Friday, September 30, 2016

Responding to your family member

When you serve in your community, you face a chance of responding to help someone you know. 

A few of our members have had family members or they themselves have been in an incident where our company responded. It’s something you try not to think about. You just know that they are in good hands because you know the first-responders are well trained.

With the predicated rainstorm coming, I had been getting ready to go to the station in case calls came in. Fellow firefighters had advised us that if we are available to respond to incidents during inclement weather to go to the station in case our services are needed. We make quicker responses by waiting at the station. During some rainstorms, for example, we anticipate that we may have to respond to emergencies involving downed wires or downed trees.

I turned on my scanner before I responded to the station. I heard a report that a tree fell down on two occupied vehicles with a report of down wires. My pager sounded for an unrelated call on my way to the station. It was the start of a dozen calls during the storm.
This tree fell on to two vehicles and it took down wires with it during a rainstorm. One of the drivers involved in the incident was firefighter Ginger Rae Dunbar's father. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Remembering 9/11

I have a newspaper from 15 years ago that news outlets reported on and captured the horror that we faced as Americans and the resiliency we later felt.

In seventh grade I saw on the news the terrorism that we only learned about in history classes. Now I’m reporting on schools hosting ceremonies to honor the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11. Many students who participated in such ceremonies were too young to remember it or weren’t born at the time of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It still surprises me to realize they are studying history that others learned about in their own way by watching the broadcast in school as the attack unfolded.

My middle school principal announced that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. I wondered if it happened by accident. He gave teachers permission to turn on the news, and that was how we learned – our principal didn’t want to be the one to tell us. Instead the reporters informed us that terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the pentagon.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Firefighters are thankful for their drivers

When first asked by my fellow firefighters if I’d want to drive the apparatus in the future, I decisively said no. Most times I laughed as I said no, and I meant it. After some consideration, I quickly changed my answer to “not yet.” 

I like riding on the apparatus. I like packing up as we’re responding. I like learning on each call. I still have more I want to learn and experience as one of the crew members before I start learning other jobs like the drivers. Not only do they maneuver the big long apparatus to the emergency scene, they also pump the water to assist maintaining a water supply at fire scenes. 
Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Pictured is the Speculator Volunteer Fire Department in New York with its three-door bay open, displaying its apparatus. 
I’ve heard on our scanner at the firehouse and on the scanner in the newsroom of times when fire companies are unable to respond because the crew does not have a qualified driver to operate the required apparatus. My station has five pieces of apparatus – two engines, a tower, a squad and a rescue - that the drivers obtain their qualifications on each.

I realize that if we don’t have a driver, we cannot get out of the station to respond. That’s one reason why we thank our driver when we return to the station. We also thank them because they got us to the call and home to the station safely. Sometimes our appreciation reflects our gratitude of their willingness and success in doing something that we cannot do.

I also give them credit for knowing our local and surrounding municipalities. You have to know the street names, where the unit or hundred blocks are, where the nearest hydrant is, and how to get there from the station. Fire companies have pre-plans of routes for drivers to take and a map of hydrant locations. Our drivers memorize the routes and detours. Our officer in the front passenger seat assists as needed.

When asked, many said they decided to become drivers because of the times that they would respond to the station and the firefighters waited for a driver to arrive. One of the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center fire school instructors, a driver, said it best that there were times he stood in full gear with other firefighters when he thought if someone could drive they would be on their way, so he became that someone. 

I feel fortunate, especially for our town, that my company has a decent amount of drivers. Our deputy chief said that “scratching” (meaning the crew is unable to respond) during the daytime or overnight is not an option.

I might realize that I prefer not to drive. Most times we learn through experience what we like to do, and what we prefer not to do. When we climb ladders, we find out quickly if we are afraid of heights. When we do ventilation on a roof, we discover if we would rather stay on the ground. The same concept applies to what you do at work. As a journalist, I began to enjoy reporting political news even though I avoid talking politics in my personal life. I have fun interviewing people about their accomplishments because I meet new people and tell their story, something every reporter loves doing.

Honestly, I hope it’s a long time before I start driving the apparatus. I decided not to limit my options of how I can help as a volunteer firefighter.