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Mutual aid

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August 01, 2015 | NATIONAL Gordon Wren, Correspondent

As 1st responders, we experience a great deal of tragedy and human suffering. We all handle it differently, and most of us have access to Incident Stress De-Briefing Teams. In addition to the human suffering, we also encounter situations involving animals/pets. Every community has had photographs in the local newspaper or on the television of a firefighter carrying a cat or dog from a burning building or trying to get oxygen to an unconscious pet. There is something about these scenarios that tugs at peoples' heart strings.

Years ago, former Phoenix, Arizona Fire Chief Alan Brunacini wrote a book called The Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service. This book, if you can find it, is still a great read and very applicable today. It is also packed with humorous fire department related stories. One of the more serious stories that I still recall after reading the book almost 20 years ago described an incident involving both a human and a pet.

One summer day in Phoenix with 114 degree temperatures (but they claim it is a dry heat), a senior citizen who happened to be diabetic, experienced low blood sugar and drove his pick-up truck into a tree. His dog and best buddy was in the truck. The Phoenix Fire Department responded and while they were extricating and treating him, he expressed repeated concern about his dog being left in the heat. They assured him that they would take care of the dog, who was injured.

Following Chief Brunancini's policies, the Lieutenant and his company took the dog to the nearest veterinarian. They checked back later in the day and then stopped at the hospital to advise the senior gentleman that his dog was in good hands, and that the injuries were not serious. The gentleman was so happy that when he was discharged from the hospital, he wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, expressing how blessed the city was to have such a great fire department and great firefighters. He also stopped at the fire house and dropped off a big box of donuts and thanked everyone personally.

Several years later a similar situation occurred, with an out-of-town family traveling on an interstate when they were cut off, forced off the road, and flipped several times. The family members and their miniature schnauzer were pretty well banged up; and in this case, it was a very cold night and two firefighters assured the family that they would take care of the dog. They also took it to the vet, who checked it out and found nothing serious. Then, the firefighters took the dog to the fire station where they took turns feeding it, walking it, and playing with it until the family was discharged three days later. The look on the face of the children when they came to pick the pup up was worth all the trouble.

It is a good idea to look for opportunities to exceed our customers' expectations as expressed in Alan Brunancini's superb book. It also makes you feel really good about yourself and your department. Try it in your community.

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Gordon WrenCorrespondent

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