely been to places where we've found ourselves saying "Wow, wouldn't it be great to actually LIVE here?". Climate, people, environment, whatever, there is something about these places that appeals to something inside us that draws us in. On our return home we find ourselves daydreaming about this magical place. Perhaps in years to come our minds wander back there. It is a very real draw that goes beyond a simple fancy.
 I count myself fortunate to have two such places. The first is my families homeland, Norway. I am drawn there by the family, the beauty, the history, and the sheer adventure of exploring the country my Grandparents came from. My day dreams here have me in an extended visit lasting several months, perhaps a year.
 But tonight, for some reason, perhaps the weather, or my current troubling issues, my mind wanders elsewhere. Someplace stateside, someplace with less harsh winters, and memories about only good and wholesome things. I'm dreaming of an 'escape' where 4-6 months of immersion would cleanse my soul and rejuvenate my body with health and strength.
 It's only a daydream of course, and I know there is no way it will actually materialize, but it is good to dream. If I had no 'connections' and my wife suddenly left me (who could blame her, have you been reading some of my stuff?), and I had no where to turn, I think I would look to the southwest. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains hold special memories for me and I would dearly love to be able to go and heal there.
 I searched the interwebs to find a piece that seems to be no longer available, but here is something that gives a little inkling toward my feelings as I write this.

I have no idea why, whether it is the high desert, the solitude, or the danger involved in camping with the big bears and mountain lions, but the mountains of New Mexico make me feel at peace, even though each day brings it's own work to survive. I have hiked several places around the world, but New Mexico is different for me.  I have hiked those mountains enough, laid on my back in natural meadows and felt awed by the absolute blanket of stars above, to know that I have to go back someday before I die.
 This all has nothing to do with the Fire Service, except to say that sometimes, we all need a reset. I am wondering if I am due for mine, that's all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whats in a name? "Brotherhood"

{ As a preface to this piece, let's just accept that the word "Brotherhood" refers to both genders, okay? I could go into how I work with members of both sexes and it really doesn't matter to me what sex they are, or if they are gay or straight. I have cried and laughed with all, and yes, occasionally I ask for help from someone of a specific sex because of the skills that individual brings to the game. That has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with what would serve the incident best. I consider all those I work with as "Brothers" regardless of the name we choose to throw on it. They are partners, comrades, and co-workers who share a special bond built through common work, trust, and sometimes suffering.)

 When I joined the Department, somebody reached out a hand and said "Welcome to the Brotherhood". I smiled, shook his hand, and just mumbled 'Thanks". At the time, to me it was the equivalent statement as saying " Welcome to the club", "Welcome to the group", or "Welcome to the nuthouse". In other words, I didn't understand what that Firefighter was humbly and earnestly trying to tell me. I thought it was just a casual expression. He intended it as a solemn promise. He meant "We've got your back ... always", "We'll take care of you", "We'll train you up right", and "We're counting on you to be part of the team". I just heard a feeble welcome without understanding the heartfelt and meaningful true sentiment that was earnestly offered. Stupid me, I had a lot to learn, and I am a slow learner some times.
 Ever so slowly I did learn and come to appreciate what being part of the Brotherhood meant. Many things we learn in life can only truly be understood through experience. There were good times at social events, tough days on the training ground, mistakes made on the job, and routine tasks requiring help that I had to ask for, and therefore learned to work with others I would not have chosen on my own. Then there were the tough times: the fatal fires when I could find nothing better to do than sit on the side during rehab and cry with a big burly smelly blubbering Brother. The bad car accidents where we could do nothing for those involved. Back at the station cleaning up, everybody spent a lot of time looking at the floor while they shuffled through their chores.
 There were wakes and funerals for past and current members where we all felt as if we were one family and occasionally were a big part of the member's actual family. We all put our own lives on hold to 'do a proper job' and provide the proper send off. We remember those folks in our daily lives as we respond to calls and we honor them by bringing up their names in situations where we know they would have excelled or enjoyed. We miss them in a very real sense.
 After a few years I thought I had this "Brotherhood" thing figured out and I was one of the guys greeting new members and saying "Welcome to the Brotherhood" with true meaning in my heart.
 Turned out I still had more to learn.
 As part of my daily study in the Fire and EMS world I learned of the tragic passing, in the Line of Duty, of a Brother many miles away who I had never met. The story of his death struck me in a profound way which I still do not fully understand. So compelled was I by the nature of his death, that I put my life and family on hold and traveled 700 miles to attend his memorial service. It was a moving and draining experience. I then broke the ice by speaking with his "family", those in his Agency. In the years that followed I have built friendships within that Agency and visit them every year. They have welcomed me into their fold without question and I can enter their station, watch their TV, eat their food, and share their conversations as if I belonged there. This whole experience has brought a new level to the term "Brotherhood" in my mind, and I think I really get it now.
 On the other side of the coin, I have also gained some disdain for those who tout that they are "Brothers" when in fact they don't have a clue. They probably have stickers on their POV that proclaims how they are a kick-ass firefighter. How they 'find 'em hot and leave them wet' and all sorts of other bravado, but when it comes right down to it, they turn out to be non-starters. They have no heart.  These are the same folks that say "I save lives, what do you do?". They have all the t-shirts with catchy sayings. These folks don't do the rest of us any good. They like to hang on that "hero" label. The fact is, almost all of these folks don't have a clue. They don't get it....yet. Our job is to pull them in and give them that clue they need. Stop the back biting, second guessing, and ill-thought commentary that they produce. If we don't bring them around, they will suck the life out of the rest of us. Sometimes being a 'Brother' means you have to tell somebody things they don't want to hear about themselves.
 It's an honor to be part of this Brotherhood, but it's also a responsibility.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Welcome to my head...Sorry for the mess

 A little 'stream of consciousness' here because I've been busy with work, the weather, and life lately, but I do have a couple of quick thoughts to share, so go with the flow....
 Mike Morse posted a one liner and I am going to try to bring a little more attention to this because it really made my evening last night. Go to  
I've been reading the Lt's stuff for a long time now (3 years?) and fell like I know the guy. I really enjoy his writing. I have always regretted not having tried to connect with him when I was in Providence 2 years ago for my Niece's Graduation. (Mike doesn't mention it often, but Providence is quite the college town.)
 Anyway, Mike is a terrific guy, a fantastic writer, and from his interview I learned a lot more. Now I am REALLY sorry I didn't try to look him up! He sounds like the kind of guy I could sit and drink coffee with and talk for hours without feeling intimidated.
 You should check out the interview. Good stuff.
 I continue to be disgusted by winter's ugly face. Right now we stand a month ahead of schedule for the amount of white s--t we've had. That is to say that with what we've had so far, we could be in the second week of February. I am not happy with this and I want to know WHO is responsible! (At this point I do not see any political connections the the situation, so I think we have to look elsewhere for the culprit. Too bad, because I REALLY wanted to blame Obama for this too.)
 Here's the view I get every day on my way to work (or anywhere else).

Please don't tell me "It's beautiful". I look at it and think 'Frozen Tundra'.
I am intrigued that the Blogger spellcheck wants me to substitute "Alabama" for "Obama".
 I was just absolutely tickled pink the other day to see that I had attracted a reader from the old country, even if just in passing. I am quite proud of my Norwegian heritage, although I have never mentioned it here. I have several close cousins still back in Norway. Every time I read the Moose Report on Firegeezer it makes me think of 'home' even though I was born and bred in the USA. I love the old country and long to go back for another visit. Little things like a blog visitor from there makes me feel good all day. I note that this reader comes from the northern part of the country, and I have only a few (5?) relatives that far north, so I think this person is an honest to goodness reader and not a relative, although I would welcome either. Unless of course that reader is one of my favorite cousins-in-law, Russ. I don't know how they get their internet connections on the North Sea rigs. But who knows?
 At any rate I am tickled to make the connections and even more tickled that the reader has come back, so maybe I have them as a regular? Tusen Takk, either way! Mine beste Mor var fra Mandal og mine beste Far var fra Grimstad. (I think I said that right, it's been a few years and Norsk grammer was never even close to my strong suit.)
 I note that the Blogger spell check does not 'do' Norsk.

I'm hoping (praying really) that the next 4 days are uneventful. I need to get some unfettered sleep. I get sleep but keep waking up tired. I don't know what's wrong with me. Heavy work seems to make it worse, not better, which is really odd for me.
 My dog, who likes to 'spoon', does not make it easier when I get up for work and she moans, but does not get out of bed. Instead she rolls over and leans against Momma. She won't even make eye contact, she's gonna sleep a little longer.
 Be safe, stay warm, and stay in the House if you can,

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I know I'm getting older and don't have the tolerance I used to, but this winter is kicking my butt. In the second half of December I could never seem to get warm and it always seemed really cold in the house, especially in the morning. Then I discovered that we had a bad zone valve on the heating system and we weren't getting much heat upstairs. Things got much better after I fixed that (duh).
 But for the last week or so we've had a lot of zero or sub-zero nights and boy is it hard to run out the door when the pager goes off. So far we've been lucky and only had one long roadside call, but the weather and terrain around here can make for 'micro environments' where a certain stretch of road in a small area can have arctic weather. Such is the case along the downwind edges of large frozen bodies of water such as we have now. The wind comes down with no impediments and hits the road carrying literally tons of wind blown snow which it deposits in unpredictable ways. Just a quarter of a mile away, things can be normal with a slight breeze, but when you are working in the target zone you may have 30 below wind chills and white-out conditions. This can be dangerous stuff and tactics have to adjust. Exposed skin freezes quickly in those conditions.
 The other night I had to cross one windswept road to get to an MVA on another windswept road caused by, you guessed it, snow drifting. It hadn't snowed for 24 hours, but I was driving the Engine through foot and a half high drifts and visibility was around 30 feet until I got out of the target zone and hit clean dry road. Here was the view from my cab:

 And of course, we have that white spit coming down an awful lot this year. At my place I put it at around 24 inches so far in the last few weeks. We've actually been lucky, some places within an hours drive are up around 3 feet already. We are starting to see the ice dams building up on the edges of roofs though and this will present the next battle if we don't get a warm spell.
 Every time I hear a neighboring Department toned out for a structure fire I cringe. It is brutal working in these conditions. As I type this, the next Department up the line is headed to a chimney fire. Bad enough on a night like this. We get a lot of those this time of year because when it gets this cold nobody wants to shut their stove down to clean the chimney. Some folks consider a small chimney fire a 'good way' to clean out the chimney.
 I'm on duty on the Ambulance tonight and I pray that the little old lady who has taken to calling us on Sunday night's for attention and a ride to the hospital will skip this week. It's just too damn cold.
 I am very ready to go some place warm for a few days.
Old Bussiness:
 In case you are wondering what happened to the eyeglasses in my last post, I swallowed hard and went back to the call location and returned them after confirming they didn't belong to one of our other people. I had hoped to just drop them off, but no, the family wouldn't have it and invited me in. They wanted to thank me and all the other responders who came so fast and did everything they could. One family member, who was doing compressions when I arrived, needed to talk things through and was looking for some closure. I assured him he did everything right and was doing a good job when I arrived. He just kept telling me how much of an impression I made in putting things in order and setting up the scene while continuing treatment. He said he didn't understand how we could get there so fast and be as organized as we are to do what we do. I told him I don't completely understand it myself, but it's what we do and it always seems automatic to me. I was there a half hour and was pretty drained when I left. I don't have much training in grief counseling. At any rate, they were very pleased to get the glasses, they had been looking everywhere for them and wanted them for the wake. They said his old glasses wouldn't 'look right'. I get that.
Be Safe, Stay Warm, and Stay in the House,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


 He sits in his favorite chair in his den in a warm house while the wind howls outside presenting wind chills of 5 below on exposed skin. He is tired and nearly emotionally exhausted. He contemplated the eyeglasses he held in his hand.
 Years of running calls as a volunteer taught him to put his gear back in order immediately after running a call. Tomorrow was never soon enough because the next call could come in just a few minutes. Just 2 hours ago he had skipped out of work early to get a jump start on the snow that had piled up on his driveway all day. He came home, did what needed doing, sat down at his desk and cracked opened a pop. He took the first sip of satisfaction, and at the same instant his pager toned off. His listened for a few seconds, he was tired, it was a long day, and it was probably just a bullshit job. "Unconscious, Unresponsive, CPR instructions being given", he hollered to his wife upstairs "I have to take this one, I'll be right back". His wife knew that this meant "I'll see you when I see you', and out the door he went.
 The job was close, about 3 miles away, he had the AED for this side of town and knew he had to get it there and put it to work.
 First one on scene "Damn!" he thought. He left on his blue strobes to mark the location and grabbed his oxygen, jump bag, and AED. Family members were waving from the doorway, never a good sign. In the bedroom he found a family member 'performing' CPR one handed while talking on the phone with the other. Quick check for pulse and breathing yields no joy. He directs the family member to assist getting the patient on the floor and so it begins.. AED in place, "NO SHOCK ADVISED" continue CPR, more responders arrive, ALS arrives, ALS supervisor arrives, everybody is working. He is stuck in the middle between the Aiwray Medic and the Drugs medic trying to assist both in a tiny bedroom with too many people and too little room.
 Work, Work, Work, Package, Package, "OK Ready? 1,2,3 Lift and lets Go". Nothing is easy in this small house and the foot of snow isn't helping. The Firefighters have shoveled a clear path to the back of the rig, thank God for that, and even with this blessing, the broken ground makes things difficult. The ambulance leaves for the hospital.
 He collects his gear and finds his team mates have already done most of it, but returning to his truck he finds a dead battery because he left his lights on. One more inconvenience and he gets a jump, gets it turned around and starts to head home.
 He hasn't gotten far enough down the road to light up his 'end of call cigarette' when the tones go off for a two car MVA, rollover with entrapment. Back into high gear, he heads for the station to grab an Engine as fast as the conditions will allow and after loading his gear bag on board, he races across town. Halfway there he is turned around and returned to quarters.
 After filling out the paperwork, returning home, and explaining to his wife why he was gone two hours, he sits in his den to straighten out his gear bag, which was torn apart by helpful folks trying to find the gear he was asking for. From the open front pocket, he pulled a pair of eyeglasses that were certainly not his.
 Heavy, thick bi-focals they were. He tried to figure out how they got there and then he remembered the cardiac arrest. It was an unkempt house with 'stuff' everywhere. The place was a mess and all the EMS gear spread aorund just made more of a mess. The well meaning responder who had packed up his gear for him assumed they were his glasses and put them in his trauma bag.
 At this point he knew that the patient would no longer need them. What should he do with them. Return them to the family and risk the hurt it would cause by recalling the memory? Donate them to the eyeglass bank in town?
 What to do indeed? He was tired, tomorrow was another day. The question of the glasses would wait until then.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'm in a bit of a rut here...

I was doing really well putting up content here for a while. I had about 24 posts in roughly 30 days and was on a roll, then the Holiday season hit and I got bogged down.
 There are many reasons: I was on vacation at home, Family stuff took precedence, there was beer involved,  I had a lot of end of year chores to do for the Department, I needed to turn over my job responsibilities and all my databases and paperwork to the new Captain in the Squad while also picking up my new job as Lt. in my Fire Company, For the last week, with a meeting almost every night, I felt like I am doing two jobs. I still have some transition work to do, but it's smoothing out. This week coming up I only have three nights out, and the following week I am teaching two nights with the annual Squad dinner on Saturday. The week after has two day long classes I am teaching for. Thank goodness I get some rest at my paying job!
 I also learned that I had a 2 part feature article published in an International magazine which I'm pretty proud of. I wish I could point you at it, but... I am a non-person, remember? In connection with that I was invited to make a submission for one of the major fire blogs giving a different point of view on the same subject. The magazine publisher also invited an article on a followup idea I had abut the original subject matter.
 So I have been thinking about what to write next, and for who, and I find I have too many options and too little time. My parents are requiring more and more of my care time and all this snow keeps me very busy and worn out. I clean my place, my folks place, and the Fire Station after the plows go through. Last night I hit the sack at 9pm and could not get myself to move for either of the calls we had in the middle hours of the night. Glad I wasn't on duty.
 It has also been nearly impossible to keep up with the 76 blogs I try to follow. I have thrown my hands up on this one and just check them as I can. There has been some good stuff posted and I hope you are all keeping up better than I.
 Even with the lack of content in the last week, I notice that folks keep checking in here, so I thought I'd pop my head in and let you know I am still around, just in a bit of a rut and physically worn out. Not to mention my head is rotating on my spine as I try to sort my options out.
 To the regulars (and all three of you know who you are) I want you to know I appreciate that you come back, and to the very many who check in here once, and then not again for a long time, I invite you to come back a little more often as I try to figure out this 'readership thing', or perhaps you can leave a comment and tell me why you don't come back, what you like or what you don't, because for the last year I have been mostly guessing and continue to do so.
 Pleas be safe out there,

Monday, January 3, 2011


All these New Years post's are beginning to drive me a little nuts. The Happy Medic wrote this post on New Years day and it made me think a bit.
 Although I am sure that neither Justin, not Marc have read my blog in several months, I find I must reply to Justin's thoght.
 I find that I am not one to remember my victories very well, but I can recite all my failures verbatim, in chronological order. Yes, I know full well that this speaks to my character in whole or in part. But that's me.
 Justin challenged us to look back on 3 accomplishments in 2010 and celebrate those. I had to think really hard on this one. As I said, I don't file these things away, and I really can't remember much of the positive stuff.
 But I think I can remember 3:
1) I was the first EMS Captain in recent memory to run and be elected to a second term. I hadn't thought much of it, but after the election I received many emails pointing this out and thanking me for holding the Squad together.
2) I actually made it through that second year and presided over some continuous improvements, as well as preparing my successor to take over. Again, this has not happened in recent history.
3) I got the Squad through the bi-annual DOH inspections without a single finding. Our inspection came through clean as a whistle. Nobody can ever remember when this happened, they "always find something" I was told. Not on my watch, my crew had it knocked.
4) I finally managed to shut the mouth of  'the constant complainer and back stabber'. He has been successful for years, but during my administration, everything was so squeaky clean that he had nothing to complain about, and when he tried, he was laughed at by everyone else.
 So there's 4 right there. I'd like to thank Justin for making me think about this. I never focus on the accomplishments, but I always look at the failures to lead me to improvements. Maybe I've had it backwards all these years?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Party Time...not

Today is MY New Years Eve. As mentioned in the prior post, I was 'on' last night. After the somewhat busy late night, I slept in a bit and didn't get up until about 0800. Right now I could use a nap.
 But I got up when I did because today is, after all, MY New Year's Eve. So what did I do with my day?
 Well, first of all, I wanted to clear my plate of my 2010 responsibilities. I spent the next 6 hours responding to emails, doing the end of year statistics, and sending out the department calender and schedule of events for the next 6 weeks. I made a follow up call on the patient we RMA'd early this morning to make sure he recovered somewhat (lived) from his 'episode' (I worry about some of the folks we don't take in, and if I made the correct decision.) He is fine, but wow, does he feel lousy.
 I transferred some of my current 'to do list' to the new Captain via email and know he will have it covered. Lastly, I took a look at my personal 2010 stats and contemplated where my head is at. My responses are down in 2010 by 24%. Why, in a year that our call volume went down, are my responses dropping like a stone? I spent some time contemplating this and looking at the data of when I was most likely to answer a page, and when I wasn't.  I learned some things about myself, that I can work on in 2011. I expect to have that number back up in the new year.
 Then I spent some time thinking about what to do with this brand new year I have to deal with. I read Lt. Morse's post and although nobody asked me what I had planned in the coming year, it made me realize that I should have a plan. Especially since I am jumping out of one role, as an EMS Captain, and jumping into another, as a Fire Lt.. Very different worlds are these.
 I plan to continue my support for the EMS group, of course, but over the year I hope to wean that off as they get their feet planted. It also became apparent that my new Fire Captain actually expects me to do my job and report to him. This is refreshing, but I will have to learn that I work for somebody else now. We've already had one small mis-step, and that should be enough for me to adjust my thinking. He set me straight.
 So in 2011, my road map is pretty easy to lay out: Work on my truck and keep it in combat ready condition. Sharpen things up a bit. Provide some quality training for my crew and get the new guys to understand their role in a functional way. Continue my support of the new EMS Officers while stepping back as quickly as possible. I also need to maintain my teaching role at the County Training center, and perhaps merge in some new specialty classes. I'll also hold onto my duty night spot on the ambulance because I like that stuff, and the night I am on, Sunday, is one that I instituted several years ago. Sunday night continues to be the highest call-count night of the week. That pretty much covers my Department role.
 As for myself, I plan to drink less, and be available more. (It may go without saying, but Volunteers do not 'drink and run', at least not in my department. If I have had a beer, I am out of service, no matter what. Any civilians reading this may believe we all sit around drinking beer at the fire house waiting for a call. I assure you that we haven't done that in 15 years. In fact, at my department, there is no alcohol allowed on the premises at any time, for any reason.) With the loss of the Squad burden and the phone calls around the clock that went with it, I figure this will become pretty easy in short order. I am already feeling like the load is lifted. I also plan on enjoying the job more, something which has been quite hard to do for the last year or so.  My new motto is "relax, you know what needs to be done, just do it."
 The last bullet point on my 'plan' is "projects". I have a couple of small ones as related to the Lt.'s job, but these are just routine things to get done. I usually like to have something on the horizon in the way of a goal. Something on the 'bigger side'. Something that nobody has applied to our needs before. I keep looking for new ways to apply 'stuff' in a different way that brings a benefit we haven't had before. I have such an idea for 2011.
 I haven't gotten much past the thinking phase at this point. I need a volunteer and I am hoping when I get some of the details worked out I can get somebody from out there in the blogosphere to help me out. Somebody who has an open mind, a thick skin, and something (worthwhile to my people) to share. Can you keep a secret? Ok, but promise not to tell. Promise? OK, but if you let this out, I can't claim the idea as my own, everybody might start doing it, the Fire and EMS service would benefit from it as a whole, and then where would we be? So keep it under your hat, OK? Here's my idea: Many of the super bloggers and intelligent, knowledge sharing folks use Skype to chat and discuss issues with each other, right? I live in a Department that is largely comprised of non-computer friendly people. But they are intelligent and hungry for knowledge. We all know that nothing in the fire service is received better than from somebody who has the experience and really knows the job, right? What I would like to do is find somebody that would agree to getting on Skype for an hour or so and delivering some particular session on some particular subject matter to my Department via a skype session. We could put the Instructor up on the big screen and have a camera feeding him back video of the classroom. questions could be exchanged, interactions could happen, and learning could take place. Instructors could share their knowledge and skills from their den, bathroom, or wherever. Students would have access to instructors from outside the area that would give them a very different perspective and introduce new ideas from a different region.
 Obviously, the first time through would be a little rough. The instructor and the students would have to realize, and be sensitive to the limits of the technology. I don't think I could get funds the first time through to pay for the instructor from my Board, but it sure might be fun to try this. So at this point, I'm looking for someone who is willing to play the game and give it a try. Anybody out there who thinks they can spare some time to play around and also has a subject, can send me an email at . Of course, we can work on the subject together. Being an instructor myself, I have several canned programs I can deliver, but I can also mold them to the requirements of my audience.  I have to honestly admit that my 'guys' are a little tired of listening to me and I don't blame them. We are a rural, volunteer agency with an aggressive fire attack mentality who also runs EMS. We have the whole range of experience from 30 year veterans to brand new Firefighter 1's. That's my big project, keep it secret, but let me know if you want to come play.

 2011 is a new year, full of possibilities. I have some plans, but to be honest, in this business, we are largely influenced by what goes on around us. I haven't left much room in my plan for that. Being a crotchety old SOB, I don't allow too much room for what others think or do, but I am wise enough to realize that I have to make adjustments from time to time. I can go with the flow to a point, lets see if anything backs me up against the wall. That's when it can get interesting.
 I hope 2011 is a growth year for all of you. I wish you health, happiness, and good things for your loved ones. Obviously, I hope you stay safe and come back to read once in a while. For that last part, I Thank You.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A new year Begins

 Like many folks around the world, this morning finds me groggy and with a bit of a headache and a clouded brain. Unlike many folks there was no partying for me or mine last night. No drinking and no excuse to feel the way I do. I hope it clears in an hours or so, because I fear I may have some kind of bug coming on.
 I was on duty last night, as I always seem to be on the Holidays. I was covering for one of our younger members who feel he has the right, if not the obligation, to be out on New Years Eve. I don't mind. It's hard to make volunteers work on the holidays.
 However, as we were responding from the Hospital to our second call at 2am this morning, it occurred to me that I have been "on" just about every major holiday for the last 6 years or so. Christmas, New Years, July 4th, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. In the beginning, I volunteered for those days because it usually gave me some action and something worthwhile to do while everybody else was partying. I missed out on some nice family activities on many of those days. But my kids are grown and my wife and I are not big party people. We are more of the 'sit around the fire and tell stories' types.
 Yesterday morning I chatted with my partner for the night and assured her that statistically in the last few years, we only get one call on New Years Eve, and that will come between 20:00 and 24:00 hours. It would be an easy night.
 My wife is nursing a very painful back problem and went to bed early. As we had not yet had a call, I remained snoozing on the couch. Around 11:30 I looked at the clock and decided that I best wait a while longer before getting all comfy in bed. At 00:30 on 1/1/11, the tones dropped for an elderly female in siezures and off we went.
 While enroute to the station, dispatch called for an Officer and when I answered up, they informed me that our seizure call was "now a cardiac arrest, CPR instructions being given". I must have made some kind of a face, keyed the mic, and said "Thank you for the update sir, could you please put out a second dispatch for our agency requesting additional EMS personnel to the scene?" Still, on New Year's eve, how many people are you gonna expect?
 We got one additional EMT, 1 Chief, and some Firefighters, plus a double medic unit. It was more than enough.
 As it turned out, CPR wasn't needed, but the elderly lady had something very strange going on and was in serious need of our help. The husband too, was a major concern for us, he was not used to all this stuff going on, did not understand any of the medical issues his wife had, and was scared, very very scared. He was breathing heavy, unable to calm down. flitting around looking for meds and phone numbers, and generally getting more and more worked up.
 The Medics arrived, and with them and my 2 techs on the patient I took the husband into the kitchen. The Chief and I explained what was going on and what we were going to do. The Chief asked if there was somebody we could call for him. I got some of the basic patient info and med list from him, and the Chief and I walked him through collecting his phone, phone book, coat, wife's purse, and helped him close up the house.  My 2nd tech drove the ALS rig behind us and we kept both medics and my first tech in the back. The medics were perplexed on this one, not finding a good root-cause. The Husband rode up front in the ambulance with me on the way in and I took the opportunity to explain to him that he had a great crew working on his wife, that we do this all the time, and that she was getting the best care possible. He asked me a lot of questions and the answers seemed to calm him down. Knowledge is power, I thought. By the time we got into the E/D, he was in control and doing just fine. His wife, not so much, but she was beginning to come around and could answer a question or two with effort. The Doctor, I noted, was also not sure what her issue was. I chatted some more with the husband while everybody else was working on the patient. He was now asking forward thinking questions and I could see he felt more in control. We left feeling that everything would work out OK for them.
 Returning from the hospital as a listened to another town's Squad being run ragged with all the bar fight, drunk, and auto-accident calls, my partner for the evening was berating me because my statistics had failed her. She said I promised her one simple call before midnight, and it came after midnight. I tried to explain about how statistics work in making predictions, but was interrupted by the radio:
 We all groaned in unison, this is never good.
 Now THIS was the call I expected 3 hours ago. On arrival, we find a conscious and VERY drunk male who had been drinking vodka since before sundown on New Years Eve, it is now 2am. The caller (quite sober) apologized for calling, said she could not arouse him, and could not feel a pulse at first. She didn't think a transport was necessary. He was awake now, could answer questions, etc. Vitals all check out good. Sense of humor intact. Patient refuses. I can see no reason to waste a hospital bed on somebody who is just plain drunk. Neither can anyone else in the room. We RMA'd (AMA) and went home after wishing the remainder of the assembled party a Happy New Year.
 I got home at 03:00 and this time I went to bed. When I got up this morning, I realized that I did both those jobs with the wrong radio identifier. At midnight I changed from EMS Captain to Fire Lt.. I don't think anybody noticed, least of all the new Captain, who was at a party somewhere.
 Tonight will be MY new Year's eve.
 Tomorrow night I am on duty again on my regular night. Monday I will return to the paying job and everybody will ask what I did on New Years Eve. "Pretty much nothing, just the same old thing", I'll say.
 In 2011 I think I will begin to enjoy some of these holidays like normal people, with friends and perhaps a couple of beers.
 Here's to all the readers and fellow bloggers out there, may you have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year. May we all have a few laughs and get through the New Year smarter and better than last year, and may you all do some good for your fellow man.