A moment to reflect

We were on a wreck recently where an individual had gone off the interstate going about 90 mph. He impacted a concrete drainage ditch and flipped several times before coming to a stop. After we got the patient into the ambulance and on the way to the hospital, I managed to capture one of my crew taking a moment to look back at what was left of the car. It brought recent events to mind.

It was brought to the department’s attention recently that one of the guys on the crew had a serious problem with some of the less desirable aspects of our work; the cleanup of bad car wrecks to be more specific. It bothered him to the point that he went to a psychiatrist. I was troubled that he not only was troubled by this enough that he went to a psychiatrist, but that he felt ashamed enough that he had to hide it from the rest of us. I guess it may be the mentality that comes with the perfusion (don’t show weakness, don’t falter, I have to set an example.), but it’s something that needed dealt with. My department has always provided the option to go see a psychiatrist if you wanted it but it’s obvious that that offer wasn’t being take up on, and we almost lost a good man because of it. In this line of work, there’s always going to be something that bothers you. Some of us take a moment to reflect while on scene, and some of us go home to talk to our spouses, but then there are some of us that don’t do anything and instead let it eat us up inside.

Everyone seems to take their own approach to dealing with these types of stresses, and many take more than one approach at a time. Studies have shown some of the most common ways that this was done many of which were found that were subconscious approaches.

Some of the personal efforts are:

Wait and Self- Monitor Changes in Evoked Reactions
Deliberately Let Time Pass

Rest and Relaxation
Deliberately Go Somewhere
Get Comfortable and Deliberately Relax

Find Physical and Verbal Relief
Deliberately Use Humor
Deliberately Release Feelings
Deliberately Exercise
Confide in Spouses
Have loosely structured discussions with colleagues

Re-establish Personal Routines and Sense of Subjective Control
Deliberately Take Charge of Your Life
Deliberately Re-establish Routines

In some of the more serious events where a department needs to step in it is recommended:

Mental Health Professionals Unilaterally Recommend Mandatory Attendance
Intervene Within 48 – 72 hrs
Convene Group Meeting and Commit Officers to Attend
Graded Confrontation of Memories of Critical Event
Deliberately Talk About Events In General Terms
Deliberately Avoid Some Reminders of Events
Adhere To Prescribed Agenda of Successive Protocol Stages.

Obviously not wanting it to get to the more severe situations; our department decided to take a more direct approach to this. We’ve always tried to do after action reviews but after our latest event we decided to make AAR’s, or critical stress debriefings mandatory after fatalities or mass casualties. I’m still not comfortable at these particular meetings but I feel it a necessary step, whether they are effective or not I guess only time will tell. I guess my purpose in sharing this is to encourage my fellow first responders and emergency personnel to pay attention to their colleges and themselves. If you notice stress starting to build up or if you need to just talk, do it; don’t try and hide it until it reaches a critical point.

Spring Storm: Reminiscing Over the Past

It’s late in the day and I sit here in my warm recliner, looking out over the storm going on outside, and I’m reminded of an early spring storm we had some years ago. The storm was raging on much as it is this winters day with only the time of year being different. It wasn’t a peaceful night for long, as the call goes out for a single vehicle roll near the pass. If the storm here in town was bad then up at the pass it was nothing anyone should have been out in. At almost 10,000 feet the storm was pounding the pass and dropping snow faster than plows could hope to keep up with.

We look out at this weather and we think of how nice it is inside and how we dread going out in it. It’s easy to think of it as an inconvenience and get irritated over it. Often times I find I have to take the trip out in the truck to put myself in the right frame of mind. It must have been terrifying for that lady, trapped in her vehicle, the cold blowing in through the broken window. She had no cell signal, no way of knowing if anyone even knew that she was in need of help. A passerby had saw the wreck and drove down to where they got signal to call it in; but she had no way of knowing that.

It was probably fifteen minutes before we got the call and another twenty for us to make it that far up. We use the time to our advantage. We all know our roles in this play but we talk them out anyhow. We discuss where to place the engine if the vehicle is still in the road, or what we’ll do if it slid past the shoulder and off the edge. As new information comes in we update our strategy so by the time we arrive on scene we are as prepared as possible.

We arrive on scene just behind the ambulance. Our community is a small enough one that fire and ambulance are separate entities. We train together so we can work together but we have our separate jobs. And it’s times like these that provide necessity for it. Our firefighters are EMT’s as well so when we arrive on scene we can provide treatment but we need to send her down and get her where she can receive proper treatment.

Once she’d safely on her way down we finish securing the scene, directing traffic, and filling out the run report. It was an easy call when all said and done and everything went as planned. It may have been a cold afternoon but when all said and done that didn’t really bother me. I come back to a warm recliner and enjoy another snowy evening.

As I sit here reminiscing, the pager goes off once again and I get to go out on another call. Another car wreck on slick roads…. I guess my reminiscing can wait for another time when I sit in my recliner looking out of a snowy night, thinking about a call I once had.

Ahhh spring time in Wyoming... sometimes you never know what you're going to get.

Wyoming Wind: A Road Map to Cold

I was thinking the other evening about how glad I was to finally get all the dead branches that were hanging over my roof, cleaned out of my trees. The rain was pouring down and I was able to actually relax not having to worry about my roof. It’s one of the benefits of living where I do, every year we get the pleasure of experiencing the gamut of weather here in Wyoming. We get heat, cold, snow, rain, and most of the year we get wind. It’s almost always present and most of the time it’s actually bearable. But every once in a while we get these ungodly gusts that throw you around like you were a rag doll.

It’s when these large wind events occur that life gets busy; and it doesn’t matter if it’s a house fire, downed power lines from trees, or vehicle rolls, one thing is always certain. Wyoming wind is always a road map to cold. These large wind events are guaranteed to come with freezing rain, snow, or a combination of the two. It’s cold, wet, and hard work. Luckily, the very gear that protects us from the heat of an inferno is also the gear that keeps us warm on those cold nights. And it was the storm that evening that reminded me of a night only a winter or two ago. The picture below, as a back drop, provides a pretty good first impression of the night.

A Road Map to Cold

Semi Truck roll over on Hwy 16 west in Johnson County Wyoming

Unfortunately for this individual, wind likes truckers. It almost feels like it’s only fair sometimes. Kind of like it’s payback for that time one passed you and the wind from them almost knocked you off the road. But regardless if its karma or something else, I think the big rigs are magnets for wind. They’re either creating it or being knocked over by it. And when that happens, it’s up to us to go out and fix the problem. As told by the foot prints and tier tracks in the snow; by the time this photo was taken we and already loaded the individual in the ambulance and shipped him down the hill. There was a brief pause in the wind allowing for a couple shots of the scene but out of many photos taken only about two were clear enough to actually enjoy.

The crazy thing about wind is that it doesn’t discriminate. People are just as likely a target of its wrath as vehicles, and it soon let us know that. The wind quickly picked up after this shot and was hitting gusts upwards of 50 mph. This combined with the slick roads started pushing us off the road as well. We ended up having to dawn our cleats just to stay on the road and finish our work. Gladly though, aside from rosy cheeks and cold fingers, we were warm from the wind.

As a side note, I’m sizing down the pictures to try and clean up my posts a little. Let me know if you like it or if you’d rather see the larger pictures.