The Basics. Please.

I arrived at the station this morning and by the time I had transitioned my gear from my floor locker to the rig the bells were ringing.  We went back to back to back right out of the gates.

Some poor guy at one of our numerous dialysis centers was circling the drain, from there we caught an alarm on the 10th floor of one our regular apartment stops and the proceeded to an intersection straddling the state line of Missouri and Kansas on a couple fellas who were apparently a bit more eager to get to work than I was this morning and managed to plow into one another.

As I’ve stated before I am not all that eager to run my ass off everyday but I am far from lazy.  I like to work, I’ll take being busy any day and make the most of it.  I also want to know my job and be able to deal with any type of the unexpected or unforeseen.  Most of what I say is in jest and if given the chance to sit on my ass or work it off I’ll take the “work” versus “sit” option every time.

On a couple of more recent occasions we had younger guys on the rig with us and their attitude as well as their complete apathy for the job blew my mind.  I would be willing to wager everything that I own that I have never been so completely inept or unengaged as what I have seen from some.  Keep in mind, this makes up only the smallest number, a true, nearly non-existent minority of our guys.  When compared to most I have plenty to learn from and more than enough good examples of how to live and work right doing this job.

I’ve only been working as a firefighter for more than a decade, a drop in the bucket compared to most others.  I’ve been fortunate to have worked at least 10 years of that time for a busy, metropolitan department.  This fact has never once been lost on me.  This is the greatest job anywhere.

On my absolute worst days there was no doubt that there were things I would rather have been doing than what we were in that particular moment but never once have I wanted to do anything else.

I am just another guy doing day-laborers work, really not a whole lot more.  I was raised in a wealthy suburb (though my parents were not) and have been exposed to all sorts of privilege in my life.  It takes all types to make the world go round.  I can assure you that what we do in the fire service is both unexceptional but also incredibly important and meaningful.  Having a job in which you know what needs to be done, you can actually do it and offer quick resolution is a blessing.  On a fundamental level this is what our work is.  Simply stated I can dig a ditch as well as most, but no better than anyone else.  At the end of the day anyone that has attempted to make this job more intellectual or difficult than it really is usually shows it pretty quick when the metal hits the meat.  This is just my opinion and I’ve learned it matters little.

Now that I’ve stated where I stand and how little I know I am going to throw out a few quick observations I’ve made about those that clearly do not care.  Take note if this is you or it sounds familiar.  If so you need to get your ass in gear or you need to be the catalyst for bringing the individual you see this into the proverbial “light”.  If only for you own safety and well being.

  • When your Captain get’s off the rig and you are either the guy sitting behind him or the junior member on the apparatus you should probably assume you are to go with unless they tell you otherwise.  Being told not to work, not to notice or to back off is probably not the worst thing you can do for your reputation.  I don’t care if they are going into the convenience store, get off your tail and show them you respect the rank and you are along for the ride until they tell you otherwise.  This 100% applies to you if you have been out of the academy for less than a year.
  • When you run a call have a basic idea of what is going to be needed and get off the rig and bring a tool or multiple tools with you.  I’d much rather have my company officer tell me I’m stupid for grabbing a 12 foot long pike pole on an MVA than tell look at me with complete disdain because I just proved how lazy I am for bringing nothing at all.  Getting off with your gloves in your hands does not count as having a tool either.
  • Guys with a lot of time on the job have earned the right to under-dress for a call, not throw on their SCBA or nomex etc. etc.  That line will keep moving forward for me, so I keep putting on my gear and I keep being ready to roll.  When the automatic alarm on the 8th floor on the same apartment as the last 10 times turns out to be something it won’t matter how under prepared the saltier vet was because they will be busy calling you out when you get back to the station anyhow.  If you cannot do your job you are no good and when work needs to be done you should be ready to pull your weight.
  • Have the basics down.  Know why their are multiple stairwells in your commercial or residential structures and why the one with the standpipe in it matters.  I was talking with and trying to teach one of the younger guys about which stairwell was the FAG stairwell today when we were departing the scene.  He giggled like a little kid and thought I was making a joke.  FAG = Fire Attack Group moron and if you are the first Truck company or one of the first 2 Pumper companies on a high rise event in our town you are most likely going to be ascending that particular stairwell in order to make your primary search and initial attack.  It isn’t some kind of slur and I am not making a joke.  You have also shown you have zero knowledge of the work we do.   This particular guy had more than 5 and less than 10 years on, more than enough time to have tackled the basics.  You’ve proven yourself to be stupid and lazy within the first hour of our shift.  You’ve also proven you think it would be appropriate to make a bigoted joke in public and on scene.  In addition to now thinking you are stupid and lazy I am wondering if you are also completely ignorant.  It’s cool, we only have 23 hours to go.
  • Know the basic tenants of EMS as they relate to your job.  What?  You don’t like it and you signed on to fight fire, huh?  You’re kidding, it’s cool, I get it.  Nearly as funny as the FAG joke I just made.  Fighting fire makes up the vast minority of what we do and you don’t have nearly enough experience with it to offer your opinion.  Nor do I.  What I can do, what I can contribute is knowing how to get an accurate set of vitals, start a line, know how to pick a patient up, get a patient history and how to assist our more trained medic units in doing their job.  You were in-fact hired to be an EMT/FF and regardless of what you might think in that order.  So when you get off the rig grab the EMS bag on every one of these calls along with the AED, Burn or OB kit, C-collar bag or whatever else might be needed and don’t stop contributing until the patient is being transported and everything is cleaned up.
  • Finally, it has been my experience that regardless of how much time I have on the job there has never been a day in which I didn’t need to check out the rig and our equipment.  I’ve spent the vast majority of my time on a Truck company and we can bring a lot to the scene.  It is worth zero if it is nonoperational, not fueled or does not start.  I can be at work, have gone over the entire rig, topped off and started every piece of equipment on it, checked my SCBA and be sitting around the table by the time my shift is scheduled to start.  I have yet to blow this responsibility off a single shift in my career.  There have been many calls in which we have “lost”.  One in particular that sucked above all others come to mind.  It was December 23rd, middle of the night, early on Christmas Eve.  We arrived on scene, made entry and pulled two young kids and their father out of a ripping house fire.  All of this in less than 3 minutes of our arrival.  Both kids were more than likely dead by the time we had them in the back of the Ambo.  Fate is cruel and seldom fair, the work we do will teach you this.  There is zero doubt we lost that one but even less that we were 100% ready and willing to do our job.  I can shrug off fate or misfortune though it would be very difficult to handle had I known there was more I could have done.

No where above have I stated how complicated or difficult a job this is.  There are zero barriers of entry for anyone who has the most basic level of intellect.  Everything I am covering can be covered with hustle, the bare minimum level of job interest and a willingness to contribute and operate as a team.

Master these things, be known for being willing to nail down the basics and to do them consistently and then you can go and write articles in Nerd-Fire Magazine or train Navy SEALS how to shoot their way out of a flash over while running a full code.  No doubt you will then graduate to building an app to program the exact amount of pressure placed at the pump panel based upon distance of your line lay, diameter of hose, nozzle tip and type, color of smoke, content of fuel, room size, rise over run and exact GPS positioning impacting gravitational forces and GPM desired at the tip.  My guess is that they guy who has been there, done that and has taken a consistent interest in their work will have the fire under control by the time your thumb is ready to hit “send”.

I guess I am also supposed to tell you to work out.  So do that too.

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