Thursday, June 30, 2016

A new challenge: the Tower Ladder

For some reason I like climbing ladders. I’m not afraid of heights. It’s the feeling of a falling motion that bothers me.

After fire school, I wanted to continue my in-house training and get bucket-qualified on our Tower which reaches 95 feet off the ground. Our company began the training for several of us who are eligible. Most of our senior members are already qualified and they have encouraged us along the way.

One requirement that initially made us nervous is climbing the ladder up and down in full gear. We practiced it because there is a chance that we may climb to rotate out firefighters. I preferred climbing up rather than climbing down.

Before we climbed the ladder, our fellow firefighters wished us luck. When we climbed down after we completed the task, each firefighter said good job. That’s what I like about the crew. Encouragement goes a long way. During fire school at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training School, we received positive reinforcement from the instructors.

“Give praise,” authors Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke said, “and give it generously.”

All of us operated the controls in the bucket during a few training nights with a firefighter overseeing our progress. It felt like we operated the bucket like an amusement ride. Between the enjoyable view and the firefighters who supervised us and helped us stay focused, that made me less nervous as we did this. Their crucial role helped during the times that the movement of the bucket got to me. I plan to keep practicing to become familiar with the controls and terminology to extend the ladder forward and retract it back, raise and lower, and rotate it left and right, as well as how to flow water.

Ginger Rae Dunbar and several other firefighters are training on the Tower to get bucket-qualified, learning to use the controls and flow water during drill nights.

Friday, June 17, 2016

DUI no one wins

Shortly after our vehicle rescue training concluded, we responded to a car accident reported with injuries. Upon arrival, we assessed the vehicles involved and we were prepared to apply what we had just practiced.

They say your training “kicks-in” and it did now that I have more knowledge of how to stabilize vehicles, and how to access entrapped patients using hand tools and hydraulic tools. We did what our instructor taught us, including putting the vehicle flashers on because we couldn’t disable battery due to the damage. The airbags in one of the vehicles had deployed. We are careful of non-deployed airbags for safety reasons as we work.

Fortunately no occupants were seriously injured. That is not always the case. I have reported on numerous fatal crashes, including DUI-related crashes. Police had one driver perform a sobriety test. I’ve seen that conducted as a journalist, a volunteer firefighter and a by-passer. Between interviewing families and gathering information from first-responders, the time of the DUI–related crash and DUI arrests stick out to me, especially daytime ones. 

Our crew returned to the station early afternoon, nearly two hours before my deadline to submit a column on how a Chester County high school graduation honored a student who had been killed by a drunk driver. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Remember them on Memorial Day

When thanked for his service, World War II veteran Marty Brittingham said “just doing my duty as a citizen.”

That response always made me smile when I thanked veterans at the end of the interview for their time and for their service. Brittingham enlisted at 18 after he graduated high school and served in the Coast Guard from 1942 to 1946.

Brittingham still remembers his service number: 562425. He said it so fast and with pride that I asked him to repeat it slowly so I could write it down. He was one of many veterans that I met and interviewed over the years at a Memorial Day parade.

I grew up watching holiday parades. At a young age, the Memorial Day parade ranked as my favorite. I later participated in parades in high school and college with the color guard, a part of the marching band. Now I’m reporting on the Memorial Day parade and most recently I’m participating in holiday parades with my fire company. A few of our members have served and currently serve in the military. The men and women in the fire service and other organizations take pride in participating in such parades nationwide to honor the men and women of our armed forces who died to keep us free.