Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hidden Button

The young couple lived in the house a week, a month, perhaps a year or more before making the mysterious discovery.  Inside the closet door in the master bedroom, carefully concealed, was a white circular button in a black vertical frame.  It was inside the right door where a knowing hand could reach around the casing and push it without looking.   

“Maybe it opens a hidden door to a secret room,” the woman said.  The man rolled his eyes.   

“Better would be a secret compartment filled with cash,” the man said. (Dream on, kids) 

“I’ve read about those secret safe rooms.  Wouldn’t that be cool?”  The woman watched a lot of television.   

“Maybe it sounded a buzzer in the kitchen for the wife to bring the husband a beer,” the man grinned.   

“You can dream on,” his wife said.  

The real function was far more mundane but no less crazy.  I told Dad I could hear this dialogue in my mind; the future owners of his house having this conversation in the years to come when they discovered his button.  To them, the button would likely remain a mystery forever, discussed on occasion when a new theory for the whodunit arose.  

The button, an old fashioned door bell was connected to the garage door opener for Dad’s car.  Not willing to wait the five seconds, maybe, for the door to go up once he reached the garage when responding to a fire, he installed it when the house was built.   When the Plectron went off (remember those?) he would reach into the closet as he finished dressing, hand knowing the way, and push the button.  By the time he reached the garage, the door was fully open.  Speed and efficiency out of the house didn’t happen by accident.   

“Maybe it was a panic or emergency alarm, like the buttons in a bank,” the woman would say, the mystery continuing.  

“I still like the beer idea,” the man would offer. 
 
“I told you, dream on.” 
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again, Ryman's Rules: A Volunteer Chief's Philosophy

With "election" season upon us for many volunteer departments, and new officers and chiefs being selected in many areas, I thought a revisit to this timely topic might be fun. 

There are rules, and then there are rules. Here are some I've tried, not always successfully, to follow.

Ryman’s Rules: A Volunteer Chief’s Philosophy

1. You are responsible. You are responsible 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If you are there or 3,000 miles away. You are responsible. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

2. The chief is always right. Invite input, debate, etc. from the officers. However, once the decision is made, that’s it. In public, the officers must show solidarity.

3. The officers are always right. If an officer makes a decision you disagree with, in public or with the other firefighters, that decision was right. You talk about what you would have done differently in private.

4. Delegate, delegate, and delegate. You can’t be involved in every activity, nor should you be. Give the junior officers responsibilities and hold them accountable. If they follow through, give them more and more. If they don’t, let them know about it and don’t give them any additional work.

5. Try to develop a command presence. Your presence at an emergency should send a message to the firefighters that everything is going to be okay. Regardless of how badly something is going, try to maintain a calm exterior. Motivate your people. This is done differently for each individual. If you give an order or tell them to get into a building, they should totally believe that you believe they can do it. Never tell a firefighter to do something you wouldn’t or couldn’t do yourself. Chiefs give orders on incomplete information regularly. Even if you have doubts about it, give the order as if you are 100% confident about it. Your confidence is a force multiplier.

6. Let them have fun. Nobody is getting paid for this. The younger guys have to enjoy themselves. At the same time, know when to pull in the reins, and when you do, jerk them hard. They still have to be professionals. You can’t be their buddy anymore. You are the man, and they have to recognize it as such.

7. Pace of change. Keep them sullen but not mutinous. The pace of change has to be fast enough that the young guys see progress, but not so fast that the dinosaurs get riled up. As long as both groups are slightly unhappy, you’re doing fine.

8. Don’t be afraid to piss somebody off. If you’re not pissing somebody off once in a while, you’re not doing your job.

9. Encourage training certifications. Push the guys to get their Firefighter 1 and other certificates. The time is fast coming when what you are able to do, and what positions you can hold in a fire department virtually anywhere will be determined by these certificates. At the same time, work to keep things in perspective. Firefighter 1 or 2 does not equal “super firefighter”.

10. Develop junior officers. The greatest legacy a chief can have is by the officers he leaves behind.

Friday, November 21, 2014

December 6th Book Signing B&B Family Restaurant


















Can't wait for some great food, great friends, and a wonderful atmosphere.  If you're in the area, stop by.  Great convenient location right off Interstate 81 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Upcoming Event

I'll be signing copies of my new novel Mayday! Firefighter Down as well as Fire Men:  Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family on Saturday November 15th at Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, 32 Cabernet Lane, Scott Township, PA 18447 from 2-8PM.  Hoping to see lots of old friends and make some new ones.  Come on down.

Maiolatesi Wine Cellars

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Recent Event

Some great shots from the book signing at the Tavern at Fire Station 1 on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, MD with Chief Dennis Rubin. 
With Chief Rubin and Tami Bulla, President, Burtonsville Fire Department, Station 15, Montgomery County, MD


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joint Book Signing Event Next Weekend

I'll be signing copies of my new novel Mayday! Firefighter Down as well as  Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family with Chief Dennis Rubin, formerly of DCFD, at The Tavern at Fire Station 1 on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Hoping for a great turn out.

Friday, October 10, 2014

From the Archives....In Honor of Chief Russ Gow

This weekend, an old friend will be among those honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.  It is a good time to resurrect this piece from the week he died......RIP Russell

An old friend passed away this week, doing what he loved most, running a pump.  While I never understood why, the story of how we met originally was one of his favorites, one which I heard him tell innumerable people.  So, here it is again….from the archives.  

Far from every funny or tragic incident from fifty years of three generations can make it into a single volume, the amount of material between the covers limited by practical considerations. This means that many interesting stories—told in fire houses for years—could not be included. 

One which has been repeated hundreds of times involves the first time I met my friend Russell. We were both assistant chiefs—he located two departments to the west. One day, a car wreck in Fleetville brought the rescues from both departments as well as the two of us. Crews from both departments went to work removing the roof and popping doors; the usual tasks, but the kid driving was still pinned. The crushing impact had brought parts of the dash and fire wall down onto his feet and lower legs.

Looking at it, Russell determined we could get a tool in next to his legs, but it would take four hands to properly position the tip and move the boy’s feet once the operator began to spread the jaws of the heavy equipment. Space in which to accomplish all this was at a premium. There appeared to be access for only one person, which left us one set of hands short, but never lacking ideas Russ proposed a solution to me, someone he had never met. 

Russ, the larger of the two of us, laid down, his head toward the spot where the tip of the jaws had to be placed. I lay on top of him, oriented in the same direction, and held the victim’s legs, prepared to move them as soon as they were free. With Russell guiding the spreader tips, they slowly opened and I could move the boy’s feet, allowing additional firefighters above us to slide him onto a back board and remove from the car. 

Being on top, I crawled out first, followed by my partner from below. He stuck his gloved hand out.

“Russ,” he said as I shook it.

“Gary,” I responded. We’ve been friends ever since.
 
I’ll miss him.