While most people are enjoying their time off from school or work at home, the first responders who work long and hard to protect their community during the holiday season cannot be forgotten. The holiday season can a beautiful time to be with friends and family, but one careless or unsafe decision can turn a good innocent night into a dreadful one.
People always hear about tragic accidents but never about those who rush to the scene to help those in need and experience it all first-hand. London firefighters at station nine want to share their experiences on the job from over decades of serving the community.
“When the lights go on and we get a call, somebody is having a bad day, and it’s our job to turn that bad day into a good day. We’re going to do our best when we head out those doors, and sometimes we win but sometimes we lose. More often than not, we lose. There’s a tragic outcome at the end of end, [despite] us doing our best,” says Captain of the London Fire Department, Tom Nicholson. He has been serving the community for 26 years.
“It’s our job to turn that bad day into a good day”
As Captain, Nicholson takes the responsibility to check-in with his crew and ensure that they are doing okay. Ryan is the newest rookie to join the team at station 9 and Nicholson says its important that everybody looks out for each other.
“I just try to tell him that, “the call is not our fault. The accident has already happened, the fire has already happened, the heart attack has already happened, the suicides [have] already happened, we’re just called to try to mitigate it the best we can. [Like] I said, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Hopefully when we come back, we can get our CIS team involved and hopefully everybody has a long healthy career because these calls can’t pile up on you over a 30-year career.”
High-risk of PTSD on the job
Unfavourable weather and road conditions, unsupervised open flames from candles or fireplaces, drinking and driving accidents and carbon monoxide detectors that don’t work carry the weight of the increased 911 call volumes over the holiday season each year.
The reality of a first responders’ experience is that they will encounter many horrific scenes throughout their career. John Jolly is a firefighter apparatus operator and has been working for 20 years. He tries to separate his emotions from the job.
“We look out for each other within our own team of people. You know when somebody is having a bad day. You can sense it. [We’ll] talk about it generally, sometimes we’ll joke around a little bit and see how it goes with that. And if need be, we’ll refer somebody to the critical incident stress team.”
Nicholson says early intervention with trained counsellors and support to the key to hopefully stop any PTS down the road.
“PTSD is something that is more commonly recognized in the emergency services now, and we’re not immune to it. We do everything we can to make sure we are taking care of our guys. When we come back from a call, it is my duty as captain that my crew is ok as well as myself.”
“It’s a very rewarding career”
Despite the high intensity of the job and the inevitable encounters with horrific scenes on-site, the firefighters at station nine share that this is a job that they would not trade for anything else.
“I just remember wanting to get into this career because I wanted to help people. I wanted to be in a field where I could make a difference, try to better peoples lives, and I was just drawn to firefighting. You work with a group of guys that you just absolutely trust your life with… [We’ll] go into house fires and you look over your shoulder and see the crew you’re working with and know that if you get into trouble, you’re going to be okay because you’ve got these guys working behind you. It’s a very rewarding career, I wouldn’t change it for anything,” says Nicholson.
There is comfort in knowing there is always a place people can call for help. To help the first-responders this holiday season, people are encouraged to make smart decisions and pay extra attention to potential dangers.