Pensions? We Don't Need No Stinking Pensions

Instapundit links to a post at MISH'S Global Economic Trend Analysis which points to a recent poll as evidence that fire and police unions have done an incredible job at selling a story of low-pay woe.
An interesting Poll by the Florida League of Cities on Police and Fire Benefits shows the public is way out of touch with how generous police and fire benefits are. When asked if benefits were too high, most thought no. When given actual benefit levels most thought the opposite.
...
These results show just how effective police and fire unions have been on fearmongering campaigns as well as bitching about how little they get paid and getting the public to believe it.

Now, I can't speak for the fire and police unions in every town. And, knowing what I know about unions, I'm sure that there is a valid point. However, I'd like people to remember one important piece of information left out of the poll and the story:

Paid fire fighters account for only 25% to 30% of the fire fighters in the United States.

I'll say that again - around 75% of the fire fighters in the United States are volunteers. They get paid nothing in most cases and, in a few, they get paid a small amount for every call they answer.

I'm one of the volunteer fire fighters and I get paid nothing for answering emergency calls. I'm not complaining - I didn't sign up for any sort of compensation. My day job as a computer programmer pays the bills. I signed up for two reason: the main reason was so that I could help my community and the second reason is that hey - I get to run into burning buildings!

The reason I'm mentioning this is that, unlike large cities with their paid departments, a lot of volunteer departments get all or most of their funding from donations from the community. And, in recent times, those donations are decreasing every year. A new fire engine can cost between $300,000 and $800,000. A new ladder truck can cost between $600,000 and $1,000,000. A set of gear for a fire fighter (pants, boots, coat, helmet) will cost around $3,000 and the air tank, harness, and mask we wear into fires can cost more than $5,000.

And, not only are donations always decreasing, so are the number of people volunteering. It used to be easy to get 15 to 20 fire fighters answering an emergency call. Now we're lucky if we get 7 to 10.

So, next time you hear about how the fire fighter union is clamoring for a pay raise or a pension deal or for some other benefit, you might want to find out if your local fire department is full of paid fire fighters or volunteers. And if it's the latter, maybe think about dropping a few bucks in the envelope when they send out their annual donation request. And if you really want to help, think about joining the local department - they'll pay for the training and the gear, all you have to do is commit some time.

Public Service Announcement

It's that time of year again folks - most of us in the US will be setting our clocks back an hour tonight. In addition to giving you an extra hour to drink or an extra hour to sleep in, this is also the perfect time to do something that could save your life.

Change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors!

You do have these, right? If not - go out and pick a few up. Basic detectors are fairly inexpensive - get a smoke detector for each floor of your house and follow the directions on how/where to mount them. Also, a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector is critical too. Mount them correctly, test them periodically (once a month is usually good) and change the batteries twice a year.

Make sure alarms are placed either on the ceiling or 6-12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke alarms away from air vents or registers; high air flow or dead air spaces are to be avoided. Dead air spaces are often at the top of a peaked roof, or in corners between ceilings and walls.
Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

As a fire fighter, I've seen how often a working smoke or CO detector has saved someone's life. I've also seen how lucky a lot of people have been after they'd managed to barely escape a fire or gas condition because their detectors didn't have batteries. Unfortunately, I've also seen a bit of what happens when those people are not lucky and it's truly sad when you realize that their deaths often could have been avoided if they'd had a detector to alert them earlier.

So - if you don't have a detector, get one! If you do, replace the batteries. Also, remember to replace the detector itself every 5 - 10 years (check the directions for specifics)

Help ensure that, if I have respond to your house, all I have to worry about is saving your property, not extricating your corpse.

ZerCool, at Plumbum et Circenses, expands on this as well - go read for some additional ideas.

Premature Charging

Via Grumpy Dispatcher at Three Mouse Clicks from Disaster:



I've seen this happen on several occasions. As a truckie, we very rarely hit a hydrant and I've been fortunate to never witness this on our own rig. But a neighboring department actually bent several of the hose bed dividers after doing this too many times. And, as a truckie, we certainly don't let them live it down!

Jim Petruzzi, Miracle Captain

After suffering a stroke in May, Captain Jim Petruzzi is back on duty at 8 Engine/Truck. I had a class on Fire Fighter Survival with Captain Petruzzi just before this happened. He's a great guy and a fantastic teacher. Glad to see him fighting on!

Pittsburgh Fire Captain James Petruzzi (second from right) jokes with Engine 8 crew members (from left) Lt. Jim Ellis, and firefighters Dan Barr, Keith Ott and Dan Doyle as they prepare lunch at the firehouse in East Liberty. Petruzzi suffered a stroke in May, but because of the quick work of his crew, he was able to receive treatment immediately. Petruzzi returned to work last week. Petruzzi was put in a medicated coma and spent the next several months learning to walk, talk and feed himself.

Image Credit: Joe Appel | Tribune-Review
Source: Firefighter who suffered stroke in May surprises all but himself with recovery, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Fire in the hole!

Got paged out at 2:45 - mutual aid for an apartment fire in Bellevue. Ladder truck is out the door right when I get to the station so Mark and I grab the air truck and roll. We're second or third alarm but they're still reporting residents trapped on third and fourth floors so we figure we'll be busy.

On scene - no one at any windows. Two guys go to the third floor and I grab a guy from another department and hit the basement. Main fire is under control by this time and the engine crews are mopping up hotspots. We search the basement (gotta love forcible entry!) and it's clear so we head back out.

Outside we hear that one of the guys that was rescued from the building didn't make it. All you can do is shake your head - 22 years old is too young to die that way.

Back to work - smoke still coming from the upper floor so we grab the K-12 and hit the roof and start cutting. Three rubber roofs later, we finally hit the real roof. Donny and I open it up the rest of the way with axes and knock out the drywall ceiling. We wait while smoke vents and make sure that we're not going to need to cut another area and then head back down.

Fill some air bottles for the other departments and then it's back on the truck and clear the scene. Not bad for two and half hours! Of course, getting home at 5:30 means it's pointless going back to sleep - so off to work I go. At least I'll try to roll out of work early.