I’m behind.  Blogging is a difficult thing do between work and the fire academy.   At this point, the days are becoming a bit of a blur and with the changes to our schedule, it’s hard to keep track of where I’ve been.  In an effort to catch up I’m going to consolidate a couple of days into this one post (and I’ll be brief).

Day 3 –  Union City Fire Department Captain, Ricky Hurtado ran this evenings class and packed our heads full of information on the topic of fire behavior.  I can’t begin to transcribe all the notes I took that night, but I can comment that Capt. Hurtado was an excellent instructor and knows how to lecture so that you don’t fall asleep.  He’s interesting, full of knowledge, but grounded and effective in connecting with his students.  I look forward to seeing more of him in the academy.

Day 4 –  Here was a biggie.  Day 4 was a Saturday and retired Chief Joe Robinson was with us for 10 hours (not counting breaks and an hour lunch) of fire prevention and investigation education.  Whooooo, it was a long day at information station!  The most amazing thing about it is how Chief Robinson can pull it off.  Anybody who can effectively lecture on a single topic for such a substantial amount of time is a dedicated man in my book.

As an instructor Joe Robinson (who I’ve discussed in other parts of this blog) is a downright wealth of information packed into a single human being.  He gave us such a massive information dump, there would be no way to retain it all, had it not been for his extremely organized and to the point Powerpoint presentations.  Chief is also a very courteous and laid back guy with a subtle sense of humor.  It seemed obvious to me that he enjoys teaching and appears to be doing a good job of keeping busy while loving retirement.

Day 5 –   Another of my previous fire instructors, San Jose FD Captain, Don Torres, ran Tuesday’s lecture covering ICS (Incident Command System) in a through and to the point manner.  He had to as there was a ton of information to cover in only 4 hours.  Taking notes was a challenge, but my approach was write down key words and points and review them later.  Most of all I wanted to make sure I was hearing what Mr. Torres was saying.

If you happen to be a student at Los Medanos College, I highly recommend taking ‘Building and Construction for Fire Protection’ with Captain Torres.  He’s a fun teacher who appears to me to be at the top of his game.  He also let us know that we could earn our ICS-100 certification through FEMA online.   FEMA offers a study at home course and certification for this and other progams.  If you haven’t done it, you might want to spend some time on that.

Day 6 –  Communications was the topic and Dave Watson (also known as “The Punisher”) of Walnut Creeks Engine 1, was the instructor.  This was an interesting night because unlike all the previous days, this evening was broken up by groups of us going to the 911 dispatch center in Pleasant Hill.  Dave had Firefighter Nick Grillo assisting him that night.  Grillo (Captain Mike Grillo’s son) accompanied us to the dispatch center while Watson stayed back and lectured/Q&A’ed with the remaining cadets.

At the 911 center, the very friendly (for some reason I expected them to be grouchy) dispatchers explained what all the bells and whistles did, and details about how dispatchers work.  I was amazed to learn that their schedule is just like the firefighters.  They’re currently working 48/96’s which basically means they’re on for 48 hours straight and off for 4 days afterwards.  Some love it, other hate it.  Either way, it’s pretty amazing.  When we were there, there were only 3 dispatchers working (and I assume there was one sleeping somewhere).  Very interesting experience.

Listening to the calls come in, you get a better understanding for why firefighters struggle with the information they’re given by dispatch.  It’s simple – dispatch is essentially relaying the information they’re given from whatever panicked Joe calls in, and often they have to relay that information super fast in order to get to the plethora of other calls that may be flooding their lines.  It’s a tough job and one I hope to become more acquainted with in the future.

Before I conclude Day 6’s wrap-up, I should do my own relay job and tell you what Firefighter Dave Watson told us about his “Punisher” nickname.  The story is a simple one, and not so focused on the nickname itself.  Apparently during the last LMC academy, Watson must have been pretty hard on the group because that night they dubbed him “The Punisher”.  The next morning Dave showed up for work at the fire station and everybody there knew all about his new nickname.  Not even 24 hours had passed and he was getting phone calls from others in the service joking with him about his new tag.

The moral of the story Watson explained goes like this…. “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell-a-firefighter”  The point here being, news travels fast; really fast!  Especially in the small world of the fire service so think before you act or speak.  He joked that firefighters are worse than high school girls when it comes to gossip and if you make a mistake, everybody will know within hours if not minutes.  Fortunately for Watson, being nicknamed “The Punisher” is pretty cool, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.