Thursday, June 30

Rip Shears Review

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="150"] Rip Shear RS-1[/caption]

A few weeks back I received a care package from the folks at Rip Shears.  Inside was quite the interesting little device, a removable dual blade cutter that can be attached to any standard 7 1/4" trauma shear. From there you simply start a cut with the shears, then flip and rip. Take a look at this short YouTUBE video from Rip Shears:

This at first had me nervous.  Do I really need an open blade on my shears?  I wear a pair of shears on my duty and turnout belts and adding something so seemingly dangerous had me concerned I'd be replacing belt loops and turnout straps.

This was not the case at all.  I'll get to the 2 issues I have with the product after I tell you why I'll always be carrying one with me in the field from now on.


The Rip Shear seems like a simple device and it really is.  The fact that it is small and detachable means I can move it from shears to shears as needed instead of some giant device.  It also fits nearly perfectly into my existing leather pouch, since the shears fit as well.  I don't wear BDU pants but did have a chance to test the shears snapped into a pair of Perfection pants supplied by Chronicles of EMS uniform supplier ALLMED.

[caption id="attachment_4135" align="alignleft" width="300"] AllMED Perfection EMT Pant[/caption]

As you can see the gear does not hamper the ability to wear it, but the pocket just barely covers the blade, enough to likely get caught once or twice.

Drawback #1: The blades in the upward position.

When showing this tool around the ambulance yard one morning, one of the EMTs loved it.  He removed his regular shears from a lateral behind the back pouch and inserted the military green shears.  To show how easily they would deploy he pulled them out, not noticing his shirt got caught, and cut a clean rip in his shirt.  From this experience we chose to reverse the blade direction using only a screwdriver and voila, problem solved.





[caption id="attachment_4136" align="alignleft" width="300"] (l) as shipped (r)inverted[/caption]


I now carry my own rip shear with the blades oriented down, took 45 seconds to switch.  There are no special tools required to remove and replace the Rip Shears, simply use a phillips screwdriver to remove the three screws, remove the blade unit and the guide unit, done.  The setup of the screws and hardware allows for the inverting of the blade and for attaching it to almost anything.

This far outweighs a single use tool that does not already incorporate itself into gear you already have.  Space in the bags and in my pouch is at a premium these days, so this little guy is more than welcome.


Another early concern was that the open blade would catch a finger.  I have to admit I was scared to handle these at first, but as shown in the photo, even little 5 year old fingers are safe from wandering into the blade area on the Rip Shears.  Fear not my thin fingered friends, you're safe.

[caption id="attachment_4137" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A 5 y/o's pinky finger does not fit[/caption]

It took about 3-4 shifts to get used to having the slight extra height on my pouch and I now remove it to sit on furniture at work, mainly to discourage dirty looks when folks realize what's on there.

The Rip Shear is available in black and a really neat glow-in-the-dark material that has been handy to have on a dark road on a night MVC.  Since EMTs can be excitable and use shears only to throw them away, I can easily track down my set and replace the Rip Shear onto another standard shear back at the station.

Drawback #2: The shears provided have a lip on the end too extreme to fit many pouches.  Again, easy fix here, just remove it and place it on a pair that does fit.  You can order your Rip Shear already attached to a set of shears, the website advises the manufacturer may change, so this may have simply been THAT particular supplier.  Yours may be different.


The versatility of this product more than makes up for the out of the box issues we noticed.  When using the shears they worked exactly as advertised going through a few pairs of jeans in their time on my shears as well as the leather jacket of a very disagreeable clavicle fracture.  They cut like they look like they should.  No problems there.


I had hoped to grab an old pair of turnouts and use them to show how well they cut, but recent events here made it seem in poor taste.  Perhaps someone out there has an old set they would be willing to donate to Rip Shears?


Made in the USA and designed with Paramedic and EMT input I can't think of a better addition to your kit for around $15.

Visit their website for more details and links to where to buy your own Rip Shears.

Wednesday, June 29

A Tip of the Helmet - Chico PD

By way of new bloggers Magnum Boots and their BLDG4801 comes this find of the Chico PD PSA.


Atta Boy Chico! A Tip of the Helmet to ya!


Someone has been paying attention in class.
If your Bay Area Fire, Police or EMS agency wants to make a PSA, click over HERE, I know a guy.

Monday, June 27

Magnum Boot Blog and Giveaway

The folks over at Magnum Boots have seen the power of social media and aside from maintaining twitter and facebook accounts that actually respond to followers, they're going one step further and starting a blog.

BLDG4801 plans to feature:


  • Insight on what's happening at Magnum HQ

  • In-depth interviews with key industry insiders

  • Exclusive sneak peeks at new Magnum products

  • Magnum contests and giveaways

  • Field Tester, blogger and editorial reviews


As part of the blog launch they're giving away $1,000 worth of Magnum gear to a lucky subscriber.  Check the site for details on how you can enter to win, and tell them FRNtv sent you!

We here at HMHQ wish them luck and hope to work with Magnum in the fall on a very special project.

Sunday, June 26

Engine 99 in Pursuit!

I do love how some of our clients seem to have life threatening illnesses and injuries, then seem to have the energy and nimbleness of a child avoiding bed time.  Recently we had yet another client who thinks we're not paying attention.



A man is reporting he is unconscious.



No, seriously, that's what the screen says.  "The problem is: Unconscious, breathing status unknown. This is a first party caller."  Dispatch inefficiency aside, this always makes me smile.

Being only a few blocks away, we're on the scene and indoors faster than he expected.  Just past the lobby where the only phone in the building is kept behind a desk, the clerk is pointing up an open staircase and we hear her voice trailing off "...6th floor..."

We mount the stairs and look up only to see a tiny face behind an unkept beard looking back at us.  He picks up his pace, but we do this all the time.  Closing the gap, he ducks down a hallway and is hobbling with impressive speed despite all our calls to stop and wait for us.

He closes the door just as we catch him.  Opening the door we find him, you guessed it, on the floor, eyes closed and completely out of breath.  As we assess him he spins a yarn about having been so weak he can't walk.  Even after chasing him up almost 3 flights of stairs after he walked the first 3, then running down the hall, he tells us he can not walk and demands the chair.

We load him onto it and carry him down the same stairs where the girl at the desk is apologizing for letting him use the phone.

"No, never deny him the phone," I tell her, "but next time see if you can talk him into waiting downstairs."

Friday, June 24

RIP Detective Lt Columbo

[caption id="attachment_4115" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="screen capture of Season 3 Columbo"][/caption]

In 1968 a not yet crumpled rain coat wandered into a swanky flat where a murder had occurred carrying inside it a quiet young man who simply looked around.  The TV Movie "Prescription:Murder" was the debut of the world's greatest homicide Detective Lt Columbo, played by Peter Falk.


Mr Falk died peacefully this morning in his home at the age of 83.


Lt Columbo always seemed to know more about the crime than he let on, the classic example of only asking questions you already know the answer to.  Rarely did he need all the fancy bells and whistles afforded to modern day Detectives, instead focusing on human nature and the fact that every criminal leaves clues, you just have to find them.  Each episode and every guest star was no match for the half chewed cigar and the signature rain coat with what inside seemed like a regular Joe Nobody.  Many a criminal dismissed him as incompetent but all knew that within 45 minutes we'd be hearing a full confession soon after Mr Falk delivered his signature Columbo line: "just one more thing..."


You will be missed Mr Falk.  I plan on watching "Prescription:Murder" again as soon as possible.



Thursday, June 23

A toothbrush and moral decay

A recent credit card commercial from a company famous for the "Priceless" meme has changed one of their ads only days after it went live.  The more I think about what they changed and why they think they did the right thing, I'm reminded what pull small minorities of beliefs have on everyday life.

I'm not one to pay too much attention to commercials, but if I can't avoid them I do enjoy looking for one thing:

The awkward marriage establishing prop.

In any commercial that features a man and woman either with children, in bed awaking for coffee or touting a sleep aid, or eating breakfast, there is a shot of a wedding photo, prominent wedding ring or reference to a mother in law that established to us, the slug of a viewer, that the person partaking in these activities is indeed married.  Because if they aren't I'm not buying that car?

The overt reference to marital status is clearly to avoid displeasing a small minority of viewers who find such things as unmarried co-habitation and children out of wedlock so unspeakable they make sure I have to be reminded that only married people have children.  "What about the children?" they cry.  Well, they're going out into a world that is nothing like your glossed over commercial wants them to believe.

In the ad aired recently a young man is seen using a credit card to buy a toothbrush.  The narrator tells us "A fresh tooth brush, just in case" and then the price.  You know how these ads go, right?

Then he hustles through a restaurant, using the same card, and we're told "Homecooked meal..." and the price.

Then into a wine shop where he grabs alcohol and uses the same credit card. "first-date finest" and the price.

After he grabs the bottle of wine he leaps into his apartment, forcefully clears off the table into the dishwasher, throws a yoga magazine over a swimsuit magazine and rushes to the door where a young lady is standing and smiles.


Did they change the part where he lies about cooking the food to impress the girl? No. Lying:OK

Did they change buying alcohol for the date? No, of course not. Drinking:OK

Perhaps the irresponsible act of throwing everything in the dishwasher instead of properly cleaning up? Nay-nay. Living like a slob:OK

Covering up your reading habits with something else? Common place apparently. Deceit:OK

Maybe, just maybe, they tell us why, if he is so excited for this first date, does he have to run everywhere, then toss about his apartment? Nope. Poor time management:OK

No, someone had an issue with the toothbrush.  Well, not the tooth brush, but the "just in case..." text and voice over. Buying a toothbrush: Won't someone think of the children?!?!

It now reads "fresh breath..." or some such nonsense.  Point being, they changed possibly the LEAST offensive part of the ad.

Before you all go prude on me and tell me it's about the children ask me what ad came on next.  Go ahead, ask.


An ad with two adults physically embracing, touching, kissing, and a laundry room transforming into a forest no less. Sex and magic.

Remind me which is the offensive one?

It's not ads showing a man buying a toothbrush that are leading to the decay of what we all once held as wholesome.  It's not the gays, the blacks, the whites or even the tie dyed.  Not Jew, not Christian, not Muslim, not Atheist or Naturalist.  It is all of them.  All of us.  All groups who demand people see things their way no matter what.  I have my views but have no intent of enforcing them upon you, unless you are abusing 911.  In that arena I become the person I hate, trying to filter what I want you to hear through this medium and others, but I would be hard pressed to ask a third party to change something as massive as an International ad just because of a toothbrush.

We accept ads about erectile dysfunction, glorify murder in prime time, parade celebrities and their children who practice all the things they claim to be against, only to get upset...about a toothbrush.


I read a recent comment on another site that asked where the condoms were.  Good point, but also...good luck.  Condom companies aren't even allowed to show actual people in their ads, but sex aids like lotions can, and quite graphically by the toothbrush standards.  But again, the lotion ads have the awkward marriage establishing shot making it OK.

Once again:

Married people having sex in the afternoon: OK.  Single guy buying toothbrush: Offensive.


Sometimes I think the drive to ban gay marriage is simply to avoid having to see these establishing shots between guys.


I'm no prude, surely, and am not asking to have total control over the ads I see, I vote with my wallet and don't buy their products.  That's my control. But could the people upset about this ad possibly use their efforts to help feed the hungry, stop genocide or something useful in this world instead of protecting my kids from a toothbrush?


Put the ad back and tell the people complaining to go clean out their own house first.

Monday, June 20

Check the trunk

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="339" caption="crazbabe21"][/caption]

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is a tourist destination ranked with the best of them. By day you can listen to live music, wander the docks where small fishing boats bring in the catch of the day, get pictures of Alcatraz and a bowl of clam chowder in a genuine Sourdough bread bowl. Yes, I capitalized Sourdough. We do that here.
By night the Wharf is very much the same, but now you can seek a table in one of the swanky restaurants that line the pier, menus overflowing with fresh seafood, most of it alive and swimming just half a day before.

When driving to the Wharf, many folk choose to park on the street or in lots nearby, some of them offering validation for the first few hours.

The others can use valet parking, an expensive choice but handy if parking in a crowded area isn't your forte.

This particular evening I'm the medic on a 1&1 ambulance, as it was called here, you may know it as "the normal" or "the right way" where you are, at this time it was an oddity.
The bells ring and we're waiting for our rig to be called. I mean waiting because instead of hearing just us, or us and the engine we hear the fire boat, rescue boat, jet skis, 2 engines, a Chief, an RC and finally, as if an afterthought, our little medic van.

The narrative tells us a person has jumped from one of the piers into the cold summer evening water. Keep in mind our seasons are a little different here too.

On scene we are waved around back of the fancy restaurants and to the lot where the valet drivers park the cars. The first thing I notice is that all of them are backed up to the edge of the pier and, although there is a large log keeping the car from falling in, a person could very easily step over accidentally and as we look over the edge, there he is.

Clutching a large floating buoy protecting a fishing boat from the pier is our patient, cold, wet and shivering, at least 12 feet below us. This is going to be a job for...
...from behind a sea of red and white helmets, denoting the truck company, appears carrying a 16 foot roofing ladder with large rounded hooks on the end. While usually reserved for peaked roofs, it works perfectly for reaching down piers.

When naked and warming under blankets in the back of the ambulance, our new friend tells us how he came to be a fish.

He was attending a birthday party and suddenly realized he had forgotten the gift in the car. Heading down he got the keys from the valet and found his car. When he went around back to get into the truck he fell 12 feet into the water and was underneath the large buoy for a time, just long enough to think he was going to drown. It was a quick thinking valet attendant who saw him cross the parking area, saw him fall and called for help.

Had the lot been empty he could have possibly drowned.

I bet next time you go to get something out of your trunk you look twice to see if there is a floor to stand on.

Saturday, June 18

Day Tripper

A friendly reminder to all my clients:  There is no point in lying to me, I already know what happened.  Your event is nothing new, no matter what it is.  You act like a 14 year old trying to hide porn under your mattress or cigarettes in your sock drawer thinking you're the first to ever think of it.  So when I ask you a question, and you lie, and I ask the question again, take the hint.



A fall victim is bleeding.



OK, I'll leave the reasoning for a code 3 response to a "possible broken nose" aside for this once because what happened when we got there was too much fun.

Arriving in the parking lot of the local market early in our shift we find a man seated awkwardly on the ground, keys and a small shopping bag nearby.  Also nearby is a half circle of a half dozen private security people from a nearby landmark who are all waving us over.  Thanks, fellas, never would have found you.

As I approach none of them breaks formation to come give me a candid run down of events, they just stand as if waiting for the show.

That was my first indication this would be interesting.

HM: Hi there, I'm Justin, are you OK down there? What happened?

DT (Day Tripper): I just want to go home, but they won't let me.

HM: Who won't let you? These folks? (As I motion to the security guards)

DT: Yeah, they called the cops.

HM:(as I'm completing my primary and beginning my secondary) Well, I'm not the cops, how did you end up on the ground and where are your glasses?

The 1cm laceration on his nose and cheek give away we was wearing glasses when his face hit the pavement, he has no other injuries.

DT: They took them.  Can I go now?

I helped him to his feet and we brushed him off, which is when his lack of balance gave away that the odor I smell is not crappy cologne that smells like vodka.  He stumbles into me as I'm holding his hand and the ambulance has pulled up about 12 feet away and opened their doors.

We walk (Oh. My. God.) to the rig and he's looking over his shoulder at something behind us with a new fear in his eyes.

The police are now on the scene and one of MC's buddies is off his bike and notices our new friend's keys on the ground.  For now he keeps his distance.

DT: I don't want to go to the hospital, I don't need a hospital.

HM: That may be so, but lets just get a few things sorted out first here in the ambulance where there's less of a crowd. How much have you had to drink today?

DT: I'm not drunk.

HM: That's not what I asked.  Let's start all over again, shall we? My name is Justin and I'm here to help you.  How much have you had to drink today?

DT: Nothing.  Who do you think you are asking me that?  I want your badge number.

HM: I just told you, my name is Justin and I'm here to help you.  Now, we'll start over again keeping in mind I do this all day long.  This is how I feed my family, so when I think something is going on, chances are it is. Alright?  Hi, I'm Justin.  How much have you had to drink today?

DT: (Looking over my shoulder at the motor officer) a few shots.

HM: Thank you.  See, that was so much easier than lying to another man in the face.  Don't you feel better?

DT: yeah. (almost proud of himself)

HM: Great! now, how many is a few? To me a few is 4.

DT: Yeah 4. (Now he begins to smile)

After establishing the time frame of the ingestion and the type of beverage and checking our other metrics for assessment the decision is made that the patient does not meet criteria for refusal of transport.  Myself and the transport medic agree it may not be necessary, but he fails 3 of the 10 requirements to refuse.

DT is not thrilled and begins to tell us all about how to do our jobs.  He was about to climb out of the ambulance when our friendly neighborhood motor officer stepped to the tailboard and peeked in.

MC: (Not the real MC, but the boots were nice.) If you step out of this ambulance and reach for your keys we'll be speaking to one another.

DT sat back silent.

DT: OK, I'll go.

Almost in a whisper he agreed to be transported because the other option suddenly seemed more complicated.

Friday, June 17

Fire Based EMS Not Efficient? Really?

Thanks to the folks in the recent Santa Clara County Grand Jury, we now have positive proof that fire based EMS delivery using fire trucks is inefficient.




I was worried we would never discover the problems draining tax payer dollars.  Did they know we've known this for nearly 20 years?  All they had to do was call me, or just google it even.  Instead tax dollars were used to show tax dollars are being used inefficiently.

I guess all the murders, robberies and other court cases are all finished there in Santa Clara.  Good thing they don't have a baseball doping case to worry about.

What the grand jury failed to do, perhaps it is not in their interests, is look beyond the "retirement costs" and perhaps look at the system and how to deliver what our pal Chris Kaiser dubbed EMS based EMS.  Looks like Santa Clara needs to stop and rethink things, then start from scratch.  Someone suggested that once...but I digress.

This grand jury report will be cited by every union basher come election time in an effort to privatize public safety accounts and likely not lead to any changes in the delivery of first response EMS in Santa Clara County.

The report fails to mention that the local private provider does not have enough resources to completely cover the district for first response ALS.

So now what?

Oh, I covered this topic 2 years ago.  What, you missed it?

Top 10 New Responders without the Fire Department

and then

Top 10 New Responsibilities of the Fire Department


Poking fun at a serious topic for sure, but until we get away from a fee for transport model, this thing will never work guys.  Fire based, mailman based, if we base our service on what we can get paid instead of how best to serve the community, the system will never work properly.


Thursday, June 16

Overheard in the Firehouse

Befuddled Co-Worker: "You WHAT? You got engaged? YOU? Mr Ladies man, Mr Buff Fireman Calendar?"

Recently Engaged Ladies Man: "Yup."

Befuddled Co-Worker: "How does it feel to be off the market?"

Recently Engaged Ladies Man: "No one can stay awesome forever."

Wednesday, June 15

Warning:Contents Under Pressure

Trying to get back to regular posting seemed difficult, but last night's experience is too good not to share.

Just about to fall asleep, I hear glass shattering in my house.
It's dark and the wife and kids are home, so I have to go see what made the sound. Maybe it was outside? We have new neighbors and with the recent heat the windows were open to the cool night breezes.

So if the windows are open...

Just as I turned down the hall towards the garage I hear more glass shattering and the cat bounds through the cat door from the garage and is past me almost before I process that the blur of orange fur was a cat.

Carefully I open the garage door, at that moment realizing the only glass in the garage is on the car. But on inspection all the windows are intact. Down in the corner I see a stain on the floor near where I keep my homebrewed beer.

My last batch ended up over carbonated, each bottle needing extra time to settle down when poured. not uncommon, really.
Apparently they built up so much pressure that with the heat of the day exploded, not just blowing the caps off, but completely shattering 8 of the 12 bottles in the case.

It broke my heart to open the remaining bottles outside, along with the one from the fridge, just to make sure they didn't explode when one of the kids was nearby.


Now I just need to cook a batch for the new keg system!

Monday, June 13

A Tip of the Helmet - Literally

South of San Francisco, as the funeral procession for Vince Perez and Tony Valerio weaved along, countless thousands of people took time out of their day to say goodbye.

I recently posted a video of the procession, but a video making the rounds on facebook stopped me dead in my tracks and made me cry like a...well...six year old.

It is another video of the funeral procession, but has a very important story to tell all it's own.

I'm sure this young man's parents had no idea they would be inspiring those who had lost a lot of momentum in life, just shooting some video to remember how their son reacted to a firefighter's funeral. How did he react?

Well, he got his coat and helmet and stood at attention and saluted the engines as they passed by.

My brother from another mother, MotorCop, messaged me soon after sharing it and told me we needed to reach out to whoever posted the video and let them know what an impact it was having. So we did. And we heard back today:
Hello MC & Justin,

Thank you so much for your comments on my Youtube video of the SFFD funeral procession with the little boy & for reaching out to us. That is such a thoughtful and generous thing you would like to do but I have to tell you, his father (my husband) is a firefighter who was on a post that day and I am a police officer and the little boy is our son. We felt it would be a learning experience for him to be a part of the funeral and to understand what those men sacrificed for people they didn't even know. We wanted him to pay his respects, to experience the brotherhood, love and support for those real life heroes and their families. He is six years old and aspires to be a firefighter, then he wants to be on "mom's team"and aspires to be a police officer then a medic on the ambulance so he can save and help people. Of course, we would be thrilled and honored with either.

We were equally moved by the overwhelming number of firefighters who saluted and waved at our son as well as the family members of the fallen firefighters who opened their windows to smile and take a photo. To know for that moment they were able to divert their thoughts away from their grief and feel the love, support and admiration we all have for their loved ones, is why we were there. To honor and support the fallen firefighters, their families and extended families of first responders.

We thank you all for your dedicated service and for reaching out to us. Words cannot express our sympathies and sadness for the San Francisco Fire Department and the families of the fallen firefighters. Thank you ALL!!!!!

No. No, thank you. I was having a hell of a time coming to terms with what has happened recently. Suddenly my thoughts would shift to how Vince and Tony died and I'd be frozen, unable to speak, unable to feel, unable to express myself.
The video of the procession gave me some closure, but then I saw this.

And I felt better.

I saw the honor you have taught your son, and at a young age to understand it and stay waving that flag, salute never wavering...
I saw myself to be honest, and I'd imagine MC did too. Both our fathers were firemen and I'm sure he felt the same connection to this young man that I did.

They say some children have a wisdom beyond their years and it is seldom by accident or by chance. No, this child is an inspiration because he is more respectful than half the adults I know and that is a direct reflection on the quality parenting he is receiving.

I, like MC, wish more people took the time to share with their children the importance of family, honor and tradition.

I was ready to make this young man an honorary San Francisco FireFighter, but there is no need. Not only because of his family being already in the business, but because he already is. I'm sure that was handled by Vince and Tony on Friday.

Sunday, June 12

Thank You...for 17 minutes

Watch this video recorded by Brandon Vaccaro Photography. Reposted with permission

San Francisco Firefighters Funeral Procession 6-10-2011 from BVP & on Vimeo.

Thank you...

To Brandon Vaccaro for recording this and posting it.
To the engines who came to the service. Of note, the first non-SFFD Engine, Orange County Fire Authority E26, the Angry Captain's old digs.
To the folks who came to the service.
To the companies that came not to view the service, but grabbed their coats and helmets and worked with those of us unable to attend.
To the PD units who closed the roads and made sure there were no obstacles
To the people on the side of the road in San Francisco who not only took time out of their day to say goodbye to Vince and Tony, but threw flowers and never. stopped. clapping.

Wednesday, June 8

the Crossover Podcast Episode 14 - An Alameda Drowning and Where did Otis go?

Happy Medic and Motorcop dive into the controversy surrounding the Alameda man who drowned while rescuers untrained in water rescue stood on dry land. Then, as usual, they find a tangent and discuss the costs, effort and resources involved in arresting and jailing someone compared to transport and hospitalization and why many times neither fits.


Saturday, June 4


Earlier this morning word spread of the death of San Francisco Firefighter and Paramedic Anthony Valerio.  Tony, as many called him, was found inside a residential structure fire near deceased Fire Lieutenant Vincent Perez.

Tony was a friend of mine, my first medic partner when I was hired with the SFFD back in 2002.  We were assigned to the Richmond District and I clearly recall meeting him, his mustache and ponytail and thinking to myself "What have I gotten myself into?"

Tony's laugh and sense of humor were infectious.  When you came in and found your name assigned to the medic unit, the sigh of frustration would immediately turn to a cheer when Tony's name appeared directly beneath your own.

He was always quick with a story of traveling the world, cultures far away or just a little something from his weekends or days off kayaking or running.

I lost touch with Tony soon after the Department shifted from 24 hour ambulances to 10 hour ambulances and we were all scattered into the wind assignments wise.  But every time I saw him he would make a point of talking to everyone at a drill or class and being genuinely interested in anything they had to say.

Yesterday, still coming to terms with the fact one of my co-workers was dead and another staring the grim reaper in the face, I could hear Tony's voice in my head...speaking French.  He would switch from French to English, laugh, then shoot me an awkward smile as if to wonder if I had understood what he had said.  Then I heard the voice of my deceased Grandmother, who had a similar sense of humor and who would also often throw in a few words of French.  The two of them were having a conversation and it was driving me mad.  Then, when I realized it was me just coming to terms with Tony's condition, I almost saw that smile of his again, then the voices were gone.

The San Francisco Fire Department has lost 2 brave men who didn't get into this line of work for fame, fortune or selfishness, but because it was simply what they did.

BOX 8155 10:44am Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

LODD - Lt Vincent Perez - Engine 26

LODD - FF/PM Anthony Valerio - Engine 26

Thursday, June 2


The San Francisco Fire Department today begins to mourn the loss of Lieutenant Vincent Perez, who died in the line of duty this morning at a structural fire.
Also critically injured and still struggling to survive is Firefighter/Paramedic Tony Valerio, a person I knew and had the pleasure of working with in my early years with the SFFD.

Thank you for all your comments on Facebook and Twitter, on chat rooms and in the community. We are all still coming to terms with losing Lt Perez and the full extent of what has happened has yet to sink in here where I am.


Wednesday, June 1

Rescuers stand by while man drowns?

No. Local agencies responded to an event they were untrained for.

I'm sure most of my readers have been in a pool before.  I'd go a touch farther and say that more have been in a lake or river.  A good bit even took a few swims in the ocean.

Does that make you a rescue swimmer?

I went skiing when I was a kid and in college.  Got pretty good at it too.  I can now serve as Ski Patrol.

As a Scout I learned how to tie knots and repel.  I am now a high angle rescuer.

Let's change the headline:

"Ambulance crew stand nearby while man dies in fire."  They don't have the equipment or training to deal with the situation, let's blame THEM.

Or how about:

"TSA agents do nothing as armed gang robs bank near airport."  Again, no training, no equipment.

So why are so many so fast to jump in and say they would have gotten in the water and made the rescue in Alameda?  Likely because most of them have never been in the waters this event occured in.  This kind of event happens more often than you think.

What was the tide? Ebb?  Slack? Flood?  Why does it matter?  What has the weather been like the last few days? Why does that matter?

A bay rescue is not a simple jump in the water or into a swift water arena where your victim is always travelling in the same direction.  Depending on the distance from shore, the tides could create eddys which move water at high speed in different directions, meaning you could enter the water and be 20 yards south of your victim before you came up for air the first time.  Oh, and NEVER take your eyes off the victim, even when swimming.  Ever tried that?

Now, flotation.  Does your rig carry a Peterson Flotation device?  Something you can float to the victim, staying clear of their fight to stay afloat?  No? OK then.

Now, cold.  Your victim is experiencing hypothermia, how long until you feel the effects and become a victim as well?  Wetsuit, boots? No, OK then.

"But Justin, a bystander just swam out and got him just fine."  Shall I link to countless stories of people going back into burning buildings to get something against the advice of firefighters on the scene?

Or should I begin linking to all the stories of would be rescuers drowning because they were unfamiliar with the waters they found themselves in and had no idea what a water based rescue requires or entails?

My point is this:

Had I been dispatched to this call without my swim gear, I would NOT have entered the water.  Period.

Keep in mind folks that there are no swimmers on the Coast Guard boats, only hooks and nets.  Only the helicopter can deploy a swimmer.  Them or the SFFD.  And now it looks like Alameda as well.  How many more people will die before public safety budget cuts are exposed as actually killing people?