Category Archives: FIRE

Would I make a good Cop? Find out what Motorcop thinks

Get over to Uniform Stories to see if my buddy Motorcop thinks I’d make a decent cop.

 

Spoiler alert:  You know I’d get lost on day 1.

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.

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Spring Cleaning – Empty Your Pockets

For some of you, the seasons have shifted due to an unexplained miracle (or the axis of the earth rotating, your call) and Spring Cleaning is in the air.  Your desire to open up the windows and drag a mop around the house is a good thing, not OCD.

 

But I want to focus on something a little more specific to you fire types:  Cleaning out your gear.

Gearcleaningsolutions.com

Since you’re already washing your turnouts once a month and after every fire (or else cancer is your own fault) I want to get down to the nitty gritty of what’s in your pockets.

Personal preference and jurisdiction is going to determine what you carry so don’t worry if someone tells you to carry something you’ll never use.  Figure out what you need and add it but perhaps you need some guidance on what to wear and why.

Here’s the Happy Medic’s advice on spring cleaning your turnout pockets:

Organization-

You need to have a common theme between pants and jacket to start.  I like to use a Right for Fight Left for Life system so that I instinctively know what is where when I need it most.

  • Pants Left (LIFE) Hip Pocket
    • Bail out kit.  You can buy a fancy harness and lifeline if you like, but I keep a 50 foot section of 3/8″ with carabiners on a fig 8 follow through on both ends.  One end is through the bottom of the bag and is for me, the other end deploys out the top of the bag and can be quickly latched around an axe or halligan in a window sill for quick evac.  This is not a descent bag, this is a life or death hang from the window and possibly get rescued bag.
  • Pants Right (Fight) Hip Pocket
    • Cut up bleach bottle “key” for forcing metal gates and latch doors. (If you don’t know what this is let me know and I’ll post how to make and use one!)  Hydrant spanner/gas key tucked into leather work gloves.  Medical gloves.
  • Jacket Left (LIFE) Pocket
    • Flash Hood, Gloves.  Don’t store your gloves on some dinky velcro clip outside your coat, keep them safe inside a pocket.
  • Jacket Right (FIGHT) Pocket
    • Multitool Clippers, medical gloves, 2 wooden door chocks.

 

Anything else wandering through your gear or anything you haven’t trained on in 30 days needs to go bye bye.

I also have on my gear: A firehouse key on pants and jacket, scissor pouch on pants with pens, shears and light.  Flashlight on helmet.  On shift I always add the radio, axe on the SCBA waist strap (You don’t need a Truckman’s belt if you have an SCBA) and box box flashlight from the Engine.

Sadly, now as an RC, I still carry all the same things in my pockets, but instead of an axe I have a reflective vest.  :(

 

Do you carry something I didn’t mention?  Think I should?  Mention it in the comments!

Take this warming feeling to clean and apply it to your gear.  Train on the location until you can deploy anything from your pockets without having to think of where stuff is.

 

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

Top 5 Things Suburban and Rural Firefighters Take for Granted

As a rural firefighter and later a firefighter in a suburban setting there were a number of things I didn’t even realize I had, and as the old song goes, you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone.

This list is a result of my 12 years in the urban setting and constantly wishing I could have these things back:

5.  Pull through bays.

There is indeed a certain romance to backing back into the station each and every time, but late at night on a busy street, standing there blocking traffic so the engine can get back in…wears on you.  I miss the days of simply pulling around back, opening the door and pulling right through, staying nice and warm in my jump seat.

4. Large Apron

As part of my morning checks long ago, we’d pull the engine and ambulance out onto the giant apron in front of the station, fire up the generator, test the pump, give the rigs a wash, all completely pulled out of the bay and with still dozens of feet between the engine  and the sidewalk.  Here in the City we can barely get the driver’s door out of the station before it’s in the street, completely blocking the sidewalk in the process.  We conduct engine tests either double parked out front or down at the corner at a hydrant.

3.  Drive Time

When responding to a building alarm or report of fire getting dressed in full turnouts can be a challenging thing.  In my rural days I was driving alone so I just got dressed before I left.  Suburban firefighting meant I was sometimes in the passenger seat and got dressed on the way to the call.  In the City we’re lucky if we can get our coats on in time, much less full hood and gloves.  If you’ve ever seen a video of urban firefighters partially dressed in safety gear when they arrive it’s not because they’re lazy or not safety conscious but simply because they were so close there was no time to get dressed.

2.  Dinner alternatives

When we were not in the mood to cook at the fire station the suburbs had dozens upon dozens of options for the crew to wander in, radios in tow, and sit down for a meal at the Outback Steakhouse, Applebees or Waffle House.  A part of this ability was the slower call volume, being somewhat certain that your 2 hour dinner would not be interrupted.  Urban firefighters consider it an insult not to cook in the firehouse and besides, where would we park the Engine and Truck and how long would it take to get that table for 9?

1.  Parking

For the first 9 years of my Fire Service career I never parked more than 30 feet from where I was assigned to work for the day.  There was always plenty of parking spaces in front of, along the side and around back of the station.  At most urban stations there is no parking lot, no parking spaces, nothing.  In the City we have to coordinate with off going crews and swap out street parking spots sometimes over a block away.  One of our stations even had to shuttle folks to a nearby decommissioned station 4 blocks away to swap out parking spots.  Yuck.

 

So if you’ve got a parking spot nearby, a chance to grab a restaurant dinner, a drive to the scene long enough to get dressed, a full apron to do your rig checks and a pull through bay back at the station, take a deep breath and enjoy it Brothers and Sisters, because you don’t know how good you have it!

 

Coming soon: the Top 5 Things Urban Firefighters Take for Granted

Want to see me wash and wax MC’s bike for a month?

Well, Kelly informed me recently that I’m lingering in the bottom 5 of fund raisers this year and that I should be embarrassed to be associated with the organization trying a little harder to solicit donations.

 

Motorcop, fellow co-founder of KTKC, chimed in by reminding me that his own fund raising has put me in my little medic place and I should just curl up and cry reached ever so slightly above my own.

 

Was it something I said?

Something I didn’t say?

 

I know Kelly has a big EMS audience and MC a big cop audience…but where are all the firefighters?

If Kelly and MC out fund raise us we’ll be in third place behind the ambulance drivers and the fuzz.  I can’t accept that.

 

SO

 

I offer a Kilted Challenge to my readers:

If I out fund raise MC I will wash and wax his motorcycle once a week for the entire month of October wearing a pink T-shirt.  MC will be allowed to photograph this event and I will post the pic in the top of the sidebar of the blog for the year.

 

Donate early / donate often!

 

CalFire Air Ops up close – VIDEO

Our good pal Dylan, noted BlogStalker, childhood Explorer Scout friend and Chief Programmer at GasdaSoftware got a surprise while out back the other day:

 

CalFire was responding to a slow moving fire that proved difficult to access on Sept 3rd.  It was on site of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a deactivated WWII munitions depot primed for development if anyone can figure out how to remove all the ordinance. While we could smell the smoke at HMHQ Dylan, from Gasda Software, had a far better vantage point.  I’d be curious to hear the pilot’s thoughts about all the kids at the edge of the pond.

 

And yes, that’s a separate helicopter.

 

Thanks for the video Dylan!

Pass your passwords forward please

At last year’s How to Become a Firefighter Workshop here in Northern (some will argue Central, long story) California, I presented on technology in the job hunt, focusing specifically on the pitfalls of social media.  It is a fantastic all day seminar held at the Las Positas Fire College and includes lunch cooked by the students.  The cost of the seminar? $12. Including lunch and a chance to speak to the people hiring you one on one, let them preview your resume etc.  Where was this when I was getting hired?

The seminar attracts Battalion Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Officers from a number of large metropolitan departments and someone you know who writes a blog.  Our pals Judon Cherry, Chris Eldridge, Sam Bradley and Thaddeus Setla helped film the video for the program and this year Judon and the Dridge were there again.  Oh, and I have nothing to do with the kick ass indexed screen shot BTW.  have a look:

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLltS4TQfIE’]

The attendees had some great questions about facebook, twitter, email a whole host of issues, but one comment from the audience stood out and has caught traction recently.

In my presentation I mention that some employers are asking that you friend their HR director on facebook prior to the interview.  When I mentioned that the Chiefs you’re speaking with may want to friend you as well, one of them spoke up from the audience,

“I don’t want to be your friend, I want your password.”

The audience was silent.

If you were one of the final applicants being considered for this job, would you give a prospective employer, or anyone for that matter, your facebook password?

It could be considered an invasion of privacy, but I can’t think of a better way to see what someone does when they think no one is watching.  And with the way that an employee can ruin a department’s reputation with the simple click of “share” I think it is reasonable to ask for it.

So this year, when I gave the presentation, we discussed the privacy settings pages and how to eliminate tags in photos perhaps you wish others had not uploaded, comments on posts that maybe you made late at night after drinking studying, or perhaps something rather inflamatory, deragatory, racist, sexist, heterophobic…you get the idea.

It’s actually a good idea for everyone to visit those pages every few months just to check and see what you look like from the inside of social media.  We make comments to one circle of friends the other circles may find offensive, but is any of that going to be considered immature, dishonest or a misrepresentation of who we really are?  It matters greatly if the three key traits an emploer is looking for are maturity, honesty and trust.

What do you think?

If you got called up for your dream job in the fire service and they asked for your password, what would you do?

Units on the air, standby for the box…

Those words used to make me run.  That is the pre-empt our dispatch gives us when one of their call taker colleagues shouts across the dispatch center “Box going out!”

It means there’s a fire.

In my new staff role I haven’t answered a 911 call, EMS or fire in months.  I’ll be honest, it’s weird.

But today I was in the Chief’s Secretary’s office getting ready for a hospital meeting and heard those words I used to dream of, “Units on the air stand by for the box…”

And I almost didn’t notice.

The light duty firefighters nearby huddled around the radio as the first in engine reported heavy fire from the third floor.  I was more focused on the dozen cases being presented at my meeting and how I would defend the actions of my Paramedics if questioned.

I think I’ve made a turn.

We can all agree my life has been more patient focused than fire, but I never realized how little I would miss the engine.  It kind of makes me wonder if I just accepted the engine work because it meant more patients.  Engine work is pretty straight forward when you boil it down, especially for a layout guy like I was.  Not easy, just straight forward.

“Standby for the box” was what I heard the morning a ceiling fell on me.  “Stand by for the box” is what Vince and Tony heard on the way to the fire that claimed their lives.  And at this moment, when all my brothers and sisters were hearing those same words and stepping up to answer the call, my mind was elsewhere.

It was a powerful moment for me, difficult to describe, even reading this short explanation leaves so much emotion out I wonder if posting this is even worth it.

The drive to the meeting took me near the fire, but not close enough to get caught up in the chaos.  On the way I thought about what I should write about on the blog and nothing came to mind.  All I wanted to do was get to that meeting and remind the doctors and nurses that the reason they can have a meeting about patients who are still alive is because my guys and gals did their jobs.

I can still throw a 24′ aluminum and take a pole on the 50′, advance a 1 3/4″ up a stairwell or re-position the aerial, but my main focus, my passion and my drive is that little room on the third floor where I get to stand up for good patient care.

Call me crazy, but I’m happy.  Stressed, confused, scattered and unsure, but happy.

 

Standby for the box…You guys get this one.  Let me know if anyone’s hurt.