Tuesday, January 26, 2010:
Today’s morning classes consisted of a field trip to Sprinkler Fitter Local #417’s Apprentice Training Center in northeast Minneapolis for a lecture and hands-on demonstration of fire sprinkler and alarm systems. The instructor was Mrs. Angie Wiese, Fire Protection Engineer and Public Information Officer for the Saint Paul Department of Safety and Inspection (DSI). She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is a certified Professional Engineer. She’s very talented, and is the daughter of a Saint Paul Fire Captain at Station 5.
Angie made the class cookies and brought in candy for our class, so everyone enjoyed the already good lecture on an important subject for firefighters. We go on many “alarm sounding” calls, and have to be familiar with alarm systems, how to reset them, how to investigate the reason they are sounding, and how to operate the various components of a fire sprinkler system in order to control fires and minimize water damage from activated sprinkler systems.
Angie’s lecture was followed by a hands-on demonstration of the various sprinkler system components located in the adjacent “laboratory” used to train and certify Sprinkler Fitters. That portion of the program was presented by Tom Froyum, a Fire Inspector with DSI and a former Sprinkler Fitter.
We returned from the Sprinkler Fitter Apprentice Training Center in time for lunch, and then received a visit from another of the Department’s Deputy Chiefs – this time Chief Dave Galbraith from the “C Shift.” Dave is an old Coast Guardsman like me, and he served on small boats and stations in Maine. He is a gifted leader and a wonderful story teller….I settled in for what I knew would be a good “yarn” as he began his presentation with a quick summary of the Wizard of Oz. He asked the class (with a quick little smile) if we all were familiar with the story of the Wizard of Oz, and after hearing that – of course - we were, of course, he said, “Good! That’ll shave about 2 ½ hours off today’s lecture!”
Chief Galbraith used the story of Oz to reinforce the three virtues he felt were critical to being a good Firefighter: Courage, Heart, and Brains – the three attributes sought by Dorothy and the gang. About “Courage” he had this to say (quoting an unnamed source): “It’s easy to be brave at a safe distance.” He reminded us that courage was not defined as ignoring your fear, but controlling it.
Regarding “Heart,” he talked about the passion of being a public servant….of treating people and especially medical patients with compassion and caring. He even said that HOW you people is more important than the actual treatment you provide. Dave is a long-standing paramedic with our Department and knows about how to “serve with Heart.” He also provided a quote from Albert Schweitzer that was most appropriate for the soon-to-be public servants in the recruit class (staring down the road at a – hopefully - long and successful career): “One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
For the “Brains” part of the story, Chief Galbraith spoke about the importance of not just applying “muscle” to solve a problem, but to THINK, PLAN AHEAD, and take care of yourself mentally. He reinforced some of the resources available from the Employee Assistance Program and the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team. Then, after a short meeting with the recruit class’s “C-Shifters,” Chief Galbraith returned to the Deputy Chief’s office, and we turned our attention to the remaining activities of the afternoon: EMS Practical “exams” with Chief Keith Morehead, and the first practice session for the Fourth Quarter (and final!) Practical Exam.