Sunday, November 15, 2009

Report From Ladder Company 40 Day 63

Hi Team!

I am HOME!!! Yay me? :(

Is that confusing? I missed my family a lot, but I had so much fun in Washougal and I LOVE staying with my brother and his family. I wish I could move there! Does that explain the mixed message above?

Today was another good day. I slept in until about 11:00. That was great. Then I had breakfast with my sister-in-law and my nephews and youngest niece. My brother was sleeping because between work and the Burn to Learn he had been up twenty three hours after coming home from a full shift at work and having one hour of sleep. He was a TIRED fireman.

After I ate I spent some time packing and did a little reading. I spent some time just chatting with my nephews and talking with my sister-in-law. I played hide and seek with my three year old nephew for a while. I was glad to do it because for most of my trip there he informed me that he didn't like me! :( I think it had something to do with not letting him eat candy when it was dinner time!

At 2:00 my Sis-in-law woke my brother so that we could go play with the firehose! This is something I have never had the opportunity to do before and I really wanted to! We drove the squad out to an open part of the property and he pulled the hose out. He hooked it up to the squad and then walked me through starting up the pump. When I did some things wrong, he just let me. Then he talked me through figuring it out. He didn't outright tell me what to do. I attached the nozzle to the hose after he told me how to properly unroll it. There is kind of a trick to it to quickly unroll the hose when responding to a fire. He said I did pretty well for my first time. It only unrolled about half way. We were using a 1.75" diameter hose. It is pretty standard size used for a basic exterior attack, I guess. He finished unrolling it, demonstrating the technique he had talked me through and he was, of course, much more effective at it than I but he has just a few years of experience.

My bro gave me his helmet to wear in case I let the hose get away from me. It would have gone flying everywhere if I had and those big nozzles can really clonk you in the head if that happens. He put me in his turnout coat, although I couldn't close it. I am larger around than he is. He gave me a pair of gloves and then I took hold of the hoze and nozzle while he charged the line. I watched as the hose bulged all the way from the pumper to the nozzle, untwisting the hose as the water charged through. I didn't have the nozzle open yet which was a good thing. Those hoses are pretty heavy when they are charged and difficult to maneuver. He warned me to open the nozzle slowly to a) get the air out of the line and b) to determine the spray pattern before I opened up all the way. It can go from a long straight stream to a wide fog pattern. It was not set to straight stream when I started but it was close.

Ordinarily, two firefighters handle the hose. One controls the hose and the other aims and sprays. He let me try it on my own. It was a challenge! I had it tucked under my left arm and used my right hand to open the nozzle and control it. When I opened up the pressure caused the hose to slide back through my left hand and I had to use my arm to hold the hose against my body to keep control. I experimented with different spray patterns while my brother instructed me on the proper stance to best control the hose. He took several pictures of me playing. It was only in the upper forties or low fifties outside and my crazy nephews were out, one in shorts and a rain coat, running under the spray like they were running under a rainbow. Crazy boys!!!

When I had used probably three fourths of the pumper's capacity of water, my bro and I decided to wrap it up. He made me figure out how to shut down the pump. I tried to get hime to tell me what to do, but he is a teacher by nature. He would only tell me to remember what I did to start it and to read the labels. He did give me a hint here and there. Then he showed me how to properly drain the hose and how to roll it up the right way. There is a right way and a wrong way to roll a fire hose! He asked me if I knew why and when I said no he told me to look closely at the hose and figure it out. Eventually I did. The end that the nozzle goes on should be on the inside of the roll to protect the exposed threads! Conveniently this also makes it so that when the hose is unrolled the correct end is nearest the pumper and the other end is nearest the fire!

After we loaded the hose back on the truck and stowed my bro's firefighting gear, he showed me some of the different couplings and nozzles. He also showed me a combo spanner tool, used for disconnecting fire hoses that have become too tight to unscrew by hand and also used to shut off gas meters and various other tasks. He showed me how the tool was used. It was very interesting. If you're into that sort of thing like I am. :)

When we were finished browsing equipment, we took the squad "back to the barn" and my bro backed her in place. Then started the task of refilling her tank.

While the tank was filling we went inside to have some of my sister-in-laws amazing rhubarb crunch (like rhubarb crisp with the crisp both under and over the rhubarb!) and ice cream. YUMMY! Then I said my goodbyes and headed home.

That was my very fun day! I didn't get much exercise but I had plenty of sleep and plenty of fluids. There, now my report is complete!

My trip to Washougal was amazing and I got to do every fire department related thing I wanted to do this time around. YAY ME!!!

Tomorrow I go back to my routine of walking and stair climbing 3 days a week! I've missed that. (very surprised look on my face)

Until we meet again... Stay Safe!

Hotflash out.

Report From Ladder Company 40 Day 62

Hi Team!

Today was an awesome day!! I’ll start with the boring parts. I drank plenty of fluids today, I got plenty of exercise, even though I did not put Pete in service today, and I slept a reasonable amount last night. That makes me 3 for 3 today. YAY ME!

Now for the fun stuff! My bro arrived home around 6 am this morning. He left for work before 5 last night so he was pretty tired. He got me up, as requested and then he went to bed. I had a little bite to eat and a shower. My bro got up an hour later and we left for the Burn to Learn that his fire department was putting on for the day. They usually try to do at least one of these a year. It is an opportunity for less experienced firefighters to learn and gain experience and more experienced firefighters can still learn a lot from them too. I was thrilled to find out a few weeks ago that this event was planned for a Saturday when I was going to be here!

We arrived at Station 93 before 8 am so that we could get information as to where my brother was supposed to be and because the parking at the event was at a premium. This meant that only fire apparatus were allowed so everyone had to meet at the station then ride in on department rigs. My brother and I were assigned to bring in Air 93. This vehicle carries some tools but mostly it is around for filling air bottles.
Once we arrived at the burn, I was assigned to rehab. My bro was assigned as a pumper operator. Poor bro, no fire time for him. :( There were a ton of new guys and they needed the fire time. Apparently there was a fire academy class that just finished up. This burn was their final test.

While the firefighters had their meeting and were briefed on the plans for the day, I helped the rest of the rehab crew set up. We put out awnings for cover, a table to work from, chairs for firefighters to rest at, and put out water, snacks and equipment for taking blood pressures and temperatures. Our job at rehab is to monitor firefighters as they came in from the fire. We helped them out of their gear; checked blood pressures and if necessary, temperatures. We made sure they hydrated during their breaks, and we also filled the empty air bottles, wiping the soot off and checking for any significant gouges or scrapes in them.

One of the things I wanted to do on this visit was to learn to take blood pressures. I had asked my bro about that and he said we would get to it before I left, if all went well. It is hard to make absolute promises when you work the hours you do, spend the rest of your time on call for the fire department and you have a family (wife and six kids!). He does his best to deliver though. My bro is absolutely awesome and amazing!

Well, the rehab boss, Rick, put me to work willingly. Then when the first crew came in for rehab he said that somebody needed to take blood pressures. I said that since I had never done that before and didn’t know how it wouldn’t be me. He jumped on that. He said, “Oh yeah. You just come right on over here. You’re going to learn.” He handed me the stethoscope and the blood pressure device. (I know what it’s real name is, I just cant spell it!) The firefighter I was to check was an EMT. No pressure though. He was actually very nice. Another firefighter who works the rehab unit showed me how to properly attach the cuff. She told me to pump it up. When I asked to what pressure, the EMT and she did not agree as to how far to go, but I went with the EMT’s recommendation. I did not know what to listen for so they told me, as I was trying to listen! I pumped the pressure to 180 and slowly released the valve, listening for the pulse.

When you first hear the pulse what ever the gauge reads is the systolic or top number. Then you continue to listen until you cannot hear the pulse. That is the diastolic or bottom number. It was very difficult to hear as both the rehab firefighter and the EMT firefighter were talking to me while I was trying to do it, but as best I could tell the reading was 120 over 70. That is a normal range so I felt pretty confident with that.

Rick then took his blood pressure again with an electronic wrist device. Our readings came out a lot different, but that is not surprising. Blood pressures can vary from arm to arm (I used the left and he used the right), and we used different methods which can also make a difference. They said that I did very well for my first time taking a blood pressure. The firefighter EMT thanked me and I thanked him for being my guinea pig. He said to me, “Any time, and I’ll be back.” That made me feel good. Firemen are such nice people!

After that I got started learning to use the cascade system. That is the system used to fill the air bottles. I filled a lot of air bottles today. And I enjoyed it. It is a very important job which is part of what made it fun. We tried to help the firefighters out of their gear as much as we could when they came to rehab and the one time I tried to remove an air bottle for one of the guys by myself I happened to get a really tall guy. I am a really short girl! That was kind of comical. He bent over for me so I could slide the bottle up his back and out of its harness, but even bent over, I could not quite reach to do it. He ended up squatting down for me to do it. It was kind of amusing. And the guys were all very good natured about everything.

When we ran out of air to fill bottles with, the crews were winding down the interior attacks. At that point it became a necessity because we couldn’t refill their bottles. This meant it was time to let the fire really burn. I got a great spot to watch the fire from. Actually I was free to roam within boundaries but I got amazing views. I took lots of pictures.

One of the fire pictures I got was a shot inside the window of a home. I couldn’t get close but when I zoom in on the picture I took I can see what it is that made me want to take the shot to begin with. It was a shot showing the flames rolling across the ceiling. It was like waves of flames rolling in layers. It truly looked like a monster in there.

My camera has a short delay so action shots are very hard to get. I missed the collapse of part of the building through the lense, but I got to see it with my own two eyes and it was amazing to watch. From 75 or more yards away the heat from it was intense! I think I could have roasted marshmallows from that far away!

Another shot I was trying to get was really cool. There was a thin tornado of flame and smoke that appeared several times. It was really awesome to look at. I snapped several pictures trying to capture it but the pictures did not do it justice. It was so cool though.

The department even hooked us up with lunch! They put burgers on the barbecue for us and they were not skinny little mystery meat burgers either. They had all the trimmings, and also chips and sodas. There were a lot of happy firefighters there!

I was pleased and excited to see three female firefighters there. There were probably more of them but I met three. Two of them were built very much like me, only a shade taller. Not too much taller. The third one was my height, but she was skinny and strong. She was very nice, too. I really enjoyed getting to meet her. She let me take her picture when she was in rehab having her blood pressure taken. I didn’t get to be in the picture because I wasn’t the one taking the blood pressure, but I wanted photo documentation of the kinds of things I did today.

I really had a good time working at this fire today. The crew at rehab was really awesome to talk to, work with and get to know a little. I really hope to be able to come back and do this again some time. I know it is silly, but I was happy to come back smelling like smoke. Just another way to keep the memory of what I got to be a part of today.

Thanks Bro for your part in getting me involved so I could play. Thanks to the department for allowing me to participate. I am very grateful.

Well, that is all that I have to report. Thanks to all of my team for supporting me and for continuing to read this blog. Your encouragement means so much to me.

I don't have time to load and figure out how to post photos of my trip, but I will try to get some posted in the next week. If worse comes to worse, I'll post them on my facebook and leave the link here in my blog.

Until next time… Stay safe!

Hotflash out.

Report From Ladder Company 40 Day 61

Hi Team!

Today was not a particularly interesting day as far as my climb up my ladder or anything to do with the fire service goes. I did not put Pete into service today so I couldn’t tell you how much walking I did. I would venture to say, not much. I didn’t feel all that well today and I was on my own most of the day while the fam was out at Friday school and my bro was sleeping. If there had been a call we’d have gone, but there wasn’t so we didn’t.

I did drink plenty of fluids. That’s about it. I don’t have anything interesting at all to report today. Wait till tomorrow! The day of the burn!

Until I write again… Stay safe!

Hotflash out

Report From Ladder Company 40 Day 60

Hi Team!

Today was a pretty good day. I stayed up way too late again last night. As I have stated many times before I am a night owl. When I don’t have any specific reason to be in bed early, I don’t have the discipline to go to bed at a reasonable time. I fell asleep about 1:15. I woke up briefly when my niece was getting ready for school. I don’t know when that was, maybe 7:00-ish. I moved all of my stuff from the “school room” (my sister-in-law homeschools the kids, except her high schooler) to the living room and crashed again on the couch. I didn’t wake up again until 12:20 (Sheepish look on face). The point I am making is that I did at least get a good amount of sleep!

Pete actually cooperated with me today. Maybe when I showed him the squad (that ran over my sister-in-laws cell phone -twice!) he got scared! Anyway, he says that from 1:00 until 9:00-ish I walked 4,687 steps. Since I am on vacation and didn’t have anywhere to go, that is probably accurate. I have had no problem getting the fluids down either.

Okay, so fire department stuff is next. Today, was a long slow uneventful day as far as that goes. However, late this evening my brother and I left in my car to go pick his daughter up from a party. Of course that is when a call came in. His station was not first due, but he would have gone to the call had he been at the station or had the squad with him. We decided to stop by another station and pick up the rescue squad there and head to the call. He called dispatch to report and got the go ahead. It was night time so I could see the flashing of our emergency lights from inside the cab as they reflected on the road and trees and such. Sadly, the call was so close to the fire station that we had no need to use the sirens!

We arrived and the ambulance was already there. It was a call involving an elderly man trying to maintain some dignity in dealing with the final chapter of his life. There was a nurse in the home and the man was set up in a hospital bed in his son’s house. I won’t go into the specifics of his needs in order to maintain privacy but the time came to decide how to proceed. The medics were talking to the nurse and the family about weather or not they ought to transport the man to the hospital. The family was rather reluctant to put dad through the rigamarole of doing that and kind of hemmed and hawed about it. But when one of the medics asked the patient what he wanted to do, he indicated he wanted to go. That settled that.

As an observer, I felt a little obtrusive. I felt like I was standing around with a houseful of rescue personnel and I was standing off to the side to stay out of the way, but the family just sees me as someone standing around not doing anything. They didn’t know I was praying for them but I am not sure that they would have thought of that as doing anything anyway. However, once the decision was made to take the man to the hospital, my brother went out for the stretcher. Another of the rescue personnel started to follow him out but he looked at the man and said “She’s with me, we’ve got it,” as he pointed my way. I got to go out and help bring the stretcher in. I got to be useful on a call! Yay me!

When they had the man packaged to go, I got to help carry equipment out of the house. I know it might sound a little silly being excited about that little bit of “action” but I got to be a part of it and that was cool for me! I am happy that this trip I actually got to go on a call, but I hope there are others and that we’ll get a chance to run with sirens. (Yeah, I know, I’m still like a 7 year old boy on his first tour of a fire station.)

After we got home from that call, my brother and I were discussing how these types of calls always get to him a little. It is sad to see someone who has lived a long life and done lots of things and who has been independent for so long now have to deal with the final chapter and try to maintain some dignity. The saddest part is knowing that someone will be left behind. I can’t really put into words what I am trying to explain, but some of you may know already. It makes one face one’s own mortality, and that of their loved ones. I hope that when I get to that point (where the man from the call was) that the caregivers and emergency personnel will have that same kind of compassion for me and for my loved ones that I will leave behind. The whole thing was kind of an affirmation to me that this IS what I want to do with my life. I want to show compassion to others and hopefully make something a little less scary and a little less unpleasant for them. I want to make a difference.

Stay safe my friends!

Hotflash out.

Report From Ladder Company 40 day 59

Hi Team!

First, I want to say, “Thank you veterans for serving our country. America can never show you enough how much what you do or have done for us matters. I for one, appreciate you.

Now for today’s report:

My brother has a ringtone on his phone that he has set as the sound the phone makes in alarm clock mode. It is the sound of the klaxons going off from the seventies era television show, Emergency! That was largely responsible for the widespread development of the EMS in the United States.
For those of you who don’t know, the klaxon is a system of tones that sound with different pitches. Specific combinations of tones are assigned to each fire station so that when a call comes through the system, the personnel know if the call is for them or for another station and can start getting ready to take off as the dispatcher relays the specifics of the call.

This morning my brother was scheduled to work days. He works rotating shift schedules with the power company that is his primary job. He had to be at work at 6 am. My brother uses his cell phone as a back up to his alarm clock because he has six kids and sometimes alarm clocks in his house have been known to magically walk off between the time they have been set and the time they are supposed to go off! Last night my brother was so tired that he left his cell phone in the living room when he went to bed. When it went off at twenty to five in the morning I found it very amusing. I had only been in bed for an hour and ten minutes after having been up twenty three hours. (Yes, I know, BAD Hotflash!) For the first time in my life I woke up from a dead sleep, in a fire station, to the sound of the klaxons! Nice! After being embarrassed and apologetic that his phone had caused me to wake up, my brother was as amused as I was about it. Another “fire station first” for me. Yay me!

Pete was feeling especially rebellious today. He refused to stay clipped to my waist band most of the day and when he WAS there, he kept getting his buttons pushed and reset. Grrrrrrrr!! I currently have access to heavy emergency apparatus that could put Pete out of my misery if he isn’t careful! Of course, I wouldn’t really do that but I’m not telling Pete that! In any case, I have no idea how much walking I did today, but I know it was a lot. I spent several hours at Powells Bookstore which is an incredibly large and amazing new and used bookstore in downtown Portland. While we were there I found an EMT Basic exam prep book with a cd rom that contains anatomy charts and practice tests. It was only $16.00. Nice. Now I have two great resources to prepare for my EMT course with.

I had plenty of water and iced tea today so I’m well covered on my fluid intake. I’m still amazed at how easy that habit was to form when I have had issues about not drinking enough fluids all of my life! I guess that puts me at 2 for 3 for the day. Exercise good, fluids good, sleep –not so much!

I also attended drill night for my brother’s fire department. This department holds weekly drill nights but once a month it is a business meeting. Last time I visited drill night was the monthly meeting. They aren’t very exciting. You can see where I am going with this, can’t you? Tonight I got to go to drill and you guessed it, it was the monthly meeting. YAY ME! Although, unlike last time I attended, there was actually some drilling as well. The firemen pulled out their power equipment, chain saws, generators, fans and the hurst tool,(AKA the Jaws of Life). They had to take the equipment out, discuss how to turn it on and use it properly, safety procedures and precautions when using it and proper storage of the equipment when they were through with it. They discussed it and they demonstrated it. That was kind of cool. And at one point in the evening a fireman addressed the others giving them a talk about the generators on the rigs. He used the abbreviation AO and I saw a couple of guys seemed to be confused. I heard one of them ask the other quietly what an AO was and the other said, “I dunno!” I hadn’t heard it before but I knew the answer. You see, he used that abbreviation after he had been talking a while and I remembered him saying something about the “apparatus operator” a few minutes before. Therefore I figured out that AO was just that. The rookie got brave and asked what AO meant. I was doing my own little happy dance in my head that I knew the answer to the rookie’s question. (Sorry Rookie if you ever happen to read this. It is not a slam to you. In fact, bravo for being brave enough to ask what you didn't know!)

Well, now that I have typed your eyes out, that’s about all I have to report for today. We’re still praying for a real call- but we don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. Even a false alarm would be okay –or a BS call. (One where the fire department isn’t really needed but they get called out anyway because it makes somebody feel better that the fire department responded.) Either way, it would still send us out lights and sirens to a call, but no one would be hurt and nobody’s property would be destroyed!

Until next time… Stay safe!!

Hotflash out.

Report From Ladder Company 40 day 58

Hi Team!

Today has been a good day. I worked my early morning shift then came home and packed. At 10:00 am I left for Washougal –to my brother’s house/fire station. I made good time on the road. It is usually a three hour trip, and my GPS also indicated it would be, but I made the trip in two hours and forty minutes. Traffic was very good to me but then again, It was mid morning on a work day.

Pete was in service most of the day, but since I spent a good portion of my day driving, he logged only 4,836 steps. Fluids were not a problem for me today though. I’ve had nearly 3 quarts of water, herbal tea and iced tea.

My fire department fun for the day was:

1) I signed the release authorizing me to ride a long in the squad and agreeing that I will hold the fire department harmless if I should die or become injured as a result of something that happens during my observation period. Hopefully this trip I will actually get to go on calls! The last two trips I’ve had here did not produce a single call! Seriously!

2) My brother took me out to the squad which has a pump and small water tank. He told me that if he had to use it it is helpful to have another person to monitor the pump while he puts the fire out. (His squad is manned only by himself and is used for small fires such as small brush fires, rubbish fires, etc. He is the only fireman at his station.) He said if he had to use it while I am here, he would pull the line and start the pump but he showed me how to charge the line and monitor the pump and how to make adjustments if needed and how to operate the emergency shut off if a hose should burst or something, so that I have something useful to do if he gets a call. That was so cool of him! My brother rocks!

My brother also did something else cool. He has produced for me his textbook from when he took his EMT course. He gave it to me to study and get a head start for my own EMT training. If I am fortunate, I will be able to register and start my EMT course in April. The head start he is affording me will be good.

I am hoping to have the opportunity to discuss with my bro this visit just exactly what to expect in the class. Today was not the day to discuss it, he is too tired. Ne needs sleep and he crashed shortly after coming home from work. It’s all good though. I still have several days to get my questions answered. I am here until Sunday.

That’s about all I have to report today. I am very glad to be in Washougal, in the fire station and with my brother and his awesome family, but I miss my computer. Writing my blog out longhand is a drag and I miss my friends on the Crusty Old Jakes website!

Until I write again, Stay Safe!!

Hotflash out.