By Will Wyatt
Never underestimate the general public’s ability to not understand firefighters and the jobs they perform. Where they get their ideas is a mystery. Maybe they are drawn from too much television, or maybe they are hatched simply from thin air.
But fear their ignorance no longer. Below are the 10 most important things the public needs to know about firefighters. Feel free to print this list and distribute it door-to-door and hand it out when arriving on scene.
A fire is the ultimate double-edged sword. Nobody on any fire department anywhere wants to see a family lose everything they have, or worse, suffer and injury or death. However, we all like going to fires; I can clean and listen to people argue at home.
When we enter a home for a medical emergency and a well-meaning person runs up to greet us and inform us they are a vascular surgeon, nurse or some other medical genius, we are not impressed. In fact, we wonder why we are there in the first place with such advanced medical skills already on the scene.
An apartment dweller doesn’t pay my salary, or even a homeowner for that matter. Their contribution to a municipal budget is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Kind of like urinating in the ocean. But we do appreciate your contribution.
No, you don’t have to go to a certain hospital across town for a minor ailment. Your doctor who works at that hospital will not be there at 2 a.m. and is certainly not coming down to look at your stubbed toe. We are not passing three hospitals with competent physicians and nurses to take you to your favorite hospital.
We eat. All firefighters take in all of the major food groups (and a few others also) to convert into sugars, proteins and other nutrients that our bodies need to function. We are on duty for 24 hours, sometimes longer, and need sustenance. I smile when people comment on us being at the store. I can’t think of a job that you don’t get a lunch break. Prisoners are fed. Astronauts eat out of toothpaste tubes in space. We do not get a guaranteed meal break.
Defibrillation will not revive a poor soul who has been dead for several hours or days. If a person has lividity and there is mail stacked on top of mail in the mailbox, an electrical charge will not help. I remember finding a deceased male in a house and hearing a family member in the next room on the phone say, “They said he has been down several hours and is stiff but they are going to shock him.” No we aren’t!
Despite how we are portrayed on television and in the movies, the majority of us are not dysfunctional, manically depressed, womanizing alcoholics. In fact, I can readily name several coworkers who have been married longer than I have been alive and even have successful children. Even better (brace your self!), I know a few who don’t drink.
When we are in the middle of the living room floor doing chest compressions and artificial respirations on a loved one, the above actions indicate he has no heartbeat nor is he breathing. So, they are for all practical purposes dead. When a family member taps a responder on the shoulder and whispers, “How is dad?” it’s an awkward question.
It’s nice when people come up to us in public and thank us for what we do and how we keep them safe. I just smile because I want to ask them if they voted for politicians who want to slash pensions and benefits.
Yes, the fire truck carries water. No, the tank on my back is not an oxygen tank. It is compressed room air, which has a concentration of oxygen in it. If we wore an oxygen tank on my back, which is by the way an oxidizer, and a leak developed we might fly through the air like a cross between Mary Poppins and ET.