Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve

WuFlu, Kung Flu, Chinese Flu, or Coronavirus: It IS a big deal, but not for the reasons you likely have been told!

The number of projected deaths, when all is done, is not THE PROBLEM. At north of a million people (that’s one million, or more fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers. And aunts, uncles and husbands and wives.), that is certainly bad enough. Particularly if someone you love is enumerated in that group. Life changing. Reality altering. Leaves a hole in your heart, your life, that you cannot imagine, unless you have lived through it.

BUT! THAT is not THE PROBLEM. THE PROBLEM, is the follow on effects, as a tsunami of ill inundates our already (on a good day) marginal health “system”, that it is in no way prepared for.

“Just in time” inventory systems will not bite us in the ass. Nope, not at all. Rather, the shortfalls and absent supplies will make us yearn for simply being bitten in the ass. Indeed, the “bite us in the ass” problem will more closely resemble the “bite in the ass” one might receive from a hungry great white shark, or, maybe, a ravenous tiger.

Ragarding the magnitude of THE PROBLEM, you need honest numbers, and then you NEED TO UNDERSTAND THOSE NUMBERS! See Lawdog’s blog, here , for an explanation of testing error (false positives/negatives, and the implications thereof).

See Aesop’s articles, here, for his description of the second order effects, and how it will make a clusterf…er, HUG! look like a picnic with your Bible study group. I do not know about timing, but, based on 30 + years as an ER nurse, and a dozen as a PA, and several as a medic, well, his assessment of effects is certainly defensible. I pray he is wrong, but I do NOT believe that he is wrong. (While you are there, read his other posts, about the follow on effects, about how this has been mishandled since, oh, 20 or more years ago, and about missed opportunities).


Good fortune to you all, and WASH YOUR DAMNED HANDS! NOW, DO IT AGAIN! AND AGAIN!

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve

Ham radio at Fort Custer State Park.

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©…well, Ok, I wasn’t, really. TDW-Mark 1, our kids, and I were away on vacation, camping in Custer State Park, in South Dakota. TDW-Mark 1 had planned on a drive across the northern tier of states, culminating in a visit to Mount Rushmore, The Crazy Horse Memorial, and generally seeing the sights of Not The Un-Named Flyover State. So, there we were, cleaning up after dinner, and the air got surprisingly still, and felt, well, “heavier”. There had been thunderstorm warnings earlier in the afternoon on the broadcast radio, and I figured that a little visit to Ham Radioland was in order.

I turned the car on, powered on the amateur radio, and set the radio to one of the several Ham Radio repeaters in the area of the park. TDW-Mark 1 wandered over to see what her husband was up to.

What I was up to, was taking notes on the “weather net” in progress. There were reports of rotation on the observed thunderstorms, and occasional reports of funnel clouds. TDW-Mark 1 decided that it would be clever to get all the clean up done, and everything put away. She corralled the kids, and set them to work.

One of the other campers wandered over, likely thinking that I had found “The Game” on the radio, and appeared surprised that I did NOT have the broadcast radio on, in my vehicle.

“Whatcha listening to ?”

“The local radio amateurs are weather spotting, and calling their reports. Some of them have seen funnel clouds, others have seen rotation in some of the thunderstorms that they have seen.”

“What’s that mean?”

“That it is very likely that one of these storms may touch down, and the folks near there will have a tornado to call their very own!”

“That sounds like it could be bad!”

“Yep. That could be very bad.”

Right around this point in the tutorial on Weather Spotting In America, And Amateur Radio’s Role Therein, TDW-Mark 1 returned, both to inform me that our campsite had been battened down (or, as battened down as a pop-up camper was going to get, anyhow), and inquire as to what was my brilliant contingency plan in the event that all our little family was to be offered a trip to Oz, by Thor himself.

I had noticed, upon our arrival, that the bathrooms appeared to be very substantially built. Fine brick structures seemed well suited, in my estimation, to the task of sheltering my family from the storm. I so instructed TDW-Mark 1. “If it appears that we are going to get heavy weather, we will hit the showers, select a toilet in the middle of the building, and call it home for as long as necessary.”

“Any sign that things are heading our way?”

“Presently all the funnels, and all the rotation are to our east, and northeast, so we are unlikely to catch any of it. If they close the weather net in the next several hours, we ought to be clear.”

The other camper, overhearing all this, began to turn his head, just like at a tennis match, goggle eyed at our seemingly tranquil acceptance of the potential of holing up in a toilet against some tornado or other. “Aren’t you guys scared at all by this?”

TDW-Mark 1 had his answer. “What good would that do? He’s a medic and ER nurse, I’m an ER nurse, he’s keeping an ear on the weather for us. Tell you what: keep an eye on our campsite. If you see us scurrying to the bathrooms, gather your family and join us, because it is unlikely that we all will catch the trots simultaneously!”

The look on his face was nearly priceless.

Even better? The fact that we heard the Skywarn Net stand down, around a hour later.

Fun With Suits! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Accident Letter

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and responding to some sort of emergency or other. It was my day to drive, and I was merrily coding along. Approaching The Major North Bound Thoroughfare as I headed west bound, light and siren flashing and a-wailing, I slowed and observed cross traffic (who had the green light), stop on the rain slicked street.

That appeared encouraging. I began to accelerate through the intersection, when, lo and behold!, I beheld a driver swing into the center lane, pass all the stopped traffic, and proceed to strike the ambulance aft of the driver side dual rear wheels.

He had built up to fair clip, because he rocked the modular ambulance pretty good. Indeed, given my own momentum, the aft of the rig slewed to the right, and we entered a skid.

I corrected, steering into the skid, and noted in passing a pedestrian on the northwest corner determine that he did NOT want to remain standing where it appeared I was going to roll over, and so he started stepping lively toward the south.

Remember that “I corrected my skid” thing? Yeah, about that. It turns out that correcting a skid, in a, oh, let’s guess 5 ton truck, is not a fact, it is a process. So, when I had corrected our slewing-sideways-towards-the-northeast skid, we NOW had a slewing-sideways-towards-the-west-southwest skid. Less off axis, so there was that as an improvement, but our friend the pedestrian (remember him?), last seen high stepping to the south, did not think much of this as it portended his own immediate future. He demonstrated this understanding, as well as outstanding situational awareness, as he skidded to his own stop, about faced, and accelerated north.

I had noticed that we were skidding kinda sideways, in a west-southwesterly direction, and so, once again, I corrected, steering into the skid. Once that had been accomplished, we were merely proceeding catty-wampus, in a more or less northwesterly direction, and, it appeared, tracking our poor increasingly frazzled pedestrian friend as if we were a pedestrian seeking missile. With target lock.

Fortunately on several levels, all these gyrations had bled off considerable speed, and I was able to come to a complete, and rather abrupt, stop, short of squashing the pedestrian.

My partners were uninjured, as we had vicariously experienced many, many motor vehicle collisions, and had scant desire to recreate the experimental results we had witnessed. We were all buckled up.

While I was attempting to determine if my SVT (supraventricular tachycardia: an accelerated heart rate running around 150-200 beats per minute) was self limiting, or my new normal, Doug figured that (a) we were not completing this run, and (b) this might be a nice thing to share with dispatch. He did so.

We checked the other driver (who was fine), and awaited the police, city wrecker, and the inevitable chat with The Lieutenant. Fun times ahead, indeed.

The officer taking the report only had about 7,000 questions, and, once he was done, dropped us off at apparatus. There, we got to switch from our rig, into a back up rig. Back up rigs were too rickety to be in front line service, but not so obviously rattletraps that they could not serve as interim ambulances until our rig was repaired. Which in our case was likely to be sometime around the heat death of the universe.

We returned to quarters (with Doug driving!), where we awaited Lt. Evans. Once he had arrived, he directed me to write a letter (standard practice) detailing the events that had led up to our nice new truck getting bent up.

At this point I was the union’s chief steward, and was familiar with the contract. One of the provisions thereof was that any member, facing potential discipline, had the right to consult with a steward prior to making any official statement. I figured that, hashing this out with another steward might allow me to avoid talking myself into (harsher) charges (than I already faced for the collision).

Another peculiarity of Da City’s system, was that it appeared that the algorithm for assessing fault ran as follows. (each yes answer advanced you one more round) “Were you driving?” (Y/N) “Were you driving a city vehicle?” (Y/N) “Was that vehicle involved in a collision of any sort?” (Y/N)


No shit: on one call, I had parked the ambulance in the street, four way flashers flashing, beacons in operation, I and my partner were IN THE REAR OF THE AMBULANCE, when some jackhole decided that, as IMPORTANT as he obviously was, he could not wait for us to roll off, and had to depart NOW! In the course of snaking his way out of the parking spot right next to us, he nudged the ambulance bumper, causing the vehicle to rock on it’s springs.

Like a dummy, I reported it. To my astonishment, it took the Accident Review Board SIX FREAKING WEEKS to ascertain that I was NOT at fault.

So, with these lessons in mind, I was reluctant to make any sort of official statement without at least having another steward tell me I was doing it wrong. I said so the Lt. Evans, and said, “So, sir, I officially request that I be allowed to speak with a steward prior to making an official statement, as guaranteed in our contract.”

He gave me the stink eye. “You’re the chief steward, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, go chat with yourself , and write my damned letter. Now would be good.”

“Uh, sir…?” I began.

“Mr. McFee, I am making that an order. Do so, at once!”

“Yes, sir!”

I therefore drew up a piece of Fire Department letterhead, and composed the following letter:

“TO: Superintendent of EMS

From: Reltney McFee, EMT

Subject: Collision involving Medic 23 this date

Date (date)

Sir: Lt. Evans ordered me to write a letter regarding Medic 23’s collision this date. I requested the opportunity to speak with a union steward prior to making any official statement, and Lt. Evans ordered me to write you a letter at once.

This is that letter.

Respectfully, Reltney McFee EMT, Medic 23”

I pulled it out of the typewriter, placed my carbon copy in the desk, and handed it to Lt. Evans. “Here’s your letter, Lieutenant!”

He looked at it for a minute, and glared at me. “McFee, this is unsatisfactory. Write this letter, all over again, and this time do it right!”

“Yes, sir!”

I assembled another set of letterhead and carbon paper, and captioned the next letter as before.

My opening line was as above. I asked the Lieutenant, “Sir? What do you want me to write now?”

He said, “McFee, I’m not going to tell you what to write!”

I typed in, “Lt Evans told me to write, “ ‘McFee, I’m not going to tell you what to write!’ “

“What’s next, sir?”

“Goddammit! Stop that! Just write what happened in your accident!”

My next line of text was, “ ‘Goddammit! Stop that! Just write what happened in your accident!’ “

“Yes, sir? What is next?”

He glared at me. Again. “McFee, get up from that chair. Do not type another word!”

I stood. He asked me, “McFee, what do you think you are doing.”

“Well, sir, you ordered me to write a letter about an accident prior to my having the opportunity to speak to a steward about a matter that might result in my being disciplined. I complied with that order, and wrote a letter citing everything that I was willing to say at this moment. You did not find that satisfactory, and ordered me to re do it. I was rewriting it to your specification, when you abruptly stopped providing me directions. Sir.”

Again, with the glare. “It is now 1300 hours. You will have that letter, and I mean the letter that you KNOW you have to write, in my hands no later than 1700 hours today, without fail! Am I making my self clear?”

“Perfectly, sir!”

He stormed out.

I got his letter to him, after a phone consult with another steward.

Oh, yes, And I got a written reprimand for my role in the collision.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact


A few years ago, I was working a locums gig Up North. TDW-Mark II and I had lived our entire lives in The Un-Named Flyover State, and one recurrent feature of the winter news coverage was the seeming obligatory photograph of the snowy expanse of the northern part of the state. Now, I had grown up in Da City, largest in the state, nestled among the northern tier of states, and figured that I knew me some snow.

Well, it turns out, at least from the photographs of nigh unto 12 foot walls of snow adjacent to the roadways, featured in these photos, I did not know squat. So, when the opportunity arose to work on the shores of Lake Superior, and with this gig an opportunity to see, for reals, these selfsame walls of snow, well, off we went!

When you work 12 hour shifts, you get 4 days off every week. My placement was accommodating, bunching my days into a 3 on/4 off arrangement. That TDW and I plenty of chances to tour the area.

Unfortunately for our intended snow tourism, the winter had been mild, and that snow which had fallen, was paltry. To be honest, we had more snow downstate, than in The Great White North.

Whatever. There was still abundant history and scenery to take in, and we set out to do so. One of our tours took us to the norther edge of the state, to a lakefront town. It was pretty, although, surprisingly, with all the tourists gone, nothing was open.

So, this episode of our curiosity sated, we headed back to our hotel. Cleverly, I suggested that we return along the lakeshore road, which ran along a bluff and overlooked, you guessed it, the lake.

Remember that this was late December, and in Da Nawth, in winter, sunset blasts past you, and night drops upon you like a net. Or, so we experienced.

Simply to make everything nice, it had begun to sleet-mixed-with-snow. Let us review the scene, now: Night? (Check!) Snow/sleet? (Check!) Unplowed Up North roads? (Check!) Slush accumulating on the roads? (Check) And, certainly not least, Anxious Wife overlooking the drop off onto the icy, rocky shore of The Lake?(Why, yes, CHECK!)

So TINS ©, There I Was, Driving Along and Making Time towards our hotel, when I splashed through some accumulation of slush. Our vehicle jogged, just a little, and TDW emitted a shriek.

I suggested that, since it was black outside as a politician’s heart (should such a thing really exist), and I generally had this under control, perhaps declamations of impending doom, absent clear indications of said doom, might distract me from successfully managing to move forward, while maintaining our position on the pavement. Some might consider failure to accomplish this to be A Bad Thing.

She apologized, and I returned to navigating and aviating (so to speak).

A little while later, a county road commission salt truck/plow overtook us (and, yes I WAS driving that slowly!), passed up, and in doing so sent a moderate sized spray of slush and whatnot onto our windshield.

TDW shrieked, again.

I slowed even more, came to a stop on our nearly deserted stretch of icy snowy roadway, and turned to my bride.

“Honey”, I began, “I realize that you have concerns about the wisdom of driving on this road, under these conditions, tonight. However, since we are something like 30 miles from our hotel, and I am unwilling to spend the night sleeping in this car, driving to the hotel is out only reasonable alternative.”

She nodded.

“In addition, you DO recall, that I have driven in snow, for something approaching 50 years, right? And, therefore, know just a little bit about driving in these sorts of conditions, right?”

Again, she nodded.

“While I realize that you want to do your part to help our drive be safe, efficient, and trouble free, I want you to realize that, whatever you may think, it is really not particularly helpful, and nowhere near as helpful as you appear to think it is, when you scream at seemingly random intervals, while I’m driving unfamiliar roads, in pitch black night, in snow and sleet, along a cliff face.

Please, stop!”

Pre Planning Your Scene

mURPHY rULES! (and how to try to stymie him)

Among the blogs I visit more or less regularly, is “Notes From The Bunker”, featuring the adventures of the thoughtful and experienced Commander Zero. Today (As I write this it is 5 Sept 2019), The Commander reviews thoughts on idiot proofing your kit, particularly your first aid kit. (see for yourself: , “Mylar After Two Years Of Exposure”) He makes a mighty compelling case for, in effect, double bagging your first aid supplies, and he has, indeed, harshly tested his packaging. He has not found it wanting.

Aesop of Raconteur Report (ANOTHER regular read! Find him here: ) commented on the original post, (found here, from March 15 2015:, and, as usual, his comments are insightful, practical, and reflect studies in Advanced Placement courses at The College of Hard Knocks. I reprint them here, because I don’t want you all to miss them.

“1) Any FA kit that isn’t waterproof is worthless. If not now, then when you need it, which is worse. As you’ve discovered, and as I did the first time I was working on a movie set on a rainy day. It’s a mistake you only make once.
2. Mylar is nice, but you can’t see what’s inside. Consider heavy-duty Saran wrap or equiv. as something still see-through, but easier to tear open than mylar or two-hand zip-loks.
3. If you’re any kind of handy with a sewing machine, turning mil-spec poncho materials into pack and bag condoms is a quick and elegant way to make your favorite bag far more water resistant. It also gives you options as far as external appearance, whether more camo’ed, or more non-descript than Tactical Timmy camo patterns in urban use around the unprepared muggles. YMMV.
4. Given your penchants anyways, you can get single-use heat seal clear plastic bagging material too, and simply resolve that if you tear something open for use, you’ll re-stock and re-seal it at the first opportunity.
5. As far as opening, putting a guard-protected single-edge razor or retractable box cutter in the top of the kit is never a bad idea. For some of the sterile wrap crap used in the ED, I need bandage scissors, trauma shears, and/or a hemostat (think ER pliers) just to open the goddam packaging, and that’s indoors in air-conditioned comfort, with two hands.


6. As a general rule, whether for first aid or any other kind of kit, anything that couldn’t be reliably used during a year’s service in the WWI trenches of the Somme probably isn’t proper kit to rely on, and you’ll find that out at the worst possible moment. Field-test your gear and eliminate the flaws now, when mistakes are free.

7. Just random curiosity, but for a bike kit, why not something along the lines of a screw-top or screw-twist together PVC pipe or somesuch thing, clamped/strapped/zip-tied/etc. to the frame? Bombproof, compact, and totally watertight, and you could size the tube diameter to the largest items, and adjust the length so everything fits. Just thinking out loud there.”

With that preamble, may I direct your attention to my own humble work, from mid June of this year? ( )

With Commander Zero’s (herinafter referred to as “CZ”) insights, and Aesop’s commentary, I have been stimulated to consider shortcomings in my own arrangements.

I have never had my own kit(s) fail as in Czs experience. Mine are presently indoors or in my vehicle trunk. Previously, for years, my kit rode in the back seat of my dual cab pickup truck. When we loaded up, kids, luggage and all, it went into a tote in the back of the truck, inside a camper shell. That has/had worked out alright for me. On the other hand, I have never done a rainy weekend FTX, either. THAT sort of adventure might have elicited Aesop’s perspective.

Since one of the objectives of much of my hobbies/avocations/off duty activities is preparing for unwanted possibilities, the next generation of my deliberations will be considering how I can benefit from the above insights, and integrate them into my own preps.

For example, if I am compelled to hike my happy ass home from work, due to EMP/Carrington Event/One Minute After/civil disorder/Zombie Apocalypse, what is the likelihood that it will be sunny and seventy outside, versus raining cats and dogs at night in a gale? (Select option “B”, if you please!) Or perhaps mid January, with ass deep snow and wind, at a daytime high temp of 1 degree (for our European readers, that approximates minus 17 degrees C)?

The “I don’t want to freeze my butt solid, to the ground” aspects are likely intuitive, to anybody who has lived in The Midwest for any length of time, but protecting your equipment from those conditions may not be so obvious. (To be honest, this particular aspect had not made it’s way to the front of my own consciousness, until today!)

Broadening this thinking to other aspects of, say, a “Get Me Home” bag, suggests that packing said bag in sub-modules might be clever, if said sub modules are water proof (or, at least, repellent). Again, as of present experience, I’ve had no issues with water etcetera damaging my medic bag, or anything in my “possibles trunk”. That’s fine, until my 13 year old vehicle develops a hole allowing water or whatnot into my trunk.

Or, until I have to hop home in the Oobleck Storm. (or whatever). In those settings, I will regret not acting on CZ’s or Aesop’s insights.