Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why am I here? (3 of 4) and What's Next?

 You should have read Part 1 and Part 2 (scroll down) of this before going further, you may decide you have better things to do with your time.
 I said at the beginning that I really didn't know where this was going to lead me and I still don't. It occurred to me that this whole series must seem like I am infatuated with myself and my problems. One of the big gun bloggers wrote just a few months ago that one should never write about themselves because 'nobody cares'. I suspect this is true, but on the other hand, the most predictable way to draw comments on the blog is by writing about something that may have caused oneself harm. I almost always get comments when somebody thinks I've been hurt, either physically or psychologically. It tells me that some folks do care. Anyway, I am not writing this because I think you want to know about me, I am writing this FOR ME, to work through the issues I face, and come up with a plan. There is a chance that some of you reading it will see something I don't and set me straight, or give me a clue to a new path. You folks are smarter than you might think, I've seen what you write.
 So let's move on, shall we?
 The final point about where I am now is that I feel like I am pushing too hard because I sense that I am running short on meaningful time. I teach regularly for the County from Fall to Spring each year (one class left this year) and I could teach more if I wanted. But between that, my responsibilities with my Fire Company (I am over at the station about 6 times a week making sure we stay combat ready), my responsibilities supporting the new Officers in the Rescue Company I recently left as Captain (they get about 2-8 hours a week from me), and my assignments from the Chief to support Department operations (another 2-8 hours a week) I am a pretty busy guy. Keep in mind that I hold down a 50hr/week on the paying job which also has responsibilities outside of the normal business hours from time to time. I get paid to get the job done, not just put in hours. So I guess you could see why I am tried a lot of the time when the pager goes off for the REAL REASON I do all this stuff. I didn't realize how tired I was until I left the Rescue Squad job and had more time on my hands (which I quickly filled). Finally, there is the time I spend on this blog either writing, or thinking about posts to write, or reading other blogs. I probably waste spend about 15 hours a week just reading whats out there.
 To summarize a little:  I am old. I am out of time to do what I had hoped to do. I believe I still have many contributions to make. I am wondering what the 'end game' is going to look like so that I can work toward that gracefully. I may be doing a little bit more than I can handle and I can't say "NO" very well, if ever.
 I have re-read what I've written up to this point and the easy answer I had hoped for it not presenting itself to me.
 I have contemplated leaving it up to you, the readers, to chime in with your thoughts, but I fully expect that it would only draw one or two comments, and that possibility would provide me with a very negative out look.  On the other hand, if you could spare a minute to leave a comment, that would probably be helpful and to be honest, I really am looking for some feedback here. I'm just not getting my hopes up, or hanging my hat on that.
 I am going to close this post out with an answer to the question I expect many of you are asking. You want to know what it is that I want. What do I need? Well, I suppose I already mentioned it either directly or not, but perhaps I wasn't specific. Perhaps I wasn't thinking about that myself. I usually think about what other folks expect from me first, and what I want second, then try to find a compromise in the middle. Usually this means I get a piece of what I wanted, and the others get what they asked for. Most times, I am good with that, I like making people happy. That makes me happy.
 But what I think I want is basically this: I want to to remain a valuable member of the team. I want to continue to provide front line service. I want to continue to teach the youngsters and help shape their ATTITUDES, if not their skills. I want to spend more time on the Fire Side, than EMS. I want to get out there and meet some of those big names whose books I have read. I would really like to see if I can get my teaching up to a higher level and provide a worthwhile experience to a larger audience. I want to end up being respected for the value I brought in, and lasted after I am gone. And yes, as a final detail, I want to find a way to get to FDIC before the clock runs out any further.
 So I think I will do this: I will close this post here and leave time for some comments that I hope will come. Whether they do or not, 48 hours after this post, I will put up my final post in the series with my plan going forward.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why am I here? (2 of 4) and Where Exactly Am I, Anyway?

 So part one covered the reason for this 'quest' of mine, to figure out where I am and where to go next. I have a lot of questions. But I suppose, if I am to properly to include you, the reader in this 'thing' I should give you a little more understanding of where I am. It might also help me get a better handle on it myself.
 First, if you are a regular reader, you've already picked up a bunch of background on me and painted a picture in your head of what and who I am. ( Six foot, three inches, 210 pounds of rippling muscle with an impressive mustache and an enticing smile.  OK, so maybe not. How about 5'5'', 190 pound teletubby, bald, and ugly? OK, neither of those are correct.) In case you have not been reading the blog for long, here is a post I put up about a year and a half ago with some of my background. Over the life of this blog I have let other details and facts about me slip into the written word. You will have to go dig those out for yourself. Those little things help you fill in your personal picture of who I am.
 Now I am going to tell you something you don't know, because I have guarded this fact since I decided to start the blog. In a few weeks I will celebrate my 56th birthday. Yeah, so when I have mentioned here that I am an 'old guy', you now know that I meant it. Not that 56 is ancient, but for what I do, it is considered old. In my Department I am the oldest guy that puts on an air pack and goes to work. I can tell my Chief doesn't like this much and her tries to avoid letting me in, but I still love the work and can do the job, even if I get winded sooner, and that 30 minute bottle only lasts about 20 minutes. I'll be honest and tell you that I know these days are gonna end soon. It could be any day, but for now I am safe, healthy, and competent. I still don't have too much trouble answering the off-hours calls, but it's getting rough on me when a call comes in at midnight and I stay up working it, or successive calls through the night and get no sleep at all. I have to be a presentable professional person when the clock strikes 8:00am and there are some days when that is very hard to do. Let me finish this point by adding that I do not have any illusions that I can keep up with the young guys and gals, however my part on the team is to provide some labor, but also some leadership to keep the younger folks focused and safe. My hope is that when my last day comes, they will have learned enough to do the same for those younger than themselves and continue on. So this 'age thing' is weighing very heavy on my mind of late. It is the main reason I have decided it is time to re-think where I am headed.
 The second cause for the 'quest' is my goals, or rather the realization that I will never be able to achieve the things I had hoped to do. I will never be the old grizzled Captain with 30 years of experience dispensing wisdom to the youngsters in their 30's. I came into the Service too late in my life to get that kind of time in. I will never be able to present a class at FDIC, at least I wouldn't lay any money on it, unless they start giving retirement fund classes, and I suck at that stuff anyway. Hell, one of my goals has always been to just ATTEND FDIC and I can't even get enough cash together to manage that. Although I have drawn  a line in the sand and told myself I am going to get there in 2012, I really don't know where I am going to find the cash and I don't have much of a workable plan. These last couple of weeks, I have been questioning if the trip would be wasted on me, being as old as I am. I also had a general goal of taking my time and training and putting it to the common good by either working as a State Fire Instructor, or a Fire Investigator in semi-retirement. This first one won't happen, but the second one is still open and mostly depends on the local politics.
 Six years ago, I started a training log to keep track of the hours I spent in the classroom for legitimate classes. I don't count department drills, or classes I teach, only classes I take that yield a certificate or a certification. Yesterday I was updating that log when I learned that I recently passed 1,000 classroom hours in registered classes. That's 63 classes in 6 years with an average of 165 hours per year. This is in spite of the fact that I consciously decided to back off in 2010 because I already had a lot of classes, and I still finished the year with 122 hours. This is about what I think every firefighter needs to stay current at a minimum. Knowledge is power, knowledge is safety. One of the reasons I take all these classes is so that I can pass this knowledge on to those who lack the time to take an entire class, but really need the basic information and training. I don't want to be one of those old grizzled Instructors who teaches things they way they learned them 'back in the day'. I want to be the guy the gives them the latest knowledge that can be had. There are still too many instructors teaching bad habits to new people. I vowed long ago I would not be one of 'them'.
 So you can see that not reaching my expectations for myself is a big part of where my head is at right now. This is the first time, ever, in my life that I can recall such a realization. This is probably because in the past, I could always take more time to reach my goal, and I would always meet or exceed it. But this time, there is no more time for me. The clock ran out and I'm still running up hill. I am, to say the least, disappointed with myself.
 The last major point that brings me to this 'quest' is wondering how this is all going to end. What will the 'end of the road' look like for good ol' UU? Do I live out a long (perhaps too long) life and die in a nursing home bed someplace where my kids won't come visit me because I don't remember them and give them grief when they do come? Do I become an LODD for something stupid during a split second lapse in judgment or because (worse yet) I didn't back off when I should have? I know for sure I will never retire to a life of fishing, reading, and enjoying life. For one thing, the finances aren't there and I'll probably have to work until I die. For another, I have to be fully involved in something that makes me feel worthwhile. The Fire Service does that for me, and that's why I put so much effort into it, it makes me whole. I am quick to admit to myself that I volunteer my time, effort, and soul to the community because it compensates, in my mind, for something I lack as a member of society. I am not too clear what it is that is lacking, but I am sure that I owe more than I am owed. No, I do not know why I feel this way, I just do. It's what makes me get out of a warm bed at 2am, I fell like I owe it to somebody.
 In part 3 we'll finish up with where I am now, and we'll move on to what the options are.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why am I here? (1of 4) The Search Within

Hallway Sledge over at Backwards and Stupid laid in a great post on Friday in discussion and expansion of Capt. Dugan's keynote address at FDIC this past week. If you missed the speech, go catch it on Fire Engineering's site.
 Mr. Sledge asks the legitimate question "Are you a 1 percenter?" This is a question I have been ruminating on for a while now as I enter a period in my Fire/EMS career where I am questioning what I can do, and what I should be doing, as well as if I should be looking at doing something else that better suits my skills and abilities. Mr.Sledge writes a very good piece that helps one think through where one stands and where one wishes to go. Whereas I cannot give Mr. Sledge credit for making me have this conversation with myself, I can and do thank him for spreading the pieces out in a workable manner for me to look at. Frankly, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. (To answer the question, I think I'm in the 9% group and pushing it.)
 I'm wondering at this point in my life if I am too old to be doing what I am doing, and to the extent that I am doing it. I have always been somebody who goes all the way in everything I do this and usually don't stop until I have achieved more than I thought I was capable of. I had hoped my experience in the Fire Service would be no different, and to a point, it hasn't. I never expected to earn my National Certification as an FSI II. I never expected to find myself up in front of a class teaching Journeymen Firefighters how to be safe, use new tactics, or work incidents in a new way. I should be pretty proud off where I am right now. I don't think that any of the Instructors, mentors, or teachers I've had would tell you I disappointed them (well, perhaps just one in particular).
 So in this series of posts, I plan on laying a lot of stuff out there to try and help me think this thing through. I think better about stuff when I write it down because I have to re-read it a few times and decide if I wrote what I really intended. I don't know how this is going to turn out and what decisions I may or may not make. I may decide to drop this blogging stuff, move away from active Firefighting, move into EMS more or away further. I have some things I would like to do that I am beginning to realize will never happen, and that bothers me. A lot. It makes me realize I am on the downhill-side of my life.
 I started this blog for several reasons, some good, some bad, and some not clear to me. It has served as a 'relief-valve' at times, and also as a welcome distraction. I have high hopes that one or two things I have written MAY have made a difference in somebodies life or job. Maybe I helped someone to re-think one little piece of how they do things for the better. Perhaps I have provided information that led them to some helpful information. If I did any of that, my time was well spent. But I see very few comments on this blog. That's OK, I didn't, and don't, expect much. I throw it out there and hope somebody uses a piece of it at some point. I know my writing is pretty poor, and that the readers I get come, read, and seldom come back. I also know that there are a handful that read every new post when it goes up. There is the Captain up in Providence, RI, some fellas in Roanoke, VA. Somebody in the DC area (or several?), a couple in Winnipeg, some in Western Canada, a few in California, Colorado, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and several overseas. I appreciate those readers, but have never figured out what brings them back. Maybe they are hoping that someday I will post something really good to make all the visits worthwhile. For whatever reason, it does my heart and ego good to see them in my stat files.
 So if you care to bear witness to this experiment, read on. If you have no interest in what goes on in the head of some anonymous Firefighter/EMT volunteer who shows all signs of going through a mid-life crisis, then by all means, go read some of the better blogs. That's what makes them better anyway: you reading them. I state in the title line that this is 1 of 3, but the truth is, I haven't done the whole series yet, so I am not sure how long or short this will be. It's a trip for which I do not know the destination.
 Wanna go for a ride?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's About Damned Time!

I finally did it. I've been walking past my weight bench and not looking at it for 6 months (OK, OK, it's been a year, maybe more) now, always telling myself that "tomorrow I will get back to it".  I sort of had it cleaned off a month or two ago, but just couldn't get my fat ass to work. I should have been on it a year ago.
 Well, now that I have gotten a clean bill of health on some issues that were 'causing me concern', I have no excuse. If I am going to make a change, today was the day.
 So I started by recording all my vitals and baseline statistics. No, I am not going to share them with you. I am not going to set goals with hard numbers, that's not the point.
 Instead I am going to set this goal, and you will just have to take my word for it, if it comes up again. I am going to work out in some manner or form at least 4 days a week, even if it's only 20 minutes, and I am going to record any progress. My goal, if there is one, will be to get myself in better shape and increase my wind capacity and strength so I can last longer and go further, and feel better on incidents. My stretch goal is being able to do the 5k run at FDIC next year, if I can figure out a way to get there (to Indy, that is). 5k may not seem like much, but for me, it's something new.
 I have let myself go to pot, and the age thing is taking over. I plan to drop a few pounds (10 would be good) and add on some muscle, and keep it that way. I'm also hoping that the B/P will come back down and I can drop the Simvastatin. The cholesterol should also follow suit.
 I got in my first workout a few minutes ago and my hamstrings are tighter than the G-string on a 5 string banjo. I can barely walk upstairs. My biceps and gut feel about as bad. I have a long way to go, but at least I am off my ass and on my way. In an odd way, the pain feels kind of good.
 Some of you should think about doing the same.
 I also spent the day taking a hard look at myself in other ways. Beginning Tuesday you will learn a little bit more about me and my issues if you have an interest. I am going to ask your help in figuring out what to do with my life going forward. Think of it as another weird Blog contest, but with no prizes.  It could be an interesting experiment, or not.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Worth Repeating

Honest to goodness, I don't know where Bobby Halton comes up with these ideas, but you should really check out his speech today (Thursday 3/24/11) at the FDIC. It's a piece I hope to show to my Department, and more importantly, to all my fellow Officers. It puts things in perspective on a level they should all be able to apply. This is a fine speech:

 I spent the last year or so being mad at Bobby and Fire Engineering about the way that they handled Ray McCormack's speech and it's withdrawal from the ether world. That is until a fellow blogger set me straight on what was really going on (Thanks Matt) and I get it now. But through it all I have always admired Bobby's public speaking abilities and in particular his subjects, his facts, and his presentations. Amazing stuff. I can't imagine where he comes up with these things. I wish he'd give a video class on how he develops these speeches.
 You should give it a watch, maybe two. If your are an instructor, THINK about the way this gentleman grasps his audience. Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Red Cap.... Finally

Many Departments chose their helmet colors with care, or at least with a purpose. There's White, Black, Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, and I am sure a few more colors. In each Department, those colors have meaning. I have never seen a Department that doesn't use White for Chief Officers, but after that, it varies widely. In our county some Departments use Red for Firefighters and Black for their Line Officers, in others it is just the reverse.  Blue is frequently for someone who is either EMS or EMS and Fire. Yellow is sometimes Firefighters, but in some Departments it is for Probies. Sometimes Orange is for Probies or Juniors, sometimes it is Fire Police.
 Whatever the color chart is, every Firefighter and Officer knows what it is and has it ingrained in their brain. Many times that make decisions or speak to people based on the color of the helmet, especially when the heat is on. You learn the colors of the mutual aid companies and treat them accordingly. All with respect of course, but within their particular designation.
 When you are working mutual aid, you use that helmet color to tell you what level of responder you are talking to. To be honest, it's the only time I wish I had the correct Helmet color because I don't always get the consideration I deserve from Chiefs that don't know me too well. On the other hand, as my own Chief said the other night, "If I get a guy that shows up on MY scene and he doesn't know who UU is, then I don't really need him, and I am not sending him in on one of my crews, because I know he doesn't get out and take much training."
 In my Department, it is White for Chiefs, Red for Line Officers, Blue for EMS, and Yellow for probies and Juniors. We also have Green for the Department Safety Officer, but that hasn't been used in a few years.
 I have served as an Officer for about 5 years now. Each year, when elections are over and the new young guys get elected to their first office I watch as the Chief scurries around to make sure they get their Red helmets, whether new or passed down, he wants to make them feel like an Officer. I get that and I think it's the right thing to do.
 I've never had a Red hat. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be a priority for the Chief, and I have never asked why. The guys and gals all respect me and know who, and what I am so it never really mattered to me. I liked my Black hat, it fit well and had my light on it. I think the Chief assumed that I liked it the way it was.
 The other night we were looking at a pile of old gear and there was a Red Hat in the pile that had seen a lot of work. The Chief picked it up, twisted it around, and said "You know, this is Captain Georges old helmet, it has seen a lot of fire, but it's still good. We could put this on a truck as a spare. It is kind of raunchy though."  I looked at him and said "Chief, I've been holding an Officer's position for 5 years now, do you think I might like a Red Hat? I think I can clean that up a bit and put my head basket in it." He handed it over with a smile, "You're Overdue".
 So I took the thing home and cleaned it up. It looks nearly new, OK not too old. I swapped out head baskets, face shields, and hung my light and shield on it. It'll work.
 I've never been a big one for 'the trappings of the Office', but sometimes people need to know who (or what) you are.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Old Business

 One of the posts, or rather series of posts, that have gleaned the most readership on this blog is the group of posts regarding my experiences on my paying job with respect to setting up a proper response system for my co-workers in the event of an injury or medical issue. I summarized it with this follow-up last month.
 Now the only reason I bring this up is because these posts continue to get hits, so I figure there is still some kind of interest. For those that may be following this saga, I thought you might be interested in the next installment:
 A couple of days ago we had a "CODE 88" in the plant. CODE 88 is the catchy term the ESHW came up with for an announcement to alert the First Responder Team to an emergency somewhere in the plant. They get on the paging system and announce "ATTENTION, THERE IS A CODE 88 IN THE WINGNUT DEPARTMENT, I REPEAT, THERE IS A CODE 88 IN THE WINGNUT DEPARTMENT."  (No, we don't have a wingnut department.) This should bring the whole team with the equipment (Trauma Bag and an AED or two). I had conducted drills just the day before this incident for both the day and night shift. We set up a scenario of some sort of accident and let them work through it. It is useful and keeps them thinking. These are laymen, and trained in First Aid, CPR, and AED. Their job is to cover the first 5 minutes of the job, get the notification out, and direct the responding unit(s) in to the proper location in our large plant. They actually do a pretty darn good job, even though they lack confidence in their skills, I am impressed with the quality job they do. I trained them as best as I was allowed with the thought that if I go down, they are taking care of me, and unlike anybody else in the plant, there will be no EMT responding from inside the building to help me out. I am the only one with current rescue experience and training.
 So, if you recall, the powers that be had me remove all my 'advanced BLS equipment' from the building such as OPA's, NPA's, BVM, Blood Pressure Cuff, Stethoscope, oral glucose, etc. Whereas I did comply and removed all that stuff "which I might cause harm with" from the trauma bag a I keep in my office (my stuff), I did a little foot-dragging on taking it out of the company trauma bag. I just kept 'forgetting' to get it done. My memory is not what it used to be, it seems.
 So we get this CODE 88 called and I can hear the fear in the person's voice that made the page (it wasn't excitement, it was definitely fear). I lefte my office and start walking toward the area. I see lots of folks running and nearly got sucked up and started running myself. Nearly. So I get there and find a co-worker in severe chest pain and distress, sudden onset, 10/10 pain, she can't even lift her head to look at me. Nobody on my time can think of anything to do in the way of treatment. They have all jumped on the physical tasks quickly. They made the 911 call and gave good info to the dispatcher, they have sent folks to guide the Fire and EMS folks in, and they have cleared some working room, but treatment, nada.
 That's because there was nothing they could do in that vein within their training. They all looked at me, as usual. I got down on one knee and started talking with my patient, I went through the pain stuff (severity, quality, radiation, onset, etc.), got her medical history, meds, pulse, respirations, and anything else I could think of. Now we are waiting. I am not getting a good idea of what is going on and I don't like not having a B/P or knowing her O2 sats. I now there is a B/P kit in the bag next to my foot so I pull it out and do the deed, which I was told I was not allowed to do. I get 130/68. OK, I am relaxing a little. Fire (BLS) shows up, I go through the information I have and offer the written copy I have to the EMT, he completely ignores me. He doesn't listen to anything I offer, just shoulders me out of the way. "OK, asshole", I think, "I'll just have to work around you" so I reach behind him and grab the airway bag, set up the O2, put a mask on and fill the reservoir, and set it on 15 LPM (12 wasn't an option on their cheap regulator) and hand it to the tech. He looks at me and says "You've done this before?" "Yeah" I said, "Former Lt. and Captain for several years at Podunk EMS, now Fire Lt. at the same Department, County EMT of the year in 2007, Nationally certified Fire Service Instructor Two, County Fire Instructor. Any other credentials you need to hear, or can I give you a turnover report now?" He apologized and changed his tune. The medic came in, another one with an attitude who only brought half the equipment she should have. (Who does an industrial plant call for a cardiac issue and leaves their stretcher in the rig, 500 feet away?!)
 So we finished the job and sent our patient off for definitive care. As I was cleaning up and packing the gear, the EHS Boss was standing there and saw me folding up the B/P cuff. I caught her eye. This was the cuff she had told me I needed to remove from the building. I rolled it up and put it in the bag. "You know", I said, "You might think you saw me doing a B/P, but the truth is I was just checking her circulation, it just LOOKED like I was taking a B/P. Besides, I REALLY needed to know in order to get a full picture." I waited for the lecture that I knew was coming and would include some political double-talk.
 She looked at me, looked at the cuff in my hands, then looked down the aisle where the stretcher had just disappeared around the corner. She then looked back at me and said "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about. By the way, nice job, we're lucky you were here."
 So, I am assuming that I am safe in going with my original plan: If the outcome is good, I can do whatever I see fit (within protocols, of course), but if the outcome is bad, I am on my own. I can live with that, I just hope all my future patients can.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Very Cool

Hey this is pretty cool, check it out:

Not sure if this is Captain Wines group or perhps Rhett, but no matter who it is, I'd like to thank the Brothers down there for setting a good example. This is a great idea that perhaps some other Departments can make work in their Towns.
 Anyway, Just thought I'd point it out and Congratulate the Roanoke crews for the nice idea.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On being a "Yard Breather"

 We caught some good work a couple of nights ago. A worker in a 100+ year old Village Library in a small district 2 towns up the line. (Picture a Norman Rockwell, American Main St.)

These folks call us because they train with us all the time and know we come ready to work. They know us, we know them, it's all good. I just wish it wasn't a 20 minute run doing 70mph to get there. I'm on their swiftwater rescue team and it feels like home when I go out to work a job with them. I also teach out there once a year, so all the guys and gals know me, it's nice, and I feel welcome, none of that competitive crap. They also feed me when they work me, which is always nice.
 Anyway, they called us in for this job along with 3 or 4 other Departments. Being that a) I am at the furthest end of my district away from the fire scene, b) It was 0300, and c) I am the 'old man' after all and don't get too excited about these things anymore, I did not make the truck. So I followed out in my POV, sucked down a bottle of water to clean out the pipes, and caught the progress on the radio of which there was precious little, as I drove. Everybody was busy.
 Because I arrived 3 minutes behind my crew, truck, and Chief, they had already made entry through the rear. I got held up by the mutual aid chief handling logistics. He sent me to a waiting position across the street where he SAID my crew would be assembling. I didn't know they were inside already and I followed orders. Consequently, I was not used because that Chief wasn't very good at utilizing manpower, rotating crews, or even keeping track of what's going on. I should have known because he's done similar things to me before. Last time I went off and did another job to keep busy. Next time, I'll just work around him some other way. He's not a leader.
 So my crew is inside and I am following them on the tactical frequency. It's balloon construction. The fire started in the basement (heating system) and traveled to the ground floor nearly burning through the floor. Fortunately it found and easier path up inside the walls and was in the second floor and attic. It was quite a job to expose it and do a final extinguishment. My Chief had the interior attack command, as usual. He's born for that job. Very steady, predictable. focused and he keeps all the balls in the air at the same time. He tracks crew rotations, where his resources are on the outside of the building, maintains communication. thinks ahead and asks for support in the proper places before it's needed. He's a master to listen to. Whatever I think of my Chief on the management level , there are few I have ever seen that are as good as him on a working fire. I trust him with my life, anytime.

  So anyway, I'm out on the street watching it all go down with one of our Juniors who is doing a yeoman job of filling air bottles, fetching tools and generally making himself more useful than most of the Firefighters occupying the exterior. I'm still learning about this kid, so it was good to see the work ethic he had. I made a note to spend more time with him because he was obviously worth it.
 Me? I'm not feeling so useful and I am getting tired of doing the 'Fireman's shake' to keep the PASS alarm from going off. I'm not used to being a yard breather. Many guys and gals are coming by to say hello because they haven't seen me in a while. I am not much in the 'visiting mood' because I want to get to work, but it looks like that ain't gonna happen. So to occupy my mind I do some 'people watching" and I begin to realize how 'readable' we Firefighters are.
 I see an Officer briefing his crew and I see the entire crew, without looking down, reach into their pockets and pull out their gloves and put them on. They never take their eyes off the Officer as he gives instructions, then off they go to handle their task. A little down the road, I see another crew also listening to their Officer, this time they start putting on masks. They are going in for the next shift. I don't need to hear what the Officer said.
 I see a White Hat, front and center of the fire building in the center of the street, logistics and operations. He hasn't stopped chit chatting with a half dozen guys since I arrived. He is not paying attention. I hear the interior attack crew trying to find the fire and I hear them asking for some work on the outside of the second floor. The White Hat isn't even listening to his radio. To be sure, I walk over and ask he he copied the traffic from the attack crew? Did he hear a request for ladders? "No" he didn't and he jumps right to it. Three minutes later, he is back in position and busy not paying attention again. I gave up wondering why he doesn't have all the ladders up, why he isn't looking for ways to make things happen, or why he doesn't have anything staged and ready for the next move.
 I see a few other firefighter's like me, waiting for a job. Most are just hanging out, but some are watching carefully. I see two jump in the lend a hand with two others struggling trying to get a vent fan up a ladder.
 I finally give up waiting for any direction from the White Hat and find my own chores to do: Tool collection, humping hose lines, helping other Companies pack their trucks, and whatever else I can find. I never did mask up, but I stayed busy. The bulk of my work was done back at the station where we had a lot of crap to clean off the gear, lots of loose insulation that invaded everything. I put my scrub brush skills to work so that I could justify getting out of my rack at 0300 for a 4 hour shift.
 Just another job, but this time, from a point of view I wasn't used to. Sometimes that can be good, whether you like it at the time or not.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I Learned Something Today.

Yup, I did, and I thought I would share it because it may not be common knowledge.

 First, if you are using a chainsaw, you should keep a frim grip on the saw and have a solid position to stand in.

 Second, if you ignore the first point and you loose control of the saw, you shoudl let it go and get out of the way.

 Third, if you ignored the first two points, you should not attempt to grab the saw as it falls.

Fourth, it you do try to grab the saw, you should aim for the handle or the grip.

 Fifth, if you can't grab the handle of the grip, you should not, in any event, attempt to grab the chain bar.
 Grabbing the bar is bad and can result in serious injury with lots of blood spewing and dripping about.

 Man that intern was probably stitching half the night.
 (Good clean trauma call though, I haven't had many of those lately.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blame the public Emplyoees... NOT

 I vacillate on this subject because I have an open mind, however I have strong, even visceral emotions against the spineless short-sighted politicians that will not accept blame for the situation most municipalities find themselves in. They choose to find a scapegoat to wag their finger at instead of looking in the mirror to find the true culprit.  I have my issues with the liberal media, but this report, brought to my attention on the FireCritic's page is more than worth watching. I think it represents a balanced view. Bret should have given it more page space because I feel it is significant. Please watch:

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

OK People, Listen Up!

 Now I know that there are actually a bunch of you out there who read my little posts, I've been watching the stats and they are getting impressive. I've even had a few new readers who come and waste spend a couple of hours out of their life that they will never get back reading many of my older posts.
 Very few comments are left on this site and I have been VERY tolerant of that fact whilst I suffer onward. However I now have to demand respectfully request some reader input. I know we have folks out there with connections and I am asking them to help me and a neighboring Department out.
 I was teaching last night at a Department down the road (never you mind where) and they always bring in a Nationally recognized speaker in the late spring of each year to present to the local departments. All the surrounding Departments are invited for a small fee. The host Department rarely makes a dime off of this thing even though it is supposed to be a fund raiser.  The point is, we get somebody to come and teach us something worthwhile, in an area that does not normally get .that caliber of speaker. Two years ago we had Chief Goldfedder come on down and he and I compared 'stashes. It was great (and quite an honor for me).
 So while I was at this Department last night, I asked them who the big name was they were getting this year, and the Chief replied "I dunno, you got any ideas?"
 Two names jumped into my head instantly. The first I have no trouble finding contact info for, the second, well, lets just say he keeps a low profile, even though he seems to be teaching everywhere.
 So I have two requests:
1) Does anyone know how to contact Lt. Ray McCormack (FDNY)? Can you get me an email address, phone number, or GPS coordinates for a carrier pigeon?
2) (This one is just for me) Does anyone have a copy of Lt. McCormack's keynote speech at FDIC 2009? It has completely disappeared from the net. The FDNY and Fire Engineering have done a marvelous job of re-writing history by pulling this one off without a trace. I would like to have this to share with a few select Chief Officers and Instructors.

 Answers or hints to any of the above questions may be sent directly to: and all correspondence will be confidential.
 C'mon folks, it's time to do your share. I don't ask much, but this is important.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The paycheck

 We saved a life tonight.

It was someone we all knew.

It felt very good.

'nuff sed.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hell Hath no Fury.....

 I had completely forgooten about this job that occurred years ago. I passed the house the other day and it popped back in my mind.
"Podunk Rescue, Please respond for a 52 year old female, victim of an assault."
 Off we went.
 Walking into the living room we found a female sitting peacefully on her couch with an Deputy standing next to her. "She and her husband were arguing upstairs and as she was coming down the stairs she claims her husband pushed her and she rolled down most of that flight (he points), about 20 steps. He claims she tripped."
 We ask the questions about pain, loss of consciousness, and begin an evaluation. About 2 minutes in, the Deputy asks, "do you have another EMT on your crew? You might want to take a look at the husband. He's in the kitchen." "Sure", I say and ask my partner if she is OK with this patient while I go check the 'assaulter' out. She nods, and I walk into the kitchen to find a middle aged male on the floor. A puddle of blood is next to his head and he is moaning while another Deputy looks on.
 The Deputy tells me that apparently the female waited until the male sat down in the kitchen and came up behind him with a 12 inch frying pan ( I know, classic, isn't it?). She whopped him once and he went down, then she whopped him 2 more times to make sure he stayed down. A fractured jaw, fractured skull, blown orbit, and I think a punctured ear drum were what he had to show for his trouble. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
 When I got home from that job I pecked my wife on the cheek to make sure we were still 'cool', You never know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Public Service Announcement

 This post is for the non Fire/EMS folks that may come across this page.
 It may seem fundamental and go without saying that the Fire, EMS, and Police services are created and maintained to handle and mitigate emergency situations. This is their mission. Now, it so happens that as our communities have these personnel and facilities in their midst, on occasion, they are called to handle situations that nobody no sane person would consider to be an Emergency.
 For the most part, these personnel take these calls for assistance with good humor and keep things in perspective. Their 'calling' is to help people after all.
 However, at some point, we need to draw the line between providing the occasional assistance and actually doing things for people because they don't want to do it themselves.
 The Fire Department, for example gets called when folks don't know who else to call. Cat's in trees, Water in the basement, and tree branches on roofs are good examples of these calls that we don't mind handling from time to time.
 HOWEVER, when you call us for the fifth time in a week to pump out your basement it is time that we gave you the facts of life in a straightforward manner:
 YOUR home is YOUR responsibility. When we arrive and pump you out, we leave you with some time tested advice on how to solve your problem. We expect you will do something to preserve your home. Calling us whenever it rains in NOT "a plan". We will pump you out and leave. After we are gone, you still have some water on the floor you need to deal with. You also have the water damage which remains as well as the propagation of mold and mildew which will create a very unhealthy environment for your family. You may need to get your heating and water system serviced if the water came up too high. You may have foundation damage, you may have to look at what caused the problem in the first place and deal with that issue. In any event, calling the Fire Department every time it rains is NOT A PLAN.
 Before we go further let me point out that we fully understand that this stuff happens from time to time and we understand helping out a homeowner that has a system in place to handle the water but this particular storm has overloaded the system that has worked well for 15 years. We get that, and we are there for you when you need us.
 However, if you call us every spring for the heavy rains and melting snow pack that YOU KNOW WE WILL GET EVERY YEAR, then you are not taking care of your home, we are. That's not what we are in business for. We very quickly lose our cheerful demeanor when you call us at 3am and we arrive to find you in your fuzzy slippers drinking a fresh cup of coffee while you tell us that you got up to pee and checked the basement and decided it was (Yawn) "time to let you pump it so I could get off to work on time in the morning."  It may surprise you to know that those of us who are volunteers also have to get to work in a couple of hours. If we arrive at work late, our employers are usually not pleased that we are half awake because we have been out all night pumping basements. (By the way, if it's the third time you've called us to do your work in the wee hours, you just might want to think about putting on a pot of coffee for my crew and providing a place for them to stand that is not out in the pouring rain. It's just a polite thing to do.)
 Final Point: If you call us, please be clear that we will arrive and decide what we can and cannot do for you. We did not come to your home to accept and follow orders from you. You called us to help you, we will do that in a way that ensures our safety and yours as a first concern. We will not do things we are not trained and equipped to do. We are not your contractor, your heating service company, or your personal source of labor for unpleasant tasks. So when we arrive, we make the decisions. This is not negotiable. Sometimes that means we discover a hazardous situation that requires you to vacate the house. You MAY NOT, at that point, decide that you don't want us there. We are responsible because you called us. If you want to debate this point, please hold that thought while I have a State Trooper respond to your home. He or she will be much more interested in listening to your complaint, trust me.
 That is all, have a nice day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sometimes the Training Pays Off.

 I haven't done a real Fire post in a while and I guess I got off track so I owe you one. This one will probably be long, so bear with me. I get to do a little bragging on my crew and I think you can share in my pride here if you read all the way through. Hopefully I can get this out in one sitting, but it's raining like mad and I expect we'll be pumping some cellars out tonight. Just like the other night...
 Sunday night is my EMS duty night, I am on call from 6pm until 6am Monday and am committed to the Ambulance. No fire work for me during that period, or for my driver, who is also my Fire Captain. We partner on the same night. We took a psych call at around 11pm for self-mutilation wounds. When that was done I went home and went to bed. Within 15 minutes the pages started coming out for cellar pumps. They had more cellars than crews and finally asked for everyone to come out. I rolled out of bed figuring helping out would be better than being woken up with a new dispatch every time I was falling asleep. After all, I was tied to the bus for the night anyway. So I went, and wound up pumping all night. The last call came in at 3am and we finished around 4:30. I put the engine to bed and went home took a shower, got dressed, took a 15 minutes nap at my desk, then went to work. I got home from work that night just toasted. I had dinner and a beer and was in bed at 7:00pm.
 The page for a cellar pump came out at 7:06, at the same address I had pumped 15 hours earlier. I turned on my radio, heard a truck answer up, and shut it off to get some sleep. I wasn't going out that night in any event, I was too tired to function safely. 36 hours with no sleep is too much for an old bastard like me.
 At 7:40 a page came in for all personnel to stand by at the various stations and await orders. Damn! "What the hell is going on now?" I thought. Then the pages really started, "Second ambulance to the scene", "All airpack certified personnel", "Third ambulance to the scene", "THIRD Alarm". I'm awake now and telling myself to stay in bed. But I'm also worried about my crew, what the hell is happening at a cellar pump? I was in that basement, did I miss something? Should I have caught a hazard that got them in trouble? It was tough to stay away, but I knew I wouldn't be much help in my condition. What I didn't know was that they had a full blown HAZMAT situation working complete with a HAZMAT team, the DECON setup, the County Emergency Manager, The County Fire Coordinator, ENCON, Environmental Protection, all there in full glory. Hot Zone, Warm Zone, Cold Zone, the whole nine yards. The pager calmed down and I finally fell asleep. My son came in around 10pm and woke me up to tell me what he knew I'd want to know: "Everybody is fine and they are returning to quarters." That's all I needed and fell back to a more restful sleep, the rest of the story would wait until tomorrow.
 So I suppose you'd like to know what happened?
 The call for the cellar pump came in during a company meeting and naturally they sent out some of the younger guys to handle it. Two of those guys had mentored under me in some form or other and I have played a part in the training of all three. They're young, but well trained and coming along nicely. They are also gaining in experience and it shows. Still, anytime you put somebody young into a situation they never seen before, you pray they'll be alert and do the right thing, but you feel better if somebody more experienced is around to back them up and provide some guidance. They were on there own for this one.
 So they arrived and two went into the basement to place the pump while the other went around back to feed the hose through the window. They followed our tracks through the snow from a few hours earlier. One Firefighter checked the outflow pipe from the existing sump pump and noticed, even in the dark, that the water was a 'funny purple color'. At the same time the pair that entered the basement noticed a similar dis-coloration in the water. The basement crew leader looked around for the source of the color and found a cardboard box, badly soaked through, which seemed to be the source. He noted the name of the chemical and backed out with his partner and made a phone call to the Chief to ask for advice. The Chief told them to stay outside, don't pump any water, and he'd be right there. Together they called dispatch and had them look up the substance, which prompted a call to Chemtrec, and conference call and then a call for a HAZMAT team. My young friend who was leading the crew that night said it seemed like half the county was there along with reps from every law enforcement agency he could think of. They had to go through DECON, and there was the issue of dealing with one of the non-ambulatory residents of the house, and the cleanup. The water in the basement had to be removed and taken for treatment. The only 'damage' was the bunker gear that had to be bagged and sent off for cleaning and might be condemned if the material is damaged by the chemicals.
 You'll forgive me if I brag about how proud I am of my guys and gals. They came across something they had never seen and did EXACTLY the right thing. You might be reading this and thinking it was a 'no-brainer' call, but so many people get hurt or killed in this business because they miss small things or make assumptions. My guys didn't hesitate and made the right call. I'd like to think that something I taught them had an effect on that decision, but even if it didn't, I feel like they graduated that night, at least they did in my eyes. I can worry about them a little less now. (But yeah, I still worry, they are still 'my guys'.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Bad ..... Again

 OK, so I feel like a dope, what else is new? The video in the previous post was already put up by the Fire Critic more than a few hours before I found it. I thought Bret was in Baltimore drinking with all the boys and girls down there is the WARM evening, but apparently not. Well, it's not the first dumb thing I've done in public on this blog, and it won't be the last.
 If you go over to Bret's site you will find a longer version at just under 12 minutes. It's worth a watch, I think.
 I didn't want anybody to think I was posting stuff I found on other blogs, I just haven't been able to keep up with my reading lately BECAUSE MY DAMN CABLE INTERNET IS STILL BLIPPING IN AND OUT.
 I'm sorry, was I yelling? I'm just a bit testy lately.

Something different, with spirit

Here's something that one of my Facebook Friends popped up today, and I thought I'd share it with the rest of ou. Thanks to Chief Jerimiah for passing it along:

If you double click on  it and read the comments ( over 5 pages), you may observe, as I did that the full range of emotions is not only evident, but remarkable.
 Personally I think that, as this was done on their own time after classes, this shows some outstanding teamwork. You know they didn't get this down with an hours practice. It took work.
 It shows perseverance, it shows team spirit, it shows dedication. I think these guys and gals did a great job, and I am sorry that there is always one jackass that complains about his/her tax dollars being wasted.
 This is a great exercise in being one with your gear and being able to wear it like a second skin. Not only that but I really enjoyed it. Now I have to figure out a way to slide this into one of my classes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Short Bulletin

 My internet is flipping in and out daily which is, of course, torturing me. I can't keep up with my reading and forget about posting. Sorry folks I can't drive over to the firehouse and sit in the truck and type a thoughtful post. Some of you might think I can't type a thoughtful post in the comfort of my own home and I wouldn't argue with you.
 Until the cable specialist gets here (they are rushing over NEXT Monday) I can't deal with this thing going in and out. I am teaching tomorrow night and won't make it home until late anyway. SO let's just call it a hiatus and wait until all things come aright again. Besides, you'll have all the news to read about the great times beng had down in Baltimore and won't have time for this page anyway.
 Go read that stuff and enjoy. I'll just sit here and wait until the line comes on and stays on.
 This post will go up whenever the damn thing goes back on again.