Sunday, March 24, 2013


Today I completed my mid-term exam for Fire I; and my first live structural burn exercise.  I’m sore, I smell like fire, and my turnout gear (and car) reeks of fire. I’m also really happy. I’m at the halfway point to fire school. The next 2 months will bring classes on fireground ops and more live burn exercises.

I’m really glad that I decided to take Fire I, and take it in the spring. Things I've realized: I’m not in the shape I need to be in to be able to do this 100%, and I’m working on fixing that (more on that later). On the plus side: I’m not claustrophobic, I’m not afraid of the dark, and I’m not afraid of a little heat. I can throw ladders, I can roll hose, and I’m keeping pace with the class.

I did make one mistake this morning. When backing up my partner for a hoseline attack, I wasn't in a good position, and wasn't able to take enough pressure off the hose for him. He lost his balance and fell over. Afterwards, we got a chuckle out of it – but the more I think of it, I let him down, and I won’t make that mistake again.

Next week we're on break. The week after, we get to do ropes and knots (Boy Scout time!).

Anyway – That’s an update from school. More to come!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Crossing the Floor

For those of you that don’t know, I’m currently challenging myself by taking Fire I. I grew up volunteering with the local Volunteer Fire Department, starting in the Explorer post at 14, and spending 5 years as an active member. At the time, I was more interested in EMS than Fire, and in addition to attending EMT school, I did a lot of training at the department level for firefighter… but I never completed an official fire academy.

For the last year, I've been a member of a volunteer department within the Prince George’s County Fire Department in MD. I've been reminded how much I missed doing the fire stuff, and how fun it can be. PGFD is a busy system, and is the closest a volunteer can get to being part of a large urban department. From my perspective, we all play by the same rule book, and everyone gets along (usually). It’s busy, and my station operates with volunteer staffing on evenings, weekends, and holidays. We have career staff 7am-3pm Monday-Friday, but volunteers cover the rest.

I’m most excited to be riding on the Rescue Squad. The Squad is a heavy rescue truck, or a toolbox on wheels. From vehicle extrications to industrial accidents, to technical rescue, they do it all. The knowledge in the firehouse is amazing, and many of the members are eager to share their experience with those willing to learn.

Anyway – because I never did fire school, I've got to start from scratch. I did the County’s volunteer recruit orientation program (Fire Service 101, and some other needed stuff), as well as completing in house training on our apparatus, including equipment operations and locations, as well as SOP familiarization (Standard Operating Procedures). I’m riding fire apparatus as an exterior firefighter. So I’m riding the rescue for calls. I can also assist with tasks outside the fire structure, like throwing ladders or other operations – but I’m not allowed to put on an airpak and go in to an IDLH (Immanently Dangerous to Life and Health) atmosphere.

It’s a blast. I realize how much I missed it. Stay tuned for more posts from the fire side.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Rushed To The Hospital"

"The ambulance rushed him to the hospital"

I've seen that in news articles, in books (fiction AND non-fiction), and heard the phrase used in TV and movies. It bothers me whenever I hear it. It isn't quite "Ambulance Drivers" but sometimes it completes a phrase started that way.

Why do people still think this way? Is this something we are perpetuating? Does it create an inappropriate expectation? Can we fix it?

Oh, and news flash... if you can talk on the phone in the back of the ambulance... you don't get to tell ANYONE you're being "rushed" to the hospital. Even if we did have the lights and sirens on (we didn't)... that isn't rushing. That's driving in a safe and responsible manner. If I look worried... then, perhaps, you can get worried. But if your EMS crew is calm... take their lead. And remember... if you aren't sick enough to prevent you from talking on the cell phone during the ride - perhaps you really don't need the ambulance ride?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Secret List / Highway Safety

Alright... I've been away for far too long. I've got a bunch of post-conference stuff to post, as I attended the NCEMSF (National Collegiate EMS Foundation) 20th Anniversary Conference in Crystal City VA in February, then attended "Vest Fest" (Rangemaster Tactical Conference and Polite Society Match) in Memphis, and then EMS Today in Washington, DC. Oh, and I've started a new PRN job. I promise there will be AAR's for all... eventually.

Anyway... the last lecture I attented at EMS Today was on Saturday, and I heard Gordon Graham talk about non-punitive critical event reporting. He's part of the group behind and Chief Goldfelder's "The Secret List". If you aren't already getting TSL emails, you're missing out. They are a combination of alerts of LODD's (Line of Duty Deaths), alerts and follow up of serious incidents, and some advice and remembrance of major incidents.

Just last week, Chief Goldfelder sent out an email that hits very close to home: "Lionville, GA LODD Details, "Wrong Way" Crash Lawsuit (The Secret List)"

 An excerpt:

At approximately 1418 hours on 3/9/1998, Lionville Fire Company (Chester County, PA) and Uwchlan Ambulance were dispatched to a single vehicle automobile crash at milepost 310.9, just west of the Downingtown Interchange on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A Heavy Rescue Truck, Engine Company, Assistant Chief and Ambulance responded. Upon arrival on the scene, the Ambulance, Rescue Truck, and Assistant Chief's vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road off the travel lanes of the highway.

At the same time, two additional crashes were reported on the Turnpike. The second accident was reported at milepost 307 westbound (west of the first incident). The Engine responding to the first accident was directed to continue past the primary scene to respond to the second crash. A third accident was reported of a vehicle overturned at milepost 314 on the eastbound side of the highway (east of the original incident). Then Lionville Fire Chief William Minahan responded to that call with mutual aid units to investigate.

At 1438 hours, as personnel were loading the accident victim into the Uwchlan Ambulance, a tractor trailer traveling westbound lost control and crashed into the Assistance Chief's vehicle, overturned, and slid into the back of the ambulance and the other responders in that area. The Assistant Chief and a Firefighter with him in his truck were trapped in the severely damaged vehicle and had to be extricated by mutual aid rescue personnel using the Jaws of Life. Firefighter Dave Good of the Lionville Fire Company was killed in the line of duty. Nine other emergency responders were injured, three seriously. The injured included Assistant Chief Steve Senn, Firefighters Chris Good, Mike Cox, Eric John, Pete Harmansky, James Rattrie, and Robert Doan, all firefighters with the Lionville Fire Company, and EMT Brent Kaplan and EMT John Wanczyk of Uwchlan Ambulance.

Firefighter David Good was 38 years old and had 5 years of service as a Firefighter with Lionville Fire Company. He was survived by his wife Maryanne and two sons, Johnathan and Jason Good. RIP.

That incident 15 years ago eventually led to the production of a video called the “10 Cones of Highway Safety” and a training program about Highway Safety both by VFIS. It also was one of two Firefighter struck-by-vehicle line of duty deaths in 1998 that led to the formation of the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) ( ) a committee of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Assoc.

Since that time ERSI personnel have worked constantly to build awareness of the dangers responders face while working at roadway incidents, to develop training aids that are available for free from the website*, and to collaborate with government and fire service officials to develop standards, regulations and guidelines to protect emergency responders at roadway incidents. ERSI personnel continue to work on more new training programs and educational material related to this subject and to pass along this information at fire service trade shows and conferences. Their motivation started with the death of FF Good-and hasn't ended....


I'm from Chester County, PA. This incident happened a year and a half before I joined the local FD's Explorer Post. Growing up in the firehouse, I had many mentors that were on that scene. It changed how we responded to highway incidents, especially the PA Turnpike. I remember stories of our Chief going toe-to-toe with State Troopers demanding that our blocking apparatus be moved from a travel lane. There were threats of arrest. Thankfully, it never came to that - but my Chief at the time made it clear that our safety was paramount, and that if we had to, we closed whatever lane(s) the IC felt was needed... up to and including the highway.

Every so often someone will comment that Uwchlan EMS doesn't have an "Ambulance 87-2"
This is why. At the time, they were station 47A... but this is the last Uwchlan ambulance to carry the "-2" number
And in another sad note... now-Captain Chris Good died in the Line of Duty himself last November.

I no longer run as a firefighter in Pennsylvania. In addition to my work as a Paramedic in PA, I'm volunteering in Prince George's County, MD. Last summer, they had two incidents in less than a month where engines were struck while providing barrier protection on the Capitol Beltway (I-495). Two stories about those incidents: and Those incidents happened in an area of the Beltway I've responded to before.

Both of these happened in the late night / early morning hours of a weekend. The incident involving Greenbelt's (35's) engine actually involved 2 separate collisions... one into the engine, and one into the striking vehicle some time later.

The September incident

The August incident

Where am I going with this rather long blog? Well, we need to learn from incidents that have killed or seriously injured *us" in the past. We also need to study and learn from near-miss incidents that COULD have killed us... but didn't. Often, luck plays as much a role as anything in the difference between a near-miss and a LODD. is a good source for that information.

Lastly - be careful in traffic. Treat every driver as if they are blind, intoxicated, and texting. Use blocking apparatus whenever possible.