So as you probably already know I tested for an entry level firefighter position in Seattle. What you may not know what that this was THE test I wanted everything to go perfectly for. This is THE department I want to be a part of, and this was THE weekend where absolutely everything went wrong. So here is my story, maybe you can learn from it.
This is a pretty good visual description of how I felt before this trip started. Confident, ready to conquer the world and just completely on top of it. Then I woke up.
My alarm found a way to not wake me up and for the life of me I couldn't tell you why. What I can tell you is that I had planned to wake up with plenty of time to pack for my 2 day weekend away, and that all of that time was wasted away while my brain decided to ignore the incessant noises of my alarm clock.
It was pandemonium, I was grabbing the closest clothing to me and throwing it into my backpack. So here's what I managed to pack:
1 extra shirt
No extra underwear
2 extra hoodies
(pretty sure there is a bra in that, but you get the point)
Truly a sensible packing list, right?
The next hiccup in my journey stemmed from traffic. You know how people drive slower than the speed limit because there is a cop? Yeah I got stuck behind every single one of those people on the way to the airport, just perfect. I was a belligerent outspoken Irishman behind the wheel to the point where I about lost my voice.
So after my wonderfully peaceful drive down the canyon, I caught a bit of a break. The perfect parking spot at the airport. I was thrilled, "finally, something is going my way. Maybe this is where the day turns around."
But as certain that I have Irish roots, Murphy's law was out to get me that fateful morning.
I sprinted to the terminal from the parking lot, because who waits for that shuttle? My backpack full of useless junk bouncing around on my back, the cold air rapidly filling and freezing my lungs just as fast as I could exhale the cloud of steam back to the wonderful smelling Salt Lake basin. Positive thoughts in my head even though I know I have about 30 minutes before the doors on that plane close.
Of course, the security line at SLC is backed up out of the cattle herding zone. So then begins the timer game, and I know you've all played it. You know the game where you time how long it takes you to complete one lap of the security line and then you figure out how many 'laps' you have left. I did the math, and it was not looking good. I had about 2 minutes of margin for error and I still didn't know what gate I had to get to!!!
Sure enough I get through security without a glitch, but let me tell you I looked like a crazy person after I got past the checkpoint. I didn't even take the time to put my shoes back on, I just sprinted for the gate. When I got there, the agent was there... the door was closed. I looked to her and said, "I've missed it haven't I?" She shot meet a stern look, which was quickly remodeled when she saw that I had sprinted from security with all my belongings carelessly bundled in my arms.
"What's your name?"
I gave it to her.
"Sit down quickly."
So now I'm running down the jetway and I round the corner. The flight attendant is LITERALLY closing the cabin door when she sees me, she says to me, "sit down quickly!" Of course I comply, I had somehow made my flight.
I turned to the man sitting next to me who was staring at me, definitely amused about how I entered the aircraft. After I was settled in I said to him, "The only reason that I am here, is because of nice people."
Before I continue, and yes there's more, I want to put good vibes out there to everyone who helped me make that flight. You made my life a better place to spend my time.
I had planned on printing a document at my good friend's house when I got there, but it turns out he didn't have one. At first I didn't think it was a big deal, but as I read over the invitation email more carefully it seemed more and more like if I didn't have this document on physical paper I wouldn't be allowed to test! At this point I was feeling a lot like...
Then I started calling everyone I know to see if I could use their printer; it was now about 1130 pm the night before my exam.
Finally I get a hold of my sisters friend, at about 1230 am.... and she has an infant daughter. I felt terrible asking but I did it anyway and she was the godsend that helped me out (for which I am eternally grateful), I drove to her house printed out one document and left promptly to go try and sleep before my huge test. However, thanks to the events of the preceding day I was so stressed out I could hardly keep my eyes closed.
Morning rolls around, I have now woken up about 5 times in a panic because I thought that I overslept again. No such thing happened, we left early plenty of time was put aside for problems we might have AND THEN WE GET A FLAT TIRE! Absolute absurdity, but not that big of a deal as we both know how to change a tire. HOWEVER, the last person who put the wheels on the car had stripped one of the lugs.
We relentlessly tried to get the wheel off of that car but to no avail.
Time to call a cab, only the cab can't find me.... at first. OH and I had to borrow money for the cab, just icing on the cake really.
FINALLY I arrive at University of Washington campus.
.... and then I have to figure out where I'm REALLY going. To be perfectly honest, I paid the cab and started sprinting across campus completely aimlessly just hoping for the best which happened to be one of the only things that I got right.
Side note, things went well when I sprinted around... coincidence?
I made it, SOMEHOW I MADE IT!!! I was thrilled beyond words. The test then started with a mandatory 2.5 hour study session, within that time I only fell asleep like 6 times. Fatigue had taken it's toll, but I endured and finished the exam with 91% and was invited back for Oral board interviews.
The outcome was good, but the journey was one of the most trying events I've dealt with.
As winter approaches there are new challenges to be faced.
First and foremost, we have to get the the scene safely. That starts with understanding how your apparatus reacts to the cold weather and how to respond accordingly.
Things as simple as knowing how your windshield defrosters work so that you can see where you are going on the way to the scene. Once you're on the road with a clear windshield it's important to remember most of engines out there have a bonus 8000 pounds of water sloshing around pushing you down the road. Be prepared for longer stopping distances and not being able to turn nearly as fast, inertia is not your friend.. People will also not be paying attention to you when they are driving in the snow, they are out of their comfort zone driving in the snow and that's when tunnel vision kicks in for a lot of people.
YOUR SCENE IS NOT AS SAFE!
Car accidents have the potential for piling up, keep that in mind when you are establishing the scene and give yourself some extra room for error. There are few things I trust less than average everyday drivers trying to handle snowy conditions.
The fire scene is a whole different story. Slip and fall injuries are already a problem and putting ice everywhere is not helping our chances of getting away with mistakes. Minimize extraneous water use at the fire scene and keep everyone a bit safer.
Everything about a fire engine is just waiting to freeze on you and hinder your ability to control a fire, anti-freeze is a tool that you can use to fight it. 90% of the battle is to have the right tool for the job, and even that is worthless if it is frozen solid. For hoses and any other external equipment that uses water it is important to keep the water moving just barley enough that it won't freeze. Remember, we don't want extra water on the ground if we can avoid it.
I know usually we're worried about heat injuries, but where I'm from cold injuries are equally as real. Rehab areas during the winter need to be able to remove firefighters from the cold elements. The interior is still hot as hell so you get a good sweat on, the difference being that if you don't stay bundled after you exit the structure you'll quickly switch from over-heating to hypothermia. One of the best ways that our body can defend against that is to be well fed and hydrated. If you give your body the tools it will protect you from the elements.
It's simply important to remember the name of the game is different in the winter. Be on your toes and stay safe out there!
Here are some links with the good and bad results of driving in variable weather.
For anyone living in the Greater Salt Lake Area and trying to become a firefighter, I have news. UFA will be hiring soon.
This is where you should be looking for the upcoming vacancy notification, all the information that you should need will be on that page so go check it out! You won't be taking my spot, not without a fight, so bring it on.
I'm waiting on responses from two departments right now, Seattle and Phoenix, and it is really testing my patience. Especially since I'm almost positive that I completely killed the test in Seattle.
I would love to work for Seattle fire department, they are well known for being on top of the changes in firefighting tactics and just being an all around very progressive department.
Phoenix is well known for a lot of the same reason, but Phoenix is just too hot of a place for me to want to live. All that said, if I were to get a job offer from them I would certainly take it.
On top of all of this going on, I've been accepted into the UVU Paramedic Program and am slotted to start up in early January.
So really, the worst case scenario is that I just go on as planned into paramedic school. Not a bad scenario. I am truly looking forward to what the world has in store for me.
This is what life looks like from the Captains seat.