Quick! How Do You Dial 911?
Randy Nickerson
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buy *Quick! How Do You Dial 9-1-1?: Lifelines and Laughlines of a Firefighter Paramedic* online Quick! How Do You Dial 911?: Lifelines and Laughlines of a Firefighter Paramedic
Ray Nickerson
Tattersall Publishing
208 pages
November 2001
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Captain Randy Nickerson of the Denton, Texas Fire Department has written a fun and insightful book spanning his twenty years as a firefighter-paramedic. Each of the fifty-six short chapters is either a brief glimpse into a real call that has stuck with Nickerson, or some personal insight into what working a 24-hour shift is like. He quickly dispenses the myth that firefighters get paid to sleep. He has an exercise the reader can do to become a believer and give the firefighter even more respect.

Curled Up With a Good BookQuick! How Do You Dial 9-1-1? is a quick read and is good for more than a handful of laughs. There are a few surprises in the book that may not be appropriate for all readers. These surprises are graphic scenes of accidents or suicides and are not at all lighthearted like the majority of the book.

Captain Nickerson's customers are people who are having "really bad" days. Some of these bad days include vehicle accidents and suicide; which are described briefly yet succinctly. A few scenes are graphic enough to stay with the reader almost as long as they have stayed with Nickerson.

Nickerson has a fantastic way with subtle humor. In describing the tank that a firefighter wears on his back, Nickerson says

“In order for the facemask to be of any significant value, an eighteen-pound compressed air bottle assembly is strapped to one’s back. It contains compressed room air. Not pure oxygen. Oxygen is a primary ingredient in promoting combustion, so we think it best not to add to the chances that we will get French-fried inside a burning building if we spring a leak.”
Each chapter is titled and identified with a fictional date, time and street address as an appetizer to the main course. The type of call is real, but not very descriptive - a realistic glimpse into what firefighter-paramedics deal with as they approach a call. Unconscious person, structure fire, vehicle fire, motor vehicle accident, injured person, and medical emergency are the most common calls. A person's mind can go wild with these two- to three-word descriptors of incidents that turn out to be forever burned into a memory. Nickerson's story telling lends credence to the saying that life is stranger than fiction.

Quick! How Do You Dial 9-1-1? describes the firefighter-paramedic career. It isn't always glamorous, easy, or rewarding. It's full of stress, dirt, danger, and various extremes intensified by unpredictability. Most days Nickerson loves his job, other days he hates it. Some days he is bored stiff with lack of activity, other days he's grateful to get home and sleep for as long as possible.

Question posed by Nickerson: how do you dial 9-1-1? The day of the rotary phone has passed for the most part. Pressing or pounding 9-1-1 is perhaps more accurate, but regardless of how a person places the phone call, firefighter-paramedics respond with their adrenaline pumping and their thoughts focused on doing their best for someone who is having a "really bad" day.

Nickerson's book was born when he wrote a prize-winning essay for a literature course at North Central Texas College and his mentor encouraged him to pull together memorable career experiences. Quick! How Do You Dial 9-1-1? is insightful, heart-wrenching, and a good way to show that sometimes laughter is the only viable response to a situation.

This book is fun and very quick to read with its three-page average per chapter. There are a handful of graphic descriptions depicting accident scenes and suicide attempts that sneak up on the reader. The scenes are real. The scenes are well described. The scenes could have been toned down so as not to be so shocking, but the reader should know that they are in the book.

© 2002 by Lisa Haselton for Curled Up With a Good Book

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