Sioux City podcast offers glimpse of firefighters’ lives

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — In the title of the new Sioux City-based podcast “Before the Tones Drop” there’s the mission statement of the Fire Rescue workers behind it.

“Watching EMS-based shows, people see the fire department and the EMS and see the action side of things but what they don’t necessarily see is what happened in the firehouse,” Sioux City Fire Lieutenant Phil Marchand told the Sioux City Journal. “So we’re bringing you into the world before those alert tones come in.”

Now on its third episode, the “Before the Tones” podcast was forged during a recruitment effort Marchand and his fellow podcasters, Benjamin Morehead and Devan Schipper, were leading in their capacity as members of their department’s human resources committee.

“We did a Facebook Live Q&A,” Marchand said. “Trying to get some information out so that people applying knew what they were getting into.”

Once they were able to get Sioux City Fire Chief Tom Everett to sign off on it, and find a producer (Ryan Baker), the trio recorded their first episode and released it Oct. 26, 2022, on a number of different podcast platforms (including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher).

The first episode, aptly titled “The Pilot,” begins with some blues rock and metallic-y music before Morehead sets the stakes, introduces his co-hosts and gets in a few lighthearted barbs about some of the other rescue workers on the staff. Marchand talks about how he traveled hundreds of miles (from northern Minnesota) to take the job in Sioux City. And Schipper explains how firefighting is in his family. His dad, Dave Schipper, is the fire chief in Le Mars (as was Devan’s grandfather, Wayne Schipper).

“I didn’t really have an option to do anything else,” he jokes.

Like a lot of debut podcasts, a few seams show: The three occasionally interrupt each other, there’s some talking away from the microphones and transitions that don’t fully flow.

“I kind of relate it to the first time in high school I played in a band. When you look back on it, you had no idea what you were doing. And that’s what this first episode was like,” Marchand said.

Morehead added: “We found a lot of improvements right away. And even in our second episode we feel like we made a lot of progress.”

As someone who recently got five years under his belt, Morehead said he has always been compelled to hang out with the older guys and hear the tales they have to tell.

“I love hanging out at the kitchen table with some of the crews and hearing stories from the past and making memories,” he said. “We learn from who’s ahead of us.”

That feeling is one everyone involved with the “Before the Tones Drop” podcast is trying to capture on each episode. They want folks in the broader community to come to a better understanding of the bonds that can be forged when coworkers have to put their lives on the line for one another and are also “stuck” together for long stretches of time.

In other words: “Give a perspective of what it’s like to be a first responder in Sioux City,” Morehead said.

Coupled with those perspectives, are discussions on the dangers of frying turkeys, PSAs to let people know about the safe home program (which allows for free smoke alarm installation) and skits. In the most-recent episode, “Giving Gifts and Lessons,” which dropped this past week, there’s a mid-credits surprise (a la “The Avengers”).

“We want that entertainment value with it. We don’t want to target just firefighters,” Marchand said. Though another purpose of the podcast is to let fire rescue workers across the city know what’s going on at other stations.

For the time being, there’s only one episode a month. But Marchand and Morehead are clear that the production schedule could increase if the demand is there.

“This is extra time out of our work schedule. We spend our days off coming in and doing this stuff. And with that, we don’t want to burn out anyone too quick,” Morehead said. “But we’re hoping to find our stride quicker.”

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Sioux City Journal.