Thursday, May 17, 2007

Emergency Services

Emergency Services

I have a pager that I subscribe to so I can chase emergencies to cover. Tonight I stayed home to clean my apartment. In that time my service told me about one mysterious package for bomb squad to check, 2 seperate incidents of people leaping off buildings, one electrical blackout in Queens, one ship fire in Brooklyn, one store fire in Queens, 2 seperate stabbings in Brooklyn, one armed robbery in Queens, and an injured sanitation worker.

I made my 4th year as a NYC Firefighter this month. I talked about it briefly in my jobs post. I've made some posts about working at my firehouse: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

I think the cool thing about working in the fire department is the unity in good acts. What I don't like though is the "spin" people make up, the covering up of truth, and generally censorship you'll also find outside of the fire department.

I see people take unfairly a bad rap, guys with skeletons in their closets, and individuals who agree with the general consensus even if it's false. The rule of thumb is this: what happens inside the red doors (read firehouse doors), stays inside the red doors. This is pretty much the rule for most corporations and in many ways the Fire Department has more loyalty among its members than some families I know of. The team you are in may be the last one you're with in the worst scenario.

My company responded to about 3800 calls last year. Seven blocks south of us, the same type of company (a CFRD engine) had 1000 more. Three avenues east, the same story. Four blocks west, where there is less population, 1000 less reponses.

You can respond to calls but not all of them take time. Tonight, L-154 out in Queens responded to a fire at a store and some 3 hours later an apartment house. It may be two jobs but firefighting is a really physically demanding job. Each guy on average has about 60 lbs of gear on him.

For an engine man you're working with a hose team to get water on the fire. A ladder man could be opening stuff up to find the source of smoke or pulling people out. Both teams work in the dark where footing is slippery and you're really not 100% sure if the structure will hold up after the heat and water has taken its effect.

I could put in a transfer to a different engine company to get more skills. My company is basically in the middle pack as far as responses go. There's a lot of false alarms and we try to cut those down by writing tickets to alarm systems that have too many repeat offenses within a month. It's "bread and butter" work.

My company's location is quite convenient. Port Authority Bus Terminal is four blocks north. Penn Station is five Blocks south. Grand Central Terminal is three avenues east. I've got an urge though to try a different engine company. I'm a cow, looking at the fence, seriously thinking about greener pastures.

What I can tell from experience though is that sometimes the grass is just as good and sometimes much worse. The fire department is great in this respect because if you do leave your company, if things don't go right, you can return from where you came.

This was not the case for the US Army. I was in Europe for about two years and after this I chose to join the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, NY. In Europe, I was in support for the super troopers in the 1st Infantry Division. We went to Bosnia in 1996 for six months.

The six months I spent in Bosnia were better than the eight months I had to serve with the 10th Mountain Division. You had something to do in Bosnia but being in Fort Drum, it was too cold because there was little to do. Everything I learned in Europe went down the drain and I had to culturally re-learn everything.

I think being in the 10th Mountain Division taught me to take my winnings and just run with it. If they blamed you wrongfully, insulted you, stole from you and dished out injustice it was good in the end. Lessons learned, you learn to behave wisely instead of being fool.

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