|A True Story
||[Dec. 14th, 2008|01:22 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
This is for metagnat, who asked for a true story.
Within 48 hours of landing at college (Rutgers College, Rutgers University), I fell in with two groups who would dramatically change my life: the computer science nerds and the volunteer EMT squad. I'll tell you all about the computer science nerds some other time. This story is about being an EMT.
For those who don't know, EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. Back in Jersey there were two kinds of rigs (er, ambulances) – those run by EMTs (who could only give the drugs commonly known as Oxygen and Ipecac) and those run by Paramedics (usually summoned by EMTs but sometimes automatically dispatched for support on "difficulty breathing" and chest pain calls, who could run IVs and provide a variety of different drugs). EMTs did transport – even if it was a bad call, often the paramedic in charge would hop onto our rig and run the call while we drove.
Rutgers University had a volunteer EMT squad and a volunteer fire department as well. So we were all "volleys" (volunteers) except for the Director of Emergency Services, who was paid to oversee both groups. Even though our buildings were across the street from each other, we didn’t really get along. They thought we were stuck-up, we thought they were stupid. And the Director strongly favored the firemen over us, generally fostering the rivalry to suit his own needs. (Someday I'll tell you the story of how the Director taught me the difference between Democrats and Republicans and set the stage for my understanding of politics in general.)
One day we heard a call over the radio for the fire department reporting that a building (that was less than a quarter-mile away from our buildings) was on fire. We walked out of our building and looked up. Sure enough, the brand-new and still skeletal steel frame of a new building under construction was displaying a suspicious orange glow on one of the upper floors.
I was still on probation as I was not yet a certified EMT – I was taking the classes, but was not allowed to be alone in the back of the ambulance. So I was on duty with the President of our club (whose name I want to say was Gil) and at least one other person, maybe two. Gil decided we should head over, "just in case," even though we hadn't been summoned.
So we drive over and arrive a minute or two after the firemen. They're frantically pulling out hoses, trying to get set up. Most of the guys suit up and head into the building, leaving a few behind to try and get the hoses settled. The guys going in leave instructions with the guys on the ground to not let anyone else in the building.
A minute later a truck drives up and the head of construction jumps out and runs into the building. Nobody says anything.
Another minute passes and another truck drives up. The architect and his assistant jump out and run into the building. Nobody says anything.
Remember, the building has no walls, so we can see the flashlights of the firemen playing over each floor. They check out the second floor, the third, the fourth... after they’ve checked the fifth floor, they call down to the guys in the truck and say, "There's no fire here. Must've been a false alarm."
We EMTs pause and look at each other. Then we all look up at the building where we can still see an orange glow several floors above the flashlights.
Gil reluctantly picks up his radio and says, "Engine One, this is Unit 712."
"Go ahead 712."
"Unit One, we can SEE the fire on the…" Gil pauses while I frantically count floors. "The, uh, ninth floor."
"All the way at the top?" Comes the incredulous response.
Again, we all look at each other, dumb-founded.
Gil engages his radio. "That's affirmative, Engine One."
So they climb ALL THE WAY to the TOP OF THE BUILDING and find there's a gas heater whose hose has broken and it's shooting a gout of flame several feet long sideways. This caused the glow and the original report. They shut off the gas line and the world was saved, again.
Everyone came trooping out of the building – firefighters, contractors, architects – and all must walk past us. As he goes by, the guy with the most seniority (I forget if they had a President too) says, "Nice job, 712." But there's no saving this situation.
We go back to our building, they go back to theirs, and we burst out with howling laughter. Afterwards, Gil swears us to secrecy, because he's a good guy and doesn't want to make the firemen look bad. But what he had forgotten was that EMTs are their own SPECIAL kind of nerd, and most of our off-duty folks were listening to the radio and heard the whole thing. It soon spreads among the entire squad, as well as our extended friends and family, quickly becoming a legend. We would frequently say, "All the way at the top?!" as an exclamation of stupidity.
And that's one of my stories.