Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Visiting the Fire Department- Guest Author Grandpa Jim

To write about one "adventure" as the most memorable would be most difficult as we thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent in Korea.
My unique experience was visiting a fire department in Seoul. Since I am a volunteer fire fighter at home, I was truly interested in visiting a Korean department. Again, Eastern was very helpful in making this a reality. I stopped in their office and inquired as to the nearest fire department location. They immediately got on the computer and got the address and phone number and then called.
They asked if I could visit. The response from the department was that I would be most welcome. Then one of the Eastern volunteers, who spoke English, agreed to take me by cab to the department and interpret for me. We were welcomed on arrival by one of their officers. He spoke no English so it was of great help to have the Eastern interpreter along.
He gave me a complete tour of their department and we were accompanied by a recruit/cadet who had a camera and took many photos of me standing by the various pieces of equipment. I ask many questions as to their operations and he asked many questions of me.
All in all, we learned that our equipment, training, policies and procedures are very much the same. They were a much bigger department than the one at which I volunteer in the States. They had a new state of the art building that covered at least 3 stories. They have 50 full time fire fighters who are on 24 hours and then off 24 hours. They average two calls per day and run a real fire call about every two days. All of their fire fighters are college/university graduates. The department even had the poles that they slide down when they are "toned" out.
On concluding my tour, I gave my host two Keowee Fire Department arm patches. It is custom in the US to give one another arm patches when visiting another station. He explained that this was not done in Korea. He became very apologetic that he did not have a "gift" for me (we learned that Koreans give gifts to visitors for almost any occasion.) As I was about to leave, he started over to the cadet and was about to rip the patch off the cadet's uniform to give to me. I said not to do that but if he would email me the photos they took, that would be a great gift. He followed me all the way out to the street continually bowing and thanking me for taking the time to visit their department. .