Sunday, January 31, 2010


The little girl bravely complied with the troopers request as she gathered her mother's purse and her tiger, then clambered out over the console and out of the driver's door. She narrowly missed stepping in what was once her mother's lunch, now two piles of emesis, steaming on the highway. She paid no attention to her mother's groans as she took the troopers hand and walked to the ambulance.

She stood, waiting in the ambulance as the firefighter strapped her booster seat into the jump seat. The little girl climbed into her seat and settled down into it, holding still as the EMT secured the straps. She watched as the medic and the student rolled the gurney along with her mother toward the ambulance, then sliding it inside.

Her mother's groans evolved into shrieks of agony as the stabbing pain in her abdomen increased, causing her to loose control over it. It was then that the fire captain saw the fear in the little girl's eyes and the desperate clutching of her tiger.

A few words of assurance from the trooper and the look of fear passed. The short, yet important bond between the two was restored, but the look of fear in her eyes will not soon be forgotten.

I was grateful that someone was there to flag us down as we pulled up at the apartment. The mans body language shouted urgency as he led us through a passageway, into a small courtyard and up a flight of stairs. He opened the door to his apartment and led us inside where his two year old son was laying motionless on the couch, with a fixed stare off to the side. The boys mother, controlling her anxiety, told us how he was playing one minute, then sick the next.

The child had an extensive neurological history, including focal-motor seizures and hydrocephalus. However, the past year had been going well with a shunt implanted inside of his skull doing a good job. And now this.

My crew assessed the patient and began treatment. Mercifully, an ambulance arrived quickly and soon the child was loaded into the ambulance.  

As the doors to the ambulance closed, the child's parents hugged before getting into their car and following the ambulance to the hospital. I was standing right there and the saw the look of deep seated fear in both of their eyes. Fear of the known, the hospital, the doctors and the testing and fear of the unknown.


Fear. One of the things that I am not going to miss when my time here at the K.B.F.P.D. is done. Mine, my co-workers and my customers.

Thanks for reading,

Mystery Van Revealed

When I saw this van at the shop, the first thing I thought was "What the hell is that Dial-A-Ride van doing here?" This is primarily a cop shop, with a few firetrucks and ambulances thrown in.
 My curiosity was further heightened when I opened the side door and saw four wheelchair retention devices in the rear of the van and three seats in the middle of the van. All were enclosed behind a custom steel and plexi-glass screen that protected the driver from whatever passengers he had in the back.

I had visions of Hannibal Lechter being transported from a Super-Max prison to a court date in one of these things.

I asked one of the technicians in the shop who the van belonged to and what it was used for. He advised me that the van was operated by a not too local correctional facility to transport prisoners to medical appointments, primarily dialysis appointments. Apparently this facility no longer has the funds to maintain their own dialysis equipment, so they contract it to an outside facility. Some of the prisoners are wheelchair bound and some are ambulatory, this vehicle transports them all. So much for Hannibal the Cannibal.

So, observer and anonymous you were mostly right. The medi-van aspect of this vehicle was the surprise. Sorry for not having any more pictures, I didn't have my camera and was forced to use my blackberry. The interior shots didn't turn out.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Month - Ends

As January winds down, I thought that I would finish up some loose ends that have been sitting on my desk top.

Guess what this is ? - While at the the shop the other day, we came across this van. As this shop only works on law enforcement, fire and EMS vehicles, we were surprised to see this non-descript van there.

Anybody want to take a stab at what this van is used for, just post a comment.

 Check your plumbing - One of the primary functions of a fire engine is to take water into the vehicle and pump it out of the vehicle at a higher pressure. Most of the KBFPD was a great municipal water system, so we usually hook up to hydrants for water supply. Sometimes, debris comes out of the water system and ends up in the plumbing of the fire engine or worse yet, in our nozzles. 

Dog Tag Keychain
The mechanics found this dog-tag in the pump of an  engine a few years back. It somehow managed to fit through the screen and became lodged somewhere in the pump.

 Beer Bottle Caps
C Shift found these bottle caps on the front suction screen a few weeks ago. We thought it odd that three caps somehow made it through the domestic water supply, a hydrant and our front suction. I think a construction crew or somebody used an open hydrant discharge port as a cap disposal site. 

Idle Hands and Evil Minds - We spent almost three hours at the shop the other day. As mentioned above, this particular shop only services emergency vehicles. On this day, we were the only fire unit there, but it was full of police cars. One of my favorite pastimes in situations such as this is to place junior firefighter badge stickers in discreet locations on police cars and on fire units from other agencies. we put them in spots where the public won't see them, but the officer or firefighter from the other agency will.

Brand new cruiser

 Inside the trunk lid, just about over where an officer will have his Tac-bag.

When the officer goes to make sure there isn't any spinach stuck between their teeth, they will see this badge. Hopefully, they will view it as a small token of our respect and admiration and our sincere hope they don't write us for minor traffic infractions. Stay safe out there officers.

If there are any officers out there who find these badges plastered on their bikes or cruisers, it might have been us. Or it might have not.

Overheard - (not by me) on top of a rather tall building a while back. "Listen, if you're gonna jump, at least wait until we get the sidewalk cleared. You don't wanna hit anybody." He waited, then jumped. Glad I wasn't there, it made quite a mess where he landed. (Third hand, heavily paraphrased)

Thanks for reading,

Hint - The van above was paid for by a law enforcement agency.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hose Testing

A rather slow day at the Healing Place today. This has worked in our favor, as I had a meeting to attend in the morning and we are several weeks late in getting our hose testing done.

Once a year, each station pressure tests every piece of hose at their station. We pull all of the hose off of the units and out of the storage rack, hook it up to the pump and then pressurize it to 250 PSI. We keep it at 250 for five minutes and monitor it for leaks. After the test, we re-mark it if needed and then record the hose number before placing on the rack to dry. The hose off of the engine is reloaded wet.

Capt. Schmoe. Please put down your camera and give us a hand!

Although a very minor pain in the neck, I don't really mind doing it, as long as the weather is nice and each shift jumps on board and assists.

Usually, B shift tests the hose and lays it out on the drying rack.  C shift dries it and A shift rolls it and puts it away. Not the most efficient system, but it works for us. C shift loves it.

 38 lengths of hose stretched out on the rack.

The KBFPD has been performing pressurized hose tests since day one. Several neighboring agencies do not test hose at all. Several others are looking into whether it is a ISO requirement to test fire hose and whether there is any valid reason for testing hose the way we do.

Even if there is no longer any regulation requiring that we perform annual hose testing, I can't imagine the KBFPD not testing hose. What else would we do with amazing afternoons like we had today?

Hope your day was a nice as ours. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ps and Qs

My grandma had a saying that she would use on us kids when she wanted us to behave. She would tell us to mind our Ps and Qs. I don't really know what that means, other than when she said it, she meant business. You didn't screw with grandma.

Dave Statter over at Statter 911 has been running some stories lately about firefighters getting into trouble with the law and being arrested. The majority of arrests appear to be alcohol or drug related. Imagine that. Typically, we don't do our best thinkin' when we have been drinkin'.

One of Dave's more recent articles focuses on departments in Memphis TN and Pittsburgh PA. Apparently, both agencies have had some recent media scrutiny over  the number of fire department employees that have been arrested and/or convicted of crimes. Many of these firefighters have managed to hold on to their jobs. His post can be found Here.

One of the firefighters mentioned in Dave's article was a Memphis firefighter who was reportedly arrested for several serious crimes including burglary, assault and drug possession. This same firefighter was hired in Memphis after being fired from another nearby agency for having an undisclosed felony conviction.

Frankly, it surprises me that a department would hire someone with a felony conviction. Especially a department the size of Memphis. I assume they are doing background checks on potential employees. If not, they should be. The potential liability of hiring a convicted felon and then having him commit a criminal act while on duty is immense, not to mention the beating a department would receive from the media.

Applicants to the KBFPD have to submit a large background packet. The details are verified by a private investigation company. A criminal background check is conducted, as is a psychological evaluation and a polygraph examination.  The process takes up to two months when added with a physical exam. It isn't cheap, but neither is litigation.

The thorough background check wasn't always the case. When I was hired by the K.B.F.P.D. in the early '80s, you filled out a 5 page packet and then Captain Hatchet made a few phone calls based on the information you provided. It wasn't very thorough. It wasn't until after one of our members was convicted of a violent crime that the more in-depth backgrounds began.

When I went into the Arson Unit in the '90s, I had to take the psychological profile battery before the department would issue me a weapon. Much to my surprise, I passed. That was the same battery that new firefighters are required to pass before being hired and it washes quite a few candidates out of the process.

Despite all of that, we have still had a few members that have ran afoul of the law. Mostly substance abuse related, all are still employed by us. They are all on "double secret probation" and must meet stringent testing requirements. All have had to enter some form of treatment program and as far as know, all are still on the wagon. I hope they don't fall off, I don't think there will be any second chances.

Looking at the numbers, our figures don't appear to be anywhere near as bad as Memphis or Pittsburgh per-capita.  Perhaps the background investigations have paid off for us. I hope both of those organizations can resolve these issues and restore their position in the community. They need to mind their Ps and Qs.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Well Schmoe, ya killed him!

Not words that an EMT student wants to hear. Especially one who has no clue as to the sick, sarcastic and sadistic humor that permeates the fire and ems business.

It was the early '80s. Political correctness was a term that had not been invented. In the county where I grew up, there were no fire service ALS providers. Most fire departments were EMT-1s and were first responders. There were a few fire departments that only provided first-aid level EMS service. A myriad of small private ambulance companies provided ALS.  AMR had never been heard of.

I was 20 years old and finishing up my EMT certificate. I had already completed the classroom course of study and the ER room clinical work. It was now time to get the required ambulance ride-along stuff done. The only option available to us was the Local Ambulance company.

The Local Ambulance Co. was based in my home town. I think that they owned 15 or 20 ambulances and operated three or four stations. Some of the best medics I ever met worked for the Local Ambulance co. Many went on to work for Med Trans and then AMR. Some are still with AMR in management positions. A few work for the K.B.F.P.D.

This tale begins on a Sunday afternoon. We were watching a football game on a ratty old console TV in the common area of a converted house, which served as the crew quarters for the Local Ambulance Co. Two AFC teams were playing to see who the AFC West champion was going to be. Yeller, the medic on the ambulance, had a strong interest in the outcome of the game. I don't remember who the EMT on the ambulance was, but the three of us were engrossed in the game as half-time approached.

Dispatch was located in what was originally a bedroom. If I remember correctly, you could hear the emergency line ring in the rest of the house, but there was no tone or PA system. We were alerted to our call by the voice of the dispatcher yelling from her office. "14, you got one in Dilapidated. Dilapidated FPD is en-route."

Of course I, being new, jumped up and rushed toward the door. Yeller and the EMT remained seated and looked at me with mild amusement. After the play was finished, the EMT got up and headed toward dispatch while Yeller and I headed for the ambulance. The EMT soon joined us in the ambulance and we made the 10 minute drive to Dilapidated.

Dilapidated is an unincorporated area located just outside of my home town. Then, as now, there was little commerce other than retail establishments and restaurants located along a main drag. Dilapidated was served by a small fire district which has since been dissolved. Things haven't improved much in Dilapidated. Although millions have been spent on improving the looks of the main drag, the biggest buildings are still county offices and clinics.

We pulled up in front of a neat home on a large lot. Several cars are parked in the driveway and a squad from the Dilapidated F.P.D. is already on scene. We went inside and found our patient, a male about 50, sitting on the couch. His wife and two young adult sons were in the room, as were two young ladies. The football game was on the TV, beverages and snacks on the coffee and end tables.

Our patient was oriented and alert. He was complaining of minor pain and discomfort to his chest. I don't think he had any medical history and appeared to be in minor distress. Yeller had me switch the patient over to our 02 and get a set of vitals while he hooked up the monitor. After looking at the EKG and deciding that the patient was stable, he cut the guys from Dilapidated Fire loose.

A minute later, he removed a small brown vial from the drug box, removed one tiny pill and gave it to the patient. "Take this and place it under your tongue" he told the patient, "it might make you feel a little weird".
The patient did as he was told, all under the watchful eye of us and his family. I visualize what happened next every time I watch my medic give someone a nitro.

No more than 30 seconds later our patient advised us that he felt weird.

"What do you mean weird?' Yeller asked him.

"Weird, you know weeeeiiiirrrrd" the patient shrieked as he began thrashing wildly about. This thrashing knocked over a lamp and some drinks. It only lasted a few seconds and was followed by a short, milder convulsive period then by apnea and pulselessness. The whole process only took 15 or 20 seconds. Everyone was stunned when it started. Yeller checked ABC's and had me begin CPR, while the EMT ran out to the ambulance to radio dispatch and have the Dilapidated Fire District re-respond. Back then, ambulances did not carry handi-talkies.

The family was in a state of shock. What had started as a family gathering ended up with Pops on the floor being resuscitated by some Schmoe  and an EMT. When they figured out what was going on, their emotional output increased dramatically.

The fire dept. arrived back on scene. By then, Yeller had an esophageal airway established and I used a E and J resuscitator to ventilate the patient. The firefighter from Dilapidated Fire performed compressions. The family sobbed. I don't remember if the patient was in a shockable rythym, but I do remember the looks on the family's faces as we wheeled the patient out to the ambulance. 

A fifteen minute ride to the hospital, followed by the ER staff pushing more meds, yielded no positive result. After a few minutes at the hospital, they called it and it became official. My very first patient was dead.

I pondered what had just occurred as I helped carry supplies nack out to the ambulance. I was just going to ask Yeller what the hell had happened when he looked up at me and clearly stated "Well Schmoe,  ya killed him!"

I was perplexed by what he said. I believed him of course. I just couldn't understand how he LET me kill our patient. I mean if I was really screwing it up that bad, he should have said something or advised me how to do the ventilations better.

This event screwed me up for months before I realized Yeller was just being an asshole and was trying to mess with my head. He succeeded.and succeeded well.

As the winter EMT students are beginning to show up in the stations,  I will remember this event and also remember that the student has likely not yet developed the sick, sarcastic and sadistic humor that most of us have. As such. I will be a kind and gentle captain and will withhold my wit and my tongue.

I know that should they stay in the business, they too will develop this raw, exposed humor and may even embrace it. Perhaps, as much as I have.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Santa Dog finds a home.

Santa-Dog has been traveling around the offices at my day-off job for several years. I don't even know where he came from, other than one of our interns showed up with him one Christmas and never took him home.
Santa Dog has appeared on various desks and in several different offices. He is universally despised and it is a testament to our laziness that he has not been tossed into the dumpster.  You see, it has always been easier to put him on someone elses desk, than to dispose of him properly.

Not the real Santa Dog. The real Santa Dog is far more ugly and cheesy. Image kyped off of the internet.

Santa Dog is dusty and rather worn from all of the handling that he has received. He was ugly to begin with and time has not done him any favors. The good news is that his traveling days may be over.

As today was my last day at this particular job, I was cleaning out my desk. Santa Dog was sitting on the corner of my desk, in the very place that I had removed him from just last week. I thought about taking him to the dumpster along with the tons of crap I was tossing out. As much as I hate the stupid thing, I just couldn't do it.

Instead of tossing it out, I did what any compassionate fire service professional would do. I found him a permanent home.

I used three wood screws and affixed him to the desk of one of my co-workers. Epoxy may have been involved and. the heads of the screws were then drilled out to prevent them from being removed.  Santa Dog is not coming off of that desk without a fight. Every time my former co-worker looks at that statue affixed to his desk,(or the three holes in the corner of his desk-top)  he will think of me.

Merry belated Christmas Ted.

There is a slim chance that Santa Dog may re- enter my life. Ted may find his way out to the K.B.F.P.D. and bring Santa Dog with him. If he does, Santa Dog will likely stay. It is kind of a long drive for Ted, at least 90 minutes or so,  as such Santa Dog may stay where he is. If he does come back to me, you can be sure he will be attached with more than just wood screws and epoxy. That's how we roll.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti - continuing strife and a little hope

Every time I think that I am done discussing Haiti, new images appear that I feel should be shared.

First the strife.'s Big Picture has yet another collection of images from Haiti that were taken in the last few days. Amazing images and equally horrific. Society can be a fragile thing, some of these images show what can happen when it falls apart. Don't think society can't fall apart here, it most certainly can. It's just a matter of how bad it has to get before it breaks down.

Now the hope. Dave Statter at Statter911 has a video that shows a man being rescued from under the rubble. VA-TF1 is the team and this video shows some of the conditions that these USAR teams perform in. Pay close attention to the tons of debris a few inches over their heads, the confined space that they are working in and the amount of dust and other debris in the air. Strong work VA-TF1.

Things are busy around here so I have to go. Stay safe everyone, keep the victims and rescuers in your prayers and as always:

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Losing the Waiting Game

Time is running out. For the people trapped under the rubble in Haiti and for the people trapped in airports waiting to go help people trapped in the rubble, the passage of time reduces the odds that either will win the waiting game.

Of course, the people in Haiti are playing the waiting game for much higher stakes. They are also playing under a different set of rules. Their rules make it much more difficult to win the game as they lay trapped in the voids created when the buildings fell. They did not write those restrictive rules, but due to where they were born, they are forced to play under them. The nature of the society where they live makes it nearly impossible for those in the airports to win their waiting game and come help them. The Haitians will pay with their lives.

The people trapped in the airports stand only to lose some sleep and perhaps some sanity. They are programmed to help people in need, using a special set of skills to penetrate piles of rubble and rescue the people trapped in the voids. When they lose their waiting game, they will be told to return to their home base and secure all of the equipment that they worked so hard to prepare for their unfulfilled mission. Frustration levels will be high, with feelings of a great effort wasted for nothing.

It is my hope that no one else in Haiti loses their waiting game. I know it is not to be. The string pullers know this to be true as well. They have evaluated the amount of time it is going to take to get more rescue resources into Haiti and how long people have been trapped. The numbers do not match. Several teams poised to go to Haiti will soon be told that the time issue has defeated them and they have lost the waiting game.

No one will tell the trapped Haitians, they will just have to figure it out.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti - playing the USAR waiting game

Over the next few days, you are likely to be hearing about how vital relief aid is sitting at airports across the U.S. and other countries.  The news reporter will be wailing about how people are suffering and dying and how rescue teams are still sitting at airports, waiting to fly to Haiti.

Pundits and politicians will see these stories and feel the need to pontificate, using terms like "we can never allow this to happen again" and "I will make sure that the needed help arrives as soon as possible."

I have friends that are part of the USAR response to this disaster. As of this writing (14:00hrs MST on Sat. 1/16), they are still sitting at various airports, waiting for either aircraft or for space in country to set up their bases of operations. I can assure you no one is more frustrated than they are. I can assure you as well, that there is not much that they can do about it.

I have played this game, this cruel waiting while people are suffering. It sucks. One time, we waited at an airport for a full day, waiting for an airplane that never arrived. After sleeping on the apron of an airport overnight, we got the word that other arrangements had been made and our services weren't needed. Another time, we stood by for 36 hours while the needed logistical arrangements were made in preparation for our arrival. That one was hard to take, as we could see the need for our services on the television while we waited.

It was not until I arrived "in theatre" that I realized why we were held up and what the term "regional disaster" truly meant.

There are numerous things that must occur before the USAR teams can be deployed and put to work. I touched upon it in my last post, but this should tie it together. Until the following issues are resolved, these teams are not going to go to work.

1. Have transportation - To the area of operations; to the base of operations; to the work site. There is a little fudging on the last one, but the first two are vital.

2. Have Space - To set up a USAR task force Base of Operations (BOO)requires a large footprint. Space for the equipment, which usually fills up three semi-trailers and a box-truck; space for a command tent, a logistics tent, a medical tent, a communications tent and sleeping tents all take up room. That is for one Type I (Heavy) USAR team. Multiply that by the number of teams plus an Incident Support Team (IST) and now you are dealing with a very large footprint.

Not just any space will do. Preferably, you want a space that will hold as many of your resources as possible, so that security and logistical support are easier. You would like to have a place where the site is not impacted by the elements such as rain or wind. An empty field may be fine when it is dry, but add water and it becomes a swamp, bogging everything down to the point of being non-operational.

3. Have security - for both your people and your equipment. Each Type I team has 72 people that must be protected from looters or other people that may do them harm. The specialized equipment that each team carries is literally irreplaceable in this event. Either it is not available in Haiti or is already in use. The airport is currently so backlogged with relief supplies and personnel coming into the country, replacement equipment will not be available for some time.

4. Have logistical support - Food, water, sanitation. You don't have these three, people start getting sick. Food can be basic. MREs and bottled water will work just fine. The people that defend our country have been living off of these things for years at a time with no ill effect. Sanitation is vital, not only waste disposal, but washing facilities and garbage disposal. 5 gallon buckets and plastic bags will suffice for a short time, but after a while the bags start piling up unless you have a safe method to dispose of them.

Here is the funny thing. Three of the four items above fall under the Logs unit. People usually join a USAR team to be a rescue specialist or a search specialist. No one ever really wants to do Logs or be a Plans officer. Yet, if those vital logs needs are not met, the team is stuck waiting at the airport.

Every level of our government is working to get these issues resolved. They are behind the curve as this disaster occurred in a place where we have had no planning or preparation. Nor should we. Now, we just have to be creative, adapt and overcome.

This isn't our (us as Americans) fault. Sometimes, crap just happens that we can't control. Although armed with the above information, the waiting game is still not an easy one to play.

Lunch is over, time to go back to work. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti - Continued

Sorry I haven't been able to follow up today, but it was crazy busy for the K.B.F.P.D. today and this is the first chance I have had to get to my computer.

I got a lot to say but not too much time so things will jump around a little.

*'s Big Picture has posted a second set of images from Haiti. In many ways, these are more horrific than the first and they present a larger scope of the devastation. There are a few that claim to be disturbing, don't click on them unless you want to see what disaster is really about.

* I can't remember for sure, but I think six FEMA USAR teams were activated for deployment to Haiti. These are in addition to the two USAID/FEMA teams that went out yesterday. It is highly unusual for FEMA teams to leave the country (except for the three that are part of USAID) and requires a presidential order. I believe that this is the first time it has been done, President Obama seems committed to helping these people out.

* An anonymous commenter who's dad is on CA-TF2 asked me to pass on any info that I might receive from Cal2. Sorry my friend, it is highly unlikely I will hear anything. Hopefully, the TFL (task force leader) will keep the home agency posted via SAT Phone or other means. Those people are trained and well led, I am sure they will be fine.

Some of the challenges that these teams may face include:

* Logistical support - Local resources are probably not going to be available. Supplies and equipment are going to have to be brought in from other countries and supplied to the teams. The coordination of logistical support is critical, with many agencies from many organizations and countries requiring logistical support. The typical self-sufficiency window is 72 - 96 hours. The logs chain needs to be established by that time.

* Security - Large masses of thirsty, hungry and injured people can present problems if security is not addressed. I have a feeling that a number of the US Marine Expeditionary Force and the 82nd Airborne from the US Army will be used as force security. Some of these folks performed this function hurricane Katrina operations and did a great job.

* Transportation - Getting from the BOO (Base of Operations) to an operational site can be an issue, especially when roads are blocked by debris and other hazards. In addition, since all of the teams are arriving by air, ground transport must initially be provided by local sources. In a disaster of this magnitude, it may be an issue. It may take a while to establish ground transport or helicopter support.

* Intel - Maps, photographs and other intelligence needs are going to be difficult to obtain. Blueprints, plans and other important documents that teams use when working at collapsed structures are likely not going to be available. Calculations that the team structural engineers use to determine loads, shoring needs and hazard assessments are likely to be different that the ones they usually use.

* Sub-standard building codes, materials and methods - These factors add to the risk factors when conducting search and rescue operations in and around damaged buildings. Secondary collapse is always a risk, these factors magnify the risk.

* Illness and disease - Images are already starting to show the local people walking around with their noses and mouths covered to block out the smell of the deceased. The lack of sanitary capabilities may cause severe problems for the populace. Hygiene practices for the team members is critical to prevent illness.

* Lack of local governance - In a typical deployment, the USAR teams are used to support the local government by providing technical rescue capabilities which they do not have. Priorities and strategic objectives are provided by the local government. I don't think that is going to happen here. 

These are just a few of the challenges these teams face. They are well trained. I am sure they will adapt as necessary and overcome these and any other challenges that arise. Good luck to them, pray that they stay safe, as well as for all of the people suffering in Haiti.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CATF-2 is airborne

California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 became airborne at 22:10 PST this evening en-route to Haiti. 

They are flying on a USAF Reserve C-17 from March Air Reserve Base located in Riverside, CA.

CA-TF2 is a FEMA USAR team based in Los Angeles County Ca. and is composed of Los Angeles County Fire dept. firefighters as well as civilian specialists. They are being deployed as a Type I USAR team with approx. 72 members.

FEMA USAR teams are equipped to be self sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours after arrival in the area of operations. Hopefully, they have a little extra supplies or can be logistically supported within that 72 hour window. As this is not a FEMA deployment, but one under the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the logistical support may not happen as smooth as they might like.

Please keep CA-TF2 as well as all of the other teams from across the globe in your thoughts and prayers. They are in for a tough time in Haiti, the working conditions are difficult there even when not suffering from a catastrophic disaster.

Thanks as always,

Haiti Earthquake

I only have a few seconds, but as usual,'s Big Picture has some amazing photographs of the devastation in Haiti. Look closely, for many of you, this type of event is a strong possibility.

Again good luck to the responders from all over the world who are en-route to assist in the rescue efforts. Be safe all.

Thanks as always,

Good Luck and God Speed

It appears that FEMA USAR teams VA-1 (Fairfax County VA) and CA-2 (Los Angeles County CA) have been activated for deployment to Haiti in response to the major earthquake.

I am unsure when they will be airborne, but wish them good luck and God speed in this deployment. From the looks of the images I have seen, there has been a significant amount of structural collapse in large buildings, the type of mission these teams are trained for.

Again, good luck to these folks, hope they stay safe.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Riddance

People have asked me why I no longer work at the Big House of Pain. The reality is that it grew tired of me and I grew tired of it.

I have worked there several times during my career. I spent time there as a firefighter and as a captain. I enjoyed the vast majority of my time there. I enjoyed working with the large number of people who are assigned there and the variety of calls that I experienced while there.

For the first ten years or so assigned to the B.H.O.P, I liked meeting the various crazy people that I came accross or those that came across me. I also didn't mind the constatnt summons to the District Commander's office to handle some special project or some special detail that I would in turn, assign to one of my crew.

Along about the fall of 2001, I started becoming tired of all of the unstable people that appeared at the front door of the station. Most had issues that my crew couldn't resolve, so they would refer them to me. I would get the page and walk to the foyer, where I would find someone with an issue that I could not resolve either.

The visitors often would not want mental health intervention or law enforcement to get involved so it would end up being a long drawn out affair that would not be resolved by anyone else either. As our county does not have a "Ghost Busters" station nearby, there are just some issues that can't be resolved. Of course, we were able to address  some of their problems, which was nice, but the whole thing began to wear on me.

The nature of our visitors began to change as well. In my last of year at the Big House of Pain we removed a 9 mm handgun from the waistband of a 65 yr. old man, had a transient pull a cavalry sabre on us and got into a wrestling match with a couple of meth-head swingers who were fighting in front of the station. Interesting events to be sure, but it got old after a while.

I think the district commander could sense my frustration with the place and felt that a different captain in the house might be good for the crews. He swapped me out with the captain at the Healing Place and although I really didn't  want to come down here, I have never looked back.

I realized that the D.C. made the right call on the morning I was moving my stuff out of the B.H.O.P. It was after shift change and I was down on the apparatus floor. I heard crying, looked up and saw the department secretary consoling a young lady, who was sobbing uncontrollably. The sobbing woman told the secretary that her boyfriend had ditched her at the front of the station several hours before dawn. She said that she had spent the remainder of the night leaning against the front of the station. The secretary had found her when she came to the station to pick up some paperwork. I let the on duty truck captain handle it and finished loading my truck. The young woman calmed down and spent an hour or so at the station until someone came to pick her up.

Not really a big deal, just the typical B.H.O.P. BS and I was tired of it. Good call D.C. Micro on getting me out of there. Good riddance B.H.O.P.

Now that I have five years or so left on the job, others are starting to ask me when I am going to retire. They are starting to grow weary in their current assignments and are beginning to plan and maneuver as to get my spot when I do go. I will start to see "safety bids" in the next few years just in case something happens and I leave earlier than planned. If a senior guy doesn't have a bid in and a younger guy gets the spot, the senior guy may never get in. It's nice to be loved.

I am fortunate that the healing place was made available to me. I enjoy working there and have no plans to transfer out. Lets just hope the D.C. doesn't get any ideas.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

.The New State of Normal

A third of the way through the new month and hopefully, things will be settling into a new normal. The course of some events cannot be changed, the results of which alter our lives forever. What was normal will never be again, all we can hope for is that the "new normal" will be acceptable.

Our carefully crafted personnel moves at the winter draft meeting have been modified, economic forces bigger than us have come into play and have caused the delay. Promotions and the filling of vacancies were postponed to an unnamed later date.

There are several members of the K.B.F.P.D. who were waiting for a call from the chief, telling them that they were to be promoted. Those people will just have wait a while longer. Hopefully, they will be promoted before the list expires or the district will extend the list. Time will tell. Current captains and engineers aren't minding this situation too much, as overtime is being used to fill these vacant positions.

We currently have several firefighter vacancies as well. These positions are being filled with overtimers, even though there are candidates on the eligibility list who have completed physicals and background investigations.

In my mind, the only plausible reason for  carrying these vacancies is that they are contemplating staffing reductions within the operations division. Staffing cuts have been made in every division except ops, maybe it's our turn.

If so, it will be an interesting issue as we have a minimum staffing agreement with the district. It is a component of our MOU that we value highly. The battle over this could be interesting.

It also could be a ploy for us to consider further wage and benefit concessions. They may be forcing our hand to see how much we do actually value the minimum staffing agreement. Take a pay cut or lose people, it's up to us. Time will tell on this.

I have my own opinion, I personally would rather take a small hit in my wallet rather than lose positions. That is my opinion only, others in the district and the Firefighters Association may have different positions.

Things still worked out pretty good for us, the two members of my crew who wanted different assignments got what they wanted, more or less. Although the incoming members are different than we first thought, they will still be a good fit down here at the healing place.

All said and done, one of our first goals is to get our routine down and settle into the new normal. That and pray for a good 2010. Hopefully 2010 will end up better than 2009 did, that one really sucked.

As always, thanks for reading. Hope your 2010 is a good one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I knew it was going to be a rough time as soon as I hit the door. Most of the people in there were our people. The place was packed and it was jumpin', the occupants well warmed up.

As I had one last detail to perform, I was a couple of hours behind most of the people in there. I showed up wearing a hoodie over my class "A" shirt and was still wearing my patent leather shoes. The first person to see me was the association president. His flushed skin, goofy grin and wide open arms told me that he had been there a while and had been busy. Five seconds later, my evil medic pushed a pale ale into my hand and I tried hard not to spill it as I embraced several of my brothers. That hand was never empty for long.

After a sendoff, It is customary for members of the K.B.F.P.D to meet at O'Malley's and hoist a few in honor of the departed. Attendance is not "mandatory", but still a lot of the members show up. A good cross section of the department is usually present, including Chiefs, prevention and administrative staff.

There has been a lot of emotion built up in the hearts of the people of the K.B.F.P.D. lately. Tonight was going to see a rapid and intense release of grief and sorrow and a replacement with fond memories, laughter and remembrance. The process would be well lubricated.

My intent was to have a few beers with my crew, see some people I hadn't seen in a while and leave. I was beat, both emotionally and physically and I just wanted to get home and get some sleep. It was not to be.

 The evil medic ensured that my hand was never empty during the two hours I was at O'Malleys.  Many toasts to our departed brother occurred, all accompanied by hugs, shouts and revelry.

After I realized that the point of no return had been reached and that I would not be driving myself home, I concluded that I needed this release, that the regular tears and mourning were not sufficient in this case. After a short while, I became as animated as everyone else, sharing thoughts and feelings that I would not normally disclose. Frankly, by the end I was a little sloppy. Actually I was pretty wrecked.

After a couple of hours of toasts, hugs and memories I realized another threshold was approaching and therefore it was time to stop. The Evil Medic was departing, my firefighter had left a little earlier.Although many members of the K.B.F.P.D. were still present and going strong, I called my oldest son to pick me up.

For the first time in years, I recieved no argument from him when I made the request. I can't get him to bring the trash cans in from the curb without an argument, but this he agreed to without a word. Maybe he knew that this was something I needed. He was there within a few minutes along with a friend. I was soon home, safe and sound.

Some of you may read this account and feel that this ritual is juvenile amd archaic. You may be right, however for some of us, it's something we need to do.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

31 e-mails

I am back at the station after a morning of practice and quite frankly I am tired. I was just going through some old e-mails looking for an address and found a folder that I have not looked through for quite a while.

I clicked on it and found 31 e-mails. These 31e-mails were sent to me over an eight day period in November of 2008. They are responses to a request I made, that was asking assistance for a colleague of mine. Our brother needed help and these 31 members of the K.B.F.P.D. were stepping up. Most knew our colleague, some well. A few did not. All offered, all were appreciated.

These e-mails were in addition to dozens of phone calls that I received offering to help our stricken brother.

To all, I am extremely grateful and proud to be associated with these people. I am sure any department would act as my brothers and sisters have, its just that these brothers and sisters are mine. The citizens of the K.B.F.P.D. are fortunate to have such caring and compassionate people looking after them. So am I.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 4, 2010

Silver Lining

The Healing Place is a busy fire station right now. Our call volume has remained at the usual sedate pace, but circumstances have arisen which is causing people from throughout the agency to filter through my station every few hours.

The downside to this is that there is always activity going on, even through the early morning hours. Sometimes, it is enough to awaken sleepy fire captains.

The upside to this is that I am seeing people I haven't seen in a long time. I had a nice chat this morning at 0400 with two members I have not worked with in years.

Another silver lining to the cloud of being awake at 0 dark thirty is that you sometimes see sights like this -

This was the view out of the front window of the healing place this morning. You are looking at the reflection of the sunrise in the windows of the building accross the street.

This is the actual sunrise itself taken from the rear of the station. Sadly, my photographic skills do not do it justice.

After the rant of my last post, I thought this post should be a little more serene. After all, this is the healing place.

Thanks for reading,