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.
Its funny I have had the same conversation with one of my probies a long time ago. As a new person you don't have any idea what to thing. You have nothing to refer to except your training. Get your gear and get on the engine or box...Arrive safely...then do this, hook that to this, turn that, etc.
My first rescue call was a two car head-on on the interstate. It was a painful 30 minute response. The driver was telling me what we would need and quizzing me as to where it was and how to operate it and so forth. Upon arrival it was just a body recovery three of them. It was a mess couldn't even tell their gender.
Now having been in this business forever you have other things to think about an prepare for. Wind direction and speed, water supply, runoff, traffic, citizens etc.
Asa Firefighter, when the tones go off I try to continue what I am doing. It helps me calm down. I listen to the call, location type and then most of the time I try to walk to my seat. It keeps the heart rate down and I can start preparing. The first couple minutes I do a quick inventory of my PPE, then I listen for the assignment. When I get off the truck I do a personal size up and then go to work. As a Driver Operator I do a similar approach except I pay more attention to where it is and the quickest route. I think keeping the heart down at this point is more critical then riding backwards because your have 4 to 6 lives in your hands! I know it takes awhile for the new guys but I stress my crews just take a moment and think about what is going on.
For me to get ready for a call. I do some of the same things I listen to see waht kind of call it is and we are going to be needing to use when we get there. I also dont dont take fast breaths i come myself down and just take normal calm steady breaths. And when we finally get to the call which feels like an atternity, everything usually works out usually.
Capt106, I think you're right on the money. Sure, everyone's adrenaline gets pumping, but like you said the key is to calm down and think "what do I have, how bad is it, who do i have on the apparatus, what resources do I need?" running around hyper like the bystanders on scene gets nothing accomplished. As far as getting in the right frame of mind, I go along w/ the "prepare for the worst" deal. I think about the dispatch info, and let my imagination run (within reason of course) on all possibilities-what am i going to do if this....what if this has happened, etc. and that allows me to confront the situations without being caught off guard.
I always had my pager and portable on full blast because at night i sleep like a log. and if i catch the page then i repeat it and at the same time im out the door running to my pickup. I leave the keys in the ignition so I can jump in start my truck, put my bunker pants on if its an accident or fire, turn on my lights and head to the fire station. As im headin to the station i listen to the page again to get the address or anything that i missed then when i get to the station i cam jump on the truck and roll.
Im a junior volunteer and I always have close ready for late night weekend calls and living right beside the fire dept. i sually am the first one there but i always make sure the bay door is open and the drivers door is open so everything is ready when a senior fireman gets there. I also just listen to what anyone who has more experience than me says to do. Its always a learning experience but i wanna do this as a career so i figure anything i learn to be preapred for and how to be prepared now will help me in the future
I'm a year into this volunteer business and just love it. I live a few minutes drive from the station, so my preparation is listening to my scanner on the way. That's how I get my information, but early on, it was just driving my excitement levels higher as I could hear the trucks booking on. Now that I've got a good share of fire calls under my belt, it's easier to deal with the adrenaline rush and the drive to the station is my time to mentally prepare... the radio traffic is now informaiton, not so much amazement anymore.
And when I get to the station, I gear up and depending on how many and who is in the station at the time, I'll either wait for directions from my senior FF or officer, or know to jump in the truck or wait to roll with the squad.
I have also learned to rely on mature and seasoned senior firefighters, as well as officers of course, as others may still be learning and maturing and hence not necessarily making the right decisions. Last thing you need is to get dragged into freelancing.
First and foremost, I listen to the entire dispatch before acting. Second, I typically have to pee, never fails tones = need to pee. Then I stick my shoes on and head out the door. While responding to the call, I make sure my seat belt is on, the strobes are on (and working!) and the siren is on. I am also thinking about the nature of the call and what equipment I will need once on scene. I consider the need for extra resources such as extrication or air medical transport. Don't forget paying attention to traffic and the inevitable induhvidual who does not understand that emergency lights and a siren is asking them to YIELD and they really need to slow down and move over if it is SAFE for them to do so.
I try to get myself in the same frame of mind as you do (john). while either driving to the station or to the scene, i listen to the radio chatter to see who is where and what additional information is coming in. then depending on if i will be the I/C start thinking who i will assign to what activity, or will I be a 'working I/C, depending on the time of day. i try to put bad scenes into perspective in my mind and, i know this is terrible, but i make a joke about it in my head. not showing any emotions on the outside but joking about it to myself. not sure if this is the right apporch or not but it has worked for me for over 30 years. hope this answers the question.
I`m also like you, when my pager goes off I listen to the whole call before I rush out to my car and head to the fire house. On the way to the house I start to prepeare my mind for whatever type of call it is.
I`ve also found out that by takeing the time to listen to the call I`m one of the few that know whats is going on when I get to the station. ( I have had officer`s come and ask what type of call was it.) Also on the way to the call in the truck I take time to calm myself down by making sure I have my seat belt on, Jacket is buttened up, Nomax hood is on etc..
I also on the way out of my home tell my wife I love her just in case, you never know..
Around me you can tell who is the newbie and who is more methodical when it comes to responding to calls, especially in the winter when the barn fires come. The rookies are always responding to the station in their PJ's because they want to make the truck while the veterans are making sure they put on long johns, extra socks and making sure they are warm first. By the end of the fire the newbies are all huddled in the trucks and ambulances trying to keep warm.
I always prepare myself mentally for every response...fire, EMS, and Haz-Mat. I always listen to the full dispatch as I find my keys, put on shoes and walk to the car than I drive cautiously to the station, most time not even putting on my light. If the truck rolls with a crew before I arrive than fine...the needed help is on the way and I will respond to the station and see if they need anything further to respond. Its a thinking game that takes time to understand for the rookies...they just want to ride the truck and get caught up in the lights and sirens, and the people looking at us as we go screaming by them.
I remember one call for an automatic alarm at a senior citizen complex, I was in the jump seat with a probie who just took Firefighter I and as we were responding to the call I was donning my air pack. He was just staring at me, finaly he asked why I was putting it on for "Just an alarm"...I smiled and shook my head and told him I was doing my job and he should do the same. When the chief arrived on scene he reported smoke showing from an apartment, bring the fan and an extinguisher...I had air on he didnt.
Calm helps you make better decisions, controlling you breathing is a great tool to conserve air also. When I was younger I sucked down a bottle in 10 minutes because of the adrenaline, now I can make it last to 15 almost 20 minutes because I do the breathing exercises.