Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What does the fire service really do, anyway?

Continuing from Cultural Notes on the World of Firefighters and Just a guy thing?

A couple months ago I married a guy who volunteers with our local fire department as a chaplain and EMT... something I realized from our very first date was way more than a little hobby on the side. For part 3 of my little series on dispatches on life in the fire district, let me just share a few of the "aha!" discoveries that have helped me get how this part of my husband's world really works.

So, what firemen are there for is to put out fires, right? 

Nope. That's what I thought, but it's not true. Fires are rare, and I understand it's bad form to cheer if you get to put one out (at least don't look happy in front of the homeowner!).

More than 80 percent of the 911 calls that go to the fire department are not fire-related but "medical." Somebody has been in an accident, or fainted, or thinks they're having a heart attack or stroke. They've fallen and can't get up. Or maybe they are fine but they saw someone else who seemed to be in trouble and called on their behalf. If it's a dangerous situation, the police may go in first, and they will have the fire department called in to assist if someone is hurt.

Since so much of the work is on the medical side, many of the fire district volunteers aren't authorized or expected to go into fires at all, but they have plenty of work to do responding to medical emergencies and dangers (even on a fire scene). These are the EMT's. Some of them also hold jobs as nurses, medical assistants, or paramedics. 

What about rescuing kitties from trees?

Oh, come on, when's the last time you walked by a tree and saw a cat skeleton? Those little buggers can take care of themselves pretty well.

Fishermen stranded on sandbars? That's another story!

When an ambulance or fire truck goes by, especially with sirens on, we should stop and pray because someone's in trouble, right? 

It's never a bad idea to pray... Most of the time when someone calls 911 and the fire department and/or police gets sent out, it's for something the caller considers an emergency. It's true that somebody could be dying. There may have been an accident or a house could be on fire.

But most of the time it's not like that. Sometimes the problem is resolved before the fire department gets there or doesn't turn out to be a problem after all. So when you see or hear them on the road, know that the fire trucks and the medics may be on their way to help someone who doesn't want or need help or to investigate something that turns out to be quite minor in the end. I guess that's a good thing, huh?

One more interesting note: When you see a fire truck out and about they may be just getting gas or running some other errand. I see full-time staff from the various fire departments all the time at our local grocery store. Hubs tells me they've just come to do their shopping. That's right, the station fridge must be kept well stocked, and since you're on the job and need to be ready to respond, you bring your stuff with you when you go to the store. Nobody packs their own sack lunch at home and eats at their "desk." They like to shop, cook, and eat together! I'm tempted to drop by and knock on the door at lunch time. See if these handy folks are also good cooks.

Have you seen commercials for the new TV show this fall, "Chicago Fire"? I'd like to check it out and see how accurate it is. Hubs, though, is skeptical and not really interested. Who wants to watch that kind of stuff when you deal with it all the time?

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