Monday, February 12

A Tax Benefit you never knew you didn't get

As Firefighters and Paramedics the tax laws gave us certain benefits when purchasing equipment, uniforms, mileage between stations and all sorts of other little perks we could deduct when tax time rolled around.
Heck I made a spreadsheet with the mileages from each firehouse to each other firehouse (we have 42) and each January the wife would make me print out my work history and plot all my details to other stations.  Turned out that mileage was deductible that year.

That's all changing this year because of the new tax laws, but I wanted to focus on a deduction many firefighters have been taking for years and not realizing they can't:

Meals.

We've all been there at the dinner table and had someone spout out about how, because we aren't given breaks the meals are deductible.  Nope.

There's also the guys who live more than 50 miles away who read the tax law and said, "Well, I'm 50 miles from home and it says we can deduct meals that far from home!"  Nope.

Still more will argue they are allowed to take a certain percentage of the per diem rate published by the IRS because they are on a work related task.  Nope.

Believe me, I used to be all 3 of those guys.  Then I got a tax pro who set me straight on the law.

Here's an article that can explain more about deducting meals on duty.  The short answer is no, you can't.

If you have been doing so you need to get in touch with a tax professional ASAP.  That link above (full disclosure) goes to my tax preparer, who actually knows their stuff.

Lots is changing this year as to what we can deduct, if anything at all, so you'll not only need a hand with this year's filing, but perhaps the last couple of years and set a plan for next tax season.

We don't listen to the divorced guys when they try to give us relationship advice, why listen to them about taxes.  Get a pro.

Sunday, February 11

A Man Who Needs No Introduction

One of the best parts of working in EMS is having conversations with the moderately intoxicated.  I've told you stories of my beautiful blue eyes, random electronic bands from the 1990s, but sometimes the simplest of comebacks can make your day.

THE EMERGENCY

A man in his 70s has fallen, bleeding from the head

THE ACTION

Not just the head. Uncle Moneybags (Not his real name) has had a few cocktails in the limo on the way to the airport and didn't notice the curb.  This happens often, even with those who have not had so many drinks.  The crew first on scene is having a hard time getting him to consent to a full assessment so they gave me a call to come assist.

Abrasions here and there tell the story, as does the growing hematoma on his forehead.  We snap a pic using the work phone to show him the damage and he is still convinced we are blowing everything out of proportion.

"Hello Mr Moneybags, I'm HM, I'd like to help you navigate this situation if you don't mind."

He was not amused that more "civil servants" had arrived to fuss over him.

"Do you have any idea who I am?" he grumbled, clearly assuming I did.  I had to pounce.

"Well, Mr Moneybags, my name is HM, you just told me that.  Memory loss is a sign of a head injury.  I'm concerned about you."

His frustration was matched only by the smiles of the ALS crew and ambulance nearby.

Uncle Moneybags eventually consented to transport, mainly because the airline denied him passage until the next day, but there's a part of me that wants to google his name and find out if I am indeed supposed to recognize him.

But we never ever do that.

Ever.


Saturday, February 10

the Crossover Podcast - Ep 141 - Fentanyl Meh or Monster?

In this episode, HM and MC welcome recently retired narcotics officer and DRE know-it-all, Keith Graves from Graves and Associates, to discuss the most recent topic du jour in First Responder Land: Fentanyl.

*Cue terrifiying music.

If you’re a cop and you’ve recently been mandated to receive training on the proper handling of Fentanyl and your department’s Powers-That-Be want you to be dressed in full hazmat gear when you search a car, you’re gonna want to play them this episode.
If you’re on the medic side of the aisle, this episode will give you a glimpse into the blue side of the topic when the guys discuss things with which you don’t concern yourselves…like searching vehicles, residences, and people.
For more information and training on drug-related concerns, be sure to visit Keith’s website, Graves and Associates! He’s an excellent instructor and extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things narcotic.

BOLO – None for this week. Give ’em a break…they actually produced a relevant show.

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LISTEN HERE!

Wednesday, February 7

Oxygen Machine Hijinks

The aviation world limits the kind of devices you can take on board an aircraft.  Makes sense.

However, there are many folks under the impression that, if they use oxygen on a regular basis, they can simply use the oxygen on the airplane during their flight.

Wrong.

To fly with O2 you must use an approved concentrator.  Makes sense.

Trouble is that most folks who rent these devices don't crack open the instructions taped over the controls, which clearly state to charge the batteries BEFORE traveling.

THE EMERGENCY
A woman is short of breath

THE ACTION
On our way!

We get an update just pulling out of the station that the caller states the woman now only needs her oxygen machine charged or a bottle of oxygen.
Yeah, because we just keep those in reserve and hand them out for free.

About 2 minutes out from the scene, after slowing everyone down to code 2, I receive the following message from dispatch, "Units responding to the oxygen call, you can cancel, caller states patient is now smoking a cigarette."
I had a decision to make.  A decision that faces all 911 providers when faced with a call like this:

Laugh first, then reply, or reply then laugh.  I did the former.

Arriving on the scene, since simply canceling doesn't actually solve the problem, I am met with a woman in a wheelchair who rented an oxygen machine yesterday and is baffled as to why it isn't working.  The instructions are still sealed in the bag taped over the start button.  Add to that she has checked the charger in instead of keeping it in her carry on bag.

I run inside and catch an airline employee who quickly runs down to the ramp level and retrieves her bag.
Plugged into an outlet and charging the first of 2 batteries she is still baffled as to why they don't rent out charged batteries.

She is not alone.  It is fair to say that more than a few times a week we are called to "change out" an oxygen bottle, only to be met with someone who has a little concentrator and no fresh batteries.

Problem solved, mischief managed, back in service.

Monday, February 5

Don't adjust your internet

I told you big changes were on the way for HMHQ and I was right!

For almost 10 years I've been conducting this little therapy experiment and I think it's safe to say we have enough valid data points to begin making conclusions.

Turns out it works.

Hahaha!

I've moved all the content you know, love and ignore back to the original blogging platform we used back before social media was even a thing, when Facebook was just "what vegetable are you?" quizzes and a way to track down old high school pals.

Getting back to the roots, if you will.  Come along, it'll be fun.

Your pal,
HM

Wednesday, January 24

A Deep Hole to Dig

This is not a snarky post about a Medic getting too far off course at a call. Instead,  it is a chance to explain a moment in life I thought I was prepared for (spoiler alert, I wasn't) and that my friend is about to experience.

Death.

Death alone is bad enough, death of someone close is numbing, but the loss of a pet is different.

Hear me out.

We can speak to our loved ones, hear their dreams and wishes, play voicemails to hear their voices one more time and have vivid memories of their lives with us and without us around.  We hold elaborate ceremonies where other people prepare our deceased loved ones and allow us a chance to have a somber moment (or a party as my will demands).  Then we head out to a place known to contain the deceased and hold another ceremony.

Then we walk away, maybe passing by or stopping in for a few moments once a year on their birthday to say "hello."

It eases the grieving process for sure.

 

But that doesn't happen for a pet.  We confide in them things we would never dream of telling other humans.  They see us at our best and our worst, always with a wagging tail or a "bark" or "meow" of acknowledgement.  Our pets are our friends.  No one disagrees.

When a pet dies or, in the case of our cat Cleo, begins a rapid decline in health rendering them a shadow of their previous self, we think grieving for humans prepares us for what comes next.

I have dealt with scores of death notifications, knowing I would be the first step in someone's grieving process, but nothing prepared me for what I had to do when Cleo died at 16.5 years old.

There was no funeral home to call to handle the tough stuff.

I picked her up and put her in the box, wrapped in a towel, then went out to the backyard.  Not the cemetery where you can prepare for what comes next, but the place were we play.

I got a shovel and set out digging a hole.  Not the largest hole I've ever dug, for sure, but the deepest.  Every time the shovel struck the wet dirt my mind recalled a moment with the little kitten I got in Paramedic School.  Or the way she cuddled at the foot of our bed on cold SF nights.  Or the way she initially wasn't sure what to think of the newborn, then would be known as "the second alarm" and jump up on the changing table when baby would cry.

I knew I was crying.  I figured I would, but that was the deepest hole I ever dug.  It was 16 and a half years of memories deep.

 

Today my friend is going through something very similar and I wish I could help dig that hole, but I can't.

Thursday, January 18

Education and the Three Disciplines: Where do You Fit?

The Crossover Show - 138

In this episode, MC and HM discuss education for the three disciplines.


Are you a rookie or looking to get hired? They’ll tell you what to study and why.


Are you in the middle like HM is…10 years to go and feel stuck? They’ll steer you right.


Can you see the finish line? Less than a year to go like MC? Is school worth it? Listen and find out!


BOLO


Black Mirror on Netflix


Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines


Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle


Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick


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Source: the Crossover Show

Thursday, January 11

Happy 2018, Y’all!

The Crossover Show - 137

Happy 2018!


In this episode the Police and the Fireman catch up on events since they saw each other before the holidays.


They cover holiday shenanigans, events, kid trouble…you name it. Unless you spent New Years Eve in a strip club.  The boys had a few weeks off and end the show with an actual topic! Amazing!


This episode is dedicated to Pete Miramontes. Your fight was well fought, sir. You’ve earned your rest. Your family and your legacy are secure.

BOLO


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Source: the Crossover Show

Tuesday, January 9

CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri's Family on the first day back at school

California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Camilleri was struck and killed on a freeway in Northern California on Christmas Eve. Less than 1 year in the uniform I'd like to imagine his wife and young children were at least exposed to the love and brotherhood of the law enforcement family. If they weren't they sure are now.

Henry Lee from Fox KTVU, @HenryKLee on twitter, shared some video of the Camilleri children being escorted to school on the first day back after losing their dad. I've seen this a few times, mainly with older kids and prom, but there's an image Mr Lee shared on his KTVU site that not only hit me square in the chest it had me wiping my eyes.



This.

The hustle in his step to ensure the wife of a man he knew less than a year didn't get rained on while dropping her kids off at school.  Some may say it's just a kind gesture but this photo struck me at my core.

 

This photo made me wonder who would hold the umbrella for Mrs HM if I fell.  For Mrs MC if he fell...and then the tears.  The simplest gesture became a profound moment not just of kindness but of exactly what the thin blue line on that flag represents.  It means that "just because he's gone doesn't mean we are too."

I look at this picture and I don't see Policemen escorting a family to school, I see a family... All of them together bound by loss doing everything they can to carry on.

Take a minute and just look at this photo.  Then go hug your kids.  Then go hug your spouse.  Then go put on your uniform and do what you love.  Then repeat.

-HM