Friday, January 16, 2009

The Rookie Turnout Throwdown

Also known as “Mel’s Big Humiliating Day”.

We had an OSHA refresher class at my department today. We had great attendance and two other departments were also invited.The morning started out innocently enough; we covered our SOP’s and the newly mandated Rehab Standard, then moved on to Blood borne pathogens, and finished up the chalk and talk portion with an overview of PPE and SCBA’s.

The OFPC officer then announced that we would be heading out to the apparatus bay to practice donning and doffing our turnouts and to get a little more hands-on with the SCBA’s.Someone in my department then piped up from the back of the crowd…”Hey, let’s have a little contest with donning the turnouts” (mental note to self---find that guy…and kill him) …and I started to sweat. I can get everything on in the proper order, that’s not an issue. However, SPEED is still a major sticking point for me.

We all pull all of our gear out and place it on the ground in front of us. Then I see the Asst. Chief from my department and the Chief from one of the visiting departments in some sort of confab with the OFPC officer and all three are grinning and looking at me and two fellow newbies. “This can only end badly” I thought to myself.

The visiting Chief then spoke the dreaded words…..“Folks, we’ve decided to shake things up a little bit. Since our hosts have three new recruits, and our department has three new recruits, we’re going to have a Rookie vs. Rookie Turnout Contest. We’ll be timing them for proper attire, individual best time, and overall team time”.

They cleared the floor like it was some sort of twisted American Bandstand spotlight dance contest, and lined us up facing each other. The firefighter I was facing looked like he was 15…..and he grinned at me as if to say….”Sayonara Sister, I’m going to bury you”. I began chanting (in my head, I was already going to look like an idiot, no need to look like I was Looney-tunes on top of it) “boots, pants, suspenders, hood, coat, helmet, gloves….no problem….boots, pants, suspenders, hood, coat, helmet, gloves….I’m screwed….boots, pants……”.

A hush fell over the assembled crowd….the OFPC officer stood in the middle between the two lines, and started a 10 second countdown to begin.Boots, no problem……Pants (and snaps), no problem……..suspenders up and hood on….I’m cooking now and still on par with my teenaged nemesis across the way……..coat…..damn it… hands are shaking and I’m having trouble with the snaps…….I start sweating profusely……..AARGHHH…..I lined up the snaps wrong………damn it……..The Junior Mint is almost done…….then I start hearing “done!”….”done!”…….crap…….ok, got the snaps straightened out….now I have to hook the clips……..please God, I’ll be a nicer person if you just get me out of this without making a complete ass out of myself…….FINALLY, the clips are hooked, helmet on, dragging on the gloves as my team yells “done” almost as one, but I’m pretty sure I was dead last.

The Rookie Throwdown turned out to be a Rookie SMACKdown. At least I had my gear on right.If there’s one thing that’s more certain than death and taxes, it’s that I’m going to be marching myself down to my department to practice those damned snaps until I can do it in my sleep and in nano-seconds. In the dark. Blindfolded. With gloves on.

I did pick up one small tip…..grab that hood and jam it on while you’re down there grabbing your pants and suspenders.I suppose in fairness, and in a feeble attempt to save face, that I mention that our visiting department’s turnout coats feature zippers and Velcro, not a row of snaps and a row of clips. My theory is that if I can shave my time down with snaps and clips, when it comes time to add the SCBA, I should do significantly better time-wise. Right? Right?????

Until next time…stay safe.

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