Friday, July 31, 2015

Another Week and Life Goes On

Welcome...hope all has been well with you and yours since your last visit. We sincerely appreciate each and every one of you that arrive here to read our posts. Yes, we too, wish there was much more news about our show that we could share here, but as our partner Jesse says, "The wheels of Hollywood turn very, very closely!" We had hoped that either yesterday or today we'd have an update today. Then again, it's only 4 o'clock in L.A. as I write this. So maybe I'll be interrupted by a phone call and.....
Right...sure! LOL

More importantly, there have been some excellent conversations on Twitter this week regarding firefighter health initiatives. Those of you who read our blog and/or follow our Twitter feed at @DalmatProd, know that this is one of our prime topics. As a matter of fact, it is so important to us that it will be written in to episodes of our show, along with arson prevention, childhood arson intervention and remediation, among others.

Approximately two weeks ago the statistic that nearly 50% of LODD's are caused by preventable health issues. FIFTY PERCENT!! That is the highest level in recent years. And why? Why do so many of our brothers and sisters lost to this? Would we willingly and knowingly walk into a wall of flame without PPE? Of course not! Would we smoke a cigarette while filling up at the gas station? Don't be silly! They why-oh-why do we allow food, lack of exercise, and other external factors to rule our health?

Yesterday, after reading one of the positive remarks about rededicating ourselves to a strong health initiative, I tweeted that one of the best and easiest exercises that one can do is to use your arms to push yourself away from the table where all the food is! There was another good post that really showed that we often create our very own problems when we're on shift. How many times has the "cook" for the shift made an extra-large table of delicious eats, featuring everything that you really know deep inside, are no different than shoving a needle in your arm and inject a syringe full of trans-fat.

Sure, our job, whether we're career or volunteer, is stressful. The calls we respond to are often so sporadic that we either miss one or two meals all together or, we never get to finish when we do sit down. All of that throws our natural hunger symptoms off-track and it seems as though we're either hungry all the time or we can't satiate it. 

Listen, we all know and realize that this situation didn't happen overnight and it cannot be remedied overnight. Yet, for our families, friends and the job we love so much, we have to "draw a line in the sand." We must decide to make a start. Sit down with the gang on your next shift and talk it up. Sure, someone might be pissed off, but think about it. If one of your co-workers gets pissed because you start a discussion about being healthy, then do they really care about the well-being of their co-workers? If they'll back you up on the fireground, why aren't they willing to back you up in the barn?

And that's not all. You have to go home and have the same talk with your spouse or significant other, or roommate. This has to be a team effort. Another member of the "team" has to be your doctor, whether it's the department surgeon on your own personal physician. He or she will be happy to provide direction and ideas, as well as give you realistic targets to shoot for. This is very important, for sometimes, we believe we need to do this or that, but in fact, your doctor will tell you that you're actually OK in the area and to focus on something else.

Our jobs are dangerous enough. We can't control all of the unknowns that are started in motion when we're toned out. From distracted drivers to kids running out into the street, to the person who can't hear an EM Q2B, an electronic Q and two Grover airhorns, either because the music is too loud or they have hearing problems.

But when it comes to what we put into our bodies and how much, we can indeed, exercise control. Let's do it.

Remember...Everyone Goes Home!


Friday, July 24, 2015

You CAN Go home again!

I'm back home after our vacation and some wonderful time with my two daughters, though in separate locations. After my surprise visit to the FDNY Store and bumping into a Greensboro firefighter who is the son of a firefighter I worked with at the former Guilford College Fire Department some 35 years ago, we headed back south, first stopping in Philadelphia again for a few days, where I was able to grab lunch with our partner Tom, and then it was down I-95 and I-85 to arrive in Greensboro.

While there, besides seeing and staying with our dear friend, I was able to re-connect with another good friend from our days at the Guilford College Fire Dept., Roger and his wonderful wife, Ann. When I arrived in Greensboro and joined the department, Roger was already one of the three "day" men. These guys worked a 24/48 shift and drove the first due apparatus. We also had a career Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, mechanic and secretary. The rest of us were the volunteers.

Roger took me under his wing and truly became my mentor. One of the other paid day men, Bruce, was also very helpful in guiding me and the guy who is still my best friend today and business partner, Rich. Rich, Roger and I spent a lot of time together, both on and off duty. You'll be able to read about our exploits in my forthcoming book, "What's a Boy Like You...?"
We have been lucky enough to get to Greensboro several times over the past few years and we always have a great time together.

As part of my never-ending interest in the fire service, I use several "scanner" apps on my phone to listen to various major calls around the country. Of course, one of those is my old stomping ground of Guilford County. I had noticed several months back that what were separate frequencies for the City of Greensboro and Guilford County were now merged into Metro Guilford Fire. So I asked Roger about it.

As it turns out, they sort of merged the departments, as well. However, being very fair, the station/department that had an assigned number first, got to keep it in the new system. For example, the city station that was right around the corner from where I worked was Station 9. However, in Guilford County, the Summerfield Fire Department had been county station 9 for many years before. So the city station was made Station 49.

At this point, I knew that the city had annexed all of the land that was in our former fire district to create more industry, homes, etc. Our two stations were 17 and 19. I asked Roger what happened to to those numbers. He explained that the city had initially taken over our rebuilt Station 19. Then with a huge airport expansion, they needed another station close to that area. They knocked down our station 19. Then, they built two stations. One to cover the far northern side of the airport and that part of the combined city/county area. And to honor our original station, it was assigned Station 17. The second station was built on the eastern fringe on the airport and that was renamed Station 19.

On a free afternoon, my wife and I drove up the the road I must have driven hundreds of times as a kid there. But where it used to curve one way, it now curved another. Wow! I was driving where it had been nothing but trees and farmland years ago. Then, I found Station 17 and pulled in to visit. 

It was a  beautiful station; large and airy. Besides the EMS unit, they man an engine and the master foam unit, with a huge trailer that carried the feed hose. Remarkably, they also had an apparatus that is affectionately called, "Puff." What's so remarkable? We put "Puff" into service in 1980! "Puff" is a dual-agent, rapid attack vehicle, about the size of a concrete mixer. She carries both AFFF and Purple K. Our then Chief, Bob Wilson, was an early-on expert on flammable liquids and metals and he pushed our district hard to get this rig. 

Back then, we had, what was then, the largest above-ground, finished product tank ground in our first-due area and right next to the airport. (Did you ever wonder why all of these damn tank farms are right next to major air fields?) Chief Wilson was instrument in getting several of the oil/gas companies to install sub-surface applicators. In the '70's and '80's, they were state-of-the-art. No so today. We had also experienced numerous vehicle fires that had magnesium rims. We quickly learned that no amount of water was going to put that fire out. But douse it with Purple-K and poof! Fire's out! The firefighters who were on duty told me that "Puff" had just been refurbished the previous year and is still in active service all these years later.

All in all, it was a great visit. Here I was, a rookie from back in the mid 1970's walking in to relive my first "glory days" in the fire service. But like "brothers" in the service anywhere, they welcomed me in and we chewed the fat for a while. Then they asked me if I knew "so-and-so" or someone else from my days, who also still came around to visit the ol' 17.

Then I knew that the old adage was wrong. You can go home again.

Stay Safe and let's make sure Everyone Goes Home!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words & A Big "Thank You!"

First, I must thank my youngest daughter for a wonderful surprise. We were visiting her in NYC and we went out to lunch. She had wanted me to attend a show, but there was nothing that really called out to me. So, she, her boyfriend and my wife were going to the show after lunch and I was headed back to her apartment via a NYC cab.

After we finished lunch, we started walking so she could show us a couple of sites and, I presumed, to grab my cab. But we kept on walking, crossing this block and that avenue.Finally, she said, "We're here!" I looked around and found myself in front of the FDNY Store! That was the real reason why she shlepped me along. She wanted me to see the store. It was like taking your kid to a Toys 'R Us! So, thank you, my sweet Miryam for helping your Dad enjoy his visit even more!

As we were traveling this past week, I was able to catch snippets of news here and there. Several of the stories dealt with fire departments around the country. A couple were humorous and some very serious. Speaking of serious, it was great to see Fresno CA Captain Dern on television, after undergoing more than a dozen surgeries to treat his 2nd and 3rd degree burns he received when he fell through the roof of a blazing garage! We wish him a speed and full recovery!

I'm not addressing the actual news stories in this post. Rather, I want to talk about the several PIO's that addressed the press after various events. In the first case, the PIO was an older gentleman, with a full head of snow-white hair. Unfortunately, he must have weighed nearly 300 pounds. "Well, he's only a PIO. What are you bitching about?" you may be asking yourself. The viewers have no idea of the difference between a PIO and any other firefighter other than, perhaps, the chief. What they see is a fat fireman.

On another story, the person speaking to the reporter was quite obese and he was a lieutenant, a front line officer. Now, let's add 60 pounds of PPE, gear, tools and some heavy exertion. Hmm?? Any ideas?

We recently discussed the number, "40%," the percentage of FF LODD's that are caused by mostly preventable health problems. Obesity, HTN (hypertension or high-blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, elevated cholesterol levels, etc. are just a few of the causes being listed by those fighting this scourge of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line. 

Listen, we all know that almost anything can, will and has happened on the way to or from a call, and during the call itself. However, for the most part, we can reduce the number of LODD's due to health causes by taking better care of ourselves. When did you take your last CPAT test? Two years, three years, four years ago? Longer? What if on your next duty day your captain tells you that you have two days and will take it again? Can you do it? Can you even do part of it?

None of us can answer for anyone else. The only one you have to answer to is the man/woman in the mirror, because he/she never lies!

So, ready for that test?