Sunday, September 25, 2011

Common Sense

I read a great article recently by Jerry Knapp in Size Up (Issue 2, 2011) He is emphatic in his interest in firefighter safety, but argues quite persuasively--at least to me--that perhaps we have moved away from common sense, personal responsibility, and managing our people instead of expecting technology to do it.

He begins with a discussion of a New York state law requiring fire departments to purchase bail out bags for their firefighters if they handle buildings over one story (and who doesn't) high. This gets to the root of a politically incorrect opinion I have held for years; namely that many of the firefighter survivial classes are incorrectly focused primarily on techniques instead of something more important--situational awareness and size-up. Let's teach how to avoid getting into trouble in the first place rather than simply how to get out of it. As one who has done the head first ladder slide for real, I can tell you that if you have to do it to stay alive, it comes real natural.

Knapp's seat belt discussion is a good one as well. I full agree that seat belts make things safer. However, instead of coming up with workable user friendly designs, the apparatus instead now has bells, buzzers, and interlocks to make us use them. This raises a few issues. Not forcing the manufacturers to come up with something practical, they add costs (and profit) to pieces by the addition of bells and whistles. It also challenges some of our bright young firefighters to come up with ways to by-pass said safeguards; a lose-lose situation. Lastly it shows our difficulties in managing our own people and culture. As Jerry points out, if the Lieutenant in the seat turned around and made sure everyone was buckled in before the wheels turned, would we need a computer to tell us the rig shouldn't move? Will this change? Definitely, but it will take some time. An analogy would be the path taken to mandatory SCBA usage and the equipment we have today versus thirty years ago. I suspect some of our more "seasoned folks will nod their head at their memories of this.

While there is nothing more important than safety, common sense needs to come along for the ride.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Justice? I don't think so.....

As a teenager, riding the ambulanced educated me first hand to the ugly side of human nature. The baby's name was Bucky; one that I remember even though the call was thirty plus years ago. His little body was bruised, battered, and covered with cigarette burns. He stopped breathing on us a couple of times, but we got him going again, at least in the short term.

Bear, the guy driving that night, had all he could do not to punch the mother right in the face as she sat along side him for the run to the hospital. We knew what had happened to this kid and who had done it.

Bucky died the next die. We were told the parents got eighteen months; one for each of his. Didn't then and doesn't now seem like justice to me...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Country Mom's

The boy sat on the ground next to the barn, holding his injured arm. He had been directing his father, who was backing up a horse trailer, and somehow his arm had gotten caught between the trailer and the building. His dad quickly realized and pulled the vehicle forward, freeing him. They called for the ambulance, and being only a short distance away, I took a ride over.

The injuries didn't look serious. There was no laceration and no obvious deformity, and otherwise, the boy was in good shape. Naturally his mother was frantic.

"Is it broken?" She asked me.

"I don't know, Diane, I didn't bring my x-ray glasses with me," I joked trying to calm her and lighten the mood. "He needs to go down and get a few pictures taken. He's going to be fine."

"He's okay?" She looked for further reassurance.

"He's going to be fine," I answered.

She looked at him sitting there.

"Get up," she told him. The boy, his father, and I all looked at her quizically. She grabbed a nearby hose.

"Strip," she told him.

His dad and I tried to dissuade her, without success.

"He's been working with the pigs all day," she explained to all of us. "No son of mine is going to the hospital smelling like that. Strip," she told him again.

He did, right down to his boxers, and she hosed him down right there. His father and I could only grin at each other. Just a country mom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Get in the boat!

The recent flooding in the northeast reminds us of a regular problem in such incidents; the refusal of some people to heed evacuation warnings. They wait until it is too late and then call 911, forcing emergency responders to risk their lives unnecessarily.

One story I've heard, and I'm sure the same or similar conversations were conducted hundreds of times this past week, went like this. A rescue boat pulls up to an isolated residence with a couple of occupants who ignored earlier evacuation orders.

Responder 1: You need to leave now. We're not sure we'll be able to get back in to get you if you don't.

Occupant 1: We'll be fine and you can't make us leave. (This is just one of the myriad responses, most dependent upon the blood alcohol content of the occupant.)

Responder 2 then hands Occupant 1 a pen.

Responder 2: Okay, then write your name and age on your arms.

Occupant 1 and 2 together: Why?

Responder 2. So we'll know who you are when we pull your bodies out after this is over.

The occupants got in the boat.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Country vs City

Roger R was a part time cop for the township, but a full time fire fighter, and later officer, in the City of Scranton. About 3:00 AM one weeknight early in his tenure as a cop, he called us out for a dumpster fire down from the Country Club.

I got up and muttered my way to the car, not particularly happy to be woken up for this. He was waiting when I arrived on scene.

“What’s going on, Roger?” I asked him when I got out of the car, ignoring the dumpster blazing away.

“The dumpster's on fire, Chief” he answered apparently dumbfounded I apparently hadn’t noticed the dumpster on fire in front of us. I could almost see his thoughts through his eyes. “Damn, these guys in the country aren’t too bright.”

“Let me explain a few facts of life to you, Roger” I proceeded calmly, still ignoring the dumpster. “You’re not in Scranton tonight. This is the country. This is how people get rid of their garbage out here. Don’t bother us with this shit again!” I raised my voice at the end.

He looked sorrowful. “We’ll put it out for you this time.“ I smiled so he wouldn’t think I was pissed, and a bit chagrined, he got back in his patrol car and went on his way.

He learned. We never got another call for a burning dumpster from Roger again.