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Friday, May 27, 2011

Eating Asphalt

We were toned out for a bicycle accident a little after lunch. While hopping onto the rig I wondered what type of call this would be. One of the ones where I cringed and tried to figure out how that body part was contorted into that position or one where I handed out a band-aid for the boo boo.

As we approached the intersection of the reported accident we noticed a lone squad car in the parking lot. The officer had the patient sitting on the front bumper of his car and appeared to be trying to get some information from him. My next thought was, "Great, a boo boo."

As I approached I noticed that the teenage victim had dropped his backpack by his bicycle. Sticking out of it were two katana swords. I quietly gestured to the cop to look at the weapons. He replied that they had made him nervous too and that's why they were over there by the bike and not with the patient. He was supposedly on his way to some martial arts practice.

The kid was ok. He had a bit of road rash on his arms and a little bit on his forehead (no, he was not wearing a helmet). By the time we got there any wound that was oozing a little bit of blood had clotted. Unfortunately, because he was a minor, we couldn't just release him. Eventually PD was able to contact his mom, who was able to contact aunt who then came to pick him up. The AMR crew that had responded were more than willing to take a little break and wait with the young man.

Now what I don't get is how we were able to find him in the first place. I'm hoping the he didn't call 911. I'm going to assume that he didn't. But still, when I was his age I rode my bike, with my two best friends, all over Los Angeles. When we ate asphalt we didn't whine about it and we sure didn't stick around for cops or firefighters to come "help" us. We kept our man cards, got back on our bikes and rode off. Kids these days (picture me shaking my head).

Saturday, May 21, 2011


No, I haven't abandoned my blog. I've been moving. Not the blog, my home. Moving sucks. More posts to come when the dust settles.

Monday, May 9, 2011

High Angle Training

While I was working an overtime shift at the station with our heavy rescue one of the firefighters looked at a rescue magazine and thought, I bet we can do that. There was a picture on the cover of a crew using a specialized tripod for a high point in a high angle rescue. With that thought we all decided to head out to try using our tripod as they had in the photograph. Basically we pulled some stuff out and played.

First, we set up our raising and lowering system. We used the Heavy Rescue as our anchor.

We also set up the haul line at the same time. We anchored that off of the guard rail down by the stop sign.

Next we had our victim go down to be 'rescued.' We took turns.

Then the heroes came down with the stokes to save the day.

You'd be surprised at the amount of teamwork it takes to get up something as simple as this wall.

Of course the people in the offices here were quite curious. We would get groups coming out to watch on their smoke break.

How was your Monday? Did I mention that I love my job?!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

7 Eleven Run

In the middle of the day we were toned out for a call at 7 Eleven. This was a little strange because most of our calls there happen in the middle of the night.

As we walked up a frantic patron opened the door. We were ushered inside where we found a young woman with her 10 month old son in her arms. She was crying but trying hard to keep it together. She said that her boy had started shaking violently all of the sudden. He had been sick over the last couple of hours and she had just stopped by 7 Eleven to come children's motrin.

We did a quick assessment on the kid. He was in fact quite feverish. We got him out from under all his clothing and blankets (why is it that when someone has a fever people cover them up as if they're suffering from hypothermia?!) and then sponged him off with some tepid water.

When AMR walked in we gave them a run down on what we had discovered and what we had done. Once the patient was loaded up I almost went back in to get a Slurpee.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Bad Is Your Monday

It was Monday afternoon just after lunch. We were getting ready to go out and drill when the printer spooled up. Less than a second after that the tones went off and the strobes started flashing.

We responded to a home about 10 houses down from the station. If I didn't need my gear I could have walked there faster than it took for us to drive it. We were met at the door by a very worried father. He said that he had just made it home from work (which means he had start at O' dark 30) and found his 20 year old daughter laying in bed, unconscious. She had vomited at least once.

We started going through the process of elimination even though we suspected alcohol abuse. Her BP and pulse were fine as was her blood sugar. Her pulse ox was 95% on room air. There was no obvious trauma. Her pupils were reactive but sluggish. Her father told us that she didn't take any medications and that she was allergic to penicillin. While waiting for the ambulance we poked around a but looking for empty bottles. None could be found.

When we moved the patient to the gurney the AMR medic detected the ever so slight scent of a fruity alcoholic drink on the breath of the patient. My nose isn't that sensitive so I took her word on it. We finished loading her up and got her into the back of the ambulance. To help out AMR I tossed in a quick IV and set the patient up on their monitor.

Another life "saved." Off to training.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Most people, when they have need of the fire department, call 911 and they get the help they need. They never stop to consider exactly who is coming into their home in their time of emergency.

Recently, the City of San Carlos, has been having to make some tough decisions, including just that. Who to send into the homes and businesses in the their jurisdiction during an emergency. San Carlos, like many other cities, has been hit hard by today's economy. The city can no longer afford to operate their FD the same as it had in the past. On Oct 12 of this year their contract with the city of Belmont will end. That city chose not to continue with the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department. So now the city council has to decide how to be able to fund their fire department under the strict budget.

As part of the process, the city opened up the bidding process so as to find the best solution to it's needs. When this happens there are usually several options on the table. I know that when my former department merged with my current department there were initially 4 or 5 options being entertained.

Just before the bidding process closed a private company, Wackenhut, threw its hat into the fray. This caused quite a stir to put it mildly.

There are several reasons why I think that going to a private company for fire/EMS is a bad idea, some of them anecdotal, some analytical. And I will say right up front that I am totally biased.

Wackenhut says that they can save the city of San Carlos a lot of money by contracting with them. And they say they can maintain the same level of service. In the very next breath they have said that by service they mean the minimum staffing levels of 3 firefighters per engine/truck.

I disagree with the first part of this statement, I agree with the second. I've even heard that they can staff 4 firefighters per engine/truck and still save the city money. That's all fine but is that all that they need to maintain the same level of service. I submit that it is not.

Let's say that you have a 1930 Ford Model A in completely restored condition and it's involved in an accident. Are you going to want to take your classic car to the local high school auto shop class or to the guy that's been restoring Model A's for 30 years? If you're just looking at sheer manpower, such as is the case with Wackenhut, the teenagers would be the right decision. I think we can all agree that that would be a mistake.

Wackenhut is currently hiring for a firefighter position and is offering a starting wage of $8.60 an hour.
That means, based on a 40 hour work week, their firefighters are making $17,888 a year (I understand that the firefighters would be working a 72 hour work week). That to me screams that it's a starter job. A place to work and build your resume before going somewhere else. Once your employees have some experience and are marketable they'll move on. This revolving door leads to an department that is young and inexperienced. Compounding this problem is that the only kids that would be applying would be those that haven't been hired somewhere higher paying. Doesn't sound to me like they are meeting the existing standard of service.

At this point in time I am not aware of, nor can I find any community in the United States that is currently receiving its fire protection and EMS from a 'for profit' entity. I have heard Wackenhut officials say that they have plenty of firefighting experience, which has come from protecting federal facilities all over the country. To someone that doesn't know any better this may seem like sound reasoning. However, the federal government contracts with the department for whom I work. I can tell you first hand that the experience that you gain on a government facility is not at all what you would need to cover a metropolitan area. Their call volume is much lower and there is a limited diversity of calls.

I could bring up issues with the amount of time that they are planning to have the firefighters work each week and that having firefighters on duty for too long could be detrimental to performance. But I work a fair amount of overtime so I'm not going to go there (but there are studies to say we should be limiting the number of hours a firefighter can work in a week).

In a radio interview on KQED the president of the California Fire Chiefs' Association, Sheldon Gilbert brings up a great point. the protection of its citizens is one of the few specific constitutional obligations of the government. He also goes on to explain how, in the private sector, the company is responsible to its share holders. We as government employees are accountable to the citizens.

Partly in  response to this argument I heard Wackenhut vice president Rick Tye say, "When you're a contract provider, you audition everyday for your continued job. So quality of service is job number one, so it's very, very important to the community and it's very important to us." That's comforting unless it's your house burning to the ground because the could meet the same level of service that was provided. It's ok unless it's your mom dying from a heart attack that wasn't caught or treated because the medics on the engine company are new and inexperienced. I'm sure the fact that the company might lose its contract would be a warm blanket of comfort to the families if those things happened.

I'm not the only one thinking this way. Joe Caprioni, a citizen of San Carlos asked, "What happens if they fail? Will any of you guarantee that they can save my house in a fire?"

Even though the city of San Carlos could have saved more money the city council decided unanimously this week that they would not seek to enter into a contract for services with Wackenhut. Instead they are looking to neighboring Redwood city for a joint partnership.

I am very curious as to how you feel about all this. How would you feel having a for profit company such as Wackenhut providing fire protection and EMS in your area

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Who's Collecting?

Uninstalling terrorist... 100% complete

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