As I sit in the fire station waiting for the bells to hit I often wonder what firefighters are thinking about at just that moment in time. I bet they are just like me: wondering what type of call will be next. Statistics say it will, most likely, be an EMS response. However, what if the next call is the most dangerous call of your life, are you ready? Truth is things can go bad in our business fast and your life can be at risk. This should not be a surprise to us at all. So why do we not spend more time preparing for the next call? How much time is "too much" spent checking our equipment and preparing? The more you prepare before the emergency happens the better prepared you are when it does. Let’s look at a few tips to keep you jumpseat ready in 2013.
Establish a Routine - We are all creatures of habit, so why not establish a habit for the things you do in the fire station? From the door you enter to how your gear is stored between runs, we should establish these routines for everything. Repetitive tasks are committed to muscle memory and these tasks will help you when a stressful call is announced. It will also ensure that you can identify something missing or out of place. How many of you have jumped on the truck, responded, only to find out that your hood is missing? I bet more than a few. If you had a system for storing you gear where you could easily see that it was missing you may have been able to ask someone for their extra gear or notice that it had fallen off.
Whatever you routine is stick with it. When i return from a run I make sure that my radio is hung on the window crank, my hood is in between my boots, the helmet is sitting beside the best seat (jumpseat), and my jacket is hung on the grab handles. Why is this so important? We are seeing the number of reasons increase and even worse the non-emergent calls can get you in the mindset that a fire will not happen today. This thought process should be avoided as no one can predict when someone’s house will catch on fire. We should strive to make our gear ready at all times.
Return Equipment to the Same Pockets - Choosing what goes into your pockets is something that we all can select without much influence from our officers. What equipment to carry should be based on different variables? From wire cutters to door chocks everyone has their own opinion on what we should or should not be carrying. One thing that we all should choose is to make sure everything gets put back into the same pockets every time, period.
This will serve two purposes: One is that if you are faced with an emergency inside a IDLH environment you will not have to think about where something is. During an entanglement emergency is NOT the time to try and remember where your cutters are. You should be able to reach down and grab them knowing that they are in the right leg pocket, or wherever they may be. By returning your belongings to the same pockets will help you in figuring out any missing items easier. We should inspect our gear constantly while on duty and especially when returning from an extended break from the fire station. If you know where everything is by heart, you will be able to tell what is missing.
Choose to be Prepared - We have many choices to make when serving our communities as firefighters. Perhaps the most important choice is to be Jumpseat Ready, which means that you are preparing for your next run just as you would your first run. In this business, we all start from day one in the same seat. I can imagine your first days were just like mine: nervous, anxious, and eager to make sure that I would not let anyone down. This attitude should be carried throughout your career. Often in the fire service, we get "comfortable" and let our guard down. By striving to keep ourselves jumpseat ready, we will stay vigilant and prepared for battle.