4 Ways Firefighting is like Meeting Production- Show 243

On todays show Mike McAllen compares his experience firefighting is much like running a meeting production company.  (Minus the blood and heat of course)

4 Ways Firefighting is like Meeting Production

1) Always a new place to work – everyday is different

2) Bringing in the right resources

3) Putting out fires

4) Helping people

Transcripts to come

Enhanced by ZemantaWelcome back to the Meetings Podcast. This is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events and Media. Today, been watching the news, a little about Sandy back east. And I know a lot of our listeners are form the east coast. And I wanted to say I was thinking about you. Looks horrible, I know my sister lives in New York and some massive trees fell in her yard crushing her neighbor’s car. And I know a lot of power are out of power.


And just wanted to say I was thinking about you out there. Hang on. Seems to be over now but it seems like the aftermath is pretty horrible. It got me thinking today after watching a lot of the firemen on the news and the rescue workers, the police, about my experiences in the past. I used to be a fireman myself for a lot of years. And I wanted to kind of tell a story. I started thinking about the difference between meeting production and firefighting, and I wanted to do a little podcast about it. So, I hope you enjoy it. If not, I’m very sorry, but here we go.


So when I graduated from college, I looked out at the workforce. And what I really wanted to do was help people. And I chose the fire service. So I enrolled right away in the local fire academy. And I learned all about firefighting, emergency medicine. And then I was hired by a department in Carson City, Nevada right after that which was pretty fun. The place to go was very different from going up from the San Francisco bay area to be out in Carson City, but it was good, good, experience; a great experience actually.


The department was kind of a firefighter’s dream department because we were a multifunctional department. We ran tons of medical calls like every other fire department. But multifunctional is where we both had structure which was structure fire like the city fire engines and trucks. And we also had a full wild land arsenal. We also had a couple of local prisons which meant that we had inmate crews for working on the wild land fires which is really helpful.


And also we had a helicopter which was really fun to work on; playing in a helicopter is just fun, playing into fired is actually really fun. I worked in the fire service for about six years. And then actually I got out broken. I broke my knee on a fire really badly. And it basically kind of retired me in my 20s which is kind of interesting. I then poked around doing some other things until I fell into the meetings and events business which I found to be very similar to the fire service. Mine is basically the heat and the blood.


So I wanted to kind of go over some of the similarities and I have four of them. So the four similarities, first of off, I have – first of all, first of off, I have both of them, they’re always called the strange places to take care of business. No matter what happens, you have to get the job done. So in the fire service for example, you had to have a plan of attack. When you first see [0:03:28][while in fire], you basically send the world. So, meaning, everyone is sent to that fire. Then as the fire’s assessed, you start to cancel things.


So how many times have you seen a fire engine raised by your house only to see it like, creeping back 5 minutes later. And that’s what happened. They were – everybody was sent to this thing. And then as they assess the situation, stuff was cut back. As a new firefighter, when I first got started there, I came across a lightning struck and it was burning up and up. It was pretty far away. And so I started calling the world from my radio. I had my own little fire one ton fire truck. And I started calling the world. And so it was very interesting and scary to be calling in helicopter and those slurry drop in planes inmate crews. I felt like I was going to get in trouble like I was doing the wrong thing but that’s what I was told to do. When my battalion chief got there, he patted me on the back and said, great job.


And then he ended up cancelling everything. And we just sent out an inmate crew. They cut down a couple of trees and then cut line around it and then waited for it to burn out. Kind of a funny situation. But I look at meeting production and meeting, creative for meetings the same way. Basically you look at the meeting’s message. What is the reason you’re bringing all these people to the city; you’re bringing all these people to one city and I hate to hear, we just do it because we do it every year.




You really should have a reason for this. What’s the main message to those attendees needs to hear and how do we tell it best. The budget is unlimited at this point. At that point the budget is unlimited much like you’re sending in the world. It doesn’t matter how much it cost to send in all the stuff to this fire. You want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to start the process in the right way. Then you work backwards to fit it in to the budget.


So if part of the message is flying elephants into the room, first of off, you have, you know, rigging really elephants flying in the room. And then obviously it starts to scale back to where maybe it’s animation on the screen of elephants flying in. So you kind of get my point. This way you can concentrate on the message of the meeting and what you want the attendees to experience. And most of all, what are they going to walk away with after they leave that meeting.


OK. The second similarity. Bringing in the right resources. When you have a structure fire, you need the right equipment and labor. It seems pretty obvious you wouldn’t send a dispatcher or a police officer to fight a fire. There is a proper way of doing things much like at meetings which I’ll get to. There’s a chain of command at the fire scene. There are trucks and [0:06:28][Inaudible] trucks usually take care of the venting and they pull the smoke out of the building and they rescue people. The engines come in, they pump water and then those firefighters go in.


They all fight over who gets the nozzle in the front to put out the fire. And they are the ones that put water on the fire and put the fire out. Of course, these are all intermixed because people usually are trained in everything, but that’s the way the system goes on a fire. A captain will run the operations, give the order to everyone on the fire ground and keep assessing the situation unless somebody higher up in the rank arrives and then they take over up maybe if the situation grows.


So meeting production is the same way. A creative director will work with the producer to make sure the creative message and production could work. A technical director will be brought in to advise the technical stuff, the solutions for that. They all work together in that way. They make sure they have the most efficient equipment on site much like a fire department, they sometimes have to work with what they’re given which is situation we run into sometimes.


I was thinking about this too and I was thinking I didn’t want to associate the labor to inmates and volunteer firefighters, but you know, sometimes the union and non union laborer, you kind of – it’s kind of sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get. There’s a lot of unions which are a good thing in some times, and sometimes they’re a bad thing.


If you have to have a union, [0:07:56][Inaudible]somebody who can actually do the job, I feel that’s kind of a waste, but I understand that unions protect people and that’s why they’re there. So I never actually ran into a bad inmate on a fire. Inmates are always good because they have such a choice of people who – I think at the time when I was working there, those inmates got a dollar a day for being on the fire and a day off their sentence. They’re usually really – these crews would be together for years because once they find good people, they don’t want to let them go. So they would keep good crews. Actually I’ve never run into a bad inmate on a fire, working at fire.


And actually I haven’t run into many inmates besides that. Volunteer firefighters on the other hand, I’ve really run into some bad apples. The Department at Carson City had a huge volunteer that were supposed to committed to help us when we’d be on fires or on scenes and they would show up in all states. And then they would have a party afterwards which is kind of a sideline here. But they would have a big party after fires at their firehouses and at the volunteer little stations they had out.


I remember going in there, opening up these fridges, and they were full of beer. And I’m all like, what is these things? And the full time people would say, oh, that’s where after fires, they come back and they have a big party. And so then, after, we had a couple of times where the volunteer firefighters would have their big party after a fire. And then we would have to go out and find them; they’d be pulled off the road and stuff, driven off the road and stuff. Not a good thing.


That was a long time ago. So I figure I’m in my 40s now, that was in my 20s, so things have changed I think probably out there. Anyway, so with the meeting production, obviously, you want to have the best lighting techs, audio techs, stage managers, riggers, video techs, graphic operators. It’s essential to have a good meeting, so you want to make sure you have the right resources there.


Third thing, putting out fires, basically, the fire service, it’s all in the name, firefighter, you put out fires. That’s why the position was started, to put out fires.




Let’s expand it to other things. You know, in most cities, it’s the first or only medical attention people can get. The emergency medical medicine now has saved many, many lives. Hazardous materials management, vehicle accident, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes; all these are assessed by the fire service and dealt with accordingly. Also the police, also have a big part in this also.


And putting out fires also in meeting production. I’ve owned a meeting production now for more than ten years. And we take care of the creative and then the production. We’ve moved in – you know, we go into venues all over the world. And that’s always a test and [0:10:42][assessed in] you know, before you arrive for the preproduction and then when you get there because there’s always surprises. And those are fires, as the term goes, putting out fires. Every venue is different and some meetings are held on usual spots.


Of course it’s never life or death situation, but many people’s livelihoods depend on the outcomes of the great production or just the meetings itself. So it’s very important. So the normal and also what we’ve run into for years is that the normal production were often asked by companies, perform the task of the meeting planners because not every company has a meeting planner.


They want someone to take care of everything. So we’ll do the room negotiations, the food and beverage logistics and transportation. We’ve done a lot of that which is interesting. So we are – we can be full service meeting planners if it comes down to it.


The fourth thing, helping people. In the fire service, I always loved being a firefighter. It was really a great job. Honestly, it could be extremely boring sometimes if there were no calls, it was just insanely boring. We would train, we would clean, we would do, you know, go and do stuff in the community, fix hydrants, paint red around the hydrants. We would do all kinds of things like school programs. But most of all, it was sitting around the station, but also could be extremely exciting, so you never knew when something was going to happen or when it did it was you know, it was really fun. But the main thing was helping people. That was really what I liked. And I wanted to tell a story about one of the first call I went on was a medical emergency.


And we pulled up and there was a man laying down on the sidewalk. It was really hot. It was like middle of summer and it was in Carson City which gets hot, it was like 100 something. It was dry heat though, but it was hot. There were two older women who were standing screaming for this man to hold on. They were like screaming at him, he was laying on the sidewalk like out. And the captain told me to start doing compression.


So in my mind I was trying to recall. I just gotten hired and I was trying to recall what you do thru my MT book and what you know, the compressions to breaths and that kind of thing. I was thinking about it in my head. And then the captain just, you know, he just said, you know, start doing compression, so I lined up the spot and I started to push down. And the guy’s, the man who I did compression, suddenly all his ribs broke with the first one I pushed down.


He’s older man. I remember hearing it in the book – I mean reading it in the book and I’m telling this in class that you know, this could happen, you can break the ribs, it’s pretty easy especially with elderly people. But it was just a sickening crunch. It was just so vivid in my mind. But then my captain said, keep doing it, you know, keep pushing. And I pushed. I kept doing the compression and it was kind of making a [0:13:33][gratey] noise.


Sorry if I’m getting too graphic but it was really – you know, I was pushing away at it. And then we switched up and because I was exhausted immediately. It was crazy how tired I got immediately for doing this. I think it was just the whole emotions running thru you too. But we had been – we switched up. We were there for a little while. Ambulance arrived and then they took the guy away. We went back to the station and everything was business as usual. So a few months later, a man walked in the department and wanted to talk to us all and he thanked us for saving his life. And I was kind of confused at that time. I didn’t remember him.


And I thought, it was some other call because we went on a ton of medical calls as a department and a station. And I looked around at all the guys at the station when he was talking to us. And I worked for these guys who were heavy, heavy duty redneck firefighters. And they all had the mustaches that cover their whole mouths and just big, big rednecks. And a lot of these guys were tearing up. And it was kind of neat to see. And the guy left and then I started to talk about it with the captain. He said that that had never happened in his crew that the guy had come by back. And he told me that that was the guy that I broke his ribs. And I will never forget that moment.


And one of the things about helping people is that sort of a thing is that you get those moments in your life. You even get those in the meeting planning business. You’re really helping out people. You’re obviously you’re not saving their lives but you’re helping people. And a lot of that captain told me too that rarely happens where somebody gets saved from the firefighters or from the emergency responders doing CPR. But this guy did. And I hope he’s doing well these days.



And how I correlate that to the meeting production too is that you know, I had recently left my position at InVision Communications which is production company out here on the west coast. And I had started my new company, Grass Shack Events and Media. And I landed one of my first clients, and it was Siemens Medical Solutions. And my client was actually in Germany; great guy, great friend of mine now. But at that time, I didn’t speak any German, he didn’t speak English, that great. He does really well now. But I remember him not speaking it very well then and trying to get things across this production that they were doing. They were coming out and launching a new CT machine. And they had hired us to produce several meetings, two big client events to produce. And one of the client events was a giant one at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.


I’m not sure if you’ve been there, but it’s a huge building, actually moving now to another building, but it’s this old, where they had the world’s fair. If you ever come to San Francisco, go check it out; beautiful area, but it’s a giant place and old.


So most of the meetings were pretty straightforward. I produced everything myself which was new because at InVision I was basically staffing all the jobs and handling the proposals and helping with the creative, doing that sort of thing. So this was I was thrown into producer role which was really kind of fun. I enjoyed it.


And so I worked with my client who was out in Germany with the time difference. And we put together all these, all the meetings. And then the client event was the big thing. The client event, actually, we had to get the logistics of the buses to bring all the people down there. I can’t remember how many people, it was like … I don’t remember. It was like 800 people maybe or something like, a thousand people, a lot of people.


But the client event consisted of two stages, full lighting, AV, a life-size replica ice sculpture of the CT machine that actually the table slid back and forth. There’s links – I put links in here that I have some pictures of it that you can look at if you want to. You know, it was all catered. We had actors; we had a band; we had a walk of CT where we had built this whole kind of educational walkthrough that they would look and read and go thru. And it was all in this working museum, the Exploratorium, which wouldn’t close until five o’clock.


So that threw a [0:17:42][wrench] in everything. We had all this labor, all this stuff to load in. And we had I think it was two or three hours to load it all in. That was ten something years ago. Sorry I can’t remember how long ago. So we had everybody lined up outside the building. So once they emptied all the people from that were visiting the museum, then we all pushed in, built the stages.


There was a mass of skylight at the group that had – you know, it was a crazy old building to get up on the roof. We had to cover the skylight, put the lighting in, set up the stages in like two hours. So it’s amazing what you can do when you have to. It all worked out.


And so when that director of CT from Germany, he came up on stage and started walking the guest, I actually got kind of teared up and I was you know, I remember hugging my client that we had done it, we had finished it up and we had done, I think it was like five meetings and two, one giant client event, one higher end client event and videos and animations and all the things that go along with it when we had finished it. I’ll never forget that moment either.


So it’s interesting. You’re helping people in different ways. And that’s kind of my podcast for the day. I hope you enjoyed it. it’s kind of combining the two. I thought it was kind of apropos with all the emergency workers out there in the east coast helping all those people out there. If you’re in the east coast, I hope all is well. And I am thinking about you and I want to thank you for listening to the podcast.


And please, if you get a chance, e-mail me, call me, love to talk to you about anything. If you want to hear somebody on the podcast or if you want me to interview somebody or trying to interview somebody or you want us to talk about something, please contact me. And of course, contact us if you need some production done; video production, animations, anything you need to make your meetings that much better. So thank you and I’ll see you next time.


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