I was talking to some of our new guys the other day about mentally preparing for a call as you are going out to it and thought it would be a good discussion to have here.
We have all been to the traumatic scenes and witnessed death & destruction first hand. What we do can be very stressful and can have lasting effects on us. Just think back to those calls that vividly stay in your mind where you can relive every second by second of the call.
I've witnessed a few accidents happen and can say that my reaction is different when I witness them than when I get paged and respond to a call. I think it comes down mainly to mindset. When I witness an accident happen I do not have time to mentally prepare myself and put myself into firefighter mode.
I've reviewed what I do when the page goes off and first thing (right after considering if I have to pee or not before I go) is listen to what the call is. I've noticed many of our new guys rush up to the station and start jumping on the truck not even knowing what type of call it is. They get so excited that the tones go off they fail to calm down enough to listen. That extra second or two that I take to control my adrenaline to listen pays off huge dividends.
When I get to the station and get in the truck my mind starts working a mile a minute. I look at who is in the truck and start assigning tasks, I start to consider the possible resources we may need to call, I listen to the radio for any updates on the scene. All this helps to put me in the right frame of mind to get the job done. When I do this I am able to jump into the bloodiest mess, entaglement, fire ect and function as a firefighter with out letting my emotions get in the way.
When I get toned out my Blood starts to pump and it does take alot to control the adrenaline and keep your wits about you, but I do agree that controlling it and using it to your advantage is a better plan than just busting out the gate
But I find that I do my best thinking in the truck on the way to the scene I think about, the area the call is coming from the location of the call weather or not we need people to work the road what equipment needs to be first off the truck what needs to happen when my feet hit the ground
I wait to see what kind of call it is to base my needs on that. I usually grab my radio, cellphone, and keys head to the hall and meet fellow firefighters there. From there I put my bunker pants and nomex hood on and throw the rest of my gear on going to the call. That is how i prepare for a call.
I think once you have been around for awhile, the excitement about just going on a call fades and you are able to focus a little more. When we roll on fires, I try to listen to radio traffic and think ahead. When going on a medical call, I try to think about my protocols. If I ever get stumped I pull them out and read them on the way (while riding as a passenger of course). I can remember year ago, when that pager went off, so did I. I was a mad man trying to get to the station as fast as could. Now that I have been doing this for awhile and as a career, It's not that big of a deal to make a run now. And I do void a lot of times before jumping on the rig.
I guess in EMS the worst part is, the call you get is never really the call you get. So I look at my crew and assess what strengths I have on board, so I can better assign duties based on the patient, the scene and my mood, ha ha. I always get my mind working before I work, so that we are better prepared to bring in the right equipment. I do not get jazzed very often anymore, guess I have seen my share of agonies by now.
For me I get the dispatch and my brain gets into the zone. I double check all the info that is being given and double check on all the info. Most of the time something is forgotten in the intial call. I notifiy my flight crews of the current dispatch and get them all the pertinant info. I have my ground crews start getting things prepared prior to my flight crews. I set the pace by the motto: "Slow is Fast"... Eventhough we can respond in an emergent fashion, by slowing down the pace, there is less of a chance for a mishap of some sort. I need my flight crews to be focused on the mission and pre-flights of the aircraft. I always try to do a size up in my head prior to each flight and prepare for the unexpected. If something isn't right or feels wierd... It's a no go!
In Australia us aussie firies dont have the luxury of lights and sirens in our own vehicles or pagers with a dispatch recorded voice on them so when ever our pagers sound its always a race down to the station due to our reciept time being 4 minutes
When i got my P Plates allowing me to respond to the station for fire calls i couldnt control my adrenaline as it was all over the place cause my mind was more focused on getting down to the station and out the door which usually got me into trouble with the parents
But as i got older the adrenaline level in my body maintained itself as i've learned to control it and focus more on the situation as well as making it down to the station within the 4 minute response time
On total fire ban days when im at home the car is always backed up to the front porch pointing outwards with the keys still in the ignition so if a call out does happen i just simply race out the door and into my car then down the station or if its during the night my keys are on a hook in the lounge room so if a fire call happens during night hours it allows me to grab my keys quickly
I agree completely with you chief, always plan and be prepared. Most of the guys on my former fire department and myself would have our turnout gear in our povs, that way we could have our bunker pants and boots on before we get to the station. then we could just hop on the truck and go.