on being a firefighter’s wife

last thursday, i was invited to have a catered lunch at the training hall with doug’s rookie class.

all significant others were invited – even if they weren’t live-in girlfriends. though some of the talk did centre around benefits that you could only claim if you were living with the person (at least common law).

i was thoroughly impressed! the hospitality was amazing. the lunch was delicious. but the information really was quite the eye-opener.

i will admit that getting on the fire department was, what i thought, the most challenging part.

now i know that the challenge hasn’t even started yet.

they talked to us about communication – how it’s essential for our relationship and what we can do now to minimize any strain/tension.

first, there is the adjustment around shift work. he’ll be working 7x24hrs every 4 weeks which means he will have a lot of time off between. they actually end their cycle with 7 days off. while this type of shift work is great if you have children and/or a spouse that works overtime, there’s just so much time off that it’s easy to slip in a very unproductive mode. they suggest we start to talk/compromise NOW about what will happen in those long periods of day’s off. there is also one stretch of 5 days he gets off and another of 3 days. the rest is mostly two days off between shifts.

secondly, there was an explanation around the type of abnormal situations they will see. it’s no surprise, since firefighters are suppose to be the first to arrive at an accident – they will be seeing all sorts of things that normal people do not see. and there will be calls that will disturb them – either affecting them as a group or individually. as much as we might want them to share and get it off their chest with us, a certain amount of time needs to be processed before they might be up for talking about this.

this struck a chord with me. doug isn’t always that open – but now, more then ever, i’m going to have to remind myself to exercise patience. it’s not that he doesn’t want to share, he just needs time to learn how to process and share. all i can do is just to continually remind him that i’m there for him when he’s ready.

finally, there’s also information he probably should not tell me (nor do i want to know). any close calls he faces is best to be kept between him and his team mates. or even his team mates’ close calls. i know he will face a lot of them. in fact, when i went to hear some of the more experienced peers talk about their own experiences and what they decide to bring home or leave behind at the hall, i was a bit anxious to really hear how many close calls they face. the reality – he can not go to work with me stressing and worrying about him for 24 hrs straight. that alone can put a lot of strain on a marriage – it’s taken him so long to get on the department that the last thing we want is for him to have to choose between his career and me. so this was good advice to take in.

they also gave us a good run-down of post-traumatic stress syndrome. gone are the days where they were told to suck it up as part of their jobs. now, they are encouraged to talk about a bad call – any bad call (even if the call only affects the individual as they see a bad call now as a personal experience rather then a overall bad call from statistics). the point is to minimize the accumulative and long-term effects of post-traumatic stress. we were given an information sheet, signs to look for and numbers to call should we see any change in behaviour that is alarming.

what a great information session – i was incredibly impressed and enjoyed the entire afternoon.

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2 thoughts on “on being a firefighter’s wife

    • i know – it was just so very cool! but now, i have to dedicate another post to last thursday’s lunch and meet experience. some ladies are inquiring about all the 22 hot firefighters present that day.

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