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.

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