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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Posts of an Unhappy Man

Jesus tells us point blank. 
He could not be clearer. 
Be as children. 
This doesn't mean put gum in your sisters hair. 
I do not think it means hold your breath until you get what you think you want. 
From a lover. Or employer. Or roommate. 
It doesn't even mean decorate the newly white walls of your room with magic markers.
Think of the child's reactions to where we put our grown-up thoughts. 
Think of the child's reaction to our fears.
We gently tease them about there being no monsters under their bed. 
No bogeymen in the closet. 
And then we throw away a love, a future, a possibility:  
For a fear of: nothing. 
For a memory tying us back to a situation long departed, that never was as strong in the imagined. 
a place nowhere near as perfect as the pages of our adult coloring books make it out to be. 
We stride into unhappy jobs. 
We fail to appreciate the real. 
We rage at demons no more true than a dream. 
And for what. 
To pat ourselves on the back. 
To rest secure in our busy, adult filled lives. With their serious tones and elite status and reservations and performance evaluations. 
All the while secretly longing for something we used to have and have forsaken. 
The free laughter 
The never ending giggle
Love without expectation or bullshit or the taint of what has come before. 
Life. Simple. Childlike. Divine. 
And a lesson of who we need to be. 
Who we must be again if we are to truly know-- 
What is real. And what is just another monster under the bed. 

Marianette With Scissors

You think I am your puppet. 
You call. You text. You scream. You cry. 
All for nothing but a reaction. 
You are a comet. 
But instead of burning bright and moving quickly away,
You look for somewhere, or someone to crater. 
The bigger the splash or the bigger the bang the happier you are. 
Content only in emotional destruction. Never in healing or repair. 
None of your bridges can ever be crossed. 
For they are never not on fire. 
I wonder if you even notice the smell of the smoke. 
Or if it has ever occurred to you 
That the last thing people on islands should ever do 
Is destroy each and every way across the water. 
But I know the answer. I know why you howl without saying a word. 
I know what the night brings.
I feel it too. 
But I will not pass along to your outstretched hand a match or a torch. 
I will not give you justification or permission. 
I have looked above me to see those strings you mistake for love
I know what they really are. 
I will walk away now. 
To distant stand in the glow of the memories and the fire and the pain. 
I will watch as maybe you finally see what is left behind
And wonder what you will do with the strings that are now only
Your own. 

Paul Lynde's Lover

In 1965, Lynde was involved in an accident in which a young actor fell to his death from the window of their hotel room in San Francisco's Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The two had been drinking for hours before 24-year-old James "Bing" Davidson slipped and fell eight stories. (Wikipedia) 

I will never forget that sound. 
I didn't think the latch would ever snap like that. 
I can't even remember what happened next. 
Not unless I pause long enough to be close to this place they call sober. 
It's a trade off. 
I can drown the end part. 
I can wash away everything from
that terrible metal snap all the way to the sound of the siren. 
Carrying you away. 
Carrying away the dreams we shared. The silly visions of a future that I thought was impossible one day before we met. 
And knew was impossible one day after. 
It was only three hours. 
But god were they glorious. 
You made me believe. 
You laughed at my jokes but not how everyone else does. 
Hell, its my job to make them laugh. 
And pray that somewhere in between they never see what is really there. Or who. 
In between the drinks the laughter and that passion you looked behind the bullshit lies of my smile.  
The lies I had to tell to make it out of Mount Vernon. 
The lies behind every... single... goddamn joke. 
Jokes to make it easier for others to take me. 
Even the evil clown can make people laugh. For a moment. Till they realize. 
You saw behind around and through.
To the part that was real. That was me. 
And you were not afraid. 
And I loved you for it. 
And then that window. 
That awful window. 
My past. My future. 
Eight floors. 
I know I may sound selfish now. Looking back. 
I know you had dreams too. You shared some of them. 
But you let that night be about me. Your arm on my shoulder. That look in your eye. 
That amazing to the point of agonizing kiss. 
But then...it turned into one more act. One More Play. One More Role. 
I had to lie. To the cops. To the reporters. To myself. 
To you. 
I didn't make the funeral. 
You know why. 
But that doesn't make right does it?
I had to close the book and move on. 
I had to laugh it off. 
But I didn't.  I have never been able to. 
I can still smell you. 
I can still look down and see your hand in mine. 
As we talked about Hitchcock. And argued about music. And made a universe and a lifetime out of one dingy san francisco hotel room.  
Even tonight. Sitting in this lonely house. 17 years to the day later. 
The bottom of my glass empties to reveal your ghost. 
No matter how many times I fill it- I can not wash away that image. 
Or these memories. 
And the ghost of my future lost. 
Three little hours.  
The one time of my life that wasn't a joke. 
Damn I wish it was. 
I know how to tell those. 

(c) Christopher Blake Carver 

A word or two on Rescue/Engines

On paper it makes great sense, I suppose.  Why have a dedicated rescue when you can put that equipment on an Engine and get it to the scene in more-efficient manner and without the extra staffing required for an additional piece of apparatus? 

However, what do you accomplish when you put the extrication equipment on an Engine but then have to send another Engine Company on the assignment to make up enough staffing to do the Engine and Rescue work?  If you are a department that has widely dispersed apparatus you may actually be in worse shape than with some of your other options.  It might make more sense to maintain the dedicated Rescue apparatus and cross-staff it to a Ladder Company or put the rescue equipment on the Ladder Company.  Or, make sure your Rescue/Engine has a crew of at least (4) people so you don't have to assign an additional Engine unless the situation warrants it. 

On a related note, Rescue/Engines responding to fires are a great indicator of the awareness of an agency.  If you really must assign a Rescue/Engine to a fire as a Rescue, then if it arrives before the "real" Engines on the assignment, shouldn't that apparatus work as an Engine?  This may violate some widely held beliefs, but the presence of a Rescue (especially if it's a Rescue/Engine) is not essential to the extinguishment of a structural fire.  The work that a Rescue Company does at a Fire can be performed by other apparatus (and most likely will be, especially if the Rescue has a lengthy response time).  If they are close enough to be helpful then by all means send them, but we probably need to be honest about what needs done on the scene of a fire and what company is likely to do it. Engine work, truck-work, a medic or two, water supply, and command are  the bread and butter roles- those should be the priority, all else falls under "nice-to-have" 

It all comes back to resource management and making sure we make the best possible decisions about how we use what we have.  Getting caught up on the apparatus designations or reducing our resources in the process of trying to preserve them don't actually do the best good for the public or responders. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wake Up and Smell the Reality

Congratulations to the Columbus Dispatch on their editorial highlighting the increased overtime costs that continue to plague the Division of Fire Budget, despite recent changes to the EMS delivery model.  This was as expected as it is frustrating, especially for those who learn early in life that you can only get so much blood from a turnip or hours in a week from a paramedic. 

On paper it would seem to make sense. Reduce the number of required paramedics per shift-- and viola!-- reduced costs.  But it really is not that simple to realize cost reductions OR improved quality of care as long as several important realities remain unaddressed, even though they long ago crawled out from behind the curtain with the enthusiasm of an understudy dancer on the one night she has to make a really good impression. 

To review, those realities are this: 

1) The City of Columbus is now a City.  In every way.  What worked before for 35,000 EMS runs a year, or even 80,000 will not work for a system that is approaching 200,000 runs per year. Resource Management is essential for organizational success.  Sending fire apparatus on every ALS EMS run "just because"-- is a waste of that apparatus and contributes both to increased response times and increased reliance on mutual-aid partners. Here is an example to explain that concept.  For EMS runs near Rickenbacker, the nearest Engine is sent (which is BLS), the nearest Medic (normally Medic-172 with a crew of three) and an additional engine (normally 181) because the policy says an ALS engine should respond.  But is it really needed if you already have two or three medics on the responding ambulance AND a first-responder Engine?  Why waste that additional resource? 

2) When the majority of EMS runs you respond to are BLS or at a minimum could be handled with one paramedic, at most only one paramedic should respond.  EMS is not free.  You may accuse me of being a bean counter, but we must be smarter about how we spend the limited-sized pie of money that is public safety dollars.  Unjustified spending in one area (too many ALS vehicles) means we do not have the $$ to hire extra personnel or build the new stations that are the single most important factor in improving response times. Or, to put it bluntly, a fire engine with an EMT and a defibrillator that arrives to you in five minutes is WAY more effective at saving your life in a critical emergency than a $250,000 paramedic truck that arrives in 12 minutes.  

Just one potential strategy: Reducing the number of CFD medics to around 400, translating to around 70 medics on the street each day, would save CFD enough money to fund forty new positions!  That's enough to staff two new firehouses! 

3) Perhaps most shocking of all, as I have previously shared, is that this is not a new problem.  In the late 1800s and in the 1950s, CFD Fire Chiefs cried out for additional resources to meet the demands of a growing city.  In both cases, they did not have mutual aid to help in the outer areas of the city.  Today, calls for service continue to increase in both the City and the Suburbs.  Creating an over-reliance on Mutual-Aid partners creates the assumption that those resources will be available for Columbus runs when they are needed and the reality that Columbus taxpayers are not getting what they pay for. 

4) The Firefighters Union, Local-67 and the Leadership of Columbus Fire and the Division of Public Safety must come together to solve this problem.  Today.  It means that the Union may have to give up paramedic positions and some other job rules in the name of saving money so that the city can build stations and hire more personnel.  The City must understand that this expenditure its required. Eight new additional firehouses will need to be built in the next ten years, and a number remodeled and relocated. Both sides must get creative and find new ways to pay for this. For example, large developments must be required to contribute to the public safety resources they will require, whether by donating land for a firehouse or paying for apparatus.  Either way, a Fire/EMS Impact fee MUST be strongly considered by the Columbus City Council and the CFD must come up with standard firehouse designs that can be constructed with a minimum of local variance to help save time and costs.  

5) The city needs to improve its personnel management and distribution process.  This will require work, but with adjustments to work rules and some common sense, the amount of available staffing can be increased with no overall increase in firefighter headcount.  One example: the 50 Firefighters assigned to Dispatching Duties should be utilized for the jobs which they were hired for.  They can and should be replaced by trained, professional, dedicated dispatchers. (This action alone would not only provide more staffing, but improve resource management and effectiveness-- since every successful 9-1-1 response begins with a successful call answering and dispatch process.)  In today's  busy environment, Columbus needs a  fire/ems dispatch operation that is dedicated to meeting that challenge. 

6) Columbus must move away from an entirely AVL based dispatching solution.  This means that instead of recommending the closest unit, without regard to ownership, preference must be given in most cases to the "most appropriate" unit. Generally from the agency that is responsible for the area in which the incident occurs.  This can be far more nuanced and complex than is currently the case.  This step alone would go a long way towards reducing the burdens on Columbus's mutual-aid partners.  

7) Many of the busier outlying medic units should be given a 2nd Paramedic to ensure (3) person staffing.  (Medics 5, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33).  The dispatching program used by Columbus can recognize these heavily staffed medics and send them alone on critical calls, thereby saving the associated Engine Company for the NEXT EMS run in that area.  This will help response times in outlying areas.  

8) CFD needs good data on where and when their busy periods are.  Additional 24 hour medic units at fixed locations may not be the best solution.  Additional medic units should be placed in service where and when they will do the most good.  The deployment software that Columbus already has can assist with that effort and help lower response times.  CFD leadership just needs to use it more effectively! 

9) The same software can help  Columbus's with move-ups.  These remain an issue and something CFD no longer does effectively. No doing move-ups effectively means much longer response times in areas where major incidents are underway.  Simply redeploying resources from where there are many to where there are few will improve outcomes IF it is done in a coordinated, consistent, and productive manner.  

10) Finally, the CFD needs to fully grasp the challenges that they face, admit they have a problem, and get people behind a solution that works for everyone.  Time and again, the citizens of Columbus have demonstrated they are willing to pay for good public safety.  Division and Union Leadership. along with the City Administration must come together and create that workable solution. One that does not burn out CFD's firefighter/paramedics, the mutual aid partners or the budget.  This issue is not going away on it's own. The growth in Columbus is expected to continue, which translates to ever more calls for service and a Division of Fire that will be stretched ever more thin.  

Im summary, the problem is solvable.  It will take give and take, cooperation, and collaboration to overcome.  But the  safety of the citizen's of Columbus demands it. Let's make it happen. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Just a thought on Ladders & EMS Runs

Okay, listen, I confess.  As a fan of ladder company apparatus, nothing makes me happier than seeing a beautiful red tiller or Aerialscope screaming its way down the street.  Effective truck work is, in fact, one of the key indicators of a fire department that has it's s*&t together, so hey, bring on the ladder companies.  

However, there seems to be an increasing trend of these apparatus being utilized for non-critical EMS runs as first responder vehicles.  As much as I love it when Ladder Companies get twenty runs in a day, this is just not an effective use of the apparatus or the personnel who are riding it.  In fact, the only thing that makes less sense than sending two paramedics in a $300,000 ambulance to a BLS emergency lights and sirens through the streets is sending a $1,100,000 ladder truck with them. 

First, if its a BLS run and you can get someone there in ten minutes or less-- you are winning!  Save the very expensive ladder company for the more serious run in that same area or if the ambulance arrives and needs some type of help.  Then you will likely be able to send them non-emergency-- a much more effective and safe proposition. (We must get smarter about time in the fire service-- not every event needs to be responded to in the exact same way as a five alarm fire with nuns and puppies trapped and a dynamite factory as an exposure) 

Second, if you really want to be progressive, how about this? Assign (5) people to the ladder company and give them a Rapid Response Vehicle to chase EMS runs. The capabilities of this vehicle can be determined by your local conditions. It could double as a brush truck, light rescue, parking garage response vehicle, or your citywide EMS chase vehicle.  This may be an option in communities where the Ladder operates as a Quint and there is no engine in the same house.  If you have a fire run and the second piece is in, all five personnel go with the Ladder.  If it is not available, then the three personnel in the station can respond with the Ladder Company. And yes I know, three people is not ideal on a Ladder Company. However, three is better than zero or a town that has to buy a $1,000,000 piece of equipment every 7-8 years instead of every 15-20 because its wheels are getting run off chasing EMS calls so it can't afford new turnout gear or staffing or a replacement firehouse. 

There are other options as well, such as the dreaded "cross staffing". Leaving the ladder behind while the crew responds in an alternate apparatus.  This is probably not ideal, especially if that Ladder happens to be the only one in a department or in an area.  The risk of what happens when the crew is miles away from the apparatus they really need is a little too great for my taste.  

To sum up, we need to be effective stewards of our personnel, our resources, and our communities.  Some things we do make a lot of sense.  As EMS runs continue to climb, however, we need to think about ways to meet the demands of the public and maintain our capabilities to respond to all emergencies and fires in a reasonable manner. We have to learn to think in new ways about how we prioritize EMS runs and admit that sometimes the difference between a five minute response and seven minute response isn't all that important.  Doing so will only help us be more effective when the seconds really do count!



Monday, April 24, 2017

Colder than Ice

The Beginning 

It is one of my best heart pulling stories. 
Does any subject perk an ear like an unrequited first love? 
You make the perfect villain. 
Even today the details sometime elicit an audible gasp. 
A story told in excruciating detail with all the crescendo of Bach, but not much of the grace. 
Eighteen years have not lessened the effect of the tale on me either. 
It is just as striking to new ears as when it eroded a canyon across my heart. 
I don't exaggerate...much. 
I tell it the way it went down, from the perspective of my living memory. 
It is not hard to navigate something when you are so close to its surface. 
When time has only made the canyons more distinct-- and more permanent. 
At least scars have to have healed in some way-- right? 
There were a few times that were amazing. 
There were a few times that almost were. 
There was that night that you and your new boyfriend kept me awake in the other room. 
Me drunk and not passed out enough on the couch to avoid the repeated sounds of my dream being lived and loved by someone else. 

The Middle 

This story has become my own Jefferson Memorial and Grand Canyon rolled into one. 
A scar and and an idea and a man. 
Larger than life.  
Longer than it ever needed to be. 
A testament to a dream. 
And something to be gawked at my tourists and visitors-- hearing the tale-- taking their photos
but eventually walking away to a new experience, new thought, new dream. 

The End 

I went back there the other night. 
I have been a few times. 
We even had an award lunch a few years ago. 
An odd scene for reasons I did not understand then, 
did not understand until last night. 
My greatest story passed 18 inches in front of me. 
Just like it was. 
A smiling face on the other side of that same damn bar. 
You even look the same. 
Maybe I do. 
Except that I am thinner. 
I know that I am older too. 
Wiser? Stronger? More Aware? 
Maybe.  Maybe Not. 
My greatest story-- 18 inches away
And not even a look, or a glance, or a hug or a how-ya-been. 
Whatever was is now not even strong enough to draw attention away from the ice bucket. 
It was then I realized, I was standing in a memorial. 
In a monument to a an idea.  To a dream. 
A cold stone edifice to something that was real, only for a moment. 
No more alive now than the ice that crashed into the slop sink. 

The Beginning 

It made me wonder, what do you call the person who never leaves the memory? 
Who lives among the cold granite. 
And tells others about it with the pride reserved for some great accomplishment
or success. 
He who lives clinging to the branches of the dead tree-- longing for the blooms of a spring that only ever lived in imagination. 
He who so desperately wants to have something to say. 
A story to tell. 
a sympathetic ear. 
On a deep midwest winter night, 
when the stars shown like diamonds.
In a place I have been so many times before
I came to know I am not the hero of my own story.  Yet. 
I am just one more victim, one more canyon, one more monument. 
A stop on the open air bus for the tourists to photograph
and then move on. 

I think it is time to tell a new story. 



(C) Christopher Blake Carver-- 2017