Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yet another guest

Ladies and Germs, this comes to you from my firehouse.  Tristan Eley-Durbin is making his WTJ premiere with an post he sent to me about knee jerk reactions from the RIT perspective.  Enjoy...

In my short time in the fire service, it seems to me that we have a mindset of "It's always worked, so why change what we do?". This mindset, in some way, shape, or form is in every firehouse in America.  As unfortunate as it seems, the fire service, as a whole, has a knee jerk reaction to safety issues. It is not my intent to sit and "armchair quarterback" other departments and their practices. It is simply my gut reaction to reading reports regarding firefighter deaths. We should evaluate how we operate constantly, and make revisions as necessary to prevent tragedies.  

I offer for example a department with a lack of RIT equipment. I am not speaking specifically of any incident that has happened. I personally know, and have worked for,  departments that have no concept of RIT, never establish RIT, and have no RIT packs available to them. The department is small, and have had no injuries or LODDs. RIT, in this case, is defined as "going in and getting them out". No organized effort. No specialized training or equipment. Just a bunch of guys rushing in and trying to rescue one of our own. John Wayne-ing it, so to speak.

Now, I'm not trying to bore you, but here is some data according to a RIT study, compiled from hundreds of companies performing the same RIT drills. The study simulated a fire in a large commercial structure. The first due engine stretched a 150 ft attack line into the structure. Four members advanced the hose. Fire conditions worsened, and two firefighters escaped while two were trapped. Firefighter 1 was 40 feet off the end of the hoseline, was unconscious, and had his PASS device activated. Firefighter 2 was directly in contact with the hoseline, had radio contact, was able to move on his own power, and stated that he was running low on air and had lost contact with Firefighter 1. Both firefighters were within 150 feet of the exit and had a clear path. No tricks, no loops in the hose,  no wire or stud boxes to navigate through. Sounds simple, right? On average, around 22 minutes was the time it took to locate, put on air, package and remove the downed firefighters. 12 members were needed to remove the downed firefighters from the structure.

Rambling a bit, lets bring it back in. How long would it take to remove these firefighters if there was no pre established RIT team? The study states that an established RIT team takes 2:30 to enter the building from the time of the mayday. What are the chances of survival of the firefighters if no RIT bags were on site? Would it take a casket riding solemnly in the back of a rig and a harsh NIOSH report for RIT bags to be placed on the rigs, and RIT training to be conducted? Possibly. Knee jerk. That is the absolute worst case scenario. It makes me shudder. Could a proactive member take this through the chain and get this changed? Depends on how hard the "It's always worked" philosophy is ingrained in the heads of the decision makers.

It wasn't my intention to write completely on RIT, but RIT is one task I feel is given without much thought. It's a punishment. Who wants to sit outside and watch everyone work? If activated, though, you become the sole lifeline for one of our own who is having the worst day of their life. Would you want a crew coming to get you who thinks of RIT as a punishment, or as a truly important function that must be executed with the same proficiency and skill of VES?

 If the "It's always worked, why change it" attitude was followed all the time, we would be riding rigs with REAL horse power, using our mustaches to filter out smoke (Or for some of us, just look creepy), and using sprinkler systems consisting of water filled barrels with a dynamite activator (I actually learned something in college!). 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I didn't always want to be a fireman...

Okay, that's not 100% true.  While I was enamored by the men at the firehouse every time we visited my father when he was on duty, I harbored many desires of grand things that I could do when I was a youthful child.  I wanted to be a doctor.  I wanted to drive a garbage truck.  I wanted to be an NFL star.  I wanted to marry the prettiest girl (I did do that), live in the biggest house, drive the nicest car, and live happily ever after. You know, childish dreams.

I went off to college after high school.  Being a fireman was the farthest thing I could think of that I wanted to do with my life, even though the influence had always been there.  I found myself studying Biology and playing football at a small liberal arts college in NC, shocking right?  Before long I quit the football team and became a less than stellar student.  I had come to the point in my life where I was floundering and on the edge of becoming a loser.  My life had no direction, I was unhappy, and I was losing my grip on who I was. Shortly stated: I was not long from being the college dropout loser hanging out at the high school party. Where the idea of becoming a fireman came from, I have no idea.  I'd like to say that it was there all along, and in some deep and dark corner of my brain it probably was.  After making the choice to return home, join the volunteer fire department down the road, get my certifications and degree, and find my place in the world, I regained myself.  The drive that I had possessed in the past came raging back.  Focus had returned.  Attentiveness had returned.   I was me again.  I then began yada, yada, yada.  This story ain't about me.  It's about my boys.

I have an awesome wife who has blessed me with 3 of the best boys that anyone could ever hope to raise.  Luke is 7 1/2, Reid is 4, and Wade is 18 months old.
Hiking in the NC Mountains

When I'm away at work, or teaching, or out of town, being away from them and my wife is difficult.  That's the dichotomy of this job, loving your family and loving it at the same time.  While there is no doubt that they come first and I would walk away from this job in a second if I truly jeopardized my family's happiness, it would be foolish to say that what I do for a living does not have an influence on my kids.  My Dad was a fireman and I know what it's like to be raised in that type of home. 

Like my father, I've never pushed the fire service on my boys.  If they make the choice to follow my path I would be extremely proud, and if they chose something else I would be just as proud.  That being said, my boys are "ate up" with the fire department. 

At the CFFA 660 Stair Climb

Every chance they get to come to the station they jump at the opportunity.  The know the differences between engines, ladders, and rescues.  Each trip to the library brings home at least 2 books that are fire department related.  Each has his own set of turnout gear.  Needless to say, upon my return home after a shift, I have to recant each call I went on, who I was riding the truck with, what we ate, and how many people I helped the previous tour.  They can't seem to get enough and that leaves me exasperated at some times and ecstatic at other times.  I know the pride I had as a child when I got to tell people, "My Daddy is a fireman!"

Luke (L) will make a good B/C.  Reid (R) is a truckie to the bone.

So that leaves me at an impasse. What do I tell them when they are teenagers and come to talk to me about seriously becoming a fireman?

Do I tell them:  Son, this job will chew you up and spit you out.  You will make a meager living, be away long hours, sometimes days at a time.  When you come home from a busy tour you will be bone tired craving sleep but you still have to mow the lawn, clean the gutters, run errands, and a billion other things that must be done regardless of the amount of sleep you didn't get.  You will help societies derelicts, crack heads, prostitutes, and general a-holes whose gratitude to you will never be shown. Do I tell them that their heart will break numerous times in their career due to death and injury of their co-workers?  What can I say?

Do I tell them:  Son, this job is demanding, one of the hardest things you'll ever do.  You must be committed 100%.  If you are, you will bond yourself with some of the finest people that you will ever meet.  There will be times you perform the most daring and dangerous tasks in a hostile environment trying to kill you at every turn and nobody but you and your crew will ever know what you really did.   People will look to you at their most helpless moment knowing that you are there for them, regardless of their social status.  You will make a difference for people who have no one to turn to.  Your co-workers will place their life in your hands and you will gladly lay yours down for them.  You won't make much, but you'll have enough.  You will do something that will give you the most pride you could ever imagine in you life.  You'll know at night when you lay your head on the pillow that you did something good with your life.  You're gonna get hurt, but you'll heal.  Your gonna get mad, but it will pass.  You'll laugh, cry, scream, curse, and pray, sometimes all in the same tour.  If you give it your all, you will be satisfied, and you'll live a happy life.

Yeah, I like the second one.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Brotherhood Looks Like

This topic has been beaten like a dead horse.  We can sit all day long and talk about what we think "Brotherhood" in it's purest form is and isn't. Although I am one of the biggest proponents of calling people out on using the B-word like it's just another empty moniker the likes of buddy or pal, I can't help but bite on this one.  True brotherhood is hard to describe, and NO!  a stupid slogan on a t-shirt will never suffice. Although aptly describing it is as hard as nailing Jello to the wall, sometimes it's right in front of your face.  This is what it looks like:

Yes, it's blurry and for a reason.

We have a fireman in my house that has been tragically diagnosed with throat cancer.  The kicker is that he's one of the few that does not use tobacco in any way.  In all honesty, he's the last one of us that should suffer this horrible trial.  The photo above is a sign up sheet to cover his shifts.  It's all been done in house from the firemen he knows the best.  From the guys that love him. Why should he waste his sick time and vacation in the midst of this struggle?  He won't, we'll cover him. That's what brotherhood looks like.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We are what we see

Sitting in church on Sunday and listening to a pastor speak is not the type of place where I tend to get inspiration for a post on this blog.  However, this past Sunday something he said in his sermon stuck with me.  "We are what we see."  As he expounded on the idea, it spoke volumes about the mentality of mankind and it caused me to once again look at myself in the mirror to figure out who and where I am regarding this job.  If we see hope, we become hopeful, if we see hatred, we become a hateful person, if we see love, we become a loving person.  How does this relate to us?  Here's my take on it:

An old fire service adage says that a bitching fireman is a happy fireman.  I don't think that's necessarily true.  Griping for the sake of griping has no benefit to anyone, yet griping with a purpose is a much different ball of wax.  It's one thing to sit back and whine and complain about the state of your organization.  How many times have you sat at shift change in the morning listening to a gruff senior man pissing and moaning on and on about current events at your firehouse with no positive thing to say.  Eventually you tune them out.  What's worse than that is a young firefighter doing the same because that's the example that was set for him by that same gruff senior man.

In the grand scheme of things, we've got it made at my FD, depending on where your perspective is coming from.  During this economic downturn we've not lost a single company, we've laid nobody off and we are building new stations and FD General Offices.  While there are lots of changes I'd love to see, better insurance, pay raises that we've lost, more apparatus replaced, and various other things there's not a lot I can do to change big ticket items like that.  I can make small differences.  I'm a member of our Union's Health and Safety Committee and we are working on several projects, such as a change in saw blades on our Ladders and Rescues.  Being a right to work state, we have no contract with the city, therefore we have no teeth, so to speak.  Essentially all we are doing is researching and then making a suggestion.  It may go nowhere, but we'll keep fighting the good fight.  That's the only way I know to gripe but offer solutions...I mean, it's not like I can kick in the Chief's door with a laundry list of woes, right?

So what do I see?  In recent weeks I've seen a lot of negative, so that tells me that I'm on the slippery slope to becoming that gruff, mad at the world, loudmouth sitting at the table scowling over a cup of crappy coffee.  I'm human, give me a break.  What's my goal?  Making sure that does not happen. We'll see how it works out over time, and if I come back griping about something in my next post, just know that I'll have a solution at the end of the post.  You may not agree, but it's my world, you just live in it :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stupid Sawzall/Links

 Stupid Sawzall

If you've been keeping up, you'll notice that I've been away on the blogger's injured reserve list.

Let's just say this.  When using a Milwuakee Sawzall, if it kicks back while cutting something and your hand is anywhere near the working end, it will suck your pinky into the area between the 1/4 turn locking nut and the frame of the saw pulverizing your finger repeatedly until you can recover from the shock of the occurrence and release the trigger.  Yes, it happened at the firehouse.  No, I was not wearing my gloves, safety glasses, reflective vest, ANSI/DOT/OSHA/UNICEF approved headwear.  Yes, I learned my lesson;  pain hurts...and if you're gonna be dumb, ya gotta be tough.  Nuff said about that. 


The regular visitors to this site may notice from time to time that the list of links on the right hand side of this column seem to get a little longer as this blog plods on.  I've added a few, but I didn't want to simply place them there without a little fanfare and recognition.  Over the past month or so, there have been several sites brought to my attention and I couldn't be happier to find that there are firemen out there with a knack for writing.  Here are just a few:

Excessive Leather Accessories For Firefighters.   This site is awesome.  Lt. Lemon and Capt. Chaos have grasped the attention of many firemen with a post called "The Brotherhood is a Lie".  I could not agree more with their viewpoint, and for those of you that have not been keeping up, it has generated a ton of buzz in our circle blogs.  I think there have been around 48 comments made and in those comments there are firemen out there all over this great nation that are throwing in their 2 cents worth on what they feel the "brotherhood" of the fire service have evolved into.  Give it a read, subscribe and I promise you they won't let you down.

Queen City Burns.  This site came out of The Queen City in Louisiana, not the one in NC, although I'd love to have a guy on my department like Taj Meyers.  His ability to verbally describe this job astounds me and I'd love to have his knack for hitting the mark with every post I put out.  Check it out, it won't let you down

Fire Combat Warrior  Not to be confused with, this one was e-mailed to me and after a few minutes looking at it I was hooked.  They have workouts, recipes, and a plethora of other great things for you to view.  You can even "get in the game" and submit workouts from your own firehouse.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Alright, ya'll have a bit of reading to do, then I'll catch up with you soon, unless my nail gun gets a little uppity!