Category Archives: Administrative

Horseplay or Violence in the Workplace? Lebanon, TN Firefighters suspended for choke hold after fart

Firehouse.com is sharing a report from the Lebanon Democrat paper in Lebanon, TN, about an incident that has led to at least 2 suspensions of firefighters.

Initial reports indicated that one firefighter, also a mixed martial arts enthusiast, choked another firefighter.  I was on board with the suspensions based on that information.  However, as I learned in my short 2.5 years in Risk Management, the first version is never what really happened.

So here’s what did happen:

Shenanigans.

Let me explain.

One firefighter had a habit of breaking wind near people and walking away.  Reports indicate he is older than 12 regardless of this form of entertainment.

One firefighter was sitting at the computer when the wind breaker attacked, sending fumes towards his coworker and scurrying into the other room.  Witnesses later stated the co-worker, smelling the offensive gift, gave chase, caught the squeaker and put him in a choke hold.  Words were exchanged and at least 1 person took cell phone video of the event.

The attacker was released by his attacker and suffered no injury but did lose consciousness briefly.

Shenanigans.

This is no different than what happens in countless firehouses across the Nation.

However, your personnel manager may see it differently.  Acting Personnel Director Lee Ann Crosslin disagreed with the finding of the Department that this event was horseplay.  She classified it as workplace violence.

Take a deep breath everyone.

The firefighter who got choked stated he was not humiliated, he suffers no health effects as a result and that the action against him was not malicious.

None of that matters to the third party after the fact.

Much like how sexual harassment now includes bystanders who are uncomfortable with something 2 others actually participating are comfortable with, what passes as hore play, or bonding, by one group of people appears violent to another.

And that other has considerable political power in this case.

We don’t have the full story, not until the video is released by someone that is, so my comments below are based on the article linked above.

Lighten the Fuck up.

All of you.

Someone farts in your direction?  Fart back.

Think farting in someone’s direction is funny? Grow up.

If someone says nothing happened we don’t need to assume they’re suffering from some kind of battered wife-like syndrome, protecting their attacker.

It’s the firehouse.  If what happened in this story is to truly be interpreted as workplace violence I need to be arrested and locked up for life.

There is a fine line here, let’s not forget.  What can start as fun can turn dangerous when the recipient calls Uncle or safety gear or equipment is involved.

Don’t put potatoes in their boots, short sheet the bed.  Run a bag of fluid in the ceiling tiles to drip on their pillow all night.  Send them to get the hose stretcher or to spend the night stirring the tanks, but be careful because someone outside our community may think you’re being mean and, well, suspend you. Or worse.

Regardless of my feelings on this case, or yours, you need to read, understand and follow your local rules and regulations regarding horseplay, pranks and personal interactions.

I’m not sure what bothers me more: That this all started with a fart or that so many political offices got involved.

 

Still Here. Still Sharing.

30 days away from you guys was tough, but I did OK.  I know there’s a hole in your heart from missing my rambling therapy experiment, but fear not fair reader, I’m back.

For reasons I can’t discuss I left the content of this site unchanged for 30 days, at my own request.

Now I can get back to venting, wishing, dreaming and sharing.

Speaking of sharing, those of you who subscribe to Fire Engineering Magazine should keep an eye out for your August 2014 issue which should contain an article about the way to enforce rules and regulations when it comes to sharing media.

“What the frack is sharing media?” you ask?

Sharing Media refers to the ever growing methods and, more importantly reasons, for sharing traditional (photo, paper, magazine, TV) and electronic (facebook, tweet, instagram, video) media.  Social media seems to focus on the facebook and the twitter and the instagram, which all require a set audience or group of friends.  I use Sharing Media to refer to any and all instances where an idea, sentence, paper, image, concept or anything else is shared with another in any format.  This covers internet sites, phone apps, newspaper and magazine articles, even the cork board at the local coffee shop.  The reason for this new definition is not only to expand the definition of media out of the pixels you see here but remind folks that it is the reason to share, not the method, that we should focus on.

In other words, focus on WHY, not HOW.

Most Fire Departments have rules covering the HOW that already cover the non pixelated methods of being foolish.  Simply expand that already existing net and, -boom-

 

You don’t need a social media policy.  You already have a Sharing Media Policy.  Use it.

More on that topic, why WHY is so important and what you as a line firefighter, emt, manager, company or chief officer can do TODAY to get out of the digital swamp of social media restriction in the upcoming (I’ve been told) issue.

As always I welcome you feedback on that and any other ramblings you find on these pixels, in other articles, forums or sites, in the interwebs or magazines.  I stand behind all my shared media and always consider the WHY before I share.  There’s a lot I want to share but have chosen not to.

Thanks for coming back and keep coming back as lots of product reviews are in the works including the flashlight I wish they sent me 2 of and a pair of boots without laces.  No, they’re not the Nikes from Back to the Future.

Above all be safe!

-HM

Celebrating the Voices

I hear voices.

At least I used to hear voices, before I took this desk job at Headquarters, but before that, in the field, I heard voices.

The voices woke me from my sleep and interrupted meals more often than not and always seemed to know someone was ill or injured.  Most of the time anyway.

For all my griping about MPDS, dispatchers and call takers, they still show up everyday to do a job I would fake a seizure to not have to do.

They take the confused, rambling mumblings of someone, code it, send it and away I go to deal with the problem.  So what if it’s not always what they say it is, all they’re doing is telling us what someone told them.

And many times, after listening to some of these calls for QA purposes, “told” isn’t exactly the right word.

A man is shouting to please hurry! please hurry! but won’t say why or what is wrong.  He simply says please hurry.

The woman holding the lifeless baby can’t get a word through her screaming but the voice still tries to talk her through CPR.

The whispers of the young boy hiding in the closet while someone assaults his older brother in another room are barely discernible because the call taker next to them is dealing with the screaming mother from before.

The voices belong to a group of folks who aim to bring a few moments of sanity to an insane world, and all over the phone and the radio.

Call them dispatchers, broadcasters, call takers, whatever, they still always answer the phone and will always answer the radio when you need them to.

So call up your local dispatch center and see if they have an event planned.  If not, step up and put something together.

Now at Uniform Stories

Your pal Happy is proud to be included as a guest blogger over at Uniform Stories.

Uniform Stories allows you to upload a video about your experiences in uniform, no matter the type, and you know I’ll tell you that is a powerful medium.

Head on over and take a look at the site and watch a few videos and I invite you to upload your own.

If your uniform could tell 1 story, what would it be?

See you there.

Suicide: Know when to ask for help

Pussy.  Wimp.  Lightweight.

 

All things you think people will call you when you ask for help.

They went to the same call you did, they’re fine.  They’re not.

They went through a divorce just like you did and they’re fine.  They’re not.

I failed and they didn’t because they’re better than me.  They’re not.

 

“They” are going through the exact same mental roller coaster you are.  I’ve been there to a certain extent.  When I got hurt I went through every emotion I’ve ever known from thrilling excitement getting back on the Engine to crushing depression that I was one call away from being killed in a fire.  I’ve been confused, conflicted, felt like screaming.  Screamed (it helps) and even cried like a baby.

Dealing with depression can be hard, is hard, will be hard.  Regardless of what people want to tell you, things aren’t always going to be better.  One day you’ll look back on today and be willing to swap feelings for anything.  The trick is going to be what you do about it today.

 

No one controls you but you.  The feelings you feel, the things you think, the situations you run out over and over and over in your head until they get so loud it feels like they’re going to come bursting out of your forehead will only get worse unless you let them out.  Only you have the power to release them.

Start a journal, write your feelings on a single piece of paper.  Get out all the negativity, anger, hate and everything else Yoda warns us about the dark side and look at it.  It’s outside your head and nothing is wrong with that.  Now destroy it.  Destroy all the hurt.  It feels good.  Then take a deep breath and feel the emptiness the hate has left.

 

What will you do with it?

This is the part no one tells you about PTSD, that you can address and overcome your fears rather easily, but even scarier is what might take their place.  If your thoughts were that dark before, what will happen now?  Now there is room for worse!

And for better.

Some fill that void with faith, companionship, adventure, music or art.

Others fill the void with solitude, smoke and the bottle.

 

What you do with the space you make is up to you, but I can tell you from experience that looking for a new challenge every day will lead you to places your old self never imagined.

Some departments offer Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) but others do not.  It is important to have an understanding of what to expect from your healing process.

I did a brief series on CISD using the band OKGO:

Part I   Part II  Part III  Part IV  Part V

The hardest part is knowing when to ask for help and realizing that anyone and everyone that tells you some bullshit line about having to have thick skin in this business is falling apart inside just like you and may actually want YOU to help THEM, but they’re afraid to ask.

They’re afraid you’ll call them a pussy or wimp or lightweight, laugh at their sorrow because they can’t take it while you’re fine.

Asking for help early can break the cycle of depression not only for you, but for your coworkers, friends and family.

 

I don’t understand suicide and I never will.  It’s a coward’s move and no one can convince me otherwise.  Besides, why not ask for help and avoid the whole mess to begin with?

There are a number of ways to find help, one of which is by following the Code Green Campaign on Facebook.  Click the green star and follow, talk, heal.

Open, Pending

As the default Risk Management guy for my agency (until the new gig kicks in that is) I get routed all manner of citizen complaint that has anything to do with the Ambulances.

As a result I often have the opportunity to do some public relations work right there on the phone.

Did the mean Paramedics stab you with a needle?  Let me just take a look at your chart here…oh.  It says here you’re a known diabetic and had a blood sugar of 21.  Yes, Sir.  Yes I understand you have trouble remembering to take you medicine.  Yes I do think they should have woken you up first before stabbing you with the needle.  But here’s the thing…

Problem solved.

Most complaints seem to come in about 2-4 weeks following the date of service.

Our billing turn around is about 2-4 weeks.

Total coincidence I’m sure, but every now and again I get a phone call that brightens my day.  Often it has to do with someone most certainly under the influence of a central nervous system depressant and their attempt to recover said intoxicant from the Paramedics that took it.

Take Eddie Dean(Not his real name, but think of Eddie from the Dark Tower series).  Eddie called me doing his best Tommy Chong impression, right down to forgetting to answer some of my questions until after I ask “are you still there Eddie?” “Wha?”

Boils down to this:  Eddie is refusing to pay the ambulance bill because the Paramedics stole his marijuana.  Tough part on this one is that Eddie seriously needed some aggressive ALS care a few weeks back and I’ve got a gold star chart to prove it.  He mixed up a few prescriptions for a few diagnosed ailments and…BAM…altered, parastesias, the whole 9.  Most complaints revolve around fizzled attempts at a Lawsuit Chart, which still has to be paid prior to their surely losing case being heard.

Eddie is worried the Paramedics thought he was high at the time, which he claims he was not and I believe him…until he starts to try to explain how high he is right now.  While on the phone with me.  “Like…like right now, I’m able to smoke some and feel good, but I didn’t smoke a lot that night.”

He swears his girlfriend can corroborate that the Paramedics took his weed so I ask for her number to call her.  Eddie didn’t think that all the way through and is asking that I not call her right away, that he needs to call her first to tell her what to say.

Smooth move, Eddie.

On the answering machine at my office is a message that ends with “If this is a pressing clinical matter, please call (my cell phone number).”

Eddie left me three messages yesterday (Saturday) moderately sober and begging me to call him immediately so I can talk to his girlfriend who “can tell you more about what happened because I talked to her already.”

So now I get to hang onto an open file about how while in the midst of a code 3 scene time of less than 11 minutes  at an 8th floor apartment, my crew somehow had time to grab a few little green bags.

Marked:Open, Pending

 

Overheard in the CQI Office

*Department issued cell phone ringing with hip electronic themed achat cialis tone*

HM (Our hero): “Good afternoon, EMS CQI, Captain Schorr”

SM (Southern Ma’am-Caller with an almost comical southern accent): “This is Janine from General Freight we have a driver trying to deliver and your gates are locked. Can you send someone to the North Field gates?”

HM: “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.  Who are you trying to reach?”

SM: “Sweetie, I doubt it, just get someone out to the gate for me…m’kay?”

HM: “Ma’am you called the San Francisco Fire Department.  Is your driver in San Francisco?”

SM: “Sweetie if he is he sure is lost.  How ’bout you just get someone out to the north gate and let us in OK?”

HM: “I believe someone gave you the wrong number Ma’am, I’m in a little office in San Francisco.  Can you read the number back to me?”

SM: “I need to speak to your supervisor unless you get someone to…oh…oh my…sorrybye”*click

Yup…never a dull moment in CQI.

 

SCHORR0-R6-037-17

Comments on ‘a flickering flame’ by Captain Chair Confessions OR How to confine burnout to the area of origin

Fellow EMS Blogger Captain Chair Confessions (CCC) has a post up that will likely sound familiar to anyone who has spent more than 10 days in EMS.

CCC is experiencing the first smoldering effects of burn out.

The reason CCC is going to recover and grow from this experience is their ability to come out and talk about it.  Granted, it’s more of a 1 way conversation considering the way the interwebs works, but it’s enough.

Simply recognizing something is happening is the first sign of recovery believe it or not.

I know CCC is feeling more than they are writing, and that’s OK, because everything will come out in the end.  Every emotion, every angry thought hidden by a forced smile with teeth clenched on a transport everyone knows is unnecessary, everything will see the light of day.

That flickering flame CCC is feeling is easy to ignore and is often missed because of pride.  Misplaced pride, but pride just the same.  We tell ourselves that we need to toughen up, grin and bear it, grow a pair or some other lie we tell ourselves and ignore the growing flickering flame.

Worst part is, at this small stage the flame is easy to extinguish.  Even the softest of breezes causes it to waver.  Believe it or not, simply saying your frustrations out loud can be enough to knock down the tiny flame.  Of course the fuel still remains and needs to be dealt with, but try taking a candle apart while it’s burning and you’re going to get hurt, spread a fire and be in worse condition than you are now.

The amount of fuel in EMS is staggering and I’ve seen shovels on both sides adding more.  Admin needs more transports to meet payroll, response times need to be faster, posting moves aren’t efficient enough…you know the complaints.  At the same time patients are getting less and less emergent and are calling more often looking for the quick service we’ve spent 40 years convincing them they needed.

Somewhere between a missed lunch and an angry call from the QI Captain you run a call like the one CCC had and the flame is back, flickering away in the back of your mind, ready to grow unchecked as soon as it can.

Don’t ignore that flickering, fluttering light.  Talk to someone, anyone, write a letter and throw it away, get the frustration out of your system.  Ever heard of screaming?  Go for it.  Find a local supermarket and ask them if you can borrow their walk in fridge for a minute.  Shut the door and scream.  Go ahead, I speak from experience when I tell you that the sky is a little brighter when you emerge.

From there attack the problem.  Get involved, get active and if things can’t change, then you have to.  Staying in a broken system that refuses to change isn’t healthy for you or your patients.  Move.

Again, from experience, it helps.  I got up, got out and landed somewhere where I eventually, just this last week, had a chance to rewrite our C-spine precautions policy.  And it might just pass.

It took a long time to get where I am, but the flickering flame I spotted when I got hurt was doused when I first stepped into this little room on the internet and began to scream.

And CCC is doing the same thing.

Keep strong Brother (or Sister)!

 

If you feel that flickering of burn out and want to vent, drop me an email, I’ll read it, or not, whatever, just talk to someone, anyone.

You’ll be glad you did.

@KYECOMMUTENBC

Proper use of Long Spine Board pre-hospital

Friend of the blog Nick Williams sent a photo to me about Monday’s commuter train derailment in Chicago that left over 30 injured.  It was upon closer inspection of the photo by KyeCommuteNBC that I almost spit beer onto the screen tonight.

Take a look at this photo for proof that long spine boards are an important tool in the pre-hospital setting.

 

@KYECOMMUTENBC
@KYECOMMUTENBC

Without that long board, someone could have been injured…

All Stop! Quick Quiet!

It’s been a while since I took one of those famous blogger breaks and considering the time between posts these days you may not have noticed me stepping away from the keyboard for a bit, but I need to do so for a little while. I’ll leave it vaguely there.

-HM