Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 Activity -- Firehouse Tour and Firefighter Drill

Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (VVFD) is well-trained in handling crises.
I know this personally as the last time I had a speaking engagement and decided that the perfectly functional podium at the venue where I was speaking would simply not do, my husband called several places in the community and ended the search when VVFD came through with the best podium, ever.

Lifesavers, indeed.

Also, my very good friend volunteers there so when he learned that I was planning to attend the VVFD-sponsored Taste of Vienna with the Dilettantes and my 7-year-old daughter, he offered a personal tour of the fire station, ambulance and engines and the opportunity to participate in a drill where we would try on firefighter (turnout) gear.

We began our tour by meeting Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and many other Vienna firefighters and EMTs -- including one woman who was totally in the bag. (Keep your shirts on – I don’t mean she was drunk -- I mean she was delivered into the station in an equipment bag and popped out to surprise us. That is someone who knows how to make an entrance.)

It is obvious this group works well together. They were each knowledgeable, friendly and patient in answering the eight thousand questions we asked about how everything worked. We learned about the canteen that travels to fires that take many hours to extinguish to provide sustenance to the firefighters. We learned about career and volunteer team members and what kind of training is required. (And even saw the career staff run some calls while we were there.) We learned how this station works with others in the area when there are major disasters. And we learned that it takes a special kind of person to put him or herself in harm’s way on every shift.

In fact, the only thing we did not learn is what type of illness we’d have to fake to get a prescription for the good stuff. (And that was not for lack of asking. Why so stingy with the information, buzzkills?)

The group ran a drill to show us how they get dressed in their gear – something they must be able to do in less than two minutes. Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and firefighters and EMTs Hanna Mitchell, Stephen Baldassari, Zack Smith and a couple of others ran the drill first – with us and several others in the audience watching. We cheered on the participants and may have also placed a few bets. (The smart money was on Hanna.)

Then it was our turn. My friend told us that we didn’t have to be timed during the drill, and I let him know that we are nothing if not freakishly competitive with each other, and to bring it on. (For the record, the gear weighed about 60 pounds, and we each carried 10-12 pound tools). (I've never felt more like John Holmes.) The firefighters and EMTs let us start with the advantage of taking our shoes off, and also provided us personal coaches to help us before and during the drill. Wanting to throw off my competitors with a psychological game, I exclaimed loudly, “I know you said we could take off our shoes, but was it necessary for Dilettante Amanda to take off her underpants?” Dilettante Amanda parried back, “Funny. But I’m not wearing any.” (Please see “competitive” above.)

As this was a friendly competition and the real reason for our visit was to learn about all the VVFD does for our community every single day, it’s really not even worth mentioning who won the turnout gear competition. Let’s just say that next time I will delay my showboating until I am absolutely positive I have secured my belt and put on my gloves. (Insert sad trombone sound effect here.)

When we were done, Dilettante Amy handed back the hood and helmet and a firefighter joked, "Well, now you've got lice." Dilettante Amy responded with a straight face, while handing back the fire pants, "Well, now you've got herpes."

Immediately after the competition, which was held in the Sam Savia Apparatus Bay, we met VVFD Chief John Morrison. My daughter handled this honor by burrowing into my side and refusing to look at him. Awesome.

We finished our visit by enjoying the food, music and drinks at Taste of Vienna behind the fire house that along with the spectacular weather, made for a pretty amazing day.

Coincidentally, on Monday morning after I dropped my daughter off at her school in Vienna, I saw flashing red lights in front of someone’s house near the school. As I came closer, I realized it was from 402 (the VVFD). All fun aside, I am so extremely grateful that these fearless firefighters and EMTs are there for our community.

By the way, Taste of Vienna is not the only awesome fundraising event sponsored by VVFD. They are also sponsoring an Auction (July 12, 2013 at 6:00pm) where you can bid on a date with a firefighter to a formal ball which will be held July 20, 2013 at 7:00pm. (And you can attend the ball even if you don’t buy a firefighter.) If the hour we spent with them is any indication, these events will be a blast. For more information or to buy tickets, visit VVFD.org.