First Responder: Firefighter/EMT Stefen Berry
Meet Stefen Berry, a firefighter for 10 years with a whole lot to say.
Name: Stefen Berry
Town: Decatur, Ga.
Rank/Title: EMT (Hazmat Team, Gwinnett County)
How long with the Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services?
Berry became a firefighter about 10 years ago.
Why did you want to become a firefighter?
"I have a super-hero complex," he said, more than once. "I have a cape in my locker; I have to sew it up every day."
His crew members said it's not a complex, that he really is a hero, having spent time in the military, as well as being a firefighter.
Berry said he also knew a lieutenant that was working at the department, and decided he wanted to work with him. In addition, Berry added that "job security" was particularly important.
Are there any other people in your family in service jobs?
Berry's brother is a police officer, and his father has had a career in the military and as police officer.
What do you like about the job?
"It's a good job; it's rewarding," he said. "I like the brotherhood of the job. You can't get better than this camaraderie."
How do you balance work and life?
"It's like a switch, you just turn it off."
You spent time in the Army; why did you do that?
"I left here," he said about his life as a firefighter, "in 2005, and went into the Army for four years."
Berry added that he "just did it," when deciding to leave his life behind and serve active duty. "I just wanted to go, just something new, a new experience."
What's a memorable call you've had?
"The bad ones are the ones you remember."
What don't you like about the job?
"I don't like how the simplest decision takes three months to make," he said. "How long does it take to get us something here? Months, because it's gotta be approved by people don't ride the trucks and don't know what they're talking about."
"What I'm saying is, how can someone who doesn't ride a truck tell me what I need on a truck?" he added. "Politics, it's top-heavy. I don't like that. It takes way too long to make a simple decision on something that we need now."
What more do you wish the public knew about what you do?
"I think that the public needs to take it into their own hands for EMT training or something like that, because the common belief is that the fire department is here and everything is going to be OK," he said. "Well, we just stop things from getting worse. Us paramedics, we get on the scene, and we slow the process down, we slow you circling down the drain, that's what we slow down, and get you to the hospital.
"But, the process beforehand, if you do CPR on our way there you're going to help...you're going to do the greater good there, and when we get there you won't be so far down the tubes to where we can't help you."
"We're not the end all be all, that the fire department is going to save your life," he added. "A flat line is a flat line, and we're not bringing back a flat line."
What's advice you would give someone who wants to be in this career?
"It's not like the movies; it's different. Be ready to work. It's a lot of work; it's a lot of training. We train all the time, you know. You don't train for the Super Bowl at half-time."