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Thursday, March 31, 2011


Originally posted 7/28/2009, removed during a spate of paranoid content cleanup 5/26/2010, and now re-posted after some review and editing.

Got home from the night shift at the power company at about 0620. Wasn't asleep long when the call came in. Unknown injury accident, vehicle on fire.

It is in 51's first-due, which means me. Meh. I like sleep, and could really use it right now.

As a general rule, due to my location and lack of members nearby, I usually roll alone. Help is coming, though, from the next station over which is staffed full time.

Oops.... forgot, the engine was out for maintenance and no reserve in its place. All I've got is the brush/EMS squad. So be it.

Brush51 has arrived and is Command. One car upside down off the road, fire coming from the engine compartment, There is a damaged pole with wires down on the road. Unknown patient status, investigating. Need the power company, and law enforcement for traffic.

I hate running alone sometimes. There is just too much crap to do by yourself.

I was able to quickly determine that the car was empty, and was told that the driver had walked away somewhere, telling bystanders she was 'fine'. With no one trapped and no exposures to speak of, I was not nearly as concerned about the fire as I was about the lines and adjacent poles holding the weight up. But, the sheared-off pole ended up being a guy wire support pole, the draped wires are just the three guy wires attached to it. None of the 3-phase primary on the other side of the road is damaged, and the fallen guy wires are nowhere near the primary or neutral, so there is no immediate danger from them.

I was two-hatting... power company guy in turnouts, studying the poles and wires while the car burned merrily away.... the fire at that point was of no serious consequence to me beyond keeping people away from it.

I assigned the first-due engine to deal with the fire while I finished surveying the scene and looked for the driver. They arrived a minute or so later and took care of that business. I tracked down the driver, a pleasant young lady who claimed falling asleep at the wheel, refusing treatment.

I returned most of the troops, transforming the scene mostly into a law enforcement event. Besides, I was more than happy to turn control over to them. Without an ongoing fire or a patient, there wasn't much reason for us to be around, but we were happy to provide big BRTs to block traffic.

The young lady presented to all of us (brothers in blue included) as coherent and lucid, not to mention lucky. Then, one of the officers on scene, in spite of the early morning hour, picked up something on his cop spidey sense, and decided maybe a FST was in order.

She failed. Apparently from the residuals of beverages consumed the night prior. At the BAC level she blew, most of us would show the effects. This young lady was not of legal age, either. Practice a lot? And seriously... it's 0730. What was that BAC at the end of the party?

But wait, that's not all. Young lady then admitted that this is the second time she has walked away from a totaled vehicle.

Young lady, you are out of chances. If you want to get dead, please do so in a manner that does not put the rest of us at risk. And preferably in a manner that does not require me to wake up when I am trying to sleep between power company night shifts. A little courtesy, please!

Anyway, two-hatting worked out OK this time, but generally is to be avoided. I know better.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Your Agency's Disaster Family Care SOP

My agency's what?

You read it right.

Disaster Family Care Standard Operating Procedure.

It was a chore for many of us to get our agencies to admit that we needed to develop the SOP for LODDs. But when they happen is for sure not the time to try to write them up.

Likewise for taking care of family in event of a major disaster.

Figure what happened in Japan happens in your area. Hundreds of thousands need help, right now. And where is your family? Are they OK? Do they need you, too? Right in the belly of the beast of a MAJOR catastrophe is when rescuers are needed more than ever, and when many of us are simultaneously more likely than ever to abandon our posts because our spouses, children and other loved ones are non-negotiable personal number one priorities. (Speaking for myself, I'll get the double-whammy.... both the FD and power company will be expecting me to show up.)

Would you feel better if you knew that someone was watching out for them and taking care of business while you are working to save the world with your brothers and sisters? Someone you can really trust?

Enter the Disaster Family Care SOP.

This can take a wide range of approaches, but what it boils down to is that your agency will have one or more assigned personnel, as many as it takes depending on the size of your agency, whose only responsibility in time of major catastrophe is locating and accounting for designated family members, and ensuring that they are protected, sheltered, fed and clothed.

How you develop this policy will vary widely depending on the size and scope of your agency, where you live, and what hazards are possible or plausible.

The policy will require that each member at least annually verify or update the persons who will be searched out and accounted for, and protected in event of disaster. This list will need to include names, phone numbers, schools, places of work, and cars driven, etc. Obviously, for privacy concerns, this information will also need to be carefully guarded internally.

It will require that family members know how to reach the person(s) in your agency who will take care of them. Phone numbers if they work, meeting places if they don't. For outlying areas, there might be neighborhood-based or even per-family-based meeting places. You figure out what it will take and what can be reasonably managed, and make it happen.

Your agency's family protection personnel will need to have transportation assets that will be available to them in this time of need that are capable of getting in and around rough terrain, and of moving multiple family members at a time.

Your policy will need to identify one or more designated places of shelter for families of emergency personnel, and have access to resources to care for their needs for at least 72 hours, but longer wouldn't hurt.

As heartless as it sounds to outsiders, the families of rescue personnel do require priority attention. We saw that when families were given first priority after rescuers themselves to get vaccinated for the swine flu "panic" - so that rescuers wouldn't end up staying home to care for sick family members.

The truth is that without that priority of care for our families, rescue workers may gradually peel off to watch out for their own at home, and then the whole rescue operation will break down.

Therefore, in order to ensure your agency is there for the citizenry when it really hits the fan, your department actually should consider itself obligated to develop this SOP. With this plan in place, we will all sleep better at night, and not be afraid of being caught at work when the big one comes.

Stay safe out there.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mad Skilz

You have them.

(Yeah, I know I recycled the pic, but it is better in this format.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No! You're Doing it Wrong!

Originally posted 7/28/2009, removed during a spate of paranoid content cleanup 5/26/2010, and now re-posted after some review and editing.

I apologize if this post offends, but it is how I feel right now. I get a little punchy after these calls.

First off, if you're going to end your life, you should realize how few will seriously have sympathy for you. They're not going to cry over your grave with a special leaning towards how wronged you were and how they wished they had done whatever differently. Or, if they do, you won't be around to know about it, so what's the point? This helps you how?

The mess you create, the pain, the baggage of closing out your story..... it is very selfish to unceremoniously dump your problems and obligations onto others by leaving them behind like that. I understand you have issues. I have had issues too. Issues I wouldn't seriously mind escaping from. But taking the final exit on purpose is seriously inconsiderate, to put it lightly, and that is the main way you will be remembered. Just so you know.

If you choose to pop a cap into your brain, it will make things much easier on your local emergency services if you do a little anatomical research first. Find out which part of the brain is important, and aim there. Aiming elsewhere usually will still do the trick, but on a much slower and more painful schedule. What could have been a tight, clean operation requiring only the intervention of law enforcement and ServiceMaster is then extended into a major operation which ties up an ambulance and its medics, a gaggle of firefighters to assist, and in some cases, even more firefighters to set up and monitor the LZ for the helicopter, not to mention the helicopter itself. All of these resources could have been better utilized to save the lives of those who want to still be alive.

Lastly, if you are ever dealt the agonizing hand of being present or arriving to find that someone else has taken the final exit, a final pointer to speed the response of help:

Our safety comes first. Until we know the scene is safe and that the person is not actively still trying to die and willing to kill anyone who attempts to prevent that attempt, we stay out and wait for law enforcement. We can act on our discretion if we get assurances from the dispatchers that the scene and the weapon are secured. It is not helpful to tell the dispatcher that someone has been shot and then hang up without providing all the details. It is not helpful to ignore the phone when the dispatcher calls back. Result: We wait up the road until our brothers in blue arrive. So, stay on the phone and answer all questions to get the fastest intervention.

A final rebuttal to myself: Actually.... doing it this way provides an excellent candidate for organ donation, leaving us a short-term viable patient so steps can be taken to save the lives of others. If that is your plan, I guess this is an example of doing it right. I sincerely and fervently hope that the person who inspired this post did not have any conditions that prevented this from happening. If it all works out, I guess we firefighters are OK with going through all that to save other lives, but the preferred alternative is to ask for and get help. Those resources are out there for the finding. It is better for all involved if you just stay with us.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

THWS: Comprehensive Movie Ratings

Today I give you the latest installment of the Totally Handy Web Sites (THWS) series.

I am a parent of several children, and I am a firm believer in filtering them from unnecessary crap in entertainment media. I also need to filter, from time to time, exactly what it is that they are exposed to depending on the age of each kid.

Regarding movies, what exactly is PG, or PG-13? Did it get its rating because of too much skin? Too much blood? Too much language? Could be any of them. I am willing to tolerate more contextual violence for the kids than skin, for example. If it's a war movie, people bleed. But a comedy that relies too much on partly-dressed ladies to be cute is not of value to my kids. Bad language? What exactly is it? Cursing? Suggestive language? The MPAA system is so incredibly subjective that it is impossible to decide with any real assurance what is OK for the kids of any particular age to watch based on the MPAA rating alone.

Enter Kids In Mind

The staff of this site goes to incredible lengths to tell you exactly what to expect in a movie that you would want to know about before letting the kids watch it. Each movie is scored on a 1-10 scale in three areas: Sex and Nudity, Language, and Violence and Gore. And they don't just score them so you make your judgment on the rating, but they go to a detached level of objective detail as to how each score was determined.

Lets look at a couple of examples.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

This is supposed to be a harmless kids movie, right? Rated PG? Why? Kids In Mind scored it a 2.3.2 (Sex-2, Violence-3, Language-2). Not too bad, I guess, but what's in it? Their review reveals, among other things, that A chipmunk says that a woman is "Practicing her pole dancing." A remark is made about a chipmunk having "Junk in the trunk." A chipmunk calls to a crowd, "Shake what your mama gave you.". My six year old does not need to see or hear that. The violence is all cartoonish violence, and though they spell it out in detail, it is silly and of no consequence. On the language, they report 3 mild anatomical terms, 2 mild obscenities, exclamations (nuts, heck, dang), name-calling (short, jock, dirty rat, stupid, jerk, low-life, rat face, suckers, loser), 2 religious exclamations.

This may seem overkill in detail, but it tells me a whole lot more than "PG" did. I'd let the pre-teen kids watch it, but I also wouldn't go out of my way to pick this when movies of higher quality are out there.

How about a movie that I might or might not want to watch with my wife?

No Strings Attached

Rated R, unsurprisingly, but why? Kids In Mind scored it 8.3.6, and although the very detailed description never mentions frontal nudity, there is so much visual and verbal sexual content and partial nudity that it racks up the score quickly and has a very long 10-paragraph breakdown of what contributed to the sex/nudity score. And as for the language? A score of 6 is found with About 16 F-words and its derivatives, 29 sexual references, 11 scatological terms, 16 anatomical terms, 7 mild obscenities, name-calling, 13 religious exclamations. Very survivable to adults, I suppose, but not my kind of movie, either.

So you see, this site is not just for parents to filter for the kids, but for adults to filter for themselves, too. Some of the people I show this site to laugh at me and think I am way overzealous about protecting my kids. You know what, they're right. My kids don't live in a protective castle, but quality, context, and crap are subjectively things that I care about, that are not adequately measured by the MPAA. Kids In Mind lets me make a confident decision in what I watch or let my kids watch, without having to preview the show on my own. You too may chuckle at first, but when you aren't sure about a show your kids ask to see, I bet you'll find yourself at Kids In Mind checking it out. And then you'll tell your friends about it, too.

Do you have a Totally Handy Web Site you like? Let me know and it might be added to the collection here. grumpydispatcher [at] gmail

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Has Been Seen

I was filling in for a career guy and assigned to the first-out three-man Medic unit as the driver.

The lights came on and the beeps nonchalantly rained down from the ceiling speakers. Stabbing, situation unknown, at the truck stop next to the interstate. Well, that certainly sounds like an interesting job. Here we go. The dispatchers didn't have much additional information other than that a female had somehow suffered stabbing injuries of unknown severity, and there was no info on the perp at all.

The PD arrived well ahead of us, and waved us in unhurriedly as we rolled up, indicating the situation was safe. At least as far as they could tell, which is good enough for us.

We were led by an employee to the women's restroom, where we found an older and "well-worn" female subject sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall under the paper towel holder. Two officers were collecting information from her. Her shirt was somewhat bloody in front over her abdomen, but she was CAOx4, her color was good, and she looked rather irritated that we showed up. And the room was now pretty cramped for space.

Now I don't know how many of you all have really been around truck stops beyond the peripheral vacation gas fill-up and sugary snack to stay awake. This particular truck stop is a large complex, with a separate fueling island for the big trucks located away from the main restaurant/gift shop/convenience store. It also has a large truck maintenance facility, truck wash, etc. Big place. Proportionately, there are usually perhaps 300 or more trucks parked in their sprawling parking area at any given time. Huge. And with that many trucks come that many drivers. And with that many drivers comes the services that those drivers can financially support, legal or otherwise.

Our patient was one of those "providers". Truck drivers do not exactly draw the attention of high priced providers. There is a reason that these providers are derisively called "lot lizards". It is a sad and tragic place for these women to end up, but they do what they have to for survival or to support their habits. And no matter their station in life, they deserve respect and equal care from us, so here we are, and there she is, bleeding on the floor.

But why is she so angry to see us? A profanity-laced rant comes forth. In a nutshell, she's offended that there are now five men in the restroom who are "only there to watch while she takes her shirt off". We're a bunch of pervs, you see.

What has been seen cannot be unseen, and she hasn't even removed the shirt yet. I'm sorry, lady, but don't flatter yourself. Eeek.

So the medic stays behind with one officer, and the rest of us file out. There seemed to be no activity regarding finding the assailant, which struck me as odd.

We got the cot, she eventually walked out and sat on it herself. We loaded her into the box without incident beyond a contemptuous glare. I was happy to be the driver, safe in front.

So...... what was that all about, anyway?

Seems that at some point in years past, she had invested in her trade by getting breast implants, to help demand higher rates. Then, after a few years of that, something clicked and she decided to get them removed. And she decided to do it herself. At some point a few days prior, she used some sort of knife and made incisions at the bottom edge of each breast, making them as large as necessary to remove the implants. No anesthetic, no disinfectant, no sterile environment, no help, and no stitches to close them back up.

Wow. I mean.... WOW. Really? Just when you thought you'd seen it all, the job reminds you that you haven't and probably never will.

So, anyway, she covered the wounds with gauze and tape, changing them out periodically. I guess she'd been leaving blood on a lot of shirts for a few days, and someone finally noticed it who thought it prudent to call it in. Apparently it took some convincing to get her to agree to have it fixed properly at a hospital. She had wanted to decline transport and keep doing her thing. And knowing the culture of the truck stop, it probably didn't impact her business all that much.

There are so many words that apply to describe this one. I'm not even going to try.