Thursday, June 23, 2011

Catching up

 No matter where you go.......there you are.
Just got home from 3 days on the road for business (the paying job). I had to go visit 3 vendors (machine shops that make parts for us), which actually was supposed to be 2 vendors, but we made an executive decision and added the third while we were on the road because it made good sense at the time.
 Usually I like to do these trips myself, but this time I was accompanied by a gal from our purchasing Department, as she had business issues to discuss with the two vendors we headed out to see. I have to admit I really wasn't super happy to have a traveling partner. Not that there is the slightest thing wrong with this gal. We work together and get along great at work as far as I know. She is a huge help to me in getting my job done.
 However, we all have funny habits and needs and when you are traveling and spending your entire day together, those little habits can quickly become annoying. It takes a certain amount of consideration to keep from annoying your traveling partner. It you travel together long enough, by the end of the trip, most folks are ready to kill each other.
 Many people I have traveled with have habits that drive me nuts. Not packing properly and having multiple bags for a short trip (the accepted practice is an overnight bag and a briefcase or small backpack), not having your luggage properly prepared for air travel (not having the liquids ready to display), forgetting basic items which require a side trip to some store or other, or being late to get going in the morning requiring everyone else to wait and begin the day behind schedule, are all things which drive me nuts. I have endured much worse from some traveling partners.
 I have never traveled with Sally, so I was concerned that I might have some habits, or do some things to make her uncomfortable, and of course, that she might also.
 My fears were eased in the first 20 minutes of the drive, and got even less as the first day wore on. As we were driving I commented that I might need to make a quick stop to have a smoke, as I didn't allow myself one before we left. She just said "Oh, you can smoke while we drive, my husband does that and I don't mind at all as long as your window is cracked open". I smiled and thought "Life just got easier".
 The first days drive, about 4 hours went by easily and we checked into the hotel. She was ready, as promised when our vendor picked us up for dinner. We all had a lovely evening eating and chatting and were in our rooms by 9:30 to check emails from the office and answer the important ones. (Then I read blogs for a couple of hours.) The next morning I met her in the lobby for breakfast, she was 15 minutes early, I was really pleased. Over breakfast, I let her know that after we finished up with this vendor and were on our way to the next one I would like to make a quick stop at the State Fire Academy so that I could meet a blogger friend and pick some stuff up at the bookstore. It was exactly on our route, there was no detour required. She was fine with that.
 We completed our business at vendor #1 and headed North. I called The Lonely EMT and she was just leaving to meet us at the Academy. Our 20 minute visit went almost an hour and Sally sat out in the car working on emails and entering purchase orders. She said she really needed to get it done and couldn't do it while we were driving. She was very gracious and I let her know I appreciated it.
 We finished up that day squeezing in the new vendor prospect and arriving at the last vendor too late to meet with them, but we did join one of their reps for dinner. We finished up our business the next day and got on the road home by 1:00 pm. It was a 5 hour drive through heavy driving rain. I was wiped out when I finally walked in the door. I would have loved to have a beer or two and go to bed, but my loving wife just said "dinner's on the table, eat, then change, we have to be 'there' by 7:30". I did as I was told and we went down to the local micro-brewery to hear my son-in-law play for a while. It was worth it, he debuted a Vocal piece he has been working on for a while (Vincent 52). He has never sung in public before, so this was really neat, he broke another personal barrier. It was great and I'm so glad I didn't miss it.
 However, I still had to get into work early today and work on the pile that developed while I was gone and I also had a job interview scheduled at 9:45am which I only learned about last night at 7PM. (I applied for my boss's job when he moved on.) They've flown in a guy to interview the 4 of us that applied and although I think they have already decided none of the 'internal candidates' will get the job and it will go to somebody from the 'outside', I still needed to give it a shot. After 38 years in this business, I think it's time for me to make an impact. The interview went fine and there was only one question asked that I had a much better answer for an hour after the interview ended. Over the years of my experience, this was one of the best interviewers I have met. But, again, I think my chances are between slim and none because of the politics and preconceived notions.
 But, I digress. The trip went fine and I look forward to making another trip with Sally. She was truly a working partner and that hasn't happened to me in a long time. I made a point of telling her Boss just that. It turns out that she has had similar experiences to mine and enjoyed the actual amount of work we accomplished. Turns out that neither of us enjoy the wine and dine crap, the dinners, or the drinking. We are not looking to 'make friends' or 'bond' with our vendors, we just want to build a solid working relationship and that usually happens in the conference room, not the barroom. It also turns out that both Sally and I have a lot of experience in 'carrying' our traveling partners that are poorly prepared for a road trip.
 Next post I'll tell you about my visit with the Lonely EMT and her lovely daughter.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Saturday, June 18, 2011


 Direct from the "You can't make this stuff up" department, I just heard this dispatch a few minutes ago for the next county north of us:

"Podunk Rescue, respond for a 21 year old female with a Q-tip stuck in her right ear. 2123 Birch Lane, in the village of Smallville. Airway is patent, breathing and pulse normal, no chest pains.  Repeating: Podunk Rescue, your response is needed at 2123 Birch Lane in Smallville for a 21 year old female with a Q-tip lodged in her right ear. Suggested ALPHA response, dispatcher 23, 1709."

Several things went through my warped mind all at once. First of all, if I were the typical 21 year old female, would I call an ambulance because I was dumb enough to get a Q-tip stuck in my ear?
 The second thing that struck me was that the dispatcher was placing emphasis on the fact that the foreign object was lodged in the RIGHT ear. I wonder if he was concerned that the crew might arrive and not notice that the cue-tip was in the RIGHT ear, or perhaps they would arrive and say, 'nope this gal has a Q-tip in her left ear, must be the wrong patient', or as a third possibility they might not catch the Q-tip in the ear at all during their assessment.
 A few minutes later I thought "HEY, what if it's not a Q-tip, but rather it's a CUE-TIP (like in pool Cue)? Now that might be hard to miss on an assessment. 
 This county uses a coded response mode with Alpha being the least critical and Echo being the most critical.

No matter how hard you might try, you just can't make this stuff up.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keeping Score

 The Instructor stood in front of his class at the conclusion of the first successful CPR training for each of these new students. As he got them quieted down he surveyed these new faces going out into the world as newly ordained 'lay rescuers'. Most were between 20 and 30 years old, but some were forty and one was in her sixties. All were civilians.
 "Newbies", he thought, but then he chastised himself for thinking that. "These are just folks trying to be prepared to help somebody else out when they need it most". His thoughts were his own and he congratulated himself on getting a new batch of people out there. This is why he teaches, after all, to possibly save a life through the actions of others.
 "OK Folks" he spoke up "lets quiet down. Before I let you help me carry all this 'stuff' out to my truck I want to congratulate you on doing a fine job. Everybody passed and did it well. You are all in good shape. Just remember if you are ever faced with any of the situations we discussed today, just stay calm and follow your training. I KNOW you are going to do great. Are there any final questions?"
 A hand shot up from the cute 20 something with the long brown hair. "You told us that you have done CPR many times, how many people have you saved?" "Well," he looked at the floor then looked back up, "I've, check that, I have had a few patients that have been lucky and come through it OK as far as I know."
 "Hey, wait a minute", it was the smart ass kid in the corner that was cracking jokes all through the class. The Instructor had just about had enough of this kid. "Your job is saving lives, are you telling us that you don't KNOW how many people you've saved? You don't keep track of something like that? You're weird dude!"
 "Yeah" the Instructor said, "I guess I am a little weird. The truth is, I have no idea how many saves I've had a hand in. First of all we don't get good feedback after we bring them to the hospital , and many times I have no idea how it ended for a lot of patients. You probably won't understand this, but we do the best we can for every patient and hope for the best. I only keep track of the others."
 The kid in the corner didn't get it yet, "what others?"
 "Ah Shit" he thought, "I said that out loud didn't I?"
 The instructor looked the kid in the eye, waited for a second, then said in a firm voice "The others that didn't make it, I know that number, it's 37. He went on, "I didn't want to tell you that because you might get discouraged, but every person that is trained and 'out there' will increase the chances that CPR will be started sooner and increase that patients chances. You can make a difference. That's the point. Don't focus on what might go wrong, work toward what might go right." He looked around the class and studied the faces.
 "Damn" he thought "I went and scared them. Time for damage control."
 "Look, I know this all sounds pretty heavy, and in a way it is, but you have to realize that all you can do is what you can do. If you TRY to help, and do the right thing, then you are not responsible for what happens if it doesn't go the way you want. You did more than many people could or even would have done. You should be proud of that. It takes a damned lot of courage to walk in this room like you did 6 hours ago, and take this class, then walk out prepared to do something that will seem a little unnatural at first. My work doesn't allow me to 'pick' who I want to try to save and who I don't. When I get the call I go, and do everything I can within my training and leave the decisions to a higher power. After a while, you learn that you can't think about it too much because the outcome is not really in your hands anyway. Your 'job' is to do 10 minutes of good quality CPR and I know you can do that."
 He did another 'face survey' and could see the wheels turning in almost every head. "If anyone wants to hang out a little after we clean up, I'll be happy to stay and finish that pot of coffee with you. Just understand this, you are not expected to be 'heroes', but you might be looked at that way if you ever need to do this because you might be the only one who knows what to do. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but it is why you are here, and why I am here. I thank you for showing me the courage you have, and I wish you all the best of luck. Anyone want to help me load the truck?"
 The smart ass kid in the corner jumped up and grabbed two big bags of CPR dummies.

Be Safe,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sleep Working

 The high pitched internal "beep" on his pager, which indicates the proper pair of coded tones have activated it, goes off. Not that he needed another piercing loud noise, because the rest of the tones and the distinctive 'warble' are now coming through the speaker, as if to wake him completely. Before the tones start, his legs are swung out of the bed and he reaches, in the total dark for his socks and pulls them on. With his right hand he reaches for a small battery powered fluorescent light and turns it on while at the same time his left hand finds the belted section of his pants and flips them open so he can pull them on. Before he stands to pull his pants up, he pulls his boots on but does not waste time with the zippers, he can do those while he is driving. He stands, pulls up, and fastens his pants and belt. His right hand grabs the pager out of it's charger while the left hand grabs the cell phone, both hands working independently and in unison, he slips them both on his belt.
 He grabs the little light and carries it with him so that he has no need to turn on other lights to find his way down the stairs. His wife and dog, lay undisturbed and he likes it that way. Down the stairs and through the den to the side door, he slips on a coat, flips a hat on his head and is out the door. Five steps to the truck and he slides in, shuts off the light and flips it into the back seat. As his hand comes back around, it hesitates long enough to turn on the fire radio, the police scanner is already on and he listens for the first arriving Officers to give their report to dispatch. He grabs the wheel with his now free right hand and turns on the EMS radio with his left. He wants to know, as soon as possible that they have an ALS rig on the road in case it's needed. He has no idea what time it is, and he doesn't really care. It doesn't really matter. He's rolling to yet another job.
 At this point he finally begins to awaken some with the effort of thought and decision making: which piece of apparatus to get, what tools might be needed, who is in town and also responding, which gear bag should he grab when he jumps out of this truck and into the rig, and what the hell time is it anyway?
 He flips on his blue light as he rolls down the driveway, hoping his neighbor down the road will see it and not waste time starting his own truck, he slows at the neighbors house and the Captain jumps into the passenger seat. They confirm the details of the dispatch information with each other, but don't talk much otherwise during the 2 minute ride to the station. They listen to the various radios for further information.
 When they arrive at the station, there is no conversation about tasks or who will do what, it is all automatic and each performs his pre-programmed motions learned through countless repetitions over the years, and each knows what the other has already done, and what will be done next. Disconnecting umbilicals, opening doors, calling in to Dispatch, all done without a single word of coordination. Within another minute, they have made the transition to the Engine and the Captain drives while he gets his gear on and operates the radio.
 They are about a mile out from the station, with another two miles to get to the job when they get the call on the radio that they have been canceled and put back in service.
He looks at the clock,  which reads '2:58AM'. He looks out the windshield as the Captain swings the truck around and says "Well, I guess we could call that another practice run". The Captain, looking over his shoulder for traffic before he pulls back on the road just replies "Yes, that's probably a good way to look at it, we could use the practice". "Yup", he replies in a dead pan manner, "You can never get enough practice". They look at each other and smile and don't say another word until they get back to the station.

Be Safe, Be Sharp, Be Good,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Good News

 Last week I posted a piece about the Wilmington, Vt Fire Department and what a fine job they did in a recent Live Burn training evolution held over a couple of days. That post generated an awful lot of hits (the most I've ever had on a single post) and I started thinking about the fact that 'good news travels fast'. I was also thinking that we don't really make a point of highlighting Departments that are doing more with less because they have always done more with less.
 The fact is, not every Department is located in an area that has resources, or a State or Province that can bring resources in. The better Departments are those that see the need for quality training and figure out a way to make it happen with what they have. So I started looking around and I found the following video. This video, at just over 9 minutes, is worth the watch. It shows what a group of small Departments can pull off when they work together. As always, there is someone with a vision and the drive to pull it all together.
 I don't know anything about these guys and gals that I didn't learn in the video, but I have to give them huge credit for the training they put on, and the learning that obviously takes place. While you watch the video, I'd like you to take note that they have no fancy simulators or even a burn building available, but they found a way to make the training happen.
 From what I can see, these guys really have it all together.

 If you have a Department Training video or story or video that shows good training, done with minimal resources, please send it along. I think we could all benefit from what you know.
Be Safe, Be Strong, Be Well,

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Little Fun for a change of pace.

 It's been kind of serious in and around my head lately. I suppose I've splashed a little on my readers also. I thought I would share a little of the stuff that cheers me up, no matter what. I've been thinking about these Boys lately because I will make the pilgrimage to go see them in a few weeks up on the Walsh Farm over to Oak Hill, NY. Ron and his crew, The Dry Branch Fire Squad, put on one good show, and they will be the host Band at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. I very much look forward to the big weekend and all the wonderful music we will hear, as well as the people we will meet.
 So here ya go...

 Now I know Ron comes off here as a dumb ol' country boy, but let me assure you he is a warm, intelligent, and thoughtful person. He's also a great guy and you will frequently see him walking around the festival grounds in shorts and flip-flops talking with folks and joking around. Last year I saw a young man walk up to Ron and hesitantly ask if he could show him a particular lick on his mandolin. When I passed by a half hour later Ron was sitting under a tree with the same young fella passing the mandolin back and forth while they chatted and laughed and talked. That's how Grey Fox is, and that's how Ron is.
 So if you find yourself in Oak Hill between July 14th and 17th, come look me up. I can be found with the Medical Crew, or wandering around. I expect to be on the overnight shift on Thursday night in addition to the pickup shifts I'll be doing through the weekend. I have to wait for the band schedule to come out before I pick my other shifts. Just ask for the EMT with the longest mustache (or the biggest smile on his face).
 There's a small chance my Son-in-law may wind up on the Main Stage with Del McCoury and Bill Kieth this year, so I'm  keeping my fingers crossed.
Be Safe and Be Strong,

Monday, June 6, 2011

On Live Burn Training (You won't see this on Statter911)

Last week many bloggers were commenting on a "live burn training evolution". I put that in quotes to indicate that it may have been called 'training' but in no way represents what any decent instructor would consider proper training. You can catch Fire Critics take on the incident here. Backwards and Stupid had his take here.
 I am not going to waste your time and mine with what I think of this video. You can guess. I find the whole thing insulting and extremely dangerous. This is how people get killed. When I saw this, the nicest thing that came to my mind was "Freakin' Idiots!"
 But the real point of this post is that we see this stuff show up on YouTube way too often because the perpetrators think this stuff is cool, and not stupid, thoughtless and in some cases, criminal.
 I was exposed to another video on you tube that really struck me as presenting what it took to put on a live burn.
 So what I present to you here is a short clip from live burn training that the Wilmington, VT Fire Department put on for their members a few weeks ago. The video shows acquired structures, properly prepared and cleaned for burning. They used these structures for training over several days. Any Instructor knows what is required to do a burn in an acquired structure, an also knows it is not easy. But Wilmington is a 'far piece' from any training center with a burn building, so their options are limited.
 If you are a Firefighter, you will note that this video is not terribly exciting, but it does show proper training, carefully monitored and controlled is taking place. We get so used to fire that we often make 2 big mistakes: 1) We underestimate what can go wrong, and 2) We forget what it feels like to the newer Firefighter and don't give them time to adjust to this new sensation.
So here's the video Clip.:

 Now that's just a short three and a half minute video that shows an entry and suppression evolution. That's the end of the story. The beginning of the story is all the work it took to make that happen. There is a longer video that shows some of the setup involved to put things together for the drill. You will note this drill ran for 2 days as you watch the following clip. Now I know it's long, but it was never created for this bog or any publication purposes. It only appears today on YouTube because I asked the author to put it up there so the rest of us could learn from it. If you have the time, give it a watch.

Keep in mind these photos don't show all the time it took to clear trees and prep the building by stripping out the stuff that should not be present in a live burn. That's a hell of a lot of work. THIS is what it takes to do live burn training in a rural area. Not throwing a can of flammable liquid in a conex container.
 I'd like to thank Firefighter Melissa Elliott for breaking her presentation into two parts so that I could post it up here for a teaching moment. (I especially enjoyed the music she chose.) I can tell you that the Wilmington Fire Department has a long and proud history dating back to 1858. In these days of municipal crisis and everybody trying to make a living to support their families, the people of Wilmington Vermont can be proud of the Service and Dedication they receive from their Volunteers. These folks know their stuff and are always ready.
 It ain't all bad out there, just sayin'

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I don't mention it here, but I have had a long standing relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. I joined as a Scout back in 1969 and stayed with that Troop until I moved from that town in around 1982. I was serving as Scoutmaster when I left, and turned the Troop over to a close friend who I had first met when his son joined. Before leaving I managed to turn out 2 Eagle Scouts, and they were my proudest accomplishment. The one was destined to be a Doctor according to his Mother's plan but through what he learned in Scouting, wound up becoming a Teacher and followed his heart. During my tenure I served as an instructor on the District Training committee, worked on camp staff, earned my Wood Badge Beads, attended a few National events, etc.
 From 1982 until about 1995 I took a few years off, and then when my son came into Cubs it started all over again. I was very involved and again wound up as Scoutmaster but also served as Associate Adviser for the Order of the Arrow Lodge, attended a few more National events with 'my boys', was graced with the Vigil Honor and the District Award of Merit, Scoutmaster's Award of Merit, and built some more life long relationships. I saw 5 boys get their Eagle during my tenure. I faded from the Troop in around 2005 because my Fire Service duties were taking bigger demands. I still remain as the Institutional Rep and make any events that fit my schedule or when they really need me. Frankly though, I have not been around enough for them as much as I would have liked to.
 I told you all that so that I can tell you this: Today there was an Eagle Court of Honor for a young man who had attained Scouting's highest Rank. I received an invitation as the Institutional Rep, and also as Former Scoutmaster for this young man as well as a friend of the family. I had intended to RSVP but somehow never got around to it. After this last week I had been feeling really down about everything and having been 'out of the loop' with the Troop, I didn't feel I would be missed if I didn't attend. But this morning I gave myself a talking to, and reminded myself that I had put a lot of time in with this young man and he had just completed the path that I had put him on. I forced myself to go, if for no other reason than to shake his hand firmly and offer him a 'well done'. He had earned that and more.
 When I walked into the Firehouse, I fully expected to be chastised for not letting them know if I was coming, and indeed, one of the adults hastily waved me over to where he was setting things up, somebody shoved a program in my hand. "Good, look, so here is your part in the program, take a quick looks at it, same as last time, you know the drill". It was like I had never 'left'.  I looked at the program in my hand and sure enough, they were so sure I would be there that they had printed my name in the areas I was carrying.
 It was a joy to cover my small part of the program and congratulate this young man in public. He had come into to the Troop under my leadership and we spent about 5 years together until I faded away. For the last 3 years or so, he has had a new Scoutmaster with which he has bonded. I knew my time was gone, but I felt good to be there and tell everyone about his growth and where he had started from.
 All the invited dignitaries, in turn, had similar words of congratulations, and I shared his parents joy in this major milestone in this young man's life.
 Having done my part, I relaxed in my seat to enjoy the rest of the ceremony, until they came to the part where the brand new Eagle presents the Mentor's Pin. This is a small pin which bears the Eagle emblem and is awarded by the new Eagle to someone who he has chosen as the mentor he wants to thank the most from his year's as a Scout. I assumed that he would pick his current Scoutmaster. He picked me out and it nearly blew me off the chair. I have not been around for 5 years and yet this 'kid' felt I had made enough of an impact to deserve this?! I was both astounded as well as speechless and completely choked up. No kidding, I had a lump in my throat so big that I couldn't say a word.
 When I sat back down it took me a few minutes to compose myself. When we were getting near the end, they clobbered me again and asked me to come up and say a few words about this young man. I lost it, but the crowd was understanding and they gave me time. I spoke of how this Scout appeared to me when he first joined, some of the trials he endured, a funny anecdote or two, and then I told him about some of my other Eagles and what they had accomplished. I told him of the two that went to West Point, the one who became a Flight Surgeon, and of course the teacher. I told him that I watch my Eagles, and I will watch him too. He has some big shoes to fill.

 When I left the house this morning I thought I was fulfilling yet another community obligation. What I was reminded of, is that all the hours, days and years we put into community service has a big paycheck and we need to recognize when that check comes due. Today was a huge payday for me. I should have never taken that for granted. I put in years of service to my Scouting community and I loved almost every single minute of it. That was good enough for me. I never expected the bonus that this day was to hold for me.
 Here's to all of America's Eagle Scout's, Past, Present, and Future. They are the hope for our world.