By Travis Dotson
We’ve all heard it. We’ve all yelled it. We can all feel the little push on our pulse and the tingle in our toes just hearing it in our head.
It can be calm or it can be chaotic, but no matter how it’s called out—it’s time to get serious.
Let’s look at the most common ways we holler this one word and all that gets communicated by the way we voice this attention getter.
This is the notification version—loud enough for people to hear but with no urgency conveyed. This is saying “heads up, we have spotting, but don’t worry about this particular spot because I just put it out.” This is purely a notification, information for our communal SA, just feeding the common operating picture for the greater good. That is a lot of information to convey with the volume and tone of one word.
A Little Help!
Then there is the come help me out version. It’s definitely loud enough for folks on either side of you to hear and has just enough urgency conveyed to inform others to come help. It’s usually clear that if everyone gets on it, it won’t be a problem—but, start steppin! You can hear it in your mind. Actually, try saying it out loud just to practice: SPAAAAHT! (Hopefully you are reading this in the break room at the station. Then you can see if you did it right based on people’s reactions.)
ALL HANDS! (Fixin’ to Go Over the Hill)
Last but not least, there’s the full-on scramble. This is a bellow from the bottom. It’s loud, urgent, tense. Just shy of panic. Panic is never cool, but getting everybody moving sometimes requires a little pepper in your pipes.
What we’re saying in this instance is “we’re probably not going to catch this one, but we need to haul ass, bust ass, and pray for the luck that so often smiles on us, cause this one has legs!” This is a serious shout. Don’t be messing around with this one. In fact, if you put this call out there and the situation doesn’t warrant it, be ready to catch hell. It’s a good way to get a nickname—“ole Freddy Freak Out over here.” But nobody is joking around when it fills the air. We come running. We don’t EVER hesitate to get there and jump in, get dirty, and do our duty—to help.
We all know this in our bones and we learned it quick, because if you don’t come running when it’s time to chase spots—you don’t belong here. AND, if you don’t call for help when it’s time to chase spots—you don’t belong here.
Did you catch that part? The part where you learned how to call for help?
You know exactly where I’m going.
You are Not the Exception
Why is it we are so capable of calling for help on the fireline but will literally kill ourselves before asking for help off the line?
Emotions regularly kick our ass. I know you think you are the exception—some sort of lone wolf emotion-master killer-ninja bad-ass, but you’re not.
Not if, but WHEN you are struggling with whatever hard sh*t comes your way—call it out. Just let one person know you got a few spots. Even if you are gonna stomp them out with your boot, it’s just a heads up. You never know how many more are out there and you never know when it’s gonna go from nothing to scramble mode.
When you are holding line for the crucial burn show, would you ever see spots and just ignore them? Just hope they don’t grow together? The answer is no, you wouldn’t, because you’re not dumb (although you have eaten some ridiculously rancid rubbish for absurdly low sums of money).
Ask for Help
We are all capable of doing not-so-intelligent things. In the case of hotshot Olympics, the consequences are rather benign (aside from the emotional scarring of any happenstance spectators).
But the not-so-intelligent move of not getting help with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress gets real in a hurry.
That stuff will push your ass into a hole.
But that’s OK, because you know how to ask for help. Little spot, big spot, lots of spots—don’t matter. Call it out.
Ask for help, Toolswingers.
This article is the Ground Truths column from the Fall 2018 issue of Two More Chains titled “Traumatic Transitions.” Please read the the rest of the issue available here: