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.

So what do you do to prepare yourself for a call?


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Like you I listen to the whole page before I move towards the apparatus. Once the truck is running, bay door open and I've done my 360 of the truck. I get in seatbelt on, make eye contact with each member in the truck to ensure everyone is aboard and seatbelted. Then I take a deep breath, hold it while releasing the brake and placing the apparatus in gear. Then I slowly release it, before I pull out of the station to respond.

I find taking a deep slow breath, holding it and thinking of nothing else but that breath then blowing it out through my nose has always worked for me. It takes that hyper edge off the adrenaline rush, calms my nerves and clears my head.
it is amazing what a good slow deep breath will do to you. My advice to some of the young guys is to slow down . . . we'll get their faster that way.

I usually say a small prayer when I get in the truck that everything goes right and everyone comes home safe.

Then that lets me calm down and start getting the jobs assigned and the tasks at hand taken care off.
First I listen to the entire dispatch before heading to my truck. While on my to station I wait for my phone to download the text page. When at station before gearing up I check the text page and make sure it matches the dispatch and verify the address. I then gear up and give assignments, pick my drivers, and crewmen for which truck. I then get in the truck and as I take my seat I ask my driver if he knows were he is going, then I ask my crew for belts and ID tags. Once I have the tags I then fasten my seat belt and the do the same as Truckie Jay and take a long relaxing deep breath. I reach for the microphone and exhale. I then give the driver the nod to go as I put the truck responding to the comm center.
I must agree with Truckie Jay the deep breath works and that is something I started doing as a driver and have just changed it from exhaling when reaching for the e-brake to exhaling when reaching for the microphone.
Well Capt 106
I've been on the job 33 years, I'm a member of a small department and I'm with you when the pager tones out. I have to know what you're responding to. Our pager repeat what is said by the dispatcher once after the first tone out. I've been the Chief of my department for the last 5 years, before that I was the Asst Chief for 15 years. My mind starts to work the minuts the address is given, I'm think who lives at the address, what type of construction the structure is, where is my hydrant located, are there any special needs the person who lives there may have. About how many personel I'll have responding and will I need to call for M/A. I too have younger members that hit the station door with the MONGO sysdrome, Wide eyes, can't breath, can't seen to get in their turnout the proper way, cussing and yelling. The best way I've found to get these guys back down to earth is to put a hand on their shorlder already dress properly and just ask them to take a breath, and tell them everything going to be OK. Have them stay with this ole dog and he show the young pup how to hunt. This has worked on about every member I brought up thought the fire service...
as a vol. preparing is so hard, because we cover alot of ground and sometimes theirs so many hours and or days in between calls that when the pager goes off i listen to the page and i go straight to the hall for a pick up a truck, but the one hard step is in a small town we know everyone, so is the car accident someone we know is my friends house on fire, or whos the guy that has drowned. thats the hardest part but getting ready for a call is one thing , the heart pumps so fast one thing is listen to the page and then radio and find out
more of the call. as many details as possible...

Felch Fire
Preparation begins with planning Bro. Actually, I prepare in advance for the calls. I guess most of it is after 28 years there isnt much I havnt seen or been exposed to. I am human yes but most of the time I move according to my experience and training. Sometimes I simply react according to the adrenaline and realize latter that it bothered me or wonder how I got through it. I agree though. Most of the time I just sit and wait till I hear all the info, go to the bathroom and then out the door I go. No need to run out the door until I know where I'm going and what I'm gonna do. Since I go directly to the scene In my Duty rig I am thinking and planning all the way to the scene. What time of day it is?, where is my water supply?, are they outside the residence?, do I need traffic control?, whats burning?, Exposures?, Is the patient breathing? what do I need for the response? How many volunteers will show up and whats their level of experience?, Size up?, Mutual aid? and the list goes on and on. I have a nomex jumpsuit hanging beside my bed, zip up Haix firefighter boots sitting near my bed with socks in them (never go without socks) as you will only go without them one time, My response rig keys are hanging on the wall by the front door where my response jacket is as well. Everything else is in my response vehicle sitting in my driveway. Planning, Planning, Planning! BE PREPARED!
I listen to the whole page, head out the door, and listen to my portable to try to gather info on the way to the station. I am running scenerios through my head that are the worst case. Then I get dressed, get on the truck see who else is with me then head to the scene. If I am OIC then everyone knows their job before we get there.
I am on a small vollie dept. At home I keep a sharpie and a yellow large post it pad next to my radio. Which is on my nightstand nest to my head. Tha way I can write down any important info I need or hear. Then it is off to the firehouse to get dressed and loaded into a truck. If I have any doubts as to where the adress is I will take aminute to look at our map. We cover about 70 square miles. Our 911 adress system is realitive new so alot of time the dispatch will ask for a name and that usually does the trick for all of us. Then the thought process switches to how many ppl are responding, what is the emergency and how do we deal with it. I like to be ready when I pul on scene to take action not sit with my thumb up my butt wondering whta the heck is goin on.
I'm on a volunteer dept. and I live far enough away that I don't have much time to prepare until after I've made it to the station. If I'm not out the door a minute after the page, I may have missed the engine. So, I try to keep my radio, car keys, and coat together and ready to go. I get the page, read it, turn on the radio, and run out the door. How fast I try to get there depends on the level of the call. Usually I'm still pretty shaky with adrenaline while heading to the station, but I try to start calming myself down.

Once I'm in the engine, that's when I start my real preparing. Reread the page, think about the update, and double check the info with the rest of my crew. Then we might talk about what we'll do... if it's a fire, who's got the hose, and who's got the tools. For a medical, who's going to talk to the patient, who will assist. And so on.

But, for me, personally, the biggest part is praying and taking a few deep breaths. Sometimes I sing a hymn to myself because it seems to help put me in a peaceful state of mind. Otherwise I'll be tense, nervous, and excited... and prone to making mistakes.
I'd like to add to this if you don't mind. aside from being a firefighter, I'm also a blackbelt in martial arts, and let me tell you...breathing is the key.....slow, controlled focused breathing. Works every time..in ANY situation (for me anyway). Like mentioned above,...takes the spike off the adrenaline rush resulting in a more stress free thought process. play safe.
I wait for the entire page to play and by the time i'm in my surburban the second page or confirmation page comes. I first and foremost strap on the seatbelt and ensure my lights are on and siren. Then telling myself to remain calm call dispatch and go en route. I've put a paper and pen by my console also and am trying to write the address so I'm not the one who says. Can you repeat that address. Haven't started using the pad yet but that should help. Of course, writing down the location prior to departure. En route, I go over a mental checklist of what needs done and then think of job assignments. I wait till I'm on actually on scene to call on scene and tell dispatch stand by for update after I label what I physically see. Then I go to my operation channel and give any assignments out and then back to dispatch.

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