Sunday, September 30, 2012

FHETS 2012: Atlanta, GA

Recently at work, I was approached about started to assist with our Fire/EMS reporting system, FIREHOUSE software. We have only been using Firehouse since January of 2010 here, so everyone is fairly new to it. When I hired in, we were using AS400, which was an old school green and black screened program. Of course, like any fire department, people don't like change. After a couple years now, I think we finally have everyone used to the new software and familiar with how to put reports in.

Every year, Firehouse hosts the FireHouse Educational Training Seminar somewhere in the US. This year it was in Atlanta, GA. As part of me getting to learn about this program that I am going to be assisting with, they sent me and the guy that currently handles all of our reporting software to this training seminar. The conference was hosted at the Omni - CNN Center in ATL. Just prior to leaving for Atlanta, we found out that NFL Monday Night Football was going to be in town. Who could pass up going to an NFL game that is within a 5 minute walk of the hotel? Not us! We got on StubHub and scored a few tickets at a decent price. This was my first NFL game, and it turned out to be a great experience. The Atlanta Falcons vs Denver Broncos game brought a huge crowd to the Georgia Dome. The only down side was it being a late night at the game.

The next day was registration for the conference. We were able to meet several guys from a neighboring department that were also down for the conference. We ran in to them several times throughout the week, and for was nice to see some familiar faces. I believe about 500-600 people attended the conference, some of which were firefighters, and others were IT personnel from the cities. At a small Meet and Greet reception held at the hotel that night, I met a few guys in line for food/drinks that I struck up conversation with. Ryan Purnell, from Vacaville, CA, and Tomme Tysdal, from Des Moines, IA. They had both attended FHETS before, and are also both firefighters. We ended up hanging out together at most of the events throughout the week, and they definately were a blast to hang with. I think it is amazing how you can pretty much strike up a conversation with about any firefighter from anywhere in the country, and be able to make conversation just because you have the love for the job in common.

Throughout the next several days, I attended classes throughout the days going over the various modules in the software. I did learn a lot about the things that you are able to customize, and different reports you are able to run. I took a few classes on some software that will be launched in a future, and some modules that we will hopefully have one day. It was very well organized, and I felt honored to be there. Even though I felt the information was a little over my head, once I got back to work I was able to understand a little more of it.

On Thursday evening, the organizers of the FHETS always have a reception that they bus everyone out to off-site. Throughout the week, they kept it "hush hush" about where we were going. In Atlanta, there are many different attractions within a short distance of the city. In conversation throughout the week, we would often discuss about where we thought we may go to. We knew it had to be a venue that had the capabilities to hol 500 + people. After getting on the bus and driving for a short distance, we came to realize we were headed straight to Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. Of course, everyone was filled with excitement. We had actually drove over earlier in the week to only be disappointed that they stop doing all of the ballpark tours at 3pm sharp. What an evening it turned out to be! We were first in line for a tour of the stands, clubhouse, dugout, locker room, and the entire facility. It was very neat to see some of the baseball legends jerseys hanging on the wall in the Clubhouse...John Smoltz, Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine, Hank Aaron, etc. The evening also included a full buffet and bar in "the 755 Club" which was a suite in the outfit that overlooked the field. FHETS gave away many door prizes, none of which I won. Nooks, iPads, PS3's, Xbox's, and laptops were all given away prior to being bussed back to the hotel.

Brotherhood was alive in Atlanta! I took a handful of our challenge coins from my department and picked up several from different parts of the country. It was good to see the other departments that had coins, and even better to see the guys that carried them in their pockets. A few of the coins I traded for were from Clarksdale, AZ; Urbana Firefighters (IL); Hurrican Katrina (LA). The coins I carry to trade are made from NM-Coin LLC. Check out their website here, and give them a shout about having your own custom challenge coins made at a very affordable price.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb

The weekend was a success; however, it was emotionally and physically demanding. The trip to Nashville started off with a evening in Nashville. Saturday, I rode along at NFD Station 12: Task Force 12. After that, we had an evening out w/ family/friends, and called it an early night due to the climb being early Sunday. The climb was a great experience, and the trip back home is when my body thanked me for putting it through that experience.

Jared Lindholm, who is a coworker with me here in the Model City, has an uncle that works for Nashville Fire. He was gracious enough to allow us to stop by Station 12 and ride with him on a few runs. It was an eye opener for me as things around the fire house were very different compared to work. In my opinion, they focus on the important things that should matter to get the job done, and don't get bent out of shape over the little things. Just like any other firehouse I have been in, the guys were very nice and had the coffee pot hot. We sat around and got to know the guys for a bit before catching a few runs. We ran a few alarms, but mainly just sat and listened. I always enjoy listening to the guys tell stories of runs, coworkers, etc. I am very grateful that Eng. Crawford and the guys at Task Force 12 allowed me to ride for a few hours.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012. This was my first time climbing in Nashville, TN. I am amazed that this is such a popular climb site. This year, the event sold out in just 30 minutes. 343 firefighters registered at 0700hours on July 2nd to be sure they had a spot to climb. After Jared and I arrived and got our friends settled in and watched the opening ceremony, we gathered in the parking garage of the TN Tower. The climb was very organized, and I thought it went smooth for just being the 3rd annual climb in Nashville. Originially, another firefighter, Jason Bledsoe, was going to climb with us from the Model City. He suffered an injury and after going through physical therapy for several weeks, he had to make the tough decision not to climb. He did travel down with his family to be there to support us in the climb. Jared's uncle, Jeff, filled in Bledsoe's spot on our team. We also met Marty Hudlow, Kurt Bennett, and John Hodosi. Hudlow and Bennett are from a neighboring department here in the Tri-Cities, and Hodosi represented Winchester Fire. This was our first time meeting the three of them. It was great to climb with these guys, and we climbed as a TEAM! We kept each other motivated, and we cheered each other on. The stairwell was lined with the faces and names of the 343 who were murdered on 9/11/01. Each step I kept my eyes glued on the faces and names of these fine firefighters. I didn't even know what floor we were on, I just knew that we could finish by these guys keeping us motivated. The building stood 28 stories tall, and we made the climb up the steps four times. This was my first climb wearing an SCBA, and I personally felt like I had truly prepared myself for the climb. My hard work had paid off.

As we finished the climb, we walked out on the steps of the tower where a bell and microphone awaited. I announced Lt. Gregg Atlas' name with pride. Chill's ran down by back as I rang the bell in his honor. I did not only climb for Lt. Atlas', I climbed for each and every firefighter who has passed. I climbed for W.D. Patterson from Grove City, PA. I climbed for Charles "Brother" Smith from Chilhowie Fire. I climbed for Earl Morphew, and every other firefighter from the previous climbs. I wore all of their names and photos around my neck every step of the way.

After finishing up, we took a few photos with friends who had came to watch us climb. It was another great experience, and I hit the gym today preparing for the Charlotte that is just over a month away. Charlotte will be a very unique climb for me because my parents will be travelling down to watch me climb. I am looking forward to gaining another bond with another firefighter from FDNY next month.

That's all for now. Thanks for the support from everyone. Thanks to the National Firefighter's Endowment for furnishing me with my Black Diamond Fire Boots that I climbed in. Check out their website by clicking here. I am a proud Chief member of their Officer's Club, and won the boots in one of their monthly give-aways. I could not have done it without each and every one of you.