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?

John

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You are right John, when that tone goes off, you need to listen to what it is, so that you take the right equipment and such. But it happens so often, young guys just jumping on to go without knowing what it is there going to.
Get all the info you can
Get yourself there safely
Think through the situation en route.
I find thinking of situations ahead helps: what would I do if? Thinking through possible scenarios before anything happened helped me when involved in a wreck with 2 other big trucks on a foggy Wyoming interstate, I already had some actions in mind and didn't have to think 'should I do this' at the time, when I was the only EMS person on the scene.
There are some great "responses" (pun intended) here and there is one thing that sticks out in my mind on ANY call.

Years ago when I started as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for a city of about 250,000, my trainer asked me "What is the most important thing on a call?" As a rookie dispatcher coming from a small county sheriff dispatch department my responses were "The persons phone number", "Their name", "Is anyone injured?" and then she looked at me and said "No. The location. We can have every single tid-bit of information down to the callers favorite color, but without a location, we have nothing."

And really the location is more important than just an address or intersection. It can give us ideas as to the geography of the area. Where are hydrants? Do we know that a road is closed and have to take an alternate route? If you have railroad's in your area, do you know the 2nd route of travel if a train is in the way? Do you know who the next closest department/station would be for that location?

So for me, preparing is all about location, location, location. And peeing.
I like most others listen to the entire dispatch before jumping up to respond. Then I try to keep an open mind as to what I am responding to while considering what I might find.
There is one other thing that I have done for more then 30 years and that is keep my mental attitude such that I don't blame myself for anything I find. i.e.- I did not cause the emergency what ever it is, I do what I am trained to do to the best of my ability, you win some and you lose some, and I review what I did at the end of the call to determine if there was a different action that might have changed the outcome and file it away for the future. (This came from responding to more than 5 trauma deaths in a 14 day period {I forgot to mention that they were all burns or dismemberment} and feeling that I was failing because I could not do anything, I think this happens to a lot of new folks and I almost quit the service because of it.) I have found over the years that as soon as I think that I have seen the absolute worse that one person can do to another, someone proves that theory wrong. There are a l ot of sick and careless individuals out there in the world and we see most of them at one time or another.
i'm a vol fire fighter be for i even leave my house. i listen to the first set of tones just to see where it's at and what the call is. for my department most of are calls are 5 to 10 min away so enrout i clear my mind and start to think of what i'm going to do onsecne.
well so far it looks like the consensus is to stop, listen to the whole page . . . and then pee!

Great responses so far. Keep 'em coming.

John
I am a newbie volunteer firefighter and I must say "I'm Luvin' it".
I've been at it now for about 18 months.
I often have heard the old-timers tell me "Yeah, I used to be like you, first one on the radio, trying to respond to every call". Well, I am excited about it, and I hope that never changes.
Since I work a day job and most of my responses are at night, I will focus on the nightime preparedness.

How do I prepare myself for a call??, hmmmmm, where to begin.......

First, I take my gear from my POV and get it all set up in the garage so that I can "donn" before getting in my POV to respond (which gawsh-darn-it is not allowed to have lights/siren although it used to - it's an ex-brush truck I picked up for a song on GovDeals).

Second, I pee before I go to bed. This allows for a faster pee when the tones go off.

Third, if I'm really feelin it (like that medium gal on tv) I will prepare myself for emergency response sleep. I do this by buckling my POS (personally owned suspenders) to my boxer shorts. You may laugh, but it saves critical seconds looking for your drawers when your foggy headed anyway. Not to mention the masculinity points you get with the Mrs knowing that she is sleeping with a man who is ready to jump into harms way at any moment. (she really digs that)

Forth, I set my radio right by the bed with the volume cranked. Not only will I be startled into action, but the whole house will know that daddy is the man.

Fifth, I have my clothes (pants, shirt, socks) layed out in response manner so that they can be donned in practiced ritual fashion. Keys are in the pants pocket habitually so thats not an issue.

Ok, so now i have prepared, we can't end the story without describing,,,

The response.......

Tones go off, instictively sit straight up like Frankenstien coming to life, turn to make my approach
to the consciously prepared POC (personally owned clothes), immediately step on the dogs head (you think he would have learned by now not to sleep beneath a trained professional), donn my POC while the wife is tending to the yelping dog, proceed to the garage to donn my PPE. By this time, all the kids are awake wondering what the heck is going on. Head to the POV ex-brush truck all the while trying to remember what that address was. OOPs, forgot to pee, pee on truck tire (the neighbors are asleep anyway).

Proceed to the station as briskly as the legal speed limit allows, trying to stay out of the ditches while entering the scene address on my POGPS (you've figured out what that means by now). Continue toward the station while watching the "demo route" feature on the POGPS while trying to stay out of the ditches.

Arrive at station, try to find the key that is hid so cunningly above door to unlock it because the full-timer that has already responded never thinks to unlock it for me. Continue to the bay, DO A THREE SIXTY around the aparatus. (I know the importance of this now since I have already tore the doors off of an engine in my short careeer). Mount the aparatii, secure my seatbealt, open the door with the remote. Pull fully out into the driveway before announcing my response on the radio (our garage doors opener motors have been known to falsely activate by the two-way radio causing the aparatii to leave the station with a bay door attached to the to the deck gun).

Commence my emergency traffic response to the scene (is this cool or what? be honest, it's cool) while remembering that this is not what firefighting is really all about. Try to concentrate fully on my driving, but can't keep from reliving all the horror stories I've read on The Secret List. Drive slower and more cautiously because of it (thank you Chief G) and have made it to every scene so far. (except that one where I got lost)

Thoughts race through my head about the scene condition and what I will do immediately upon arrival. Does this truck pump in neutral, or drive? Where is the PTO switch? Will I be connecting to the engine through the fill valve or the pump intake? Will the scene conditions need the use of the drop-tank? I wonder if my dogs alright?

Arrive on scene, get out, scotch wheels, notice my suspenders hanging out below the sides of my coat (not the POS, the PPE ones) take my coat off to correct this situation, begin my tanker duties - connecting up/ engaging pump /filling engine, calling station for hydrant locations, wonder if my dogs eyes are still in his head.

Alast, the fire is under control and once again I have added another response to my exciting part-time career.
I can clear the scene with my head held high and go home and wake everybody up again at 4 in the morning to tell them all about the incident and the role I played in it. They will listen with their eyes half open, act impressed and go back to bed. I'll get back to sleep about an hour later after re-bonding with the dog and getting prepared for the next run. (see above)

O the days of being a newbie, one of these days I will look at one and say "I remember when I was like you".

- Steve

This was an attempt to look at the honest and light side of things and in no way was meant to deminish the importance of preparedness and seriousness of the true job we have..... hope you got a chuckle, Be safe!
I do the same thing, especially the going pee or not, but I don't get to be on the apparatus as much anymore, since I am a chief. But I have trained, my new people in particular, that they have to look at our district map that is up on the wall before they go, which accomplishes two things, it calms them down a little and they know where they are going and how to route themselves effectively. They also drill at night to get their timing down, the correct PPE on, tag in immediately and think about the position they are in on the engine. This makes them think enroute what their responsibilities are, since each seat has a pre-determined assignment, so they already know what their job will be upon arrival.
VERY GOOD CHOICE FOR A TOPIC CAPTAIN. I TOO SAY THE SAME THING TO MYSELF,"DO I GOTTTA PEE ?TOUGH GETTIN OLD---LOL ! BEING AN OFFICER TOO, I ALSO LISTEN TO ALL RADIO TRAFFIC ON THE WAY TO THE STATION TO KIND OF GET A FEEL FOR THE CALL--SEVERITY ETC., ONCE IM ON THE TRUCK LIKE YOU, YOU NEED TO SEE WHO YOU HAVE AND WHAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF DOING AND IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ASSIGN TASKS TO YOUR CREW.ONCE THAT IS DONE, I GET MYSELF READY--SEATBELT,AIR PACK( IF IT IS A FIRE),OR MY TRAFFIC VEST FOR A CAR WRECK,I THEN TURN MY ATTENTION TO THE RADIO AND LISTEN.SOMETIMES I CAN GET QUIET ON THE WAY, JUST TO RELAX. SOMETIMES MY CREW WILL ASK QUESTIONS THAT I TRY TO ANSWER OR I MAY NEED TO GIVE THEM OTHER INSRUCTIONS IF THINGS CHANGE ON THE WAY. AT ANY RATE, LIKE YOU SAID, YOU NEED TO PUT YOURSELF IN THE RIGHT FRAME OF MIND BECAUSE SOME OF THE THINGS WE GO TO ARE VERY STRESSFUL AND SOMETIMES TRAGIC. PLEASE STAY SAFE EVERYONE .
have to say... thats my first thing to do as well.
Thanks for the excellent chuckle! We need the light things sometimes, firefighters are famous for their sense of humor. It is not just the job we have, it is the job we love! Be safe yourself!
I respond from my home to the scene. I am constantly listening for details on the scanner and radio.. I try to get a mental picture of the scene and what needs to be done on the way. I try to clear my head and remember that I have a job to do. On scene, it comes together while I don my gear and get ready to get to work.

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