Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Windstorm Equipment Reviews

Well, its no surprise that, as I write this, we are still without power. Seeing the citywide destruction while working on Tuesday night, I'm surprosed that the majority of the city got its power back as soon as it did, When I got off work Wednesday morning, I ordered a couple of items from Amazon. I figured there was probably a run on most survival-themed merchandise in Spokane. Walking around a couple of days later, and seeing the overwhelming destruction, I figured we would be without power for at least a week (probably longer) and was glad for my purchases:

Mr. Beams MB480 UltraBright LED Camping Lantern. Found here.

This thing really puts out the light and the glow reminds me of my old Coleman lantern. It runs on four D cells. It has a USB port and does power up the phone - slowly. It went through the batteries faster than I expected, but it was used quite frequently to power up our three phones.

I really liked the Luci inflatable outdoor lamp. Found here.

It packs flat, and when ready to use, you blow it up like a little beachball. On the bottom is a solar panel and flat lithium ion battery. This thing will go pretty much all night. In the morning, flip it over and stick it in a window until you need it the next night.

I like to shop local, but when there is a run on emergency equipment, Amazon works great.

I considered a couple of other purchases - a four stroke quiet generator and an indoor safe propane heater. But, didn't pull the trigger on those.

The wood stove insert has been keeping the house warm. We have hot water and are able to cook because of gas appliances. After the ice storm 19 years ago, we converted our home to natural gas appliances wherever possible. It took 19 years, but it's finally paid off.

The only other thing that I have also been considering is a solar panel, battery and inverter set up. If we had those we could have saved the detritus that was in the refrigerator and powered our gas furnace. This set up would be silent and nonpolluting.

Other things that came in handy- our multitude of LED headlamps, a radio with a crank (the crank is stupid), a bike on a trainer to circulate some warm air, a cold garage, ice chests, a tiny usb power supply, LED candles, a thermos, games - especially Zombie Dice, the BGE, Netflix Kolchak the Night Stalker episodes on the Ipad, a couple of books - Spooky Spokane and So Anyway, the John Cleese bio, my ukulele and going to work.

When all is done, I will dedicate a shelf in the basement for all this stuff. It will be deployed for the Great Seattle Earthquake or the Yellowstone Super Caldera - whichever comes first.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

3 days after the Mighty Wind

A few snapshots while I was out on a little walk.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuesday at work

If you've followed this blog for a while, you probably know that I don't write much about my job as a fire lieutenant and paramedic. Tuesday will go down in Spokane history as a day of calamity and craziness. And I was working. I thought I would share some written snapshots of what it was like to be working on my fire engine that day.

This picture of my engine is from KREM's website.

Looking back, the day was a blur. Counting the calls on the pager, it looks like we had 22. We only had one after midnight. Here's a few that stand out.

A tree was down on a house on the north side. Rang the doorbell. The people inside had no idea that there was a 50 foot tree sitting on their front porch roof. There were no other hazards,

A dispatch for a structural collapse downtown at the building which houses Europa and other businesses. Reports were that there were people trapped under the rubble. We were the first truck there. Opening the door to this Spokane landmark, fiberglass insulation came blowing out, there was such a good breeze inside the building. Luckily, there was just one guy in the area where the roof came down. He made it out OK. Lots of initial worries but things settled down. I met the owner of the building and the owner of Europa. Very nice people. I hope everyone is back in business.

We started having problems with our computers on the trucks. We were unable to let Dispatch know when we were responding, when we arrived on scene and when we were finished with the call. I suspect the system was completely overwhelmed. Also, almost all radio traffic was being routed over one channel. Made for a very interesting time trying to communicate.

A call for a pedestrian who was hit by a car on the very far south east end of the city. We snaked through streets that were blocked by downed trees and had to turn around. Josh got out to see if we could clear the engine under some downed wires and trees. Corey expertly maneuvered the engine through. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived on scene. Nobody was there. The ambulance crew joined us in looking all over for a patient in the darkness. Nothing.

An alarm system at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport sounded when the power went out and shut down the kitchen exhaust fans. This was a pretty nice Holiday Inn. There was a bar up front. It was getting a lot of use. We walked through the darkness into the dining room. One guy started clapping. The place was very quiet. No one joined him in the applause. They all sat there, dimly lit by candles at their tables and chewed their food not looking up.

We went to the farthest north part of the city on another alarm system. Cruising up a completely darkened North Division was an eerie experience. The person responsible for the building met us there. The building was a former medical clinic, now vacant. A burglar alarm had been set off by the wind.

A tree down by where I live had also set off a smell of natural gas. This was not unusual. Trees that were being uprooted by the wind knocked down powerlines but they also pulled up gas lines with their roots. Sometimes they landed on the meter and tore it off. This one was puzzling though. There was a smell of gas, but crawling through the tree, you could see that the meter was still intact. The downed tree was immense. I climbed down into the very large hole where the roots used to be. I could smell no gas. Josh discovered that the tree had knocked over a propane tank and thats what was leaking. Simply shutting it off solved the problem. Nice!

It's amazing that when so many of these trees tore out gas lines and then knocked down power lines that the sparking and the natural gas didn't create a bigger problem.

Reports of trees on fire and roofs on fire were pretty common. Sometimes there was just one truck available to send to what was reported as a structure fire.

We would be on a call and be dispatched to another while still working the one we were on. The pace was brisk!

A full response for a hazmat call of supposed leaking gas from a tanker truck came in and, I think, it was just our response chief who was available to get to it.

An alarm system at a Gonzaga apartment where a candle melted onto a coffee table and set it and some papers on fire was the last call of the night.

These are just a few that I remember. When we had a chance to talk with folks on scene, everyone was so upbeat and nice. We got a lot of encouragement and thanks.

You could hear on the radio some tense moments. A firefighter disappeared after a tree went down on him. His officer sounded appropriately concerned. Fires extending into power poles, live electrical lines coming down at schools getting out, energized chain link fences - you could hear the concern and the immediacy in the radio transmissions. Avista was the most highly sought after entity of the night. And as glad as citizens were to see us, we were happier to see Avista pull up.

Kelly, our dispatcher, did an outstanding job. She reigned in people when they needed it and went with the flow when the flow was good. If you could download this night of dispatching and listen to all the radio traffic, you would be amazed.

Lastly, my crew did an excellent job. Corey is a new driver and he got us where we needed to go without a hitch. Driving down dark streets while the wind is buffeting the truck, muddy rain is falling, people are running into the street and power lines and trees are coming down is hopefully a once in a lifetime experience. Josh, my firefighter medic, is as always, a quick thinker and leaps into action immediately when things need to get done. He did a lot of leaping and always in the right direction. I was lucky to have the crew I did.

OK. That's what I can remember right now of some of the things we saw and did Tuesday night. Back to our regularly scheduled programing.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A very odd and very lost duck.

Sarah came in from a run this weekend and said there was a duck in Cannon Hill Pond, a kind of duck she hadn't seen before. I would guess that this bird is about half again as large as the resident mallards. We took a lot of pictures and video. Mercifully, here are only a few:

As you can see from the videos, it was really into grooming. The dark feathers were more of an iridescent  green. I would guess that it is a Muscovy duck. It is native to Central America and South America, although there are feral populations of these ducks which establish themselves around the globe. There are folks who breed them.  This may be one that got away.

Some websites mention that these can be an invasive species. 

I remember how I really enjoyed the wild turkeys five years ago, before their numbers swelled and turkey diarrhea  made the sidewalks slippery. Hope that doesn't happen with these ducks. Maybe they will interbreed with the turkeys. One can only hope.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

My bid for Spokane Poet Laureate - DENIED!!!!

Well, it's official. There's a new poet laureate, and it's not me. Congratulations to Laura Read. 

No. I don't know if her name is pronounced in the past or present tense. Either way, it's an awesome name for a poet, laureate or not.

I knew I was a long shot.  And Laura has an impressive resume. My only complaint is not getting any word from the Spokane Arts Commission regarding my application. Even after I emailed them to ask whether they had received my submission, they remained curiously silent.

Maybe they were swamped by poet laureate applications. 

Bukowski and Poe were held in contempt by the poetry establishment in their time and locale. If that is what is happening here, and I'm not saying it is, I raise a glass and utter a hardy "Huzzah!" to those who would include me in such noble company.

I have decided to share with you, my readers, my online application. I have removed some of my contact info. The last thing I need is gifts sent my way to cheer me up.

Here is my submission package:.

Here is the online questionnaire:

Title: John Griffith - Spokane Poet Laureate Application Cover Letter:

What are the responsibilities of a city poet laureate?

You have laid out the responsibilities very well in the job description. I would add that I would extend the role into, at least, a weekly presence via social media, inviting all of Spokane to participate in creating and enjoying poetry. I think there are excellent opportunities to create events with the private sector to promote poetry, as well.

How would you promote poetry in Spokane?

Primarily through social media. I have been using Periscope to host a live video poetry program on a weekly basis. Participation has been good and viewership has been from around the world. I have not seen another program like this. Public gatherings and events would be key, as well.

Over the last two years, I have promoted group seven-mile runs/bike rides to visit local breweries along the Centennial Trail. I envision similar opportunities to combine poetry with enjoyment of Spokane's outdoor beauty and a celebration of local craft businesses.

Describe the first laureate project you would like to undertake.

My first project would be the first of an on-going weekly web series. But, my first "big" project would be a February Valentines Day themed Wine and Roses poetry fest. This event would feature local wineries, chocolate and roses. I would partner up with local wineries for a tasting event. Florists and local candy makers would also be invited. During this time, we would have scheduled poets read their work and also open mic opportunities. I would emcee. I envision a steampunkish vibe for the event and we would promote it much like the Get Lit festival or Terrain.

Both Get Lit in April and Terrain in October would be excellent opportunities to partner up. Also, I would keep an eye out for conventions coming to Spokane and have an event for out-of-towners to celebrate poetry in Spokane. A great opportunity would have been Sasquan last month.

In September or October, an Oktoberfest Centennial Trail Brew and Haiku run or bike ride would be a great way to promote the Centennial Trail, the Spokane River and local breweries.

I believe poetry is a great way to easily experience creativity in anyone's life. I think having it woven into our daily lives, starting as children and extending into our golden years is a beneficial gift to the entire community. I would love to see Spokane known for this endeavor.

Thank you!

John Griffith, spokanarama@comcast.net,