How to stay calm: Lesson 2.

Step 1: Put all your gear on, but reverse your hood.


Step 2: Have someone spin you around until you have essentially no idea which way is forward.


Step 3: Be "gently" guided by the Sergeant into a wooden maze that takes up most of the apparatus bay floor (again, thank God for those helmets). 


Step 4: Emerge victorious from the other side, only to find that they put some more of that damned plastic conduit at the exit.

In the words of the first recruit to find the prize at the end of the tunnel: 
"Aw, what the fuck is this shit, Sarge?!" [insert uproarious laughter from other recruits]

In all seriousness, it wasn't as nerve-wracking as the tube. There's definitely room to move yourself around; I could almost travel forward in an upright crawl, but eventually resorted to sliding on my belly. Apparently, the real fun comes when we go to the SCBA maze out on the grounds. We have no idea what's in it, but I'm sure we'll have to use everything we've learned in the past week or so to wrangle our way through it. 

Advice often just trickles down to the recruits, and I'm certainly no exception. Regarding the maze training, I've heard a few tips that have aided others while in a confined, unknown environment with zero visibility:
  • Sing or hum a song to yourself (calms you down, distracts you from the thought of being stuck somewhere, etc.)
  • If you can't see anything anyways, just close your eyes. Apparently some people freak out because they know their eyes are open, but they still can't see anything.
  • Try practicing normal, everyday stuff with your eyes closed; get your other senses used to firing, since you're definitely going to lose sight. For instance, try and take a shower with your eyes closed the entire time. Do you know where everything is? Can you find the shampoo? 
Eventually, we'll all become accustomed to feeling for things like doorjambs and walls, rather than looking for them; instead of trying to orient ourselves with our eyes, we'll be able to figure out which way is down by feeling which way the SCBA hangs off of us. 
Any more useful tips from the veterans out there? I'd be curious to see what works for different people in these situations. 

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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