My Story: Paul S. Bloom
As a young child surrounded by sisters, I had the privilege of my own room, which faced toward the street. Every now and then I would watch my neighbor leave his house with his lunch pail and overnight bag and walk to work. I had no idea where he went, but it intrigued me because most adults I knew left for work at 6 a.m. and drove. He left at 6 p.m. and walked. It was a couple years later, when the local fire station crew came to my school to flood the schoolyard with water for the winter skating season, that I saw my neighbor. He was an engineer with the local fire department. As I grew up, I had opportunities to visit with him and tour the old New England station – with its sleeping quarters, fire pole and ticker-tape alarm system. It even had the stalls for the horses that had since been put out to pasture. I was hooked.
Years later, while I was struggling with freshman chemistry far from New England, a local fire department was recruiting. I applied and spent the next several years as a firefighter. I took every opportunity to take any class I could from the local fire academy (Texas A&M Brayton Field). It was my dream job. I enjoyed everything about the job and felt I was protecting and improving the community. I learned about the Certified Safety Professional certification from a co-worker and set my eyes on that. I reached out to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals to find out what I had to do to qualify for and sit for the exam. I was told, “Being a firefighter requires you to be safe, but it is different than being a safety professional.” Well, things have a way of working out, and I found myself leaving the fire department to become a full-time student at Oklahoma State University.
Since graduating, I have spent the second half of my career working in hazardous materials emergency response. I have traveled this great country and been involved in all aspects of environmental, health and safety in emergency responses – from small spills on the side of the road to working large events such as Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and the BP cleanup. I finally sat for my ASP and CSP after completing two undergraduate degrees and a master’s in occupational safety. I enjoy sharing my knowledge, educating the young workforce and, hopefully, keeping people safe so that they can make it home at the end of the day. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I might have never learned about becoming certified as a safety professional if not for my co-worker. She was the first female firefighter in the department, but, sadly, lost her life in Afghanistan. I hope I did well for her.
Paul S. Bloom Regional Safety Manager Houston