Station Tour + Fire Safety + Training = OCFA Doing it right

You new folks may or may not know why they call me the Happy Medic, but for this post you need a refresher on the Angry Captain.

The Angry Captain was a name given to my father, a retired Fire Captain, because of the way he handled logistics when the USAR team was deployed.  He was a stickler for receipts.  Long story.

But long before he was the Angry Captain, he worked at a firehouse in Orange County, CA.  He was assigned to this house during the years I decided to seek a career in the fire service.  I rode along on Engine 4 as an Explorer and the crew there became my second family as well.


When the Orange County Fire Authority posted this video to their Facebook page I was curious to see what other agencies are doing for inter-Department training using video.

It’s a great tool for standardizing station tours as well as working in home fire safety tips and I recommend it for anyone who ever gets visitors.

OCFA Station Tour Video from Orange County Fire Authority on Vimeo.


So much has changed to that house I almost didn’t recognize it, kind of like seeing someone living in your childhood home long after you moved out.

Does your agency have a standardized tour or does the junior member have to wing it?


ring ring

We’ve been here at Station 51, the San Francisco Fire Department’s newest fire house, for just over a year.  As you may recall we took over for the Federal Firefighter’s who were no longer going to be staffing the Presidio of San Francisco.

We moved into the almost 100 years young firehouse and began to make it our home.

Funny thing about old houses though, is that they have quirks and this house is no exception.


My absolute favorite thing is the incredible number of phone jacks here.  There are dozens of all shapes and ages.  In the old apparatus garage, now a make shift gym we plugged in a phone to answer when exercising.  Makes sense, but it never rang.  You can make calls on it just fine, but it never rang when the other 2 house lines would.  We dismissed it as a broken ringer since all of our phones are hand me downs.

Then one morning I heard a faint ringing coming from he gym.  Curious, I went to investigate.


It was ringing.


I think we have Rod Serling’s old phone because the people that call that number are the most interesting people I have ever spoken to.  They often have no idea they have called a fire house, or are using a telephone to begin with.

One woman was calling to ask if I would give her $5 to get home to her dog.  When I asked where she was she admitted she wasn’t sure and hung up.

Another woman called and after I answered “firehouse” which is how we answer the non official phone, she asked “Is this AT&T?”. “Uh, no, this is a San Francisco Firehouse.” “Are you sure?” “Quite sure.”

Sometimes we get butt dialed and I try to listen to hear if I can figure out where these people are.

Could they all be in one place?  Could it be a prank?  If it is it is the most well thought through prank I’ve ever been hit with since the calls keep getting weirder and weirder.

Just the other morning I was on my way out when it rang and I ran to answer it.


“I’m trying to find out about a fire extinguisher?”

“OK, how can I help?”

“It’s gone off the wall.  Did you guys take it or what?”

A semi-fair question, not the first time I’ve heard it.

“Where are you right now?” Thinking the answer ‘home’ or ‘at work’ would come next…

“I’m in a bathroom and there’s a sign that says fire extinguisher but no hook or anything.”

“Sir, what City are you in?”

“Why do you need to know?” *click*


The pace of speech and accent would have caused anyone on the other line to crack up laughing if it was a prank.


I love that phone.

Silence is golden. So is fire.

An automatic alarm call is not unlike getting the elderly disoriented call on the EMS side.  There’s a lot of investigating involved and most times it’s something simple.

But as we all know, other times, it’s not.


An automatic alarm is ringing at an apartment building.


Alarm bells in my agency are handled by a minimum of one engine, one truck and a Battalion Chief.  This allows us to do a pretty darn good investigation and get started working if the alarm turns out to be the real deal.

As we pull up we notice no one outside and no alarm ringing.  Odd.

Inside to the alarm panel and it has been silenced, but is still telling us trouble on the third floor.

As we begin to climb the stairs to the third floor a man emerges from the ground floor unit waving his arms and pushing us out of the building.  Well, he’s trying to anyway.

“I was painting and set it off, no fire here! No fire here!”

As we get up to the third floor there is not only a smell of burnt food, but the faint ringing of a smoke detector.

“Control, balance this alarm to a full box” we hear over the air from the truck crew on the roof.

“We’ve got heavy smoke now from a skylight, third floor bravo side.”

Entry is made into the unit and we find a woman standing in her living room, the only room in the house not banked with smoke.  The open window is allowing horizontal ventilation for the pot of oil in her kitchen that is now extending into her cabinets.

It’s a quick and easy job removing the pot of oil and knocking down the fire with the pump can and we let the companies coming in behind us search for extension.

The woman is surprised it took us so long to get there, telling us the fire had been burning for over 10 minutes and the alarm bells only rang for a few moments, then were silenced.  She thought that meant we had arrived.  She was unharmed and we decided not to tell her about the man downstairs who silenced the alarm.

The Chief downstairs was taking care of that for us.


So many times we arrive to alarms silenced by occupants who don’t like the noise or inconvenience of the alarm going off.  Tough.  When it rings, get out and wait for us to investigate.  When it’s safe we’ll let you back in.

New Text MSG – CPR Needed

We all know about the San Ramon Valley Fire Department’s revolutionary citizen dispatching system for cardiac arrests, or iphone CPR app called “Fire Department.”

What we didn’t know until the cameras started rolling at Station 7 yesterday was that the San Francisco Fire Department will also be joining in releasing the Fire Department app ( to assist in getting bystander CPR on scene quicker.

I had the opportunity to speak with Chief Price from San Ramon Valley Fire after a brief presentation about the app and it’s history at a recent EMS Committee meeting far outside San Francisco.  The inspiration was perfect.

Out to lunch one afternoon with his IT folks, Chief Price heard, then saw an engine company roll up lights and sirens.  When he arose to see what was happening, he learned that literally inches away from him, in the store that shared a wall with his, was an SCA victim.  he has an AED in his company car.  He has a BVM in the car as well, yet there was no notification, no person running from store to store looking for help.

We now know that the sooner we can start compressions the better, but 4 minutes to code the call, send it out and respond is 4 minutes too long.

The Fire Department app may be poorly named (CPR app was already taken) but it also expands and allows local agencies to activate persons of specific experience and training, not by keeping a phone tree (sooooo 2008) but simply sending out a text that activates an app that tells your new citizen rescuers where to go and what to do.

Any department looking for community outreach and increasing SCA survival should really be looking into developing this.  The code is available, just contact them.

If you’re the social media person in your department, download the app and take it into the Chief’s office and show them.  I haven’t made my appointment to go show it to Chief Hayes-White and now I know I don’t have too.  I WILL however give credit for this to Thaddeus Setla and Mark Glencorse who sat down in her office in November of 2009 and spoke about the power of social media, twitter, facebook and building a community using mobile technology.  They may have just planted the seed that grew into what could be an amazing opportunity to mobilize a silent partner, the public.

You’d think this is the kind of thing the Department would ask social media folks about ahead of time.  Like those that work there?  I’ll be submitting memo after memo trying to get on the team that steers this app.  Why the district attorney is involved is beyond me, I’ll see if I can find out. EDIT – Just got an email from the DA’s office.  THEY were the ones that saw the potential and took it to the Chief’s office and that is why the DA is present.

If you are still entirely unsure what I’m talking about, visit this site for more info on the app, San Ramon Valley CA and keep a lookout for updates on when your service could begin dispatching citizens to start CPR before your rigs are even in drive.

Epiosde 10 of the Crossover – Quit being stupid!

Happy and Motor are at it again, finally, and this time calling out some stupid things done by stupid people while representing EMS, fire and police. From the ambulance company who lost $1 million to the 27 year old DUI while driving a fire truck and a special comment from Motorcop about a narcotics officer in Happy’s area caught stealing and selling narcotics. Quit being stupid!


the Crossover Show – Episode 7 FSTs and the News

Another installment of my mother’s favorite podcast is up and live featuring myself and the ever talented Motorcop of

This week he discusses some of the news stories from the LEO perspective including blood draws for DUI and a man shot for pointing a hose nozzle at police. I mention the New Mexico EMT recovering from a head on collision on I-25 and how many ambulance accidents could be avoided entirely.

News of Scarlett Johannsen’s divorce makes the list, as do more listener questions.

Speaking of listener questions, did you know you can now CALL INTO the show? Well, not really, but admit it, you were excited for a second. Leave a voicemail at 313 451-HMMC and we’ll answer your question on the next show.
What will that topic be? Listen to episode 7 for details. We’ve actually planned a topic. GASP!

Episode 7

You can also subscribe to the show feed HERE

We have been busy little bees indeed.

You Make the Call – Resources Needed Elsewhere? What happened

This situation happened to, yes you guessed it, me when I was in the Officer’s seat for a few hours and we went shopping. We were so close to this alarm that we were on scene and in pump before the dispatch was completed.

On the surface we have a 3 story type 5 (Balloon frame ordinary construction) with similar buildings on both sides, 1/8″ apart not allowing for the “hot lap” so sought after in classes.

Soon after my firefighter shut down the power to the buzzing elevator box, my immediate concern was for what was behind the wall the box was bolted to and where the elevator motor room was.

As the balance of the box alarm assignment began to arrive I updated the Battalion Chief that we had no fire so far, but were checking for extension of an electrical box to an elevator control. Our truck companies carry Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) and we certainly needed one since this box turned out to be mounted on an exterior wall, meaning the only access was through the interior wall of the building next door.

Until we could confirm there was no extension, this situation gets the bulk of the resources assigned to it.

Behind all the clothes and storage was the elevator motor room, which was indeed charged with smoke, almost hiding the burnt out motor and smoldering wires. The electrical conduit served as a tiny chimney for the small motor room and was the reason the garage smoke seemed so light. The motor had faulted, causing the electrical box to trip. It was warm, but not hot, but the conduit fastened to the outside of the wall was hotter and was a bright white on the TIC.

If you said continue the assignment until confirmation of conditions, you made the right call.


So many strive to get their names in the paper, or on a research paper.

Many in the public safety field were drawn to the lights and sirens and can’t seem to see past the working fires and trauma codes to see what this job is really all about: People.

If we forget why we are here we can very easily get distracted by the fancy tools and flashing gadgets at our disposal at the scene of a fire or in the bedroom of a sick person.

On a recent building inspection, my mind wandering from the exits to what’s next for #CoEMS, what I’m cooking for lunch and if I’ll get relieved tomorrow on time, I heard an unfamiliar voice call my name.


She said as if decades had passed since our last embrace on a beach, or in an airport, or some other meaningful setting.

“Um, yeah…” I reply, not sure what will happen next.

A hug.

Still wondering what was happening and getting an awkward grin from one firefighter and a “You go boy!” look from another (the female I might add) I lean back, respectfully, and look in her eyes, which are tearing.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” The woman said as her co-workers were emerging from their cubicles to see why their friend was hugging the fireman.

“I’m sorry,” my mind is racing, an old friend, one of my wife’s friends, who is this woman?

“No, I…um…have we met?”

“You took me to the hospital two years ago.  My stomach hurt and you carried me downstairs and took me in.  You told the worst jokes in the ambulance,” OK, she HAS met me, “I thought it was just gas, but you were worried and it turns out I was pregnant.  She turns 1 in the fall!”

She hugged me again and I had no clue who she was, but clearly I had made an impression without doing so on myself.

That is the kind of recognition we should all be striving for and I now no longer care if I ever get my name on anything else in this world.

And no, the child was not named after me.  My officer asked that one.  Way to ruin a mood, Capt.