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.
I totally believe with everything mentioned above. We have to remember that we are there to help, and we are not the cause of the call, so we must learn to separate ourselves from the chaos, because we are no good to the home-owner/public by being emotional or "adrenaline-pumped" and over excited.
Tips on how to prepare;
1. If at night, lay out clothes that can be easily accessed and something you can easily dress into in the event you receive a mid-night call. I personally lay a pair of jogging pants, t-shirt and sweater at the end of my bed, and I have mentally prepared myself and conditioned myself to remember that they are there when the pager goes off at 3 AM. This may sound small or insignificant, but something as small as putting your socks in the same place every night and leaving your car keys in the same place by the door will save frustration, confusion and panic when the alarm goes off at 3 AM.
2. ALWAYS BE THINKING: If you're like me, your mind is driving faster than you can imagine. Always be thinking of what you are responding to. Run through various mental scenarios in your head about how you will respond to different calls, and what to possibly expect. You can't predict everything but you can put some careful pre-planning together in your head long before you are ever paged out.
3. STOP AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH: Yes that's what I said. Even though you need to get moving, you need to stop even for 1-2 seconds, take a deep breath and relax. It will slightly lower your heart rate and hopefully focus you on the job at hand. It's no good to let the adrenaline move you, let your thoughts and training move you. Tie your shoes, grab your jacket on the way out the door, and you'll come to appreciate the small things you'll remember when you take a deep breath and think.
4. WALK DON"T RUN: How many times have we seen the young rookies bolt through the fire station to jump on the trucks? I have because I used to be one of them. I find that again you forget things or drop things and make mistakes when you rush. Take your time, get into the station and gear up. Not at a snail's pace obviously but in a timely and thoughtful manner. Check your gear, do you have everything you need? Flash hood, gloves, safety goggles, radio, etc...As it was mentioned by Capt106, going slower does actually get you there faster.
5. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT: That goes for everything from habits to your training. Get into a repeating habit of leaving your clothes at the end of your bed in the same spot in the same way so you mentally condition yourself to know where it is all the time, and taking that deep breath all the time. As for your PPE, make sure that you keep all of your accessories in the same pocket all the time. Again it mentally conditions you and you will remember where everything is without thinking about it. Get into safe and healthy habits that you can use at every call so that it helps prepare you for the task at hand.
These are just a few things I do at every call, as Deputy Chief I do a lot more now on top of everything I just mentioned but there are a few tips and hints.
Very good post and nice detail. I agree that we must train on responding from our physical actions down to our intellectual and emotional reactions. The right frame of mind can mean all the difference.
Good topic...I work for a relatively small 4 station department and like alot of the previous comments we sometimes go for a day without a call, so when the tones go off I do what most everyone else is saying, I take a deep breath and listen. For me personally that deep breath helps 100% and brings me back to the reality of being calm and thinking clearly, I owe it to myself and my crew to do that. What also helps me is being prepared for the unexpected and not preplaning my actions before getting to the incident because as we all know things are usually quite different than what you initially pictured in your head. The sayings that have stuck with me are "slow down to speed up" and "adapt and overcome" Thanks for letting me join in.
Once the alarm goes off just take my time. Don't rush myself to get dressed i know the call isn't going anywhere.. i clear my head and focus. Just talk to the guys on the truck. Thats how i get ready for my calls. FF.Mike Smith
Well guys i am on a volunteer dept. And besides that i am only 16 and still in school so me being at a younge age can also be a promlem seeing how i still dont have my licends so as soon as i hear that there is a page im puting my clothing on and im out the door befor fire control is done talking....... Even though i am only 16 and dont have a car i am the first one here everytime so i must be doing something right when geting to the hall..... But there is onething i find and that is ive only been on the dept for 5 weeks and everytime i get a call im just bounceing off the walls..... But after reading what some of you older fire members say about geting ready and prepareing your self may end up helping me so im not all over the place.....
yea i have been in your shoes, i am just about to turn 18 and get my licences, but i got on when i turned 16. The best advice i can give you that helped me was liseten to your senior firefighters, and try to stay as calm as you can.
We have all been in your shoes. Almost every newbie that joins has to figure out how to overcome the adrenalin rush and to calm down. While being excited does have its place, remember that safety always comes first and in order to be safe we have to be able to think with a clear mind.
So don't forget to take a moment to take a few deep breaths, to calm down, to think clearly, to mentally prepare yourself. By taking a few seconds at the beginning of the call you will save alot of time later.