Monday, November 7, 2011

What knife?

When I joined the fire service, there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I was too young to be interior or an EMT. When I started going on calls, my role was soon realized. I was an extra pair of hands, my job was to get whatever the EMT in charge needed. And it changed every call. Sometimes I would be sent to get our trauma bag, or our backboard. Sometimes I was sent out to wait for the ambulance, and show them where to go.

Over time, I started to spend more time in the house with the EMTs and the patient, as I started to get older and knew more. And I got a new role, one that is talked about a lot. But not always seen actually being done.

I was the extra pair of eyes. I paid attention to what was around us, and what was going on. And just watching to make sure we were safe. I started to notice things that others didn't, it started with small things. Like talking about how beautiful the cat was that had been there, and my partners would respond "What cat?" or "There was a cat?" And I would tell them about the cat. 

Then one time, we were at a call for a sick patient, general illness. Afterwards as we got in our truck I turned to my partners and asked "So, did you see the knife?" They both looked at me shocked asking me "What knife?" On the table that had been next to us the whole call, had been a large kitchen knife just sitting there in the open. I was the only one who saw it. Once I saw it early on in the call, I kept my eye on it and made sure no one went near it.

Since then, we have been on a few more calls where I found a knife laying there, and my partners never noticed them. Or other things laying around that could be dangerous to us, or could be hints to what was going on. Or a couple times, the other person who has been in the room but had been quiet.

Even now, I make it a habit when I go on scene to ALWAYS be looking around at the possible hazards. Even if it is a house we have been to 50 times with a patient that I have known my whole life, I still check for the knife that might be sitting there waiting for us. Always. No matter what is going on, I look around.

This is a role that is NEEDED on EVERY call. We always need someone to be watching out, and paying attention. Because if we don't have someone watching our back, and what is going on. We could get killed. The risk is too high to ignore this role.

So please everyone, pay attention. Find those knifes or guns that are just laying there, and point them out. Help your partners see the risks laying there, and make it a habit to always look around before doing anything else. Remember OUR safety comes first, and if it doesn't feel right, or you feel threatened. Leave. We are more important.

So, did you see the knife?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't ignore the girl.

There is one problem that is common, that I have had the whole time I have been in the fire service.

The men won't listen to me.

That is mainly due to the fact that I am a girl, and that I am young.

And you know what? It is frustrating. 

Back when I took Firefighter-1 in my county, we had 8 girls including me in the class. It was a big group. I was one of the youngest in the class. At first the guys thought I was just another girl, and that I wasn't serious about this. They would think "Oh how cute, a girl trying to be a firefighter". And it pissed me off, many times we were told to do something. I tried to tell the rest of my company what we needed to do, but they wouldn't listen to me at all cause they all had their own ideas. And we would get yelled at because we didn't do it right.

Then one night that changed. I got tired of it and not being heard, when I knew I was right. And I stood up, and made them listen to me. And I ended up proving I knew what I was doing and got their respect. By the end of the class, the guys in my company trusted me and my judgement. They would listen to me, and we all worked well as a team. We ended up being the best company in my class, because we had a clue and worked together.

After that class, the problem came back. As I trained with other people who didn't know me that well, and they always treated me like I was just a young girl who didn't have a clue. I will never forget the time I was told to "Get a man" to help lift a patient. I was pissed. Sure I am small, sure I am a girl. But you know what, that doesn't change anything really. I can still keep up with the guys.

Recently I took the Farmedic class, a great class that I would highly recommend to everyone. On our final day, we got to practice cutting "patients" out of farm equipment. Our patients you see, were old fire hose and tape. I was working with a group of young guys, all from the same fire department. At first I suggested an idea, and they wouldn't listen. They kept doing all these ideas, and weren't even letting me do anything hands on because they were all so involved. I kept suggesting it every once in a while when the latest plan had failed. At one point their chief and the instructor heard me suggest it, and told me to speak up. But still the guys didn't listen.

Finally, we had gone through 5 plans. And they finally listened to me. And guess which plan worked? Mine. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get our patient free, when it would have taken 5 minutes if they had listened to me.

Afterwards we were all standing together, and were talking about what we had learned. The instructor at one point just asked the class "So what did you learn today? Don't ignore the girl" And the guys all agreed.

And that was our lesson for the class. Don't ignore the girl. Because you know what, sometimes we do actually know what we are talking about and know more than you. Might be hard to believe, but it is true. So give the girls a chance, and listen to them when they suggest something, instead of blowing it off. Cause maybe sometime, they will save your ass.

Till next time, whenever that might be.