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.

the Crossover Episode 18 – Where’s your car dude?

The boys are back in what can only be described as their Christmas Show.  They discuss how to stay safe when out shopping, what a cassette tape and a pencil will never show our children and why the Elf on the Shelf might just make up for it.

 

Motorcop from Motorcopblog.com joins me for another 45 minutes of the internet’s only Police/EMS/Fire podcast!

 

The show is now barely legal.  That alone should get you to click play!

EPISODE 18

From the Archives Oct 2 2008 – Assist a Citizen


It doesn’t get more vague than this. When nothing fits, they call it “assist a citizen.” Well, on this day I happen to be assigned to a very specialized unit, a Ladder Truck that specializes in forcible entry and ventilation at fires, not to mention search and rescue. For those with no fire service background…The truck with the big ladder and the steering wheel in the back.

THE EMERGENCY
Someone at City Hall has called asking for help at an address in a questionable neighborhood. Upon arrival the very large and heavily equipped unit finds a man and woman looking into a storm grate near a van…wait for it…no this is good…parked in a red zone. They dropped their keys and can’t move the van.

THE ACTION
We establish that yes, they are in fact calling for help for lost keys and the van is in the red zone, “Just real quick while I checked in on a friend.” This neighborhood is famous for drug use and I was pretty sure I saw a person using this grate as a toilet earlier in the day so I advised the man that the auto club may be the best way to go in this situation. “But the Mayor said you would get the keys for us.” “Oh really?” We asked. Gloved up and wondering how to get this old grate off the odor was indescribable. Just as we figured a winching system to pull the heavy grate up and look for the keys we heard from the man behind us, “Don’t worry Hon, this is what these men are trained for.”
I took a deep breath, nearly gagged, and sighed. It reminded me of those credit card ads. You know: 5 Firefighters for 1.5 hours $750, 1 Ladder Truck $375,000, 1 damaged storm grate $500, watching the Fire Department recover your urine soaked keys while you were parked in a red zone, priceless.

10 House “Still Standing”

Each year I choose 1 story to share in an effort to keep alive the memory of those who died. Buying a sticker or a T-shirt that says “Never Forget” isn’t enough, heck it’s nothing. Learning about the lives of those who went into that morning not knowing if they would be coming out and sharing their stories with others is the only way to remember and keep them alive in our hearts.
I used to think the ancient Egyptians were foolish for claiming they were going to live forever, yet we still speak their names and honor their traditions in our museums and textbooks. They truly did accomplish living forever and if we want these men to be remembered in the same way we must continue to share their stories and speak their names aloud.
In my search for a story to share about those who died on September 11th, I kept coming back to a number: 10.  10 years, 10 Engine, Ladder 10…10 House…

A firehouse is much like a family and when a member of a family dies it can have an impact on the survivors. But what if more than 1 dies? Or 2. What about 6?

This year I share the memories of 10 House and the day she lost 6 of her children.

 

10 House is the quarters of Engine 10 and Ladder 10 who, in 1984, adopted the logo of a firefighter straddling the tops of the twin towers on fire reading “First due at the big one.” And they were.  Reports from survivors say that even as they rolled out the door there were already bodies in the street.
The firehouse is on Liberty Street directly across the street from the World Trade Center. The house survived the collapse and was re-opened after getting fixed up, but her family is still healing.
Both companies were established in 1865, later moving to the same house.  It is one of the few houses where the engine and ladder companies happen to have the same numbers. For almost 150 years she saw only 3 deaths in the line of duty, on that September morning the number would triple.

Lt. Gregg Arthur Atlas – Aged 44 years, Lieutenant Engine 10

Firefighter Paul Pansini – Father of 3 children, Firefighter Engine 10

Lt. Stephen Gary Harrell – Age 44, Member of 10 House assigned to Battalion 7

Sean Patrick Tallon – 26, Marine Reservist and only weeks away from completing Probationary status on Ladder 10.

Jeffrey James Olsen – Age 31, Firefighter Ladder 10

James J. Corrigan – Retired Captain from 10 House, oversaw Fire and Safety Operation for the WTC complex

 

The house was a gathering point for those wishing to visit the FDNY to offer their condolences.  Like many houses it was covered with patches and shirts from visiting firefighters, letting the members know they were in others’ thoughts.  A beautiful memorial was erected inside dedicated to the 6 members who died and included was a newer plaque honoring the 3 that had fallen between 1867 and 2000.

10 House became the site of a 56 foot bronze relief sculpture donated by Holland & Knight , a Law Office, who lost  employee Glenn J. Winuk, also a volunteer firefighter, when 10 House lost her children.  The relief was dedicated in 2006 and is the only 9/11 related site on my list of things to see when I visit New York later in the month.

I don’t want to see where 10 House lost, I want to see where she lives on.

You can learn more about 10 House on their excellent website.

2009’s memory

2010’s memory

Probie, probie, probie…

A brand new class of recruits has graduated from the Division of Training and are now settling into the firehouses throughout the City.  I applaud them for making it through and for giving it their all to be welcomed into their probie houses for the first 4 month rotation.

They will either spend those 4 months assigned to an engine or truck company, then another 4 months on the other prior to being retested and released into the wild known as “Unassigned.”

Having a probie in the house is both a blessing and a curse.

  • First of all, no more toilets to clean when there’s a probie about.  But chances are their last job didn’t have them doing janitorial skills for 2 hours a morning, so usually it has to be redone.
  • They’re behind on the cooking charts, so we get a break from cooking for a bit.  Again, unlikely they cooked for 9 at their last job, so the portions will be off for a few weeks.
  • We won’t have to sit by the phone on the day watch anymore. Or will we?  When the probie answers the phone, then sheepishly looks around the room of people they just introduced themselves to and asks “Is there a Justin here today?” we might as well just keep on answering it.
  • Drills drills drills.  And not the regular go grab a hydrant and flow some water drills, but the go through it 50 times in 50 different ways drills since we’ll be trusting the newbie with our lives as soon as 2 minutes from now if we catch a fire.
  • Speaking of fire, no nozzle time for a bit, probie needs the experience.  Fine by me, I’m a layout guy anyhow.
  • One less person to trade with in house.
  • More details to other houses since the probie needs to stay with a regular officer.  Pack your bags.

 

But in the end, they need to fit in with the company they’re assigned to.  Too often in recent years probie classes have hit the floor on day 1 with a sigh of relief that they finally “made it.”  Wrong attitude McFly.  Stepping foot into our house, our home, is not your destination.  You are a guest.  A regular guest, but a guest just the same.

That means full station uniform at all times, even in the morning before you get relieved.  You will offer to take the nightwatch and not take no for an answer.

It means that wen you are cleared to dress down for PT, you allow time to get clean and back into uniform prior to the meal.

Being a guest also means not lounging on the couch, no matter what the senior members may be doing.  Grab a manual or a couple fathoms of rope and make yourself busy.

This is your time to get up to speed, not downshift.  You may think you’ve got it made and have crested the plateau, but fortunately in this business, one accomplishment simply leads to another opportunity to improve, excel and advance.

 

Welcome probies, now get upstairs and clean the Rescue Captain’s room!

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.

THE EMERGENCY

An automatic alarm is ringing at an apartment building.

THE ACTION

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.

the Crossover Episode 15 – DC Needs their heads examined

The Happy Medic and Motorcop are back with a look into the Washington DC idea of preventing crime using unarmed firefighters, then some tips on how to answer the dreaded oral boards question “Why do you want this job” and we finish with an exciting announcement about cancer and the month of September.

EPISODE 15

You Make the Call – Stove Fire

You are assigned to a three person engine company dispatched to a reported kitchen fire in a restaurant.  On arrival you have light smoke showing and a manager advises you a cutting board is on fire on the stove top and that all employees and patrons have exited and are accounted for.

The building is 3 story type 5 with the top 2 floors residential.

Conditions inside are smoky but the kitchen area is visible from outside and only 20 feet inside the front door. It is open to the dining area, only a half wall separates the kitchen from the rest of the area.  You observe flame across 8 burners climbing 2-3 feet towards the vent.

 

All utilities, ventilation, search and other concerns are being handled by other responders.

 

Your selection of suppression devices is as follows:

1)Water extinguisher

2)CO2 extinguisher

3)150′ 1 3/4″ preconnect

4)1″ booster reel

 

Which do you choose and why?  You Make the Call.