Kerrian’sNotebook

KN, p. 118 “How do you become a firefighter?”

 

I have several pals around the country who are firefighters. Some put out wildfires, some work in rural areas, others in big cities. A couple of them helped out during and after September 11th. Firefighters have a dangerous job and a whole lot of guts. No doubt about it. They save lives, they help people, they serve the community in countless ways. Yet, many civilians assume that the job is just about putting out the flames. In most towns, there is much more to it. Their duties can include:

 

  • responding to requests for help
  • putting out fires
  • assisting at highway accidents
  • rescuing people during floods or other natural disasters
  • rendering safe any bombs
  • rescuing trapped people and animals

 

And, after they do all that, firefighters are usually responsible for the cleanup and checking the incident site afterward.

 

One of the first ways children meet firefighters is in school. Each year in October (National Fire Prevention Month in the USA) firefighters educate the community by visiting schools and public venues, demonstrating how to avoid getting hurt during a fire. “Stop, Drop & Roll” is taught everywhere, so that children will know what to do if they smell smoke in their own homes. In communities where wildfires are an unfortunate fact of life, wildfire preparedness is taught, with a focus on how to protect the house year-round and what to do when it’s time to evacuate.

 

Sound like a career you’d like to have? Read on to discover the job requirements. It’s a competitive field and not for everyone, but it is highly rewarding for the guys and gals who qualify.

 

You must be 18 and have a High School diploma. Beyond that?

 

Education

  • Because of the changing demands on firefighters, many fire departments now ask that applicants complete some kind of coursework beyond high school.
  • Some departments (generally in larger cities) even require a full bachelor or associate’s degree in fire science or fire engineering.

 

Most potential firefighters will then have to undergo five areas of testing in order to determine readiness for training:

 

Testing for Firefighter Qualification:

 

Written Exam – 150 to 200 multiple choice questions including reading comprehension, math, judgment, listening comprehension, oral & written communication, etc.

 

Physical Agility – the various parts of this test simulate situations a firefighter would encounter on the job and depending on the town/city, all must be completed in under ten minutes (in some cases as little as seven minutes)

  • Hose drag – in general, 200 feet of hose line is dragged at least 75 feet while walking or running upright, and then perhaps dragged an additional distance after dropping to one knee
  • Stair Climb – a set number of stairs is climbed while wearing or carrying equipment
  • Equipment Carry – some versions of the test require hauling  equipment through a second story window via rope; others require carrying equipment for 75 feet while walking on the ground.
  • Ladder Raise – those tall ladders have extensions that must be managed and adjusted while several feet off the ground.
  • Forcible Entry – using a sledgehammer, the applicant has to hit and move a device a certain distance in order to demonstrate an ability to use force when smashing through a wall, etc.
  • Search – the applicant has to crawl through a tunnel maze with right angles and limited visibility – about 3’x4’ in some spots, smaller in others
  • Rescue – a full-sized dummy (about 165 pounds) must be dragged 75 feet in one direction and then 75 feet back.
  • Ceiling Breach – tools are used to poke and pull at a hole in a ceiling – sometimes including a sixty pound door.

 

This video from Cuyahoga Community College demonstrates some of the challenges to be met:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvwp2r2BzdE&feature=youtu.be

 

If the applicant fails the physical part of the test, he/she is typically allowed to sign up for a later attempt, usually after several months.

 

Other sections of the test battery include:

 

Medical Exam – thorough checkup, plus drug testing

 

Psychological Exam – are you psychologically suited for the job – are you afraid of dark, tight spaces? Do you work well in teams? Can you take orders? Why do you want to work in such a dangerous field?

 

Oral Interview (pass/fail section of testing)

Possible questions might include: Why do you want to be a firefighter? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What is the job?  Are you qualified? Why should we hire you?

 

 

After passing all five areas, the applicant will be permitted to apply to a fire academy and/or fire department for the training program.

 

Some towns are set up to allow for on-the-job training after the testing is complete. The applicants become candidates at the firehouse and complete their training with the firefighters they will be working with, but most towns require attendance at a formal program before this step.

 

 

Training Program

  • A several weeks/months long training program must be completed at a fire department or academy.
  • Recruits learn about hazardous materials control
  • Recruits learn emergency medical procedures, including CPR.
  • Local building codes are taught
  • Firefighting techniques are practiced, including handling axes, ladders, chainsaws, fire hoses and fire extinguishers.

       Additional information at www.fireprep.com

 

Think you’d like to know more? Call for an appointment at your local firehouse to drop in and introduce yourself. Chances are, if the guys have the time, they’ll chew your ear off with stories of calls they’ve gone out on. The job is not like what you see on “Chicago Fire.” Fun show, but not realistic. Ask a pro.

 

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

KN, p. 117 “Officer needs assistance!”

 

 

 

 

Arrests are rarely neat and tidy, or take place with little resistance from the suspect(s). If the charge is for a misdemeanor, too many parking tickets, or a problem with overdue child support, the suspect might cooperate. But, hardly anybody actually wants to go to jail.

 

If a car is seen weaving across lanes on a busy road, an officer might have cause to assume that something is wrong. Drunk driver? Distracted driver swatting at a bee in the car? Texting driver? Any of these scenarios require the officer to be on the alert, but might not require an automatic call for backup. He/she is facing what is called an Unknown Risk. The officer will follow protocol and call in the plate number or use his onboard computer to research outstanding warrants and ownership of the car. If flashing the patrol car light bar gets the driver to pull over so that the officer can investigate the reason for the odd behavior, then the stop may just end with a warning or a ticket.

 

Sometimes suspects are caught in the act of a committing a felony and they try to make a run for it (perhaps after a bank robbery or a drug deal goes south) hoping they can lose the cops in traffic or on deserted back roads. “Suspect fleeing the scene,” may be called in if it’s witnessed, and officers in pursuit are facing a Known Risk. It becomes a High Risk situation if guns are involved. The chase can continue beyond city limits, as long as it is an active pursuit.

 

Once the chase ends, the officers need to control the situation as much as possible, keeping their own position and the suspect’s position clearly in mind at all times.

 

Safety procedures the officers might follow if warranted:

If the chase ends during the daytime, the officer will angle the patrol cars to block off streets and people for their own protection, getting as close as possible to the suspects to control the developing situation.

 

You give up cover if you are not positioned behind a door, so the officers will try to stay behind a car door while the scene unfolds. Bullets will pierce doors, but at least a car door will slow the bullet down. Hopefully, the officers will be wearing bulletproof vests, but even a notebook will slow down a bullet, although not by much. There are degrees of cover and there are very few times of absolute cover.

At night, the officers will create a curtain of light – that is, shine lights on the suspect’s face so that he/she can’t see the officers.

Officers in patrol cars generally carry a shotgun because it commands respect. People pretty much stop in their tracks when they hear the sound of a shotgun being racked.

 

It is essential to get as much information about the people inside the car as possible, before any further action is taken. If there are tinted windows in the car, the officer will try to talk the people out. If the officer can’t? Then, officers are trained to wait the suspects out. It’s usually only a matter of time before the occupants of the car will make a move.

 

Officers will risk the K-9s if they need to, in order to encourage the suspects to get out of the car or even to stay put.

 

If the officer feels the trunk needs to be investigated, he/she will have the suspect pop the trunk so that the officer maintains control.

 

 

Once the suspect gets out of the car, the officer will have him/her kneel or lie on the ground to be cuffed.

 

 

 

The suspect needs to be frisked before being placed in the patrol car.

 

The inside of a patrol car is bare bones for a reason. Suspects are often sick inside the patrol car, or even go to the bathroom in there. Yup, right in the back seat. This plain design makes it easier to hose out and also cuts down on places to hide sharp objects, etc.

 

Once the suspects have been cuffed and frisked, the officer places them inside the patrol car.

 

There were no guns in the hands of the suspects in this scenario, so the situation was handled fairly easily and was resolved in about an hour.

 

Please Note: none of the gals in the photos are criminals. They were attendees at the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy and were helping to re-enact a ‘Known Risk’ stop, complete with yelling and back-talk to the officers. Good sports, all!  🙂

 

Many thanks to the instructors at The Writers’ Police Academy (2013) and the volunteers from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department (NC) who gave so generously of their time during their days off.

 

 

*Photos taken by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

The re-enactment was conducted at night and demonstrated how difficult it is for anyone to see what’s happening (officers or suspects) while the action unfolds. After I took the photos, I used a photo correction app to adjust the lighting, so that you could see the positions of the people and the cars.

 

Compare the two versions of the same image below.

#1 (the original image) shows how dark it really was outside.

#2 was adjusted so that you can see the demo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

          #1                                                                                                           #2

 

 

 

 

 

KN, p. 114 “How many mechanics does it take?”

 

Last Monday evening, we dropped Bridget’s Mustang off at the local repair shop. (Read what happened on Monday during the day here.)

They usually do a great job on the cars, so we had no doubt that whatever caused it to die in the driveway would be sorted out. The guy at the front desk had told us on the phone to hold on to the keys until the morning, so we did.

 

Tuesday 8:30am – The key and fob were handed over and we had a short chat about what the car would not do. Electrical systems still functioned, but it just wouldn’t start. They still had the work order from the day before, so everything looked good for a speedy fix. “No problem. We’ll get to the bottom of it.”

 

Tuesday 3pm – I called to get the diagnosis. The car had not been looked at yet. “Sorry, we got backed up. We’ll get right on it, but we’ll have to keep it overnight.” Bridget raised her eyebrows. I reassured her, “Tomorrow, Sis.”

 

Wednesday Noon – I called.

“Any news yet?”

“We had an emergency and had to put another car on the lift. We’ll get to yours this afternoon.”

 Emergency? Do repair shops have emergencies?

 

Wednesday 2:30pm – They called me. “You needed a fuel pump. We’ll have it done by close of business.”

 

4pm – They called me.

“Do you have another set of keys? We think the theft system is overriding the ignition. You did need a fuel pump, but the key you gave us is not the original key.”

 

Hmmmm… the theft light flashes whenever the onboard computer thinks someone is trying to steal the car. Bridget said that it flashes when she opens the car door, before she puts the key into the ignition. I had given the guys my backup key, so that Bridget could hold on to the original. Ya know, in case somebody locked himself (or herself) out of the car while she was visiting.

 

I took them the original. Bridget did not want to talk to them. She wanted her car back.

 

Thursday 10am – I called. It was on the lift. “Call back after lunch.”

 

1pm – I called. Nobody knew anything. The guy I had been talking to was off for the afternoon.

 

3pm – They called me.

The man on the phone said, “I made a decision on my own initiative. I put it on a flatbed and took it down the road to the dealer. We had no choice. We can’t get it started. We think that something is wrong with the key and the computer and they both need to be reset. That can only be done at the dealer. They’ll get it into the schedule tomorrow.”

 

Bridget steamed and threatened to fly home. Sheila took her out for the evening. Lots of door slamming as they left. I stayed out of sight.

 

Friday Noon: I called the repair shop. A different guy was now talking to me. He had not heard anything, but promised to call the dealership.

 

3:30pm  I called the repair shop. The ‘new guy’ had not spoken to the people at the dealership, but asked me to ‘hold’ while he did. I was told that the Mustang was next.

 

4:50pm  The repair shop guy called and said the key fob had been reset at the dealer, but the car still would not start on its own. They had to cross the wires to jumpstart it. The car was on the lift and the dealer mechanics were looking for the problem. I would not see the car until Monday, maybe Tuesday.

 

You don’t want to know what Bridget said. She complained a bit about the lousy treatment her favorite car ever was getting. In different words.

 

The weekend was seriously quiet at our house. Bridget tried to get a flight out, but last minute tickets were triple the usual price. She made a few tense phone calls to rearrange her back-home appointments and then went shopping for groceries with Sheila. They cooked all weekend. I stayed out of their way. I think the freezer is stocked for years.

 

Monday 9:45am – A repair shop guy called. “The dealer mechanic is working on it as we speak. They actually had it running for a few minutes.”

He explained again why the car had been taken to the dealer. I kept thinking $$$.

 

Monday, 1pm – I called the repair shop. Nobody wanted to tell me the bad news, so the backup front desk guy got on the phone. “The entire security system shut down, and they think the key was at fault (saying that the key – the original – was a fake) and had shorted out the system.

 

SERIOUSLY?

 

I was there when Bridget bought the car. This was the same key fob she’d always had. I told the guy that. My voice might have gotten a little loud.

 

The dealer had ordered a special security system part that was going to take three days to arrive. Three days?  Where was this part coming from? Now I’m thinkin’ BIG $$$.

 

And then the repair shop guy said, “The car will not be ready until late Thursday.”

 

Bridget and Sheila both join me in saying, “There will be bodies.”

 

*Photos taken by Patti Phillips

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