It will never happen to me – Famous last words |

It will never happen to me – Famous last words

Truckee Fire District Chief Mike Terwilliger

I don’t really know if people consciously say “that will never happen to me” when they hear various emergency service organizations tell them all the bad things that can happen to them if they don’t do this and don’t do that.

I mean think about it. How many people say to themselves, ‘Oh no, I am going to get in a car wreck, I just know it?’

If they thought that way they would do one of two things: never drive again or take precautions against the inevitable and protect themselves.

Based on this, I think my observation in the beginning is at least partially correct: People don’t consciously think ‘That will never happen to me.’ Maybe they just choose not to think about bad things happening at all. Or worse, this message sounds like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon, blah, blah, blah – and you just stopped reading.

If you kept reading right about now you must be thinking this guy is a knucklehead. Does he think I don’t worry about bad things like going to war, too much logging, not enough logging, or my kids out on a Friday night? (Boy, that one almost killed me)

Of course you do. What I am talking about is the less obvious stuff, most of which I have bantered about in this forum before and certainly guarantees job security for me and my profession. Let me give you some examples to prove my point.

How about home addresses for example. I have mentioned twice in this newspaper that you need to make sure they are visible and make sense. In all fairness some of you have taken precautions, but there are bunches of you who must assume you will never have to call 911, let alone have an ambulance find your home.

How about the pine needles on your roof all summer? What about the bird’s nest in your stovepipe or the batteries in your smoke detector? It is amusing, yet painful to watch a person rake their pine needles, clean their roof, cover their woodpile with a tarp and trim their trees all in the face of an approaching wild fire.

If nothing else, it validates what I said above, we just don’t want to think about bad things happening to us, just someone else.

Since safety messages are better when they match the season, lets dig up winter preparedness.

How many of you have checked the flashlight in your glove box and utility drawer, dug out the candles, got matches, put blankets and a coat in your trunk, how about a generator with panel switch and fuel for the power outages or at least some other form of heat during that cold night without power, checked the chains that broke last spring, prepared your propane tank, and serviced the snow blower?

Do you have extra drinking water in the house and a couple days supply of food, like some Spam? Just kidding about the Spam, but I am trying to make a point.

You don’t have to be a survivalist, just a realist. Do you know it has not snowed hard here since the early 1980’s and the old timers will tell you, bah, it hasn’t snowed since 1952 when the train got stuck up on the hill. If the psycho squirrels in my yard are any indication, this may be the winter I am talking about. Are you ready?

In closing you are probably asking yourself what the heck got into him? It is really simple. I watch and listen. I listen to ambulances tell dispatch to call back the 911 caller and have them stand in the street so the ambulance can find them.

Try that when your leg is broken!

I watch firefighters go to house fires with no smoke detectors or worse, smoke detectors with dead batteries and police officers to car wrecks with people ejected purely from lack of seat belt use. What I just listed is the day to day stuff. What will happen when something unusual happens like a real winter storm?

But then again, it probably won’t happen to you and I, just someone else.

As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at Have a safe winter.

Mike Terwilliger is fire chief of the Truckee Fire Protection District.

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