Turkey comas and dysfunction

Unbeknownst to us at the time this picture was taken, we had enough food to feed all the companies that respond on the 3rd alarm fire we had. We rotated crews to the station to eat a Thanksgiving meal.

Some days I absolutely amaze myself. They don’t happen often. As a matter of fact, it might only be once a month. The rest of the time I’m turning in circles wondering where to start.

This feeling reminds me of Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I found myself in the street looking at a 2nd alarm fire (it was only 2nd alarm at that moment). We had just finished our firehall Thanksgiving feast. I was making myself comfy on my couch when the tones hit. 

I’m not even sure how I got there. I was in a turkey coma and I just followed my firetrucks rolling out of the station. This day, I had to. I was so sleepy! Plus I didn’t hear the address. Ha!

I rarely lead the way to a call. In my opinion, the firetrucks need to roll in first. They are the most important and so is there placement. Some may say this is the wrong approach and that as a leader I should go in first. But I disagree in this situation. It took me a while to figure out my officers. To learn how they think. Learn how the respond to me. And I choose to LEAD from the back of the pack because I have faith in them.

It can be done. Pushing them forward. Letting them make decisions on their own and to take control. Hell, they are adults getting paid to make decisions. Most of my officers are seasoned and know what they are doing. They know their people the best. They and their drivers know the maximum abilities and limitations of their apparatus. Use that to your advantage.

They know I will make a decision.They know who is ultimately “in charge” (I don’t like that saying). They know when I say to do something a certain way then they need to do it because there is usually a reason. I don’t give out piddly orders just because I can. They also know that all responsibility falls on me if things goes wrong. And I have broad enough shoulders to take that. 

So back to Thanksgiving….

This is what we refer to as the fire “gettin’ it”. 

As I rounded the corner and said “Oh Shit” at the amount of flames literally roaring out the windows, I didn’t bother to look at any street sign. Genius. This building was a block long. In order to do a 360 I had to speed walk pretty far. (For those who know me, picture that in your head. Haha!). 

 While trying to direct incoming firetrucks to where they needed to go, I found myself a block down the road turning circles…. literally. I had no clue what street I was standing on. This moment later became the only way I could describe to a counselor and my psychiatrist, how I felt. Perfect analogy.

Just in case you need one I’m going to insert this here…

www.riverviewpsychiatry.com

Most supervisors will have very similar moments (turning in circles). And they won’t tell a soul. But me?? I think it’s funny. I can laugh at myself. I’m me and I’m not perfect. Do I often say “I’m not perfect”? Yes. Do I admit when I mess up? Yes. Do I share my story about literally turning in circles in the street? Yes, obviously I do. 

I posted on Facebook and in a recent blog about pulling into the driveway and thinking the newspaper was a cat. I had someone comment “I can’t believe you would post that.” 

Well why not? A huge part of fire service in EGO. And ego, in my opinion, holds us back. Ego tells us we are all knowing, we are perfect, our way is the only way. And that just simply isn’t true. Ego tells us that those we supervise are literally beneath us. That definitely isn’t true.

Our people are assets. Treating them as such gets you further. Letting them know that you aren’t perfect too isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just simply a way to communicate with your people. Letting them know that despite wanting things to go perfectly, they won’t. And you know that from experience.  


a 360- the term we use in the fire service to describe walking around the entire structure (360°) involved in fire in order to see everything, such as fire extent, exposures, potential hazards or suppression hindrance.

Cool, calm, and collected

In emergency services it is a gamble whether you get a full meal, a fresh meal, a hot meal, or even a meal at all. Yesterday was no different. Lunch was cut short for a possible apartment fire.

Someone called and said his apartment was on fire when, in fact, it was not on fire. We of course didn’t know that so six firetrucks, myself, a medical unit, and three patrol cars responded with lights and sirens….to open his door.

Yep. He just needed his apartment door open.

I still remember how it is to respond on a firetruck. Adrenaline starts pumping when you hear “apartment fire”. You get your turn-outs on as fast as possible. You strap on an SCBA. You make sure you have your mask, helmet, gloves, radio, flashlight. As the officer who’s truck will arrive first, you begin to formulate a plan of action. Who is going to catch the hydrant? Where is the closest hydrant in the first place!? Is there a possibility of entrapment? What if fire is going through the roof? Where will I tell trucks to stage? Who will be RIC (Rapid Intervention Crew)? What additional resources do I need to request?

Then you pull up to the address and you got NOTHIN’.  No smoke, no fire. Nothin’. Just a guy standing on the sidewalk wanting his apartment door open.

This is actually nothing new for us. It happens often for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is just because someone is lazy or just a total jerk. Other times….a majority of the time…it is someone who is a mental health consumer, has little to no resources for help, and/or they are just clueless to how things work.

 

“Lord Help Me”!!!  That is literally what I have to say when I exit my vehicle and I know I’ve got to keep my composure. It is very easy to lose your cool when your adrenaline is suddenly thrust into overdrive. VERY EASY. Immediate thoughts pop into your head like “What an idiot” or “What a jerk” or “He needs to go to jail”.

But this man was a mental health consumer. Testosterone was high when I walked up. Frustration was clear, not only for responders but for the man as well. I knew overwhelming him with accusations and anger might make things worse.

Not everyone has the mental capacity to understand that what they did was wrong. And people’s perceptions of their situation can be totally different from yours. I’ve learned through trial and alot of error, that your approach makes a huge difference.

A co-worker said something very simple and poignant one day while we talked about how people approach situations. He said “It’s not that hard to be nice for like 5 minutes.” Even if you have to fake it, try “nice” first.

I’ve noticed over the years that if I take a minute to gather myself before I even have a chance to lose my cool, then I myself am less stressed. Not that I’ve never lost my cool. I’m far from perfect. But it really is simple to be calm. I just remember not everyone thinks like I do. Not everyone functions like I do. Some don’t even know right from wrong.

A confident but calm approach doesn’t, by any means, say you are weak. If anything it says you are strong. You can easily manipulate a situation by being confident, controlled, and calm…even if you have to fake it. And others will follow your lead. I’ve seen it. I’ve used it. I’ve had success with it.

So if what you are doing when dealing with people isn’t working, change it up.

Be calm, cool, and collected.

 

Make a decision

This cracks me up every time I read it!

www.powerofpositivity.com

I just got a phone call from one of my officers telling me that they had been dispatched to go sit at a private company and babysit two propane tanks while the fumes were burned off. 8 hours for each tank . 

Um…No. The officer knew he needed to run it by me. I, on the other hand, don’t have to run it by anybody. They pay me to make those type of decisions. So my response was…”Tell them I said “no” and that I said we don’t do that. They can call and hire a private company for that.” I know my officer is tactful and I knew he could handle the situation. But just in case, I added, “If they give you any trouble let me know. I’ll head that way.”

Know your people. Trust them, if they have earned it. Have their backs.  Even when they make a decision that isn’t the best choice. Back them for at least making a decision. Remember it could ALWAYS be YOU making the bad decision.

On with the story….I made a decision. I didn’t call and ask someone above me what I should do. I didn’t run my decision by anyone. I didn’t ask permission to say “no”. I just made a decision. 

It took all of 1 minute to make. We are EMERGENCY responders. Standing by for a burn-off isn’t an emergency. Now if it exploded then we would respond as the emergency responders that we are.

 Plus it is hot as hell outside. How miserable!! And boring!! We have training to do. Calls to run. Equipment to maintain. I can’t make my people sit in a running firetruck for 16 hours. 

Could I justify 16 hours of burning diesel at the taxpayer’s expense? AND at the expense of their safety? What if a house caught on fire and the closest firetruck was sitting there babysitting a tank? Nope. Not gonna happen. 

Unless…that company decides to call my boss. Then things could get flipped on me. You never know who might want to do favors for who. But my decision stands and I won’t back down. Won’t be the first and definitely not the last time. And because I’ve had my co-workers back time and time again, they have had mine. 

That’s how it is supposed to work.

I don’t care if it’s a multi-million dollar company. I don’t care who’s connected to who. My people are worth more to me than that. And so are the citizens of our city. 

No care given

(This quote is fresh and based on what I was typing just now. I’m cracking myself up with these stupid things. So at least one of us thinks it’s funny. Haha!)

 The past few of weeks I’ve managed to piss off a couple of co-workers, the entire DA’s Cold Case Unit, a judge, some random court officers, and countless civilians. And I haven’t looked back with regret or shame. 

I have gotten pretty good at pissing people off just by speaking the truth with zero sugar-coating…or “confection”. Haha! Get it?? (If not, then Google the word!) I still find tact to be important. But  sugar-coating is stupid.

I’ve been around long enough to not give a damn about saying what I think. Some of it is my battle with apathy. Most of it though is age and experience. BUT I must say, I usually only speak out on things I am confident about and I feel are important. 

You probably won’t find me poppin’ off about stuff I don’t know or stuff that doesn’t mean shit in the scheme of things. (That’s my “positive”, Beth. Ha!)

Pet-peeve: A know-it-all you doesn’t have their facts straight. 

I strive NOT to be that person. And I strive to surround myself with co-workers and friends who feel the same as I do.

 Tact and fact only, please.