Friday, January 27, 2012

Birthday Bashed

Well, there is goes…yet another birthday for me.  I now have as many years under my belt as a pair of 24-year old twins.  I only wish I had the energy and flexibility of a 24 year old!  Now that I am older, I find the need to celebrate slower.  This year, my day fell on a Wednesday, so I blocked off the entire week to celebrate.  Dinner with the family on Sunday, an evening at the local watering hole with friends on Wednesday, and a date on Saturday night highlight a week of free lunches and well wishes from friends and family.

It got me thinking about some key birthdays from the past that I shared with my firehouse family:

First, there was my 16th, when I was given a shiny new Cairns Philadelphian helmet by my parents.  It was a nice surprise.  It was a Wednesday night, and it would be the first fire company drill I would officially attend as a member.  The Philly helmet was a huge upgrade from the WWII style Fiberglas helmets usually issued to new junior firefighters.  I am not sure if I ever really made the choice to join the fire company, but when your father is the fire chief, and your mom is the president of the ladies auxiliary, there are certain unspoken expectations!

The fire company played an interesting role on my 18th birthday as well.  It seems the members conspired to have me “man up”.  Much to my surprise, they hired a local “dancer” to come deliver the happy birthday message.  She was quite a sight, and I bet she was a hottie… yeah, maybe when she danced for my grandfather’s 18th birthday!!  

First, there was the embarrassment of being on the spot… with an exotic dancer…in a room full of dudes… including my FATHER!  Then there was the generation gap!  She was sparkly and feathery from across the room, but up close?  YIKES!  There were wrinkles on parts of her body that I did not know could wrinkle, and the make-up caked in the chasms of her face was fooling no one!  She reeked of whiskey and cigarettes, and her legs were rough, like a cheese grater, spotted with scabs, chapped flakes of dead skin and stubble stiffer than horse hair.  Her make up looked nearly clown-like.  Not a Happy clown, either, but the scary evil clown.  When she smiled, the gray roots of her real teeth contrasted the red lipstick that somehow got on her teeth as well.  Her chest, thank God, stayed contained by the silky layers of her “outfit”, because I am certain it could have like taking a beating from grapefruits tucked in the toes of a pair of pantyhose. 

She was nothing like the girls I had seen in the magazines that were “hidden” in the drawer of the trophy case.  She was old, and she was scary.  My only consolation was knowledge that some of the guys literally pissed their pants they were laughing so hard.  I smiled (or maybe I was clenching my teeth), and was a polite recipient of her suggestive gyrations that seemed to last for HOURS!  All I had to do was sit in the chair and survive, yet I remember being weak and sweaty when it finally ended; sweatier than she was!  I was convinced I was going to catch one of those diseases you get from loose women I learned all about in health class in high school!

Then there was my 21st, which was a bit depressing, because I went to a bar with the older firefighters and did not get carded.  I waited all those years to go to a bar, and I didn’t get carded???  What a rip-off.  Hell, last year, I went to a club and was carded by a doorman with bar-code reader, which not only read my license and calculated my age, but flashed it in big red numbers!  “Thanks pal”, I thought, “That will impress the ladies in line”.     

After that, the birthdays just kept coming.  Every year at the same time, another one would fly by.  I lost count, and now have to do the math to calculate the answer to “How old are you?”  Forty-eight, if you really need to know.  Maybe one day, I will blog about THIS birthday.  However, I did not get a new helmet (I like my salty off-white one), I didn’t even take my ID to the bar on Wednesday (first name basis with the bartender), and unless tomorrow night’s date goes way different than what I am expecting, I wont be egged on by my buddies to “motorboat dem thangs”!  Oh yeah, my dad wont be there, either! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Bastrop Wildfires

During my recent trip to Texas, I took a sobering tour of the area around Bastrop State Park.  What should have been a peaceful drive through the interface where suburbia meets woodland was sadly jaw-dropping.  There was very little green, and the ground was desolate.  The wildlife was nowhere to be found, and everywhere you looked, you could see signs of the horror that had passed through the area just 4 months earlier.
Early in September 2011, the east central region of Texas was at the tail end of over 90 days with temperatures over 100 degrees, and precious little rainfall had fallen during that period.  The woodlands were tinder-dry and in dangerous jeopardy of a wild fire.  Restrictions were placed on all outdoor activities that included ignition sources including outdoor cooking and smoking.  Despite all the precautions, wildfires began to pepper the area. 
The winds from Tropical Storm Lee whipped across the rolling hills, turning reasonably small brushfires into some of the area’s most destructive fires in decades.  Over 34,000 acres were scorched to varying degrees, and over the course of the 5-day event, over 1500 homes were destroyed, and two people were killed.  This was just in the Bastrop Complex fire.  Several other large scale fires within a 30 mile radius burned out of control for several days, including areas Union Chapel and Steiner Ranch.  Families were evacuated; businesses and schools were shut down… survival became a priority. 
As I watched the footage on the internet and on the national news last fall, I tried to imaging the enormity of the incident.  Nothing I could imaging could come close to the reality that was unfolding in this little town, east of Austin.  I had the luxury of touring the area with clear skies, temperatures in the low 60s, and no fear for my life.  For the 700 firefighters that worked this incident in the 100 degree heat for days on end, with very little visibility, and constant fear of a wind shift that would cut them off from safety, my hat is forever tipped to you. 
I cruised the area and saw slab after slab of concrete that were once the foundations of people’s homes.  Driveways were still littered with the rusty shells of the automobiles that were left behind when the people fled the area.  Towering trees, some still capped with green foliage stood among thousands of blackened tree trunks, scorched free of their bark, that stood, awaiting their fate.  Address markers nailed to posts helped identify properties, many of which were posted for sale.  I imagine many will never return to live in this wooded paradise, or what is left of it.  Surprisingly, however, the area was also dotted with a few brand new homes, rebuilt by those who refuse to be scared off by fire’s fury.
We drove for miles, nothing changed… thousands of people who once inhabited this beautiful area were long gone. It is hard to imagine that the area will ever recover.  When it does, it will never be the same. 
It really made me think about the families I have seen displaced from a fire in a single home, or an apartment building.  Waking up one morning and realizing that everything you own is gone.  I have watched communities rally around and provide and support those who suffered the loss, and suspect that recovery eventually happens.  But what happens when everyone on your road, in your neighborhood, and in your town lost everything as well?
The smell of burnt wood still lingers in the air in Bastrop.  Fresh green growth fights to carpet the earth once again.  Many trees still stand tall, marked by logging companies that will likely salvage them for lumber before the effects of the fire damage take their toll.  But lakes are still woefully low, and creek beds are still dry, and the expectation of another summer of dry La Nina winds looms on the horizon.   
Oh, how I wish I could do a rain dance for them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pen Pals ROCK!

During my fire service career, I have had many great experiences with fire prevention, and particularly with kids.  I have dressed as a clown for skits, talked with 2nd graders on a “phone” as they practiced calling 911, and crawled on the floor under “smoke” with kindergarten classes.  The challenge is packaging the message to the appropriate level so the kids can understand what you are trying to teach them.  Otherwise, you just get the drooling lips and empty stares.  If they are too old, they know everything, and if they are too young, every question they ask starts with “One time…”

A couple of years ago, I discovered another avenue to connect with kids.  I became pen pals with a fourth grade class 1200 miles away!  Let me explain how this came to be… A college friend of mine, who I hadn't seen in 23 years, had become a language arts teacher in an Austin, Texas suburb.  She and I became re-connected on-line, and before long, the idea to pen pal with her students was developed.  As it turns out, 4th grade is perfect for this kind of communication.  Their writing skills are just developing, and to find a “grown up” willing to write back and forth with them really lights them up.  Of course they are an easy crowd.  In one letter, I wrote “…pain in the butt”, and it was their favorite part of all my letters.  We write about all sorts of things; weather, pets, tests, sports, family, and even tell jokes and swap pictures.  I provide them with stories about what my fire department has been up to, and they ask questions… LOTS of questions!

In 2011, after sending 48 personalized Valentine’s Day treats, I decided to pay them a surprise visit.  They were completely stunned when I appeared in their doorway.  I felt like a rock star.  Their excitement and enthusiasm completely floored me.  I gave high fives, signed autographs and posed for some great photos.  Of course, fire safety was the basis of my visit, so we spent considerable time talking about fire prevention and fire department operations.  By the end of the school year, I felt like I knew these kids, and our final letters were bittersweet good-byes. 

I recently returned from visiting the 2012 edition of Mrs. McLaughlin’s fourth grade class.  Sixty-five of them this year, in three different waves!  Unfortunately, because the schedule rotation needed to be adjusted to accommodate my visit, and some of these kids have older siblings with big mouths, the jig was up, and my appearance was not a surprise to this year’s class.  It really didn’t matter, these kids still lit up when they saw me standing in their room.  We talked, we quizzed each other, we shared, and we learned.  The challenged me to think of a way firefighters use the things they are learning about in school.  Readin’, Rightin’, and Rithmetic were easy; but music, art, and social studies were a bit tougher.  I ended up spending the entire day with these kids, and enjoyed every minute of it.  How teachers do what they do every day simply amazes me.  I tip my helmet to every teacher for the exhausting work they do. 

This week, I will e-mail them about the snowstorm here in Pennsylvania, and they will brag about it being 75 degrees in Texas. I am trying to figure out how to get a snowball delivered to them, hmmmm?   Meanwhile, I am told I have a surprise coming in the mail for me this week.  Could it be related to me writing my birthday on their activity calendar while they were doing afternoon activity stations?  I hope so.  That would make my day, as would baked goods (hint hint)!

Thank you, kids, and Mrs. McLaughlin for your wonderful letters, pictures, and most importantly, your time. I look forward to more stories and letters as the school year moves forward.   

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dissent Was Inevitable

When I began my blog a few months ago, I never expected that my thoughts, my opinions, and my beliefs would be shared by everybody.  But it was quite a surprise to find out that I offended someone the other day.  OK, I was not really surprised; these days, everything you do or say offends SOMEONE.  That is what makes this country so wonderful to live in; freedom to think, and belief, and feel. 

I began this blog to expose my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions to anyone who wishes to read them.  From the looks of the stats, there are many of you who enjoy reading my occasional rants, my funny tales, and my organizational lessons learned.  I think back to the days when Howard Stern was on free radio.  He had as many haters listening to his show as he did fans. I happened to be a fan.  He was rude, and he was crude, but he was brutally honest, and he was passionate, and he was entertaining.  What I liked best about him was his reaction to the critiques.  “If you don’t want to listen, turn the dial!”  There were days when I did.  Even as a fan, there were times when I wasn’t in the mood for his crap, or I didn’t like or agree with what he was talking about that day.  I exercised my right to change the channel to something else, and respected his right to continue broadcasting his show.  I did not denounce his broadcast team, the station who aired him, his sponsors, or the company he worked for.  I simply turned him off (Sometimes only for 10 minutes, because I wanted to see what he was going to say next).

Those of you, who are fans of my blog, thank you for your kind words of support.  I am proud to bring my stream of thoughts to you to help stimulate thoughts, and conversations that need to happen in the fire service.  We do many great things in the fire service, and we also make many mistakes.  If we don’t learn something from BOTH scenarios, than we are cheating ourselves. No one is immune from error, poor judgment, or miscommunication, and I am certainly no exception.  If you have read all of my posts, you know that I am my biggest critique.  I have second-guessed my decisions, doubted my commitment, short-changed my potential, and failed to maintain self-discipline on numerous occasions. I can also be moody, and I speak fluent sarcasm.  I write about those failures here, so you can learn from my experiences.  I also write about the failures and misjudgments of others on my pages as well, again, so we can ALL learn from these mistakes.  What I do not do, is intentionally attack, insult, or attempt to embarrass any individual or organization, despite an arsenal of ammunition I have amassed. My blog has been read all across the country and in several foreign lands as well.  It is meant to be global, not local.  It is much bigger than you or me. 

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for my comrades and the service to humanity they perform.  I love my department, and everyone in it. Sadly, however, not everyone in my department is as proud of me as I am of it, so hereafter, I will never speak or blog on behalf of the organization.  Of course, when I make it big in this world, I will remember the support (or lack of it) extended to me by my organization, and will reciprocate the credit appropriately.  Meanwhile, I will continue to post as an unassociated individual.  It saddens me to have to do this, particularly since I am so proud to be a part of my department, and hiding my alliance goes against everything I support in the fire service.  What is a blogger to do?  

Anyone who questions my loyalty really doesn’t know me.  To those people, please call me, text me, e-mail me, or God forbid approach me. I love to talk shop, especially with people who don’t share my viewpoint.  Hell, I may just learn something from you, and you may learn something about me.  Meanwhile, please continue to despise my blog posts; my feelings will not be hurt.  And remember, if the truth of my words are too much for you to handle, peace is just a click away.    

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What’s in a Color?

Historically, fire engines have always been red.  There are many reasons why, but my favorite explanation involved fire engines “rushin” to the scene, and everyone knows Russians are red.  Sorry, but that joke made no sense to me for years, and once I finally “got it” I knew I would never forget it. 

Then safety was sited as the reason to create more visible colors for fire engines.  After all, red was almost black at night time.  Soon there were slime yellow fire engines bursting onto the scene, seemingly erasing tradition for the sake of visibility.  It was a sad day for the die hard historians, who were convinced that firefighting as they knew it was OVER.  On the heels of this bold change of tradition came artistic creativity, and soon there were fire engines in every color of the rainbow, two-tone paint jobs, psychedelic color patterns, full length murals, and blinding reflective striping packages. 

This new age of de-standardization assured that there would never be a uniform color of fire apparatus.  The odd colors became a symbol of pride and local unity.  Firefighters would bleed the color of their fire trucks, and the loyalty created by this passionate support of the “home town colors” was an enormous character builder much like one’s support for their alma mater.  You learned to fight for your colors, live your colors, and identify with your colors.  Your colors became a part of you. 

When I had the opportunity to help merge four fire companies into one municipal department, one of the challenges we faced is selecting a color to unify the department.  The legacy colors were red, green, yellow, and blue.  To be fair to everyone, these four colors were eliminated from consideration.  The new unification needed to be NEW, and not favor any subset of the membership, for fear of alienating the remaining 75% of the members.  After all, we needed to learn to fight for our “colors”, with the key term being OUR colors!   After hours of discussion, meetings, suggestions, votes, and considerations, the department chose white, trimmed in red, black, and gray striping.  This selection incorporated the township colors, the local school district colors, and satisfied an opportunity of economic responsibility.  Using grant funding, the economy of scale, and some clever scheduling, the fleet began to take shape, and soon our new color scheme was consistently applied to all existing apparatus, and matched by the 6 units acquired after the standardization. 

Then, with an act of tradition busting that hadn’t been experienced in decades, a single vote, allowed by a thoughtless abandonment of leadership, changed the identity standard that had cost the young department over $100,000 to achieve.  Even more importantly, the unity of the membership was fissured, and the results of this one night of questionable decision-making will be painfully obvious for decades.  The breech of standardization has been felt since the day the new apparatus arrived in the station.  You can just feel it!

Please understand, I think the new color scheme is beautiful, but it is NOT us!  Black over red looks sharp, but it is not white with red striping.  While the color of the fire truck has zero impact on the effective functionality of the unit, it does have an impact on the members riding in it, or at least HALF of the members riding on it. 

What color should we bleed now?  What banner do we “fight” for?  What team are we on?  What color will the NEXT truck be?  The truth is, the fire won’t care.  I wish I didn’t!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bombs Aweigh!

I love it when a plan comes together.  Our rehab unit needed some tender loving care. For quite some time, we have been transporting 20# propane cylinders in the back of our cargo truck by strapping them together and strapping them to the wall hooks. We rely on the propane to fire portable heater units during those long winter calls, and to heat water for comfort drinks at emergency scenes.  I had an idea for securing them bouncing around in my head for quite some time, but never seemed to find the time to commit to executing the project. 

Then one night last week, I had a dream where the back door of the rehab opened up and the tanks started dropping out the back like a world war two carpet bomber.  And they just kept coming!  They were blowing craters in the highway, taking out bridges, causing multi-car pile-ups.  The truck was like Stephen King’s Christine, it had a mind of its own, and it was indestructible. Then the dream got really weird, but I keep the rest of the details to myself so the morality police stay off my back. 

I sketched out my idea and scratched down some rough measurements and headed to the local Lowe’s.  This may seem like a logical idea, but you need to understand what home improvement stores are to me.  Let’s just say, if there is ever a meeting with a twelve-step program to save people like me, I will attend religiously.  I once went to Home Depot for duct tape, and left the store with $275 worth of material to start 4 different home projects, but I digress. 

I was proud that I kept my purchases to about $55 dollars for all the lumber, hasps, brackets and hardware that I would need to materialize my creation. I arrived at the station today and had lunch while I verbalized my plan to finally secure the propane bombs.  Within 30 minutes, we had the apparatus re-arranged, tools in place, and the sawdust was flying.  There was no need to ask, the help just arrived.  Three or four guys pitched in and helped adjust the design, measure, drill, cut, screw, bolt, and troubleshoot.  Soon, the tanks were lined up like soldiers, nestled into the floor board, and secured by the hinged lid and a pair of dynamically elasticized double-hooked security straps (aka Bungee cords). 

Even better than the swift, stress-free execution of the plan was the immediate clean-up effort that had the station back in order, and splinter free.  Big thank you shout out to Troy, Justin, Dave and Jordan for pitching in and helping.  You helped turn what I expected to be an all day project into a fun, efficient 2-hour task.  At a time when I was beginning to lose faith in the concept of teamwork in our house, today refreshed my hope. 

I am looking forward to my dreams tonight.  No more propane potholes to worry about.  Maybe I will dream up a nice quiet getaway, and a secret romantic rendezvous hundreds of miles from home, where I can escape reality for a few days and live in temporary bliss!

Giggity, Giggity!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

For Whom the Bells Toll

When you run with a fire department that has a college in your first due area, you really need to develop a tolerance for the behavior of students in large groups.  Every now and then, however, that tolerance gets used up, and revenge becomes your only salvation.  This tale is an example of that reversal of fortune.

Every year, on every campus in the country, there is always one resident hall that seems to house the most rowdy, immature, irresponsible students.  Ellicott Hall is a nine story high-rise on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland, packed full of hormone-saturated co-eds that had developed quite a reputation that makes a student boast, and a parent cringe.  It wasn’t quite “animal house”, but more like “animal hotel”.  I am sure this generalization is unfairly associating all 1100 of the dorm dwellers with the handful of trouble-makers.  Guess what, I don’t care!  On this particular night, we felt no regrets for our actions. 

A few college clowns seemed to think hooking the pull-station to activate the fire alarm and evacuate the building was rather hysterical.  While we were generally used to this type of behavior, and accepted our “smells and bells” runs as part of the territory, it didn’t take too much to push us to the edge.  We even had company t-shirts that sported a Simplex “B” key and the slogan, “For Whom the Bells Toll”!  But THIS night would be different. This night, we took a stand!

It was a bone-chilling November evening, with temps in the mid-thirties, and a damp mist that had been falling for two days straight.  The week was particularly challenging, with an extraordinary number of runs that were cutting into the Sackroom sleepy time!  The first false alarm at midnight was annoying, the one at 1:30 a.m. was making us angry, but the third one, at 3:45 in the morning put us over the edge.  Even more agonizing was the fact that less than 30 people evacuated the building.  Apathy had developed dangerous behavior that needed to be corrected.  I had a plan, discussed it with my crew, and decided to execute one of the boldest moves of my career.    

I requested a full box assignment to assist the engine company, and had the campus police request assistance from the Prince George’s county police department.  As luck would have it, it was an unusually slow night for the popo and soon, we had more that 25 cops there to assist.  Our plan was a room by room search and “rescue”.  I can only imagine the thousands of dollars of contraband that went down the sewer as word spread that we were entering every room accompanied by the lawmen! 

After nearly an hour, the crowd of students standing in the cold had grown to capacity.  Most evacuated without incident, despite their anger and frustration, others were literally dragged by the police, bedding and all, down the halls and into the stair towers.  At least four asshats left in the back of a police car for disorderly conduct.  At this point, the shift commander from the police department lectured the shivering crowd for 15 more minutes, basically giving permission for vigilante activity.  Peer pressure was going to be needed to weed out the person or persons responsible for the abuse of the alarm system. 

We left the scene before the students re-entered the building, to avoid being bombarded by projectiles launched from the upper floors, and never returned to that building for the remainder of the academic year.  It worked, and thankfully, we never needed to pull that card out of our deck of tricks ever again.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The "Food Groups"

The other day I had the opportunity to meet and share a meal with someone in the EMS field.  I know exactly what you are thinking.  Generally, I tiptoe cautiously around people in EMS, because I have learned, multiple times, that you can’t spell “problems” without “ems”.  I made the exception for two reasons: She only runs one shift every other week, and she knew exactly what I meant when I voiced my concern about drama in EMS.  This post, however, is not an EMS bashing session. 
We met at a diner that offered a lunch buffet.  “Perfect”, I thought, no need to narrow my choices.  I can sample a little bit of everything, have extras of what I really like, and avoid things I do not care for.  It is a lot like a volunteer fire department.  Thus begins my personification journey for the day…  I think about the membership ranks of the fire departments I have belonged to during my 32- year career.  It has been a virtual smorgasbord of personalities and contributions.  I call them the “food groups”
There are some members that you just can’t get enough of, and are always reliable, like the meatballs, the chicken nuggets, the corn, and the buttered noodles.  You count on them all the time and often go back for seconds.   These are the members of the first food group; the staples, if you will.  They are reliable, consistent and dependable; Always there for you.
Then there are the people that are not always there, but when they are, you know their contributions are going to be good, like potato filling, hot turkey slices, beef tips, or real bacon bits instead of the crunchy artificial ones at the salad bar.  If they are not there, you manage to get by, but miss them anyway.  They are the ingredients that make a good buffet become a great buffet.
The third food group is those that you have never met or tasted.  You may be hesitant to give them a try and become introduced to them.  It depends on just how full your plate is.  These “foods” are a mystery, but like your parents always taught you, “Try it, you may like it”.  Much to your surprise, you actually do like it, and hope it stays on the menu forever and always.  Or maybe not, sometimes the new morsels have a funny taste, and just don’t appeal to your preferences. 
Finally, we have the group of foods that have been on the spread for decades, and you just don’t care for them.  Red beets come to mind, as well as about 90% of the non-protein items on the salad bar.  Like those miniature corns cobs, or the grasses and weeds that you could not identify if the little signs weren’t on the sneeze guard.   You tolerate their existence, because somebody must like them, or they wouldn’t be there! 
I reflect on the people in my station now.  Some I just can’t get enough of even though there are seemingly always there.  Some are always there, and I avoid interacting with them for the self-preservation of my own sanity and calm demeanor.  Some thrill me when they are there, but I sure wish we could see more of them, and others are just too new for me to decide whether they will stay “on the menu” long enough for me to invest a lot of my time in them. 
When you put them all together, you have a full meal.  A little different each time, a little different to each person.  Just don't overstay your welcome ("You here four hour, you go now!")
All this talk is making me hungry, I think I will head to the “hosey” for a snack!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year – 2012

A new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate, a fresh page; However you view it, it is here.  The most popular topic of discussion this time of the year is New Year resolutions.  Many people vow change in behavior, and use the fresh start as the perfect starting block.  Then the hangover from the celebrations, the sleepiness from staying up late, and the buffet of football on the boob tube lure us into what I call the Mummers’ Trap. 

For those of you not familiar with this 135 year old tradition, JFGI (Just Google it).  You still won’t understand it, but you will appreciate the mind warp experienced by those in Philadelphia area who peel open their bloodshot eyes on 1/1 and get jolted awake by grown men in sequins and feathers spinning and dancing to banjo music.  The confusion causes a trip to the refrigerator, and as you are digging into the clam dip leftovers and washing it down with the last of the champagne punch, you suddenly realize that your resolution to drink less alcohol and eat more healthfully are shot.  Slamming the fridge door and swearing at your failure only causes resolutions number 3 & 4 to go down the drain.  In fact, statistics indicate that 73% of the sworn resolutions are usually broken before everyone in the house is awake.

Here is my solution.  Holidays don’t count.  You get a mulligan on New Years Day to clear your head and refine your list.  In fact, since the holiday is on a Sunday this year, many people get to celebrate the holiday on Monday, January 2, so that day gets a free pass as well.  But no more breaks after that!  So make your lists and give it (another) try on Tuesday morning. 

I won’t preach about personal goals or achievements that may be on your list.  They are personal, as are mine.  In fact, my personal list is extensive.  I have it printed out and hanging in the most effective location based on its content.  Yes, smartasses, it is on my refrigerator, with a copy taped up near the recliner, the TV, my computer, the BowFlex, and the dashboard of my truck (I need visual reminders). 

What I do encourage, is that every emergency service worker pick just ONE thing about their professional behavior to improve that will help promote safety so Everyone Goes Home.  It could be a fitness benchmark, a vow to wear seatbelts every time, to train more, to teach more, to use appropriate PPE on every call, or to ask for assistance before trouble bites.  Even more importantly, SHARE these goals with others, and encourage them to join in your quest for improvement; and help them achieve there goals as well.  We are all in this together.  My success, your success, his success, her success, and their success all help improve OUR success. 

I am thinking of dozens of clichés to type here that would help enhance this message, but resolution number 15 is to limit the number of clichés I use.  It is killing me, but I will make it through at least one day, come Hell or high water!  Fffffudge, I blew it!  But at least I said “fudge”; resolution number 8 is still intact!