101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Friday, October 31

...fore the pediatric difficulty breathing...


Kids can scare a lot of rescuers and a lot can go wrong if you're not careful. Many times the parents are helpful, other times a hindrance, but one I met recently was downright rude and the universe let her know it.

THE EMERGENCY
Our young patient has had a cough for 4 days, ever since he got his flu shot, and has been keeping Mom and Dad awake tonight. Instead of trying a humidifier or a gentle cough medicine (as directed) she has decided to dose Jr with his brothers asthma medicine in the hopes it will quiet him down. 911 was called when the medicine wasn't doing the trick. A quick aside here, she absolutely should have called, its what happens in the end that I love so much!

THE ACTION
Anyone in the field will tell you kids are tough cookies and will go on breathing strong a lot longer than adults, but will also tire out suddenly and need help fast. With this in mind we convince mom to let us take Jr in so we can monitor him. She tells us what hospital to go to and we begin the walk downstairs to the ambulance when she tells us, "Let me get my shoes." Not unreasonable, he's not too heavy and is comfortable watching the fire engine drive away. Minutes pass with no sign of mom. Now I've had mothers jump in the ambulance in bath robes and one slipper to accompany their ill child, others scramble for a favorite toy or bear to make the child comfortable, this mom was looking for a proper scarf for the ride. This was a first for me.
She's got the scarf, shoes, bag, all accessories except, "I need my phone." It was then the decision was made we were leaving with the child and they could follow whenever she was ready. As we left the house mom comes running after demanding we wait. She climbs into the back of the ambulance where we've arranged for Jr to sit in her lap, in her arms so as not to be scared of the ambulance. She gave us a look of disgust much like Paris Hilton might give you if you offered her a ride in your '88 Trans Am. Putting the phone to her ear to argue with the husband not 30 feet away, my partner took over care as it was my turn to drive.
This story would not be as good if I was in the back because I was able to concentrate on the phone conversation she was having the ENTIRE drive in. Raising her voice about how it should be him in the ambulance, not her and how she'll likely get sick as as result. All the while our patient is quiet and doing just fine. We arrive at the hospital and into an exam room, phone still pasted to the ear against hospital staff requests to the contrary and that's when the universe stepped in. 'Call it fate, call it luck call it Karma.' We see Jr's body tense up a bit in mom's lap and I make a bee-line for the emisis basins, but not in time. The asthma medication has an interesting side effect we learned, as did mom's beloved scarf, now covered in vomit. Did she comfort the child? Did she try to help us clean him up? Nope, she was examining the scarf, then back on the phone.

Wednesday, October 29

...for the chocking...

Look again. This call is not for a choking, but for a chocking. How can I trust what the dispatchers tell us when they can't spell? Mistyped you say? Look at how far away the 'c' is from the 'k' and the 'o.' What have I been dispatched to? Will I be placing a wheel chock behind this person?
Here's just the recent ones I can recall...

...respond for the psychic...(psychotic or psych eval maybe?)
...aboniminal pain...(ab pain or a large white hairy guy?)
...elderly nabor...(a type of bird?)
...bicicle accdnt...(icicles? Really?)
...2th hurts...(took me a minute too - Tooth hurts) More on her later
...cs flms fm blcny...(Sees flames from balcony - I let this one slide)

We all make mistakes, sure, but some are just so much fun.

Tuesday, October 28

As seen on FireGeezer.com

The very first Tip of the Helmet to the folks over at Fire Geezer for a quick line about us on October 28th. If you haven't been over there yet, they've got great items related to EMS and Fire from all over the world as well as hilarious news reports. I like to read about the fire engines repurposed as beer dispensers, but that's just me.

This is part of a new feature here where we'll break up the monotony of dispatches with notes from around the internets. Stuff we like will be given a "Tip of the Helmet" while things that get us mad will get a "Letter in the file."

So welcome, fellow Firegeezer readers, and hope you enjoy the stories!

...for a 9E1...


Ah the old/new days of the coded dispatch system. A 9E1 is a severe diabetic emergency and as usual with these folks, the address is familiar. A special tip of the helmet to my old medic "Beemer" on this one, this tale never gets old.

THE EMERGENCY
A man with uncontrolled insulin dependent diabetes has been found by his family unconscious, again. Rescuers recognize the address as the call is sent over the radio and the conversation starts about who has to convince him to get seen at the hospital this time.

THE ACTION
A proper assessment clears the way for the medication of choice and our friend is soon returning to "normal" when he sits bolt upright and surveys the room slowly. He is not panicked, he is not worried or scared, but is almost inquisitive in his eyeballing of the people around him. It is not uncommon for a person in this situation to be slightly disoriented or even confused, but he seems completely awake. He then looks from Beemer (the medic) to me and I ask him, "How do you feel?" He looks at me, almost leaning in to look into my eyes and speaks the single most memorable line of my career, "Who are you people and how do you know my language?"
"You're fine" Beemer says and we spend the next 30 minutes convincing him to take his medication. To this day I always think of him when I'm in this situation.

Monday, October 27

...for the large outside fire...


This one falls under the "You should have known better" category since you should always technically call 911 when you see a tee-pee on fire.

THE EMERGENCY
Some local, self described, "Free living" types were having a party and decided it would be nifty to build a tee-pee in the back yard. It appeared well constructed, was in a large flat area and measured about 10 feet across and almost 12 feet high where the posts came together. Plenty of room to keep some candles burning near the stacks of magazines and close to the 100% cotton sheets serving as as skin for the tee-pee. Neighbors have called advising our dispatchers that there is now a large fire where the tee-pee once stood. Our dispatchers advise us enroute, "Multiple 911 calls," which usually means its the real deal.

THE ACTION
The first engines on the scene see no smoke because of a common weather condition where we are. We're met at the front door by the previously mentioned "free living" folks who tell us their tee-pee burnt down. It was a little before 1 AM so I just shook my head and tried to imagine what he really meant to say. Then into the back yard and there it was in all its charred glory. Lightly smoking with only the poles marking the dead skeleton of once had been a happy place to burn candles un-attended. It reminded me of the charred christmas tree in the Christmas Vacation movie. They were a little confused when we grabbed their garden hose and nearby rake to break apart what was left and make sure the fire could not spread. Little jokes were made around the remains of the tee-pee, mainly about what the native people of North America would say if they were here to see this. We concluded they would smile, turn their backs and walk away, so we did the same.

Thursday, October 23

...for the unconscious...


Well it is 5:30 in the morning, perhaps they're sleeping?

THE EMERGENCY
We're tapped out an hour before sun up by a cell phone caller in front of the fire house stating there is an unconscious person in a car. It isn't uncommon for people to sleep in their cars in this area, so we proceed to drive up and down the block looking for the person in the car when we're waved down by someone in the middle of the street. The car nearby is in the middle of the intersection and we're wondering why this person chose to stop there and call 911. Turns out he's calling about the fellow IN the car in the middle of the intersection who, sure enough, is asleep at the wheel.

THE ACTION
"Did you try to wake him up?" I asked the caller, expecting the answer of "No" which seems odd since I tapped on the half rolled down window to which the driver awoke, looked around and said, "Oh shoot. I fell asleep. Sorry." And drove away. Our job is not to chase people so we made sure he drove safely as his brake lights disappeared into the pre-dawn morning. The caller simply looked at us with a blank expression, clearly let down that we weren't going to give pursuit. "Anything else we can do for you today Sir?" I asked as I climbed back into the ambulance. We didn't hear a response, I was already on the radio, "Put (this ambulance) back in service, citizen is now awake and driving away." Just in time to get 2 hours sleep before shift change.

Thursday, October 16

...for the difficulty breathing...


Lately our dispatchers have been asking odd questions of our callers since what we're sent for rarely matches what we find. As usual, it's early in the morning and the unknown awaits upstairs in a part of town known to be highly suspect of their blood pressures.

THE EMERGENCY
A man in his mid 40's has awoken at around 3 AM with a strange sensation in his shoulder. concerned it might be a heart attack, he takes his wife's expired phenobarbatol and attaches a home blood pressure monitor to his arm. Concerned as he is, he decides to attach another one to the other arm. With both monitors attached, he instructs the wife to turn them on. When the numbers are different from one another he panics and calls 911.

THE ACTION
Since he has ingested a substance that makes our assessment inaccurate we have to assume the shoulder pressure was somewhere else. But looking at the man with blood pressure monitors on both arms I had to smile. The systolic reading (the top number) was off by 3 mm/Hg, what is considered a margin or error for sure. Even better was that both readings were in a safe range, there was no cause for concern. The wife insisted his blood pressure was the problem and insisted he be transported immediately. I informed her that because he had taken an expired medication that was not his own, there was no longer a chance of him staying. As we walked to the ambulance he was moving his shoulder in a fashion similar to when I sleep on my arm wrong. "Does that make it any better?" I ask him, "Yes, that is much better," he replies in the thick accent.

Thursday, October 9

...for the alcohol poisoning...


The fellow we meet at the basketball courts at a local park appears to be intoxicated, but is in fact a victim of the struggling economy. Some gauge the economy by used car dealerships, I judge it by the quality of street drugs.

THE EMERGENCY
A youth basketball team has arrived at practice to find a gentleman passed out under the away team hoop. He has removed his shoes and lay down in a fetal position, prompting the coach to call 911 and report an intoxicated person in public.

THE ACTION
After realizing that this person was actually under the influence of a common street drug you roll into cigarettes or smoke from a water pipe, we removed him from the community area and placed him in the ambulance. It is often in this cramped 6'x 8' space a person's personal hygiene standards are apparent. From this man emanates a most foul stench of marijuana. Not old or dry or on his clothes, but the cigarette he still has with him is so strong, I debate tossing it out the window. The term "skunk weed" used by the kids these days doesn't do this odor justice. It was clear that this man was so down on his luck he couldn't even afford a fair amount of fair marijuana in a time and place where it is almost as common as tobacco. Worst part is, when he comes down from his "high" he'll have an ambulance and hospital bill to worry about.

Thursday, October 2

...to assist a citizen...


It doesn't get more vague than this. When nothing fits, they call it "assist a citizen." Well, on this day I happen to be assigned to a very specialized unit, a Ladder Truck that specializes in forcible entry and ventilation at fires, not to mention search and rescue. For those with no fire service background...The truck with the big ladder and the steering wheel in the back.

THE EMERGENCY
Someone at City Hall has called asking for help at an address in a questionable neighborhood. Upon arrival the very large and heavily equipped unit finds a man and woman looking into a storm grate near a van...wait for it...no this is good...parked in a red zone. They dropped their keys and can't move the van.

THE ACTION
We establish that yes, they are in fact calling for help for lost keys and the van is in the red zone, "Just real quick while I checked in on a friend." This neighborhood is famous for drug use and I was pretty sure I saw a person using this grate as a toilet earlier in the day so I advised the man that the auto club may be the best way to go in this situation. "But the Mayor said you would get the keys for us." "Oh really?" We asked. Gloved up and wondering how to get this old grate off the odor was indescribable. Just as we figured a winching system to pull the heavy grate up and look for the keys we heard from the man behind us, "Don't worry Hon, this is what these men are trained for."
I took a deep breath, nearly gagged, and sighed. It reminded me of those credit card ads. You know: 5 Firefighters for 1.5 hours $750, 1 Ladder Truck $375,000, 1 damaged storm grate $500, watching the Fire Department recover your urine soaked keys while you were parked in a red zone, priceless.