Tuesday, May 28

You got WHAT stuck in a bowling ball?

In my memoirs of EMS (Working title - My Life in CQI: Kill me now, just document it properly) some calls will stand above all others.  This, sadly, is not one of mine, but from a friend overseas.

No, not Mark.

I got an email about a curious rescue his agency was called to and was wondering what I would have done.

So, here is the scenario:


A 19 year old male has gotten his finger stuck in a bowling ball.  He somehow wedged it in there so far, it up against the webbing of his hand with very little wiggle room.  Rotating the ball is out of the question as he seems to have the finger next to it wedged in almost just as bad.

25 minutes into the call you've tried gel, ice, lubricants of questionable origin (who carries that stuff into a bowling alley?) and brute force.  Prayer is taking place and all options seem exhausted when the decision is made to simply move him, and the 16 pound bowling ball, to the hospital.  What will they do there?  Dunno.


What would you do?

Saturday, May 18

Show me the Money

Friend of the blog Bill Carey posted on Facebook wondering why so many in EMS think that salary is the one thing holding us back.
Curious, question for EMS folks on FB: It appears, based on comments to various news stories in the past, that the greatest solution to all that ills EMS is greater pay. Respect is restored, working conditions and staffing improve and the general idea of professionalism is better. Fire-based, hospital-based, third service, doesn't matter, just pay us more and the service will get better.

No, not really.

The same issues I had when I got the paid gig for $4.35/hr are here at my current gig where medics average $65,000 to start (according to indeed.com).

EMS in general is paid what the market allows and what we are worth.  Keep in mind that EMS does not require a degree and Paramedics can get licensed in as little as 1 year in some places.  If some kid walked into my office and told me he went to school for something for a year my first question would be "When are you going back to finish?"

Pay is a result of our goals, not our goal.

Increasing our education standards and proving our worth to the industry is step number one.  But of course the stumbling block to education is how to pay for it.

If you think the reason you are not treated like a Professional is the size of your paycheck I think I know where your priorities are.  If your first concern is that you don't have access to enough education I'll ask where you live and why you're still there.

There are high paying EMS jobs out there, folks, I've had one for 10 years, but you have to be willing to put the effort into it.  No one is going to wander into the station or yard one day and say "You guys are great, here's a raise."  Your employer has no incentive to increase your compensation unless they desire a particular set of skills that bring that kind of salary.

EMTs are entry level and their compensation reflects it.

Paramedics have more responsibility and therefore more compensation.

A flight medic has even more responsibility, so more compensation.

A Firefighter/Paramedic has a different skills set, different compensation.


You get the salary you're getting because that's what you're worth to your employer.  If you started off at $10 an hour, got your degree, teach on the side, and are still making $10 you need to talk to your employer about the increased value you can bring to the organization.  Maybe you're in line for a promotion or reassignment with your increased education and experience.

It all comes back to education.  If you learn more, not only can you increase the care you can give to your patients, but you become a more responsible care giver and show your manager that you're not just in the seat for a thrill, but to make a difference.  Folks like that make less errors, collect less complaints and are more likely to collect extensive billing and demographic information.

That makes you a keeper and worth more to them.  You increased your value.  That is the only way you will increase your compensation.


Let's imagine that I'm wrong and simply snapping our fingers and giving you more money is the solution.

Now you make twice what you did yesterday.  Now what?  Now will you go back to school?  Teach?  Where is the added value we're paying for?

The patients are the same, your rig is the same, your protocols haven't changed and you haven't changed.  There isn't much we as EMTs and Paramedics can directly control but our own attitude and education are the easiest to improve in a short amount of time.

Just raising your pay won't improve your attitude or the attitude of your co-workers.  It won't help your manager see the worker bees from the cling ons and it surely won't help your patients.

If you think you're worth more to your organization than you're being compensated, tell them, and get ready to pack.  The high paying jobs are out there, but you'll likely be in a busier system and competing against higher education and higher motivated applicants for the extra money.


Case in point: me.

When I left my last job I was a Firefighter/Paramedic serving a suburban area working on both the Engine and Ambulance.  I was making just under $10 an hour on a 24 hour schedule.

When I got my degree in EMS and began teaching I knew I could reach out an look around for something better and have a good chance of landing it.

When I got hired in San Francisco as a Firefighter/Paramedic assigned to a 24 hour Ambulance I had tripled my salary.  Tripled.  But the cost of living was double and my old shifts of sleeping most nights turned into 32 run paramedic pinball sessions that I loved, but took their toll.

I moved 800 miles to get that gig and I have the broken down UHaul story to prove it.

You can get a high paying EMS job.  They exist, but you have to work for it.

What are you willing to do to prove your worth to EMS?

Saturday, May 11

Why can't the waitress bring me my food?

I can not wrap my head around what is happening in restaurants these days.


We are seated by the hostess and she makes sure we have our menus and place settings.  Well, at least she's supposed to.

Then an either overly friendly or clearly distracted waiter will come over and offer us an appetizer and to get us started with drinks.  OK, sure, I'll have a water.  And have you ever introduced yourself back when they tell you their name?  It's like they're confused.

Then the server gets deflated thinking I'm only drinking water when in reality I'm ordering it now because if I ask for a water AND a beer, they'll forget the water all together.


We finally order and are awaiting the food.  No surprise there.  If the food comes out too fast you have to wonder, right?


Then the oddest thing happens.

Someone, not our waitress, brings out the food.

Not only do they have no idea who ordered what, but it's never how we ordered it.  Why? Because if the waitress had picked it up she would have noticed the salad never made it out, that the wrong kind of meat is in the tacos and that the sauce with the chicken only rhymes with what I asked for, specifically.

"But your food gets out quicker this way."

No, I never got MY food, I got what they brought, but it was wrong.

Then as soon as it hits the table the waitress magically appears asking if we got everything OK.

No, no we didn't, where were you?

Why does any Tom, Dick or Harry wandering past the pass think it's OK to grab my order and bring it out?  If there's a mistake that is where you want to find it, not when Johnny the under waiter brings me the tray and has to ask about each and every dish.  Sally is serving Table 5, let Sally check on the food.

Each and every argument for the speed or so called efficiency of this system is countered by the fact that your speed is costing quality.

And it's not just where I ate tonight, but most establishments today.  Waiting for food that is as ordered is OK, rushing me something close and thinking I won't notice is no way to run a service based industry.  If the servers need help, let the under waiters handle all the drinks and refilling the waters and all the crap that seems to be "bothering" the waitress and distracting her from making sure the orders come out as...well...ordered.

And another thing, while I'm at it, waitresses, please look at the table you're about to talk to and gauge if it's the right time to ask if everything is OK.  I once ate at a restaurant where the waiter seemed to be just out of visual range...ALL THE TIME.  As soon as the water was low, he happened to be nearby with the pitcher.  Never once asked how we were or how the food was.  He just knew that since we were there and he was there that if we had something to say we'd say it.

I never waited tables and I'm not ragging on the waitresses, I'm asking this to the managers.  The ones who sometimes bring out said food or are idle in the corner in their tie staring out into the dining room.  The ones who awkwardly go from table to table every hour asking the same lame question: "Everything good here?"

For the third time and while I'm wrangling a kid with my mouth full of food, "mmmphmmdp"

And he's gone.


Friday, May 10

Why it's "48's job" and not "A job for Engine 48"

In a recent post where I bragged that the Mrs can speak Fireman, BGMiller posted the following comment:

Okay HM, time for a question that’s been floating around my noggin for a while and this seems like as good a time as any to ask…
It’ll be a little convoluted but such is the nature of my brain.
Is it just a California thing to refer to a station’s companies by the possessive of the station number? (ie; 48′s caught a run for a structure fire…)
Does this come from it being more common in the West for multiple company stations to share numbers while departments in the MidWest and on the East coast tend to mix numbers in a station? (ie: LA County Station 51 was home to Squad 51 and Engine 51 or 127′s was Engine and Ladder 127 while here in Iowa my first due is Station 4 and houses Engine 4 and Truck 2.)
Just a little detail that’s been kicking around in my head.

Well BGM, I haven't the foggiest.  I only know that where I'm working it has been like that since, oh, the late 1840s.

Tradition is an easy answer, but most of the nomenclature stems from when the Companies were Volunteer.  The wagon, engine etc actually belonged to the Company, as did the response area.  When asking about who was at a fire, you could say, "Oh that was at 4th and Brannan" or "It was in district 5, Battalion 3, Division 1" similar to Companies in the military.

However, everyone knew where the engine companies were.  Before they were rolled into the municipal fire service and numbered in the order they joined they had names like Liberty Hose, Knickerbocker and Valiant.  It's was Valiant's fire, it was Knickerbocker's fire.

When Knickerbocker joined the municipal and took on the number 5, it became Knickerbocker 5's fire.  Then 5's fire.  And here we are.

SFFD Gorter Tower

Ladders and Trucks came later when they were also rolled into the municipal service, joining in different order than the engines they would be housed with.  That's why in some places Engine 4 is housed with Truck 1 etc.  In the early and mid 70's when computers were added some Departments (including mine) changed the truck numbers to match the engine number to avoid confusion.

But when I was growing up in a suburban Department that was roughly the same age as me I heard my father and his buddies refer to other stations by their numbers as well.

"Are we drilling with 19's this afternoon?"  It referred to the crew being a part of the company, part of the house.  The men and women assigned there belonged to it, not the other way around.

Does that answer your question?

Oh and BTW a tanker has wings.  ;)

Tuesday, May 7

Overheard at HMHQ

Over lunch one Saturday...

HM looking at phone news feed - "Oh look, 48's had a 2 alarm fire this morning."

MrsHM - "48's?  Which Companies are due on a second to the Island?"

HM, startled, -"What did you just say?"

MrsHM - "Didn't I say that right?"

HM, proud, -"Yes, you did..."