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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lightbulb Moments

The tow truck guy rolled the car back upright, and it fell with a crunch. The left rear tire was still about 18" off the ground. This car was crushed in a funky way, for the tire to be off the ground like that. Yet, the 18 year old kid who rolled it end-over-end on prom night was merely rattled. Signed a refusal against our advice and wasn't transported.

We were sweeping crap off the road when a power company truck appeared out of the darkness. One of my guys, but I didn't know who. Wrong hat at that moment. The pole that had been clipped was OK, the primary still firmly attached, but technically a journeyman needs to eyeball it for our company to call it good.

I went to meet my serviceman, and saw that it was Gary, the new guy who was promoted from the line department to fill Howie's position.

"Hey Gary, who are you with tonight?" Gary is still in his training window and assigned to another guy for a couple more weeks before going solo.

A slight pause. And then, "It's just me, we're busy tonight and no one else was available."

"Let you out all alone huh? Well, cool. The pole has a nick but is fine, I haven't looked at the primary real close but it seems OK. Let me know if you see something I missed."

Gary shined his light at the crossarm, and all was well.

"It's not as if you're new at this anyway, right? We all know you don't need the training month except for how to deal with customers one-on-one when they get shifty." Just giving him friendly guff.

Gary looked at me for a couple of beats. "You look really familiar."

My lightbulb moment. Gary didn't know I was a fireman in my other life, and has only ever seen me driving a desk or with a white staff hardhat at job sites. Now it's night, in a downpour, on some back country road, flashing red and blue lights, I am dressed in turnouts and am totally out of context.

"Sorry Gary, the context is wrong.  I'm Grumpy,....your new boss."

Gary's lightbulb moment. Your boss is also a fireman.  I introduced him to the other guys on my crew.

Too bad I can't play that trick more often. And it could have had so much more fun with it if I had only known of the possibilities beforehand.  Next time.....

Thursday, April 19, 2012


My interactions with Mayberry seem to have an unbalanced number of coincidences. One of their folks, last time we were together, said he couldn't decide if me running automatic aid into their area was good or bad luck yet. There doesn't seem to be any drama when any of our other guys go over there, though. It's just me who is possessed, apparently.

I was working on some of their pagers for them as a favor, and headed out in Engine 51 to drop off the sorted/repaired equipment. I was just pulling in to their HQ station, noticing that two bay doors were up as they were doing their dailies, when their tones dropped for an automatic fire alarm within the auto-aid zone Engine 51 is assigned to.

For an agency that runs less than 150 calls a year.... you've heard me say stuff like this before.... I had not even had a chance to park. I hit the lights, pulled a U right there in front, and responded.

Dispatch to arrival was two minutes. Not bad. When Mayberry's engine arrived, I gave them the lowdown on the accidental activation. No fire. Their officer then asked, how in the world did I get there so fast? As it turned out, no one had noticed me turn around at their station.

Well, if you'll come over here and look at the engine, you'll see where the paint peeled off from me driving over 175 MPH.

Just kidding. I told him the actual story, though it probably wasn't all that much more plausible.

I like running with those guys. We're always genuinely happy to see each other. Not everyone plays well together, so a little neighbor agency good news is worth seeing once in a while, right?

Stay safe and hug your family often.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Are You Looking At?

Bruce was out on routine duty in Truck 570, cruising from one keeping-the-lights-on chore to the next, when he saw something strange on the top of a streetlight pole. Seeing as how we've supplied him with a company bucket truck, he decided to take a closer look. This is what he found.

Now we do get the odd request once in a while from the FBI, asking permission to put something on our poles, but their stuff is very subtle, usually the camera is so small it looks like the photocell. This camera was not in that league, rather it seemed to have a flaming coming-out party, screaming "look at me!".

Just to be safe and not step on any federal toes, Bruce left it there after taking some pictures and letting me know about it. I kicked it up the chain. A week or so later the work order appeared: We don't know whose this is or why it is there, take it down. I saved the job for Bruce, and he brought it in at the end of his shift. It was even bigger in person.

So, he says, while he was removing it, the guy whose house it was aimed at came out and crossed his arms, watching with disapproval. That could have meant a lot of different things. I looked up his house and found it listed to someone with an very eastern Europe-sounding name. Interestinger.

But the truth was boring. The guy came in a few days later and asked for his camera back. We figured we'd never know where the signal was being transmitted to know who or why someone was watching this place, but this was pretty cut and dried. Putting up your own security camera doesn't carry the same drama as hidden surveillance. Except for the part where you're stealing a little electricity.

We let him go with a "don't do that again", and that was that.

Bruce revived the drama, though.... what if he actually was being watched and now he's taking apart the camera to figure out who was watching him? Cue the cliffhanger music.....

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Need a Bigger Hammer

So I am at home dawdling around when my Mayberry Minitor goes off. Diabetic. I skipped on over to Station 51 and picked up the engine to go lend a hand as it was relatively close to 51's. It was an uneventful routine diabetic call. Shortly after the Medic finally arrived from way over yonder in Shiloh, Mayberry banged out another run, a low-priority trauma.

Now, Mayberry only does 120 or so calls a year, so two in the same day is quite uncommon. Two on top of each other is fairly unheard of. Shiloh Medic 11 released us fire guys to the new call as the incident was stable. Medic 12 was assigned. Before we could get out the driveway, there was yet another EMS run elsewhere in Hazzard County, and Medic 12 was diverted. Medic 13 and 14 are all that's left, and both are staffed by callbacks and volunteers. And it is the middle of a weekday when personnel resources are low. Medic 11 directed Hazzard 911 to get us Medic 98 from our side of the line if they heard nothing from the remaining Shiloh ambulances in five minutes.

Well sure enough, five minutes went by. We arrived at the new call and found that our low priority fall was actually an oh-crap trauma call. Hey guys, do we have an ambulance yet?

Then we heard tones on our side drop for Medic 97, dispatching them Code 1 to "Move up for coverage into Hazzard County".

WTF? 97 is farther away than 98, and what's with this generic "move up" thing?

Our dispatcher then elaborated for Medic 97, saying that they got a call from the local private BLS ambulance service. Seems that instead of going 911 center to 911 center, Hazzard 911 called the non-emergent transport service in our county for a Code 3 call. They in turn called the 911 center, and the result was the non-committal and somewhat vague move-up request. A lot was lost in translation, you might say.

Radio traffic cleared the confusion fairly quickly after that and Medic 98 started our way as the closest unit, Code 3.

All said and done, it was 55 minutes from initial Hazzard County dispatch until Medic 98 from our side arrived, though it was only a 15-mile country drive.

ARRRRRRRGH. Why is it so damned hard? I am positive that if I sat in with the Hazzard dispatchers I might understand what is going wrong. But to fix it? This is more than procedural. It is cultural, and I don't have a big enough hammer to swing to change that.

Grit teeth. Keep calm. Carry on.