Brad McCutcheon knows Plano well. Growing up in the city, he knew he would go on to become a firefighter. After leaving for Texas A&M University in College Station, McCutcheon arrived back in the city to start a career with Plano Fire-Rescue.
Until recently, McCutcheon spent his days responding to cardiac arrests and major trauma calls. Now, he’s serving as the captain of the department’s emergency medical services during the COVID-19 crisis.
McCutcheon took a moment to tell the Plano Star Courier what it was like to witness COVID-19 reach the city and the best part of being in emergency services.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Plano. I left to attend college at Texas A&M and then came back. Other than college, I’ve either lived in or worked for the city of Plano all my life.
Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be in emergency medical services?
I’ve wanted to be a firefighter since I was 5 years old. I started watching a TV show called “Emergency!” in syndication every afternoon. It was a drama that chronicled the lives of firefighters and paramedics in Los Angeles, and I wanted to do all the cool things they were doing on TV.
I found out years later that the show is credited with introducing the country to EMS and paramedics. It helped put our profession on the map.
What brought you to Plano Fire-Rescue?
The city of Plano is widely regarded as a premier place to work across all of its departments. And Plano Fire-Rescue has always been one of the most sought-after fire departments in the state.
I knew I wanted to work for Plano Fire-Rescue as soon as I started my fire and EMS training. Working as a firefighter/paramedic in the city where you grew up is a lot of fun, too.
Tell me what you felt as COVID-19 reached the city.
I think everyone was feeling a little uneasy when COVID first showed up in Plano. We treat sick patients all day every day, but the uncertainty surrounding COVID was unnerving. We knew very quickly that we had to keep our firefighters safe from the virus for two reasons:
First, nobody wants their team members to get sick or, worse, take their exposure to a disease home to their families.
Second, as healthcare providers, we could very quickly contribute to the spread of COVID through the community as we see patients.
Plano Fire-Rescue got laser-focused on keeping its firefighters safe and has done an outstanding job. Our firefighters are rising to the occasion every day working in extra personal protective equipment on every call they respond to. This is a huge increase in workload as wearing extra suits and masks makes treating patients more cumbersome and complicated. I’m incredibly proud of how our team has responded to and adapted to all of the challenges that have come up over the last couple of months.
We're still seeing some cases in the city and county - what do you want residents to know about Fire-Rescue's response to the virus?
We are going to great lengths to ensure that anyone who calls 911 in the city of Plano is safe. Like all healthcare providers, we have invested significantly in PPE to keep the citizens and ourselves safe. All of our PPE is maintained, decontaminated, and discarded in a preplanned and systematic manner.
We are also using specialized equipment to decontaminate our ambulances in order to prevent potential viral spread from one patient to the next.
We know that people are uneasy about calling 911 and visiting emergency rooms, but we want everyone in Plano to know that we will keep you safe.
If you experience symptoms that make you think you should call 911 or go to the hospital, please do. We don’t want you to wait, because it could be too late.
Tell me about a time you felt rewarded in your work.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work in one of the most rewarding professions in the world. So many things that we do, from visiting students at Plano schools to treating patients experiencing life-threatening emergencies, make our job worthwhile.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my career was teaching our high school explorer program for several years and seeing some of our students go on to pursue and begin their own careers in the fire service.
What feedback are you hearing the most from residents you get calls from?
Many people are still nervous about COVID, especially when they or their family members are feeling sick enough to call 911. And everyone has an opinion on what "they" should be doing differently, whether it’s testing or reporting or any number of other expectations they have.
But most of the people we interact with seem to be glad that they live in a city that was well-prepared and has responded by focusing on keeping its citizens safe.
How are you dealing with the stress of the pandemic?
Like everyone, our family’s life has been turned upside down and so have our usual stress relievers. My wife and I have two kids: a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old.
With our gym closed and the kids being out of school, we are spending as much time as we can getting them outside and staying active. We’ve been cooking more and trying to support as many of our favorite local restaurants as we can, too.
And, of course, we are doing our part to support the streaming sites watching our favorite shows.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I have too many favorite parts about my job to list. I hate getting up in the morning, but I love getting up at 4:45 a.m. to come to work.
You and I could name countless rewarding professions that help make people’s lives better, but what sets my job apart is the people. I work with the best team of people I can imagine. Attacking the challenges that COVID has brought to our community together has made our team at Plano Fire-Rescue even stronger and I’m as proud as I ever have been to be a part of it.