As the firefighter's lay still in their beds hoping for a peaceful night the words the bells ring out and you hear "possible structure fire!" How often have you been laying in your station bed and hear the pre-alert announce this? It's amazing to listen to the stories of firefighters that describe the alarm as it is first announced because they had just woken up just a moment before the alarm sounded. Do they have a sixth sense?
Perhaps sometimes we just know when it's time to get up and go to work! Nighttime seems to be the primetime in our town for most of our structural fires. Why is this? There are many theories around that, but let's talk about some of the complexities of responding to nighttime fires.
First and foremost should be waking everyone up, duh! But this is a problem in many firehouses. We all have the sound sleepers or the person that is so tired they don't realize the bell has gone off or the lights have illuminated the room. This problem can be complicated in today's fire stations, with the arrival of separate sleeping rooms. This nationwide trend is allowing us privacy while we sleep, but can slow down our turnout times!
Second, how long does it take you to get oriented once you have been awoken from a sound sleep? Sometimes it seems like it takes 10 minutes to figure out where in the heck you are. This is where your preparations before the alarm sound come into play. How often to you go to bed before you give your PPE and SCBA a final look over? Did you leave your mask back at the training session or "where is my hood" are not things that need to be discovered after the bell rings. So before you turn in for the night make sure to take a turn giving your riding position a quick look over, because you never know when it's going to be a sleepless night!
When the bells ring at night in my station, we all make sure that everyone is up and moving before we leave the bedroom areas for the bay floor. "Hey, you up?, or knock, knock, we are not waiting on you!" will motivate even the soundest sleeper to get a move on. Because one thing is for sure, if you get beat by the second due to your territory, you first will never hear the end of it, and second is not doing your job!
Stay safe everyone and sleep tight!