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


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

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)!

Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC)

March 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today marks the one month countdown for the 2012 FDIC festivities. I (along with four other family members) will leave my hometown and travel to Indianapolis, Indiana for the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference.  I am honored not only to be able to attend as an instructor for the third year, but also to attend as a new author for Fire Engineering/PennWell Publishers. I have been to numerous conferences, but none like this. The training classes that are offered, the instructors that are brought in, and the vendors that line the exhibit floors are AMAZING, OVERWHELMING, and AWESOME!  Each year I arrive excited for the opportunities and leave overwhelmed with the information I gathered.

As I said, I will be teaching a class.  If you are attending, I would love to have you sit in and join me:

Course Title: Beyond the Water Cooler: EMS Role in Rehab
Course Date:
Thursday April 19
Course Time: 1:30-3:15

Two other great courses to attend (forget that they are taught by my husband and my father) are:

Course Title: Engine Company Operations
Instructor: Robby Owens
Course Date:
Wednesday April 18
Course Time: 10:30-12:15

Course Title: Emergency Responders vs. Electrical Hazards
Instructor: Frank Cheatham
Course Date: Friday April 20
Course Time: 8:30-10:15

Along with the great training/education opportunities, there are some awesome social networking opportunities, and just some amazing chances to meet other emergency services providers from around the country/world.  This year I will also be participating in the Courage and Valor Fun Run, a 3.1 mile (5K) run through White River State Park. There will also be a 9/11 memorial stair climb. I plan on watching that this year as well!

Even thought it is just 30 days away, there is still time to register and also to find a great hotel room.  Check out this link for some additional information.  http://www.fdic.com/index.html

Hope to see you there!

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

Friday Five – Five Classes for EMS Providers

March 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Okay, so I don’t normally provide too much background on my choice for Friday Fives, but I have to give a bit of a background to this list.  I had the pleasure of having a telephone conversation with what I call an EMS purist. You know them, those people who will only ever ride on an ambulance, only ever concern themselves with EMS stuff, and never understand the need for anything other than EMS. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the conversation with this guy made me feel like I’d fallen backwards 10 years in progression fo the system.

This gentleman did not understand why he, an EMS provider, needed to take NIMS training. Ten years after it was put into place, this individual still had not taken any of the NIMS trainings because and I quote “That’s a fire science class and I only run EMS calls”.  Without reaching through the phone and smacking this person, I calmly explained to him that while he may only run EMS calls, he will always work with other members of the emergency services field and that NIMS provides a framework for responding with multiple different agencies. He still didn’t seem to get it, even after I used his own localities recent interaction with state and federal resources as the result of damage from a hurricane.  He didn’t get it when I explained to him that the basics are important and that it actually wasn’t a huge deal because the training is available online, FOR FREE. After finally finishing my phone conversation I was struck by two things:

1.  Some people will just never get it.

2.  There are still EMS providers who believe that the only training they need is first aid based, just as there are probably still fire service members who believe the only training they need is how to put water on the fire.

With those two things in mind, today’s friday five is a list of five classes I believe every EMS provider should have (beyond first aid training), even if they are only riding on a fire truck.

Five Classes for EMS Providers

1.  National Incident Management System (NIMS) – Forget that this is a free course and forget that you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to take it if you don’t want to. If this course cost and you had to travel, I’d still recommend it. The NIMS training, while not federally mandated, should be made a mandate by agencies for their members. It provides an understanding of the frame-work of response, from the basic to the large-scale incident. It takes out the actual operational efforts and describes the organization fo the efforts and the resources/agencies available. Anyone who might EVER respond to an event should have this training. Check out: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/NIMSTrainingCourses.shtm for more information

2.  Incident Command Systems (ICS) – While NIMS talks about the ICS structure, the application and implementation of ICS is covered in other. Many of the courses offered are actually specific to the field, so you can take an Incident Command/Operations Course aimed at a target audience of EMS providers. This will provide scenarios that are EMS based and allow you to better understand the fact that you have a role in ICS, even if you only ride on the ambulance.  The National Fire Academy (NFA) offers a wide variety of these courses, and is an experience every emergency services member should have!  Visit http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/index.shtm for additional information on National Fire Academy courses

3.  Hazardous Materials Awareness – Every EMS provider should take a hazardous materials awareness course. We need to understand how to recognize a haz-mat situation, how to identify a hazardous material (from a distance) and how to look that same hazardous material up in the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) to assist in the treatment of our patients. This is a course that can be taken online and is often taught in person by the state Emergency Management agency or Fire Programs office.

4.  Vehicle Extrication – This is a hard one to explain. Some of you  readers are actually doing extrication off the ambulance. In some jurisdictions though, extrication is a fire department activity (probably in more localities than there are EMS doing extrication). Even if you never place your hands on a spreader, cutter, ram, etc, you need to understand the process of extrication. Extrication is a patient care driven issue (that’s another argument I could write about). We wouldn’t be doing extrication if there wasn’t a patient in the car. An EMS provider with an understanding of the process of vehicle extrication can be prepared for the impacts on the patient, understand the time issues associated with different techniques, and use their knowledge to provide information to the patient (if conscious) about what the extrication team is doing.

5. Critical Incident Stress Management – This training, whether through International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), the Red Cross, or some other agency, provides not only the ability to help others deal with the impacts of the job, but also provides a foundation for recognizing when you are personally impacted as well. We focus so much on the reactive approach (treating things AFTER they happen). If we could provide this training, or even a simpler form, we may be able to PREVENT individuals from being impacted emotionally/mentally by a critical incident.

So, those are the trainings (beyond first aid) that I truly believe EVERY EMS provider should have. You may or may not agree with me, but I think we can all agree, that the training is out there and we should definitely take advantage of it. Why would you not want to be the best provider you can be?

Do you have any classes you would add to this list?  Feel free to share your thoughts here or on twitter!

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

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