Thursday, November 15, 2018


 One of the goals of my book, 10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back, was to highlight some of the changes from when I first joined the department to when I retired. This month it’ll be 22 years since I hung up my helmet, and I’ve found that my images of the fire service today are still dominated by those in 1996. A bit dated, I was recently reminded.

    It struck me while having a conversation with my son who was an ER nurse in Dallas, now a Doctor of Nurse Practice. We were talking about how TV shows cast an unrealistic image of EMS procedures and challenges. “Like that one medical show showing the seriously injured patient on the bloody gurney in ER and the family members right there within the drawn curtains interrupting and questioning every move,” I said. “Ridiculous,” I added to punctuate my disbelief.

   “Actually, Dad, there have been studies showing…” he replied offering a well studied and reasoned approach to improving patient care with some relatives in the ER alcove during treatment. “Hmmmmm,” I said while reeling in my know-it-all, been-there-done-that attitude — at least for this conversation, that is. That’s when I did an updated recount of the date today, and dates back when I was in the trenches. It was now well over two decades since I was on an EMS call.

   Monitoring fire service blogs, Twitter feeds and related industry news feeds, I failed in some cases to realize that much of our futuristic equipment predictions, proposed treatment practice improvements and high tech resources are currently in use. What were previously “you know what they oughta do” wishes are now in use saving lives of citizens and first responders as well.  

   The thing that hasn’t changed in all these years since my first response in 1971, is that stuff changes. And like most things, the good changes survive and are built upon, and the bad changes eventually sentence themselves to obscurity.

   And old fire dogs like me continue to watch, judge, pontificate a bit and hopefully learn. 

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Check for a key before using a fire axe

   A friend and I were having a discussion on management techniques and lifestyles and how they’ve changed over the past several decades and discovered that we both had distinctly different styles. He was a retired executive, having risen through the ranks of a successful business eventually reaching top management before retiring.  I had a slightly different path, ranging through a basically blue collar environment through the Army, 26 years as a career firefighter, topping off my work experience as a business association executive director and marketing business owner.

   He approached a potential obstacle or threat by first evaluating the situation, exploring possible actions and potential results, and perhaps trying to benefit by the input of a committee or task force before final implementation.

   I generally approached the problem by taking a fire axe to it.

   Both have their obvious good and bad results depending upon the urgency, scope of impact, and consequences after the fact. 

   In fact both methods have their place and best used as a combination of both when opportunity or necessity allowed or required. What we agreed upon finally though, was that only experience helps us make those choices, and only maturity and self confidence allow us to deal with the eventual success or failure. I've learned that I can accept a claim of “I told you so!” from anyone that is equally comfortable with admitting, “OK, I was wrong,” without pointing at mitigating causes or influences.

   We once responded to a report of smoke inside a building, finding the main doorway to the small six flat locked.  Just before my trusty axe completed the first half of a hefty swing a nearby civilian yelled out, “Wait! I have a key,” saving the door from destruction and me from a lot of embarrassment.  That’s when I learned to always quickly check for a key first, a practice that now serves me when dealing with business obstacles, lifes' speed bumps, politics, news reporting, and other challenges.

   Sometimes it turns out there is no key, or — sorry to stretch the metaphor a bit further — I find somebody must have changed the lock when I wasn’t looking.

   Besides, that axe is getting a lot heavier!

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