Friday, December 16, 2016

Pager Basics / Fireman's Prayer

Just to clear this up; I DO NOT OWN THE PAGER! None of us guys do.
It's owned by Chester County, and issued to the Twin Valley Fire Department. Then it goes to me so long as I'm an active member.
If something happens to it WHILE RESPONDING TO AN EMERGENCY, I'm not held responsible. But if I screw up and spill coffee on it at home, that's something else entirely.

Here, I'll give you a basic run-through of how the pager works. It's pretty simple. When it needs charging you stick it into the console here (which works as a charger and speaker). The big knob to the left to the pager itself adjusts the volume.
- See that knob on the far right? That's both the on-off switch and the volume dial. Turn clockwise till it clicks, then it's on and from there you adjust the volume. Turn it backwards to lower the volume till it clicks again, and it's turned off.
- The other knob on the pager has four settings, lettered A through D. Here's what they're for;
  • A- This is the setting it's often best to have it on (unless you're at the movies or something). It'll be quiet up until you get a call/dispatch. Then it's gonna beep a few times and then give you the info on what the emergency is. Good thing I'll still get the text messages on my phone, 'cause then I can be 100% sure that I get the street names right and all.
  • B- This setting is where you just hear the dispatcher talking.
  • C- "'C' for 'Chatter'." That's how I remember it. When it's set on C, then I can hear "just about everything"; dispatchers, people using radios from the fire engines and squad trucks, etcetera. What my lieutenant tells me he usually does is have it on A till he gets the beep/call, then switch it to C so he'll get more information. That way he can hear someone else on their radio talking about whether or not it was a false alarm or if the emergency call just got recalled (for example).
  • D- Same function as the A setting, only it vibrates instead of beeping (much better for when you're at the movies lol)

Now when I tried turning it on to listen at home, over the next week after receiving this first pager me and the guys realized it wasn't working. It was shot, as they put it. So eventually I may end up getting a new pager, but till then I'll keep using my phone's emergency texts and see how often I'm even able to go help out.

(Now this is something that may come in handy if I wind up helping carry hoses... minus the "children and wife" part lol)

"When I am called to duty God, wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save some life, whatever its age. Help me embrace a little child before it is too late or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout and quickly and effectively to put the fire out. I want to fill my calling and give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect his property and if according to your will, I have to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife. Amen."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Day in the life of the Twin Valley Fire Dept.

This is how Thursday nights usually go for me;
  • First, I leave home around 6:30 so I can make it to Station 69 at roughly 7pm. These days, now that I've got a "bug-out bag" prepared, I can gear up with a reflector vest, cold-weather layers and flashlights, if there happens to be an emergency call while I'm over there.
  • But since it's relatively quiet around the station at first with a few people hanging around, I'll automatically go into the lounge where we have a kitchen and living room setup. First thing I check is the coffeemaker and make sure there's a full, and HOT, pot. If not, I just make a fresh one. (Not sure why I get so much enjoyment out of making the new pot myself, but I just do).
  • With the living room setup is a pool table, and most of the time my friends Cody (11, not old enough to be a Junior) and Jack (he's about 16) will be hanging around and I'll invite one or both of them to a game of pool. That kind of laid back routine will usually go on until we're needed for helping with some chore or a review type of class; Fire Hydrant Basics was one such example, where a guy brought in a hydrant and explained to us all how it works.

A typical evening chore for us involves hosing down the engines and squad trucks, followed by using squeegees to get all the leftover water into the long grates that run across the floor. So whenever I go in, it's just about always safe to assume we'll be rinsing something down tonight. At least we're doing huge fire engines (which automatically makes it awesome, along with the fact you're doing it with talkative and interesting people). It's pretty fun climbing around on them to reach the tall areas with the sponges and rags.

  • If we've gotten the chore done, especially the kind that requires teamwork (the kind that us kids help out with and not just leave to the grownups), then a lot of us may head back into the lounge or hang around in the big garage we were just swabbing. Of course I can hardly ever resist a good game of pool, so that's a given. Between 9 and 9:30 it's usually me and Jack at the pool table with maybe a few adults chatting in the kitchen area. Past 9:30 both of us boys usually just head out.
I do fondly remember December 1st when me, some of the juniors, and a few younger kids helped set up a Christmas tree in the lounge. We ended up decorating it with colored lights, red and silver ornaments, and a skinny fire hose in the place of garland (the garland that me and my six year old pal took the time to put up! Ah well, at least it looked cool with the hose). As a tree topper we got a black plastic fireman's helmet.
Also a couple weeks before that, me and my friend Jack made up a new game for the pool table called King of Clubs; you hit the white ball back and forth with the thick end of the pool queue, and use the Solitaire card sequence to keep score. Hit the corner pockets to gain a point/card, and you lose one if you land in the middle pockets. First to King wins.

It's a pretty diverse group of people; different age range and attitudes around the workplace.
(sorry ladies but those sexy/shirtless fireman calendars are lyin' to ya! lol)
It definitely keeps things interesting, I'll say that. For example the three boys who I typically play pool with are sixteen, eleven, and six. The Junior firefighters are between fourteen and eighteen (the younger kids usually have parents and/or siblings who work here, and hope to be Junior Firefighters when they're old enough). Then there's most of the adults being in their forties or fifties.
Plus how could I forget Mudge the dog???? I can never remember just who owns the dog, but still he's kinda like the mascot around here. Doesn't feel that long ago he was a small jumpy puppy. Now he's getting bigger, and he's barely any less active and/or attention-seeking.
I'm waiting for the day someone brings a Dalmatian...

I've only gotten the chance to respond and come to the scene of a fire once. But still  I keep my eyes peeled for the chance to help out. As a fire police officer I won't charging into burning buildings, but I'll be helping keep security around it and directing traffic; making sure people don't get too close to it, and helping watch the firefighters' backs while they're looking forward.
     I've considered taking the firefighting course(s) as well, but I figure I'll wait and see how this fire police stuff goes now that I've been recently sworn in and added as an official member. It'd be better to do the additional stuff at a time when I don't have a pile of homework anyway. I'll probably wait till May (after learning more) to try my hand at firefighting, if I'm still interested. Let's see how I like being out on the road first, then go from there.

   For me, this is how the routine works (especially since I'm still pretty new to the process and have to learn). I get a text message on my phone saying what the emergency is, and where it is. "Fire alarm," or "brush fire" or "car crash" etc. Then I have to call my captain and ask him if I can come learn the ropes and help out. If it gets cancelled 'cause it's just a false alarm or that it can get wrapped up in a couple minutes, I won't end up going. But if it's big enough where it'll take a while to put out and may need more team members' help, then I'll get a "yes." So from there I stick with him for guidance, and watch what he and the other guys are doing.
I just recently got a pager that I can listen to and get more information from, so I'm hoping it makes a difference with the way I'm able to respond and learn.
I may not be directing cars with a wand myself, but I'd be right there in the road with them and getting some hands-on experience. If there's one thing these guys put emphasis on, it's that they don't want you out on a scene unless you feel ready. They really want you to get comfortable with how things work before you dive in.

In the meantime I've prepared my "bug-out bag" for the purpose of a quick getaway; A small camo duffle bag with a few things that I can equip myself with, to come in handy on the road. Reflective vest, flashlight, whistle, gloves and so on (plus a deck of cards for freer evenings at the station). At some point I may yet decorate it with iron-on patches. Flag, eagle, some patriotic stuff. Guess I'll find out later.

Ok I should probably conclude this entry 'cause otherwise it'll be WAY too long. But I bet it won't be too long before I come up with more words and more pictures so... yeah. I'll be in touch!