What About Scene Safety?

December 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Like the rest of you I have been horrified by the recent trend of violence against innocence. First the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut and then the Christmas Eve shootings of the two firefighters, arriving at what they thought was a simple house fire. My heart is ripped out at the news like this. These two stories have been especially hard, not because the children killed in the Newtown were the same age as my oldest or because my own husband was on shift at the firehouse on Christmas Eve, but because of the media and the ensuing political debate that has arisen since these events.  I have seen the general public up and those new to the service up in arms over the safety of Fire and EMS at emergency operations.  My thought on this may not be the popular one.  All I can think is

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

In 1997 a secondary explosion at an abortion clinic was timed to go off after the first responders had arrived on scene and begun rescue operations. (http://cgi.cnn.com/US/9701/16/atlanta.blast.update/).  On January 31, 2009 a 25 year old EMT was shot and killed by a patient he was caring for (http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-ems/articles/450084-NY-EMT-shot-dead-by-patient/). Heck, a Google search of assault of EMT, EMT shot, or any other combination of words, brings up multiple articles.  If you read on the studies after 9/11/01, many believe that the plan was for the collapse of the building was to injure and kill the first responders.  In other words, our safety has always been a concern!

As an EMT instructor one of the first lectures I teach is scene safety. I teach personal well-being and personal safety, and each lecture begins with the reminder that you don’t approach unless the scene is safe. I’ve taken great classes on Situational Awareness, and personal protection that are designed to improve my personal safety, but I am also VERY aware of the fact that we can’t be prepared for everything.  What we do opens us up to the potential of unsafe situations. I was at a house fire where an irate home owner became overly aggressive with the firefighters, to the point that the pike pole was used to keep him at bay until law enforcement could step in.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are situations where, no matter how much you do, you will not be able to prevent everything, but our focus should be on our personal safety, our crew’s safety, and then our ability to do the job. 

I truly believe that the media coverage of the recent shootings has been what brought this into so many minds. If you follow the website www.firefighterclosecalls.com you’ve seen the stories over the years regarding every shooting, almost shooting, or assault.  Bottom line is, we must ALWAYS be ready. We must always be prepared for a scene to go bad and we must do whatever we can go keep the belief that EVERYONE MUST GO HOME! 

Please don’t get me wrong, this is not a post to blame any of those who have been lost as a result of violence against them during emergencies. This is just a post to remind you that you must always have your eyes open, your mind open, and your body prepared to respond to the things that can arise at an emergency scene.  My thoughts tomorrow will be with those who are mourning the loss of their brother in Webster, NY, as they are every day with those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty and my prayers will continue to be that one day we can do our job without worrying about our safety being put into jeopardy by things we aren’t trained for!

Until next time…stay safe!

It feels like just yesterday

September 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

That’s not a lie. It honestly feels like just yesterday that the planes hit the World Trade CEnter, the Pentagon, and went down in that field in Pennsylvania. It feels like just yesterday that the nation realized that the world we knew, was no longer. It feels like just yesterday that so many innocent lives were taken in such a senseless act. And yet, here we are today recognizing the 11th anniversary of the event that changed so much.

I’ve spent time today thinking of each of the past 11 years and what I did each year to honor those who were taken. Most importantly I took time to remember the raw emotion experienced on 09/11/01.  I was in my last semester of college and hadn’t yet woken for classes. When the phone rang my first though was of the lost sleep thanks to this interruption.  Who knew there would be so many more lost hours of sleep in the days to come. I woke up in time to turn the TV on, shake the cobwebs and realize what was happening and watched the plane crash into the second tower. I was also glued to the TV when Jim Miklaszewski reported that the Pentagon was being evacuated and they believe it had just been hit.  I couldn’t tear myself away from the coverage and sobbed as I watched the buildings collapse, realizing how many innocent firefighters, police officers, and citizens had been crushed.  I spoke with my aunt who had survived the first attack on the World Trade Center and found that she had safely gotten out on the last subway train.

In the hours to come I would drive to my university, located in a major military area. I would sit in front of the TV on campus, holding hands and watching the events unfold. I also remember calling my office, where I had just begun working in Emergency Management and being told: “Come in, NOW!”. I told my professors I didn’t know when I’d be back and drove towards Richmond. My then boyfriend, now husband was at school in Kentucky and I called him.  I was scared because I didn’t know where I was going or when I would be back. We made sure we said our “I love yous” and “be safe” because I also knew that he and other guys in the Fire Science program were trying to get to New York.

For three days we worked and waited. As the efforts at the Pentagon moved from rescue to recovery I remember the phone calls. I distinctly remember telling a staff member of the Governor’s Office that I couldn’t give him the names of the Virginians who had died in the attacks.  You know it’s the little things. At a certain point it became obvious to me that I would soon be headed to the Pentagon to support our deployed personnel.  That Friday I headed to Arlington. As we drove towards the Pentagon you map the approach of the plane to the Pentagon from the light poles that were knocked down. You could see the structure still smoking, knowing that there were people who would never make it home from work.

I remember everything from my 24 hours at the site. I remember the Arlington Fire Chief telling us that within our first four hours on site they had exploded multiple suspicious packages, arrested a man with a gun, and finally initiated security features. I remember getting credentialed by a man with an M-16. I remember being told that if I was seen taking pictures that my camera would be confiscated by a different man with an M-16. I remember the people: the people who offered help, food, comfort, hugs, clothing, anything. I remember the bus pulling onto the hill overlooking the Pentagon. As I watched, a large number of people got off the buses. I realized they were family members. Family members of those lost when the plane hit the Pentagon were holding a memorial service within view of the recovery team working. WHen the realization hit me that is what I was watching I had to turn away. Until then I’d been able to robot my way through. I had been given a task and was doing it. Those family members became the brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers of those lost and the reality was another smack in the face.

After my 24 hours I went home. We continued to support the events following the attack, but I didn’t go back. I sent more people, but never went back myself. In the past 11 years I’ve shed many tears over the events of 9/11. I become emotional when I think of the world my kids will never know. I become emotional when I think about the people who were lost. It took five years before I was able to drive past the Pentagon without seeing the images that I encountered while I was there. I read something today that made me agree. If you never forget, you never have to remember.  I can say that I will never forget 9/11 or the days that followed. I will never forget those emergency personnel and unsung heroes that saved countless lives. I have promised myself that unless physically unable to, I will participate in a memorial stair climb each year in honor of those firefighters who began the 110 story climb so many years ago and never came down.

So that’s my 9/11 story. Thank you for reading it and letting me share it (this is the first time I’ve ever put it in written word).  What’s your story?

 

Until next time…stay safe

A Great Training Opportunity

July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Each year the Virginia Office of EMS hosts an annual training symposium. This year marks the 33rd annual symposium. Class start on Wednesday and continue through Sunday. The courses focus on a variety of topics including Trauma, Crtical Care, Health and Safety, Critical Incident Stress Management,a nd Communications to name a few. While CEs are available for those providers within the state, there is no limit to who can register for the event. It’s a great training opportunity and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Registrationa nd course information can be found at: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/OEMS/symposium/index.htm

Don’t miss a great opportunity, not just for training but also for networking, socializing, and hanging out with a great group of people!

While on vacation my thoughts travel to Colorado

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

As I sit on the balcony of my hotel room staring out at the ocean I can’t help my mind’s desire to wander to Aurora Colorado and the senseless act of violence that occurred. As I write this, 12 people have died and 59 people were injured. This is the largest MCI since the shooting at Fort ahold. There are bodies that haven’t been removed because of the I process. The apartment of the suspect can’t be entered because of the massive amounts of booby traps that he placed before he committed such a heinous crime. In the days, weeks, months and even years to come we will hear and read more information than our minds may be able to process. I know that there will be critiques and reviews, changes in procedure and lessons learned. We will her about those who were lucky enough to survive and learn about those who weren’t so lucky. I have so many thoughts about the incident and so much I want to learn about. I guess it is the EMS geek in me. That need to break things down and understand the process. As things unfold and the healing process begins for those impacted by the events I can only hope that those who additional help processing the events find it, that those who are injured receive the best care possible, and that those who have lost a loved one find the ability to heal.

I know that I will write about this incident more. Because, while unfortunate there will be things that we as EMS providers can take with us and use (though we hope to never have to). However, as I write about this incident I will do so without mentioning the suspects name. I do this because of the comment made by the brother of one of the victims. The brother, a firefighter paramedic, stated “let us remember the names of e victims and not the coward who committed is act”. So, that is what I choose to do.

Until next time…stay safe

My Time At FDIC

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

So I started this post yesterday, but packing, traveling, and recovering definitely took priority, so here I sit Sunday night reflecting on this past week’s trip.  It’s funny that every year I attend I find myself having a different experience than any other year, but each year is still a GREAT experience!  This year’s focus was two-fold.  The first was introducing my father-in-law to the experience of Indianapolis and FDIC and the second was taking the opportunities given to me by Fire Engineering to share my thoughts and promote my book.

We arrived Tuesday and after checking in took an opportunity to check my computer and make sure it would be perfect for class.  Afterwards we took the opportunity to wander around and found my book on display at hte Fire Engineering booth!  There it was in all it’s glory!  I know that seems silly, but seeing my book on the shelf at a major trade show, really was a bit overwhelming!  We also found the sign that advertised my book signing opportunities. Honestly I think I was more impressed by the names that I was included with then with the fact that I was going to have a book signing.

Because of my schedule this week I wasn’t able to attend a large number of classes (only attended 1). I was able to help my husband get ready for his class (which was a smash hit). I was able to participate in a radio webcast with Mike McEvoy and Robert Raheb (I’ll share the link later). I was able to meet some amazing people! 

My first book signing was Thursday from 11-12.  Here I am:

It was an opportunity to put a face to a book. I actually had two people come and buy my book and ask for my autograph!  My class was Thursday night and was met with great reviews.  I taught on developing strong rehab operations and policies. I’m always happy to share information, but as happens in every class, I’m also just as happy to learn from my students. After class I went and got ready for the Courage and Valor 5K. I had set absolutely no expectations for the run, which was probably the best. I ended up walking some of it, but still finished in a decent time.  I was just happy to have participated in an event that raises money for a great cause and to bring focus to health initiatives for firefighters.

Friday we spent the day wandering through the exhibits. There is always new information, new products, and some great ideas. There are also lots of giveaways and contest to enter (which I LOVE doing).  Come one, you know we all love free stuff! It was nice to relax and take our time walking through. I had my second book signing and while I didn’t get an opportunity to sign any books, I was given a great opportunity to meet and talk to two fire service legends. Paul Combs (best known for his illustrations of issues in the fire service) and Battalion Chief Frank Montagna of FDNY.  These men have had a great impact and took the time to give me comments, ideas, and support for my book and future projects.  It really was an honor!

Saturday was leave time. We got up and did one last sweep through the exhibits. We packed, we entered one last contest, which my husband won and we went home.  The trip home became quite an experience (but that could be a whole separate post).  I’m happy to be home, but truly thankful for the experiences I had and people I interacted with.

I have a few more posts about the week that I’ll share throughout the next few weeks, but until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn).

Friday Five – FDIC Five

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, given that FDIC is only three days away, and I leave next Tuesday (only five days from now) to participate, today’s post is dedicated to five things I hope to do/see/participate in during this year’s FDIC.

Top Five “To-Dos” For FDIC

1.  Teach My Class – This may seem like a simple concept, since that’s really why I’m going, but man do i look forward to teaching. I always come away from my classes feeling like I’ve met some great people, taken away some great ideas, and firmed up why I love doing what i do. The opportunity to teach to a national/international audience is a truly humbling experience and I love doing it each and every time.  If you are attending FDIC, my class is Thursday from 1:15-3:30 in Lucas Oil Stadium Room 10-12

2.  Take AMAZING classes – This conference is an amazing opportunity to take classes from nationally recognized names and from those people who are working their way to that status. It’s an opportunity to hear about programs and initiatives across the country that I might not have been exposed to. Fire Engineering has done a great job of finding a great mix of Emergency Management, Fire, and EMS training opportunities.

3.  Promote my Book – I don’t often like promoting myself, but Fire Engineering has given me a great opportunity two have two book signings during the conference. I will be available on Thursday from 11-12 and Friday from 1-2 to sign copies of my books.  If you already have a copy, bring it!  If you miss me at the Fire Engineering booth, stop me in the hallway and I’ll be happy to sign the book!

4.  Participate in some great events – This year I’m actually participating in the Courage and Valor 5k.  It’s a great opportunity to promote health, recognize a great Fire Service Leader, and hang out with great people.  My goal is to finish the event with a time that beats my split time from the 10K I just participated in, but other than that I look forward to running with some great people and being motivated to keep maintaining my health. Along with that event, I plan on attending the F.O.O.L.S. event on Wednesday night and watching the 9-11 memorial stair climb at Lucas Oil Stadium.

5.  Enjoying time with some amazing people.  Not just the ones I’ll be traveling with, though, but I also look forward to interacting with my fellow Fire and EMS service members, with the amazing employees of Fire Engineering who organize a great conference, meeting some new vendors, interacting with the people of Indianapolis, and truly just enjoying my time surrounded by a great city, wonderful people, and amazing opportunities.

This list may look corny, but this conference is truly a great event and I look forward to it each year!  If you haven’t been, you should definitely plan on attending next year.  The opportunities for learning and interaction are truly too many to number!

Are you going to FDIC?  If so, what are you looking forward to?

Until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn)

What Resources are Out There?

April 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I thought about calling this mental monday, but figured that might not be appreciated by someone who stumbles on this post. Emergency services humor can be kind of sick and twisted to some. Sometimes that’s how we help ourselves and each other.And sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to ask for help from others. That’s when the question comes into play: “What resources are out there?” What do you have access to that can help you deal with the things we see on the job?

One of your first resources should be your company officer. unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity to turn to that person. Whether it’s because of personality conflict or other issues. When this happens, you should have a mentor. Someone who understands the job, someone who understands the situations that can arise. This mentor can be someone who is retired, works in a different department/different station, it doesn’t matter.

The next resource is interdepartmental. I believe that each department (whether individual stations or entire jurisdictions), should have a group of people who members can turn to. i wouldn’t call it a formal debriefing group, but this should serve a method for providers to go to someone they don’t work with on a daily basis. Or in cases where they do not have a mentor or are fairly new to the department, give them people who have training and experience to bounce feelings off of. They may not have formal training and should DEFINITELY be the person that others turn to in the leadership role (whether formal or informal), but they should be there and willing.

Another resource that is out there for help is much more related to the career side.  If your department (whether career or volunteer) has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), this can provide you information and resources to assist with mental stress.  They are also able to provide assistance with substance abuse, financial concerns, legal concerns, and many other topics. Many departments offer EAPs that provide a few sessions for free, which should definitely assist in getting people to seek help.

Another resources you need to look into is the International Association of Critical Incident Stress Management. Not only do they provide trainings across the country, they also have access to the CISM points of contact for EVERY state.  This can help you find CISM teams after a major incident that might have you looking to conduct a debriefing.

I hope that you NEVER have to access the resources that I’ve mentioned, or other resources that you have in your department. However, you should always have quick access to the resources, should the time come that you do need.

I’d be interested in knowing what other resources you have at your fingertips.  Leave me a comment!

Until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn)!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the EMS category at Sticky Side Down.