Dispatches: January 2019
By Jennifer Grigg
Rekindle. What does that word mean to you? The dictionary defines it as a verb, to revive something that has been lost, as in “he tried to rekindle their friendship.”
By Jennifer Grigg
Readers that follow my column may remember that I’d left my fire department back in March, citing that I thought I was getting too old, maybe too soft (mentally and physically) and it was time to let the younger generations step up. But the bottom line is that I couldn’t stay away and my chief and new deputy graciously agreed to have me back. Seems there’d been a rekindle of sorts.
I returned just in time to attend the annual live-fire training at the fire college. Seemed like the perfect refresher for me. It’d been many years since I’d done live-fire training, so what a great way to jump right back in.
Here’s the kicker, though. As brave as I felt the day I signed up for the training, I admit to being challenged by rising anxiety the two days beforehand. I’ve shared my experience with anxiety and depression in past columns and I’m proud of my ability to overcome those issues, but moderate anxiety still trips me up the odd time.
For those that have never experienced it, anxiety doesn’t mean that you can’t do something, it just means that you may have to push through a lot of mental crap to get there. In severe cases, however, it will prevent people from doing things.
Ninety per cent of the time I experience no anxiety, but certain circumstances will still trigger it, like going to the fire college to do training I haven’t done in over a decade and having had a negative experience in the past. Both of these were true in my case.
The point here is that I persevered and was pleasantly surprised by my effort, ability and enthusiasm that I demonstrated that day.
Apparently, I hadn’t forgotten everything after all. Maybe a thing or two slipped my mind, like when answering command’s request for a PAR, the correct response is NOT. In case anyone has forgotten, the correct response includes your personnel count, lowest air reading, and location. Oh, and a painful reminder, wear your gloves when changing your cylinder. Also, don’t expect any sympathy from your husband on the fire ground because he’ll be the first one to tell you, “If you’d had your (expletive) gloves on, it wouldn’t have happened.” No favouritism there.
Speaking of my husband, who is a captain on a different department, we were discussing live fire on the weekend with a mutual friend who is also a captain. My husband and the mutual friend were both instructors for live fire and I was one the 20 students, who were a mix of experienced firefighters and officers.
One of them expressed frustration at the need for repeated explanation and guidance of the tasks that we, as students, were assigned. It was a sentiment that I heard from other instructors that day as well. Being one of the students, I automatically went on the defensive, offering explanations of our behaviour.
I said, “C’mon, is it reasonable to expect us, many of whom have not been to the college to do live-fire training scenarios since our last volunteer firefighter module, in my case Mod E, which was about 15 years ago, to remember everything?”
Part of me was already questioning what I’d just said because I’m a believer in taking responsibility and initiative.
I myself am a book nerd and I read every chapter in the 6th edition of the essentials that was referenced in the training day information we’d been given.
I also fired a bazillion scenario questions at my husband in an attempt to get myself up to speed on skills that had been stored somewhere in the back of my mind. Use what you’ve got, right? My rekindled spark continued to grow.
Others may not have cracked the essentials at all, and quite possibly had no need to. I, on the other hand, have always been a bit of an oddball when it comes to the fire world because I’m not the typical Type A personality. I’m more like a Type Z personality, if that were a thing. I know that I learn best by reading, asking questions, watching a demo and then trying things out.
If you know your learning style, you can adapt and overcome challenges easier. If you’re an officer, knowing the learning style of your firefighters can make a huge difference for both of you.
In all actuality, the live-fire training day was a refresher and it was set up so that our morning evolutions were practice for the same afternoon evolutions. The expectation was that the instructors would provide guidance on what we’d missed or done incorrectly in the morning, and then we, in theory, would perform them in the afternoon without hiccups.
When all was said and done, it was an awesome day. It had a profound effect on me because I’d overcome a lot to get there, and I deeply admired the instructors’ dedication to helping the “students” refresh their skills and make us all better firefighters.
I’m thankful that the spark has been rekindled and, at 47, I’m a stronger firefighter than ever.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.