June 14, 2012, Midland, Ont. – What would you do?
You’re at home and the pager goes off. It’s a single-vehicle MVC. As you head for your truck, the tones go off again with an update . . . there are two patients trapped. You run out to your vehicle, jump in and head to the call. On the way to the fire hall, you come across the accident.
"Stop now and check the patients." A voice in your head says.
The vehicle is on its roof and there are two people trapped inside. There’s one other person there, a bystander who stopped to help. You have no tools and no gear. All you can do is talk to them (which at least tells you they’re both still conscious) and try to keep them calm until more help arrives.
They’re panicking. They’re injured and scared and they need medical attention. No one else has responded yet. What do you do? What would you do?
A very good friend and fellow firefighter went through this scenario Tuesday morning.
It seemed like forever to him, and no one had manned the hall. It was 7 a.m., which meant that many of the guys may have gone to work already and very likely wouldn’t make it to the call.
The clock was ticking. The patients needed to be extricated. He made the difficult decision to leave the patients and go to the hall get the truck. There was a bystander on scene with him who stayed with the patients and reassured them that help was on the way.
I was at home, still in bed, enjoying my morning coffee when the pager went off. I live a considerable distance from the hall and debated whether to respond as I figured I would miss the trucks (thinking that several guys would be in the area to respond at this time of morning, and that it would probably be a quick call.)
That was before I heard that there were two patients trapped.
I got dressed quickly and ran out the door. As I was driving to the hall, I heard my buddy on the radio confirming that two people were trapped and requesting a page for more manpower. My heart skipped a beat. I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was feeling something no person should have to feel. It was pouring rain and the roads were slick. Not the time to let the adrenaline get the better of me.
I heard the rescue truck responding with four. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness. Shortly after, the pumper from Station 1 responded with four. When I was about three minutes from the hall, our tanker responded with two more firefighters.
When I arrived at the hall, our pumper truck was still there. I radioed command and asked whether or not he wanted our pumper to respond, thinking that he might want me to stay at the hall on standby should another call come in. He advised me to respond to the scene with the truck.
Back to Jimmy . . .
After what I’m sure felt like forever to Jimmy, he arrived back on scene in the rescue with three other firefighters and the desperately needed heavy hydraulics. Since he’d already been there once, he knew exactly what needed to be done to extricate the two patients.
As I was responding to the call in the pumper with another firefighter, I heard command radio that Ontario Provincial Police and ambulance were both on scene. "Excellent," I thought to myself. The patients’ chances just improved that much more. We then heard that both patients had been removed from the vehicle and were being tended to by paramedics.
"They did really good at getting them out so fast," I said to my fellow firefighter. I’m sure everyone was breathing a sigh of relief now. Especially Jimmy. Although, I’m sure to him, it felt like it took way longer than it should have.
Bottom line, the guys who performed the extrication did a great job. The firefighters, the paramedics, the OPP, even the bystander . . . everyone played a vital role in coming to the aid of those two people.
We often think, in situations like this, that we could have done more or should have done things differently. It’s important to remind ourselves that we didn’t put these people in the situations we find them in; we’re just there to help get them out.
Which is exactly what we did today.
You did a great job, Jimmy. Your dad would’ve been very proud!
Kudos to everyone at the call. You know who you are! ☺
Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire career with the Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department’s fire prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at it. E-mail her at