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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.

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 a stage 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. 

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.  The all ALS, all the time way of thinking must go away if CFD is to move forward. 

Let's give an example.  Reducing the number of CFD medics to around 400, translating to around 50 medics on the street each day, would save CFD enough $$ 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 meet the demands in the outer areas of the city.  But today, the need is even more critical that it was before.  Calls for service continue to increase in both the City and the Suburbs.  Placing an over-reliance on Mutual Partners also creates the assumption that those resources will be available for Columbus runs when they are needed.  Often-- they are not. 

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 $$ so that the city can build stations and hire more personnel.  The City must understand that this expenditure its required-- that eight new additional firehouses will need to be built in the next ten years, and a number remodeled and relocated and that this is an important investment to ensure positive growth.  Both sides must get creative-- large developments must be required to fund the public safety resources they will require-- whether by donating land for a firehouse or paying towards salaries. 

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.  And yes, the 50 Firefighters on Fairwood Avenue 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 dispatch operation that is trained and empowered to meet that challenge.  This is NOT a knock on the firefighters who work in the FAO-- they are as good as they can be-- but in a fire department that would never tolerate part-time firefighter paramedics, part-time dispatchers should not be tolerated either. 

Im summary, the problem is solvable.  It will take give, take, cooperation, and collaboration.  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 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cold Black Mornings

It occurs to me on cold black mornings
that every connection has started with the same fuel. 
A combustion of desperation, fear, alcohol, and determination. 
Those few ingredients can drive a heart only so far, 
before the entire proposition clutters to a stop. 
Not with the graceful arrival of a bird or the soft settling of a fall brown leaf. 
More like the crashing of an idea that just never had enough to make it work. 
Never enough passion. 
Never enough dedication. 
Never enough honesty. 
Love can make magical things happen, 
it can defy the rules of physics--time--logic-- of sanity. 
It can drive the power of the possible forth from a burning home where somehow-- 
they survived. 
It can bring out the happy ending with the slamming doors and teary nights said all else was lost. 
It can push a person to greatness even when their doubts and fears make the sky so black
they can't even see their insides. 
I know I have said the word. 
I know I have heard the word. 
But sometimes I have to wonder, 
have I lived the word? 

(c) Christopher Blake Carver-- 2017 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Strolling By The Danube

How often do we permit the comment, the glance, the attitude or the fear
to distract us from the real 
the important 
the beautiful. 
Someone fights for freedom and dies 
We argue about fashion. 
A love is born and grows and fades
and we bicker about money. 
The glorious wonder of an ancient city invites us in
and our mind turns away to some distant slight. 
We meet the one 
and we focus on the doubt
or some unworthy opinion 
or some unimportant mind. 
God grant me the serenity, 
to walk along the river and be in awe 
to look into his eyes and be in awe 
to feel the beat of my own heart and be in awe 
to look upon your world and know it is good. 
No matter what they might say. 

(c) Christopher Blake Carver 2017 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dispatching IS a Profession...So What?

Those that find themselves under a headset forty hours a week (or more) know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dispatching is a profession.  It is not like any other job title that anyone could ever hold.  Not even our sister and brother public safety professionals who serve as Police Officers, Firefighters, or Paramedics know truly the nature, complexities and demands of our role.  I have heard it from more than a few that anyone who in those job titles  can just sit down and follow what the computer says and be a dispatcher. One such believer was a smart and shrewd soul, but he couldn't look me in the eye when he said them.  I am certain he knew better-- for all badges may be equal, but they are not the same.  

And that leads me to my question.  For those of you who know better because you have been in the seat.  For those who have handled the crazy normal days and the crazy crazy days: what are YOU doing to share the nature of our profession with others?  How do you advocate for what we do and who we are?  Don't you dare say its not your job.  Don't you dare say it's not your responsibility.  

If we want to be recognized and understood as a profession it is not going to happen because we tweet, although that may help.  It will not happen because we share Facebook memes. It will not happen because of joint meeting of Police and Fire Chiefs and Town Council people decide to bestow upon us our rightful status. 

It will happen because we demand to participate in table top exercises.  It will happen because we make a compelling argument for why we need more people. It will happen because we educate those we serve about why its not just "picking up a phone".  It will happen because we make a concerted effort to be the best dispatch professional we can possibly be.  There are literally thousands of ways to get involved: Pick one.  And do it.  

Respect is earned, even from ourselves.  As the time comes for New Year's Resolutions and current year reviews, let us resolve to make this year the one where people outside our comm centers and PSAPs begin to understand what we have always known: That we are Professionals. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Columbus Fire: Moving to the Future

Kudos to the Columbus Division of Fire for taking steps to address their EMS service challenges. Given the many factors at play, this is probably the best approach they could have selected. However, by no means should this be the last step.  As I detailed in a recent post, CFD remains woefully behind schedule in the construction of new Fire Stations.  So much so, that their over reliance on automatic aid partners will only grow unless dramatic steps are taken in the immediately future.  This has the potential to move the problem of overworked paramedics from the City (who collects the tax dollars)  to the Townships and Surrounding Cities (but who do not collect taxes to provide these services). 

To remedy this situation several steps should be explored in the near future: 

1) Building temporary, medic only, fire stations in outlying areas, or quartering CFD medic units in the closest township/suburban fire stations to service areas that CFD is unable to effectively handle at this time. 

2) Deployment models should be adjusted to not simply assign a mutual aid medic to City runs in every case.  A more dynamic and resilient deployment model, which accommodates nearest transport units for high priority medical cases but utilizes CFD medics for BLS runs, should be deployed.  

3) Peak Time Medic Units should be placed in areas not just based on the volume of calls in the area, but based on overall response times and number of incidents handled by mutual aid, with the reality being that the best areas to cover with extra resources may shift over a 24 hour period.  For example, Polaris may need an additional medic unit during the day time hours, but not at night, when that unit could be better utilized in the West Side or Fairwood Avenue Area.  

4) The program of utilizing ladders for Extrication Runs should be continued and expanded.  

5) The Heavy Rescue Units should, for now, be maintained, and should be the first piece selected to assist Medic Units when they are nearby, instead of Engine Companies.  This preserves the Engines for Fires and additional EMS runs.  

6) CFD should work with the City Administration to develop a comprehensive CFD 2025 plan-- focusing on the goals of response time, reduced reliance on mutual aid, and other performance benchmarks that will guide a major bond issue intended to "catch up" CFD to where it needs to be. 

The first steps have been taken.  The current CFD administration is demonstrating its understanding that the Status Quo must change.  That should be applauded, but the work must continue.