How we're changing the status quo

Posted on Mon, 20 Dec 2010 14:39:32 UTC

American voters made a decision in the midterm elections in November this year. The decisions were based on a decision to change the status quo. The U.S. Fire Service apparently made a similar decision earlier in the year, too. The number of line-of-duty deaths recorded in 2010 is near the lowest in the past decade. The number of Safety Officers certified by the National Board of Firefighter Professional Qualifications (Pro-Board) through the Fire Department Safety Officers Association is at a record annual total.

The causes for the reduction in LODDs are not readily measurable. Although the number of deaths is down, the statistics do reflect a status quo or even regression in some ways. Statistics through November show that 68 percent of LODDs occurred away from the incident scene, or responding to the incident scene. Heart attack was the cause of 58 percent (46) of the deaths, vehicle collision 14 percent (11). Twenty-one firefighters who died were over the age of 61. The oldest was 86. Two firefighters were under the age of 21.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's Everyone Goes Home Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives call for the certifications of firefighters. Perhaps the fire service is implementing and adopting this Initiative. The training required for certification may be a factor in the reduction of fireground deaths. However, 8 percent (6) of the LODDs involved firefighters losing their lives due to building collapse, being overtaken by advancing fire conditions or becoming disoriented.

The FDSOA, NIOSH, the IAFF and the IAFC all worked to reduce the number of LODDs in 2010. The FDSOA through safety officer training certification, NIOSH by investigating LODDs and making remedial recommendations and the IAFC's Rules of Engagement and the IAFF's Fire Ground Survival Program both show a commitment to reducing firefighter fatalities.

Technological improvements may be another LODD reduction factor. Several firefighters report "new" use of seat belts because of the strong reminders that come in the form of warning lights and buzzers in newly delivered apparatus.

Increased awareness of air management has changed the way departments treat low air warning alarms. Changes in roadway operations is apparent in most photos and videos, in the form of roadway safety vests on most (if not all) responders.

All of these improvements in safety operations and awareness may be contributing factors in the relatively low number of LODDs in 2010. Perhaps the "no fear" culture of the fire service is changing and we are entering a time when risk management prevails and we employ intellectual aggressiveness.
We still must address our biggest cause of LODDs — heart attack. We must look at age as a factor that increases risk. The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative should receive a renewed effort.

The fire service is committed to reducing LODDS, but the efforts must seriously review the statistics and make the necessary changes.

How do you deal with backdraft when fighting a fire?

Posted on Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:05:40 UTC

A question posted recently on Quora asked, "How do you deal with backdraft when fighting a fire?" Firefighter Ben Urwin gave his opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.

Backdrafts or smoke explosions can occur in fires that are severely ventilation-limited. This means that the fire's aggravation is limited by the amount of oxygen available to it. The other two necessary ingredients are available in abundance: heat and fuel. In this instance, the fuel is the smoke being released by the fire which contains a large amount of carbon monoxide — a flammable gas.

When these conditions are encountered, the goal is to remove as much heat and smoke from the structure as possible before introducing any new oxygen. Most of the time, this is accomplished by cutting an opening in the roof and refraining from opening any windows or doors on or below the fire floor until conditions have changed.

This means that no search and rescue can occur and no water is being put on the fire until the vertical ventilation can be completed. This can be difficult to understand for people watching the operations, especially if the house happens to be theirs!

However, in a fire where the conditions are right for a backdraft to occur, there is absolutely no chance of finding anyone alive in the building. Fire growth is fairly slow and it may even be auto-extinguishing due to lack of oxygen. The biggest danger, by far, is that of a backdraft and so the risk must be eliminated before the firefighters can move on to other priorities.

5 traits of great firefighting instructors

Posted on Mon, 31 Mar 2014 09:11:41 UTC

When I began to consider what traits make a great fire instructor, I was inundated with ideas. There were so many people who came to mind who had shaped and mentored my career as not only a firefighter and officer, but also as an instructor.

One of the sayings that always comes to mind is, "every officer is an instructor" just by the nature of the position. I have learned over the years that instructing is more than just managing a crew. To truly instruct, you must be invested in the people you are leading, not just ordering them around.

Great instructors have some common traits that make them great. I would argue that instructors are unique in their delivery, in their experience and in the way that they create their own content. But, these five traits are found in almost every great instructor out there.

1. Knowledge
An effective instructor must have knowledge of the topic. I am not talking about "you took a class and now you can teach it" type of knowledge.

No, you have studied, read up on, asked those who are experts, and researched the topic in order to teach it to others. This process takes time; many will skip this step and eventually be caught by a student who knows more about the subject matter than the instructor. That's not a good situation.

2. Experience
With prerequisite knowledge also comes the need for experience. For example, you will not see me teaching farm-rescue classes. Although I have some background in that topic, I have not obtained the correct amount of knowledge or experience to effectively deliver that type of information.

To be effective you have to use knowledge from past experiences to add credibility to what your are presenting. I have witnessed newer instructors take a class and immediately want to teach it because they like the subject and are "into it."

This typically does not end well. Great instructors teach what they know and have experience in.

3. Ability to relate
Effective instructors can make content relevant to their audience. They have the ability to use experiences and events to illustrate concepts and theories.

This is most commonly done with storytelling and knowing how to relate to the audience. So, if I work in a suburban area and use tactics that are geared for a large number of personnel, I need to be able to teach tactics that can be used by a more rural department if that is where I am teaching.

Being able to relate is one of the most important traits a great instructor can have. Think about sitting in an EMS or first-aid class with a doctor as the instructor. That doctor, no matter how smart and how much experience he has, will be completely ineffective if he cannot relate the content to the audience in a way that meets their understanding and needs.

4. Passion
A great instructor must have a passion for teaching and the profession. We have all sat through a class with an instructor who was just there for the money or because he was made to do it. It is a miserable experience.

Passion is something you have or you don't. An "OK" instructor can be very successful because of the passion she exude during the class. It is contagious and it makes people feel good to know that the teacher care about the job and the students.

Normally, those with great passion are also those who take the time to learn the profession and job. They are usually students of the fire service and love passing on what has been shared with them. It's palpable and their students very rarely nod off during the afternoon.

This trait is what drives the instructor to take advantage of every learning moment that comes her way. These are the instructors who will stay after the class to show a group or individual the answer to a question instead of just telling them.

For example, after a hands-on class this instructor is the one who stays to show another technique, to let a student get more reps or try something new that was brought up in the class.

If the instructor is passionate, then the students are more likely to be as well.

5. Humility
Nobody likes a know-it-all. At one time, you were a new firefighter and didn't know as much as you know now. The great instructors will tell you that they are lucky and have been blessed with great mentors and instructors who helped them along.

Being humble is genuine with great instructors because they realize that they still have much to learn and that sharing the knowledge, experience, and information they have obtained to this point is an obligation and responsibility they have to the fire service.

Students are more accepting of information from an instructor who admits not knowing an answer or shares examples of professional failures. Those things help to make the instructor real and more credible and show transparency.

We are in this profession for a short time and our goal should always be to make the next generation of firefighter better than the current one. Humility plays a large role in that.

I'm sure you have your own ideas of what traits a great fire instructor should have, and you're probably right. We all are individuals and have unique gifts that make us effective.

Make sure your information is credible and that you have put in the time to ensure you can effectively deliver and demonstrate the material.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next month. Train hard and be effective in all that you do.

Tools and techniques for forcing a door

Posted on Mon, 20 May 2013 11:16:48 UTC

There's nothing like successfully forcing a door to get the blood going. And there's one tool that's often used to take the door — the Halligan Bar.

The Halligan is a firefighter tool that dates back to the mid 1900s. The tool has its origin in the FDNY; it was designed by former First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan and local blacksmith Peter Clarke made the first actual working model.

Halligan was a city firefighter for years and worked first hand with the Halligan's predecessors, which were called the Claw Tool and the Kelly Tool. The Claw tool was the original and was problematic in its design. It was dangerous to use because it was very heavy and had an off-centered striking surface.

Later came the Kelly tool, which was designed by a FDNY Ladder Capt. John Kelly. The tool resolved some of the previous issues of the Claw, but still was deemed too heavy and not substantial enough in its welded assembly.

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After multiple trials, Chief Halligan developed a tool that was lighter, efficient, perform well, and would not fail when in use. There are many versions and alterations to the bar since, but the main concept is still present.

Andrew Brassard of Brotherhood Instructors states that the bar's original design was "made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ pounds. Comprised of an adz, pick, and fork, the standard-issue bar is approximately 30 inches long, with a 15/16-inch shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork is a minimum of 6-inches long that taper into two well-beveled tines.

Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. The adz has a gentle curve for additional leverage, with a beveled end. In addition to being used to break something, the pick and adz — only when properly used — provide protection to the user's arms, hands and body during forcible entry operations.

Although one would think the tool would take off in FDNY, there were initial thoughts from the department that this would be a conflict of interest. This is why Boston was the first major fire department to purchase the tool. It took FDNY firefighters buying it on their own for some time before the city of New York eventually purchased them for firefighters.

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You often see the Halligan paired with an ax. These tools are quite complimentary in forcible entry and are often referred to as a "set of irons". Over the years people have designed straps and kits for carrying the two items together as a pair.

As mentioned earlier, there are three components of the Halligan Tool: adz, pick and fork. All parts of the tool can be used in various types of forcible entry. The tool can be used for breaching walls, forcing doors, ventilation, and search and rescue.

When purchasing a Halligan Bar be on the lookout for the following:

  • Once-piece forged tool. Do not settle for welded, pinned or threaded connections
  • Tool should be 30-inches long
  • Adz and forks should be both 6 inches long and slightly beveled
  • Forks should be thin

If you are not familiar or equipped with a Halligan Tool, get familiar online, speak with your officer and train. When training, train under the supervision of a professional or experienced officer. Communicate, and always remember your safety basics

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High-angle rescue: How to execute mid-height pick off

Posted on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:33:30 UTC

In light of the recent rescue that FDNY performed, I thought it would be a great opportunity to discuss some of the techniques available when confronted with these types of scenarios. There are some universal concepts that apply to both natural and man-made environments.

There are many reasons a victim is trapped at mid height: gear malfunctions or failures, injuries resulting from falling debris, medical emergencies, etc. The first series of variables is what is supporting the victim's load. There are two basic variables.

First, the victim is rigged or supported by a dynamic system (meaning it can move). This can simply be a rope or ropes as in the case of a climber, person rappelling, or a would-be rescuer.

It also can be an industrial application such as window washers or maintenance personnel on a cable-and-winch system or a ladder-based climbing system. In all of these examples, the assumption is that the system supporting these victims is under tension and carrying their load.

Second, the victim is supported by something static (meaning it is a fixed object or support system). This can simply be a ledge or window opening. It also can be a working platform upon which he may be safety rigged but do not have tension on his personal rigging.

In these examples, the assumption is that these victims are captured through gravity but are somewhat free to move minimally and their position at height is not under loaded tension.

First steps
As we approach these scenarios we must assess the condition of the victim and the cause of the predicament. As we gather information regarding the cause, we will learn whether or not we can use the existing system or develop a new one.

This can radically shape the action plan.

If the victim is suspended by a cable-and-winch system that is safety compliant and intact and the victim is having a medical emergency, then using the existing system (provided rescuers can operate it) may provide the most effective solution.

However, if the victim was rappelling and suffered a gear failure, we will have to develop a complete high-angle system to accomplish the rescue.

If the victim is suspended on a loaded or tension system, we will have to bring gear that will allow us to transfer the victim from his system onto the rescue system.

As we refine our action plan and draw conclusions from these assessments, there is one final challenge to consider. What is the best approach for access and rescue.

Reaching the victim
In these events, we may have crews above the victim, at the victim, and or below the victim. All of these options will shape the systems we select and how we deploy them.

A victim who is on a ledge in a cave, ravine or gorge will most likely require a hauling system to bring the victim up. This will require a lower haul system with a high directional.

It may also require bottom side crews to develop a tensioning track line or tensioned track line depending on the placement and height of the directional as well as the terrain features.

A victim who is trapped on the side of a water tower or hydropillar may only require topside anchoring and a rescuer who descends to the victim, packages, and then descends to ground.

A victim trapped at height that can be directly or proximally reached through a nearby window or platform may only require top-side safety systems to be rigged so the victim can be safely moved from the compromised position to an accessible position. The recent FDNY rescue was a good example of this application.

As always, the objective is to make the right choices to achieve the most optimal outcome for the victim and the rescuers. Do not over-rescue. With that said, here are the tangible points of rigging to perform a pick off of a stranded mid-height victim.

Load transfer
This is when the victim is suspended on loaded rope or cable. Establish a belay line and moving brake line. Some organizations may elect to establish a fixed brake line in which the rescuer is lowered, but I have found that this application requires very finite communications and often results in miscues between the rescuer and the lowering team.

Conversely, the moving brake requires an experienced rescuer who is adept at rappelling and rigging. This should be the case, though, because pick offs are a level II skill.

Pre-rig the belay line for victim attachment. Put a knot, typically a figure eight on a bite, into the end of the belay line and attach it to the accessory loop on the rescuers harness with a screw link. This knot will be attached to the victim when the rescuer gains access to him.

I prefer the link to a carabineer because it can easily get side loaded during the pick off process and insures a higher safety factor. I avoid tying a knot into the victim's harness because it can be time consuming compared with attaching a link or similar connecting hardware.

Once the knot is established, measure approximately one arm's length and tie a midline knot; butterfly is acceptable here. This midline knot is the attachment point for the rescuer.

Pick-off straps
Rig in a pick-off strap or self-minding short-haul system. Attach this element to the eye of the rescuer's brake bar rack or other descent control device. It is important that this device eventually carry the load of the victim directly to the main line and not to the rescuer.

Pick-off straps have a U and a V attachment. The U goes to the rescuer's rack or lowering line knot and the V gets attached to the victim. It is a good practice to make these attachments with screw links for the reasons previously mentioned.

Self-minding short-haul systems are typically 4-1 or 5-1 ratio systems with capturing cams or progress capture devices that self set. These systems will provide the rescuer with an added capability to haul the victim up a short distance.

Some of these systems come in small packs and can be carried down by the rescuer and deployed when needed. Pre-attaching will help speed up the rescue and may reduce potential rigging errors.

At the victim
Rappel or descend down to the victim. Stop descending and lock off when the rescuers hips are at the same height as the victim's head. This positioning is crucial to ensure that the transferring devices have appropriate spacing to be reached and operated.

Attach the belay line to the victim and the pick-off strap or short-haul system. I find that inverting at this point can greatly increase the efficiency of the rescuer. Inverting allows the rescuer to maximize her reach and use both hands.

Haul the victim up or pull tension on the pick-off strap until the load has transferred from the victim's line to the implement you have applied. When using a pick-off strap, the load usually cannot fully transfer because not enough force can be generated by simply pulling the strap.

This requires the victim's loaded descent-control device to be operated in a controlled manner until slack is developed. This is where short-haul systems will pay dividends. When the transfer is complete, disconnect any remaining unnecessary victim lines to reduce entanglements.

The victim should be oriented just below the rescuer and the pick-off strap or the short-haul system should be between the rescuers legs. If working on a wall, coach the victim to keep his arms crossed around his rigging so that he doesn't grab the rescuer's legs.

When the rescuer's legs are grabbed, they lose foot contact with the wall both parties end up riding the wall. If not working on a wall, rescuers may direct the victim to grab their extended legs to prevent rotating or spinning independently of one another.

When preparing to descend or rappel to the ground, remember that an extra load has been picked up and the previous level of friction on the descent-control device will not be appropriate.

No load transfer
When the victim is static and not attached to tensioned lines, all of the steps are the same with the exception of transferring lines. This means we simply access the victim, attach the belay and pick-off strap, pull out slack and ease off the static platform.

This is a much more simplistic pick off, but often requires more packaging. These victims often do not have harnesses and require rescuers to put one on them. These victims also may be significantly injured.

This will require basket packaging and a lowering system on the top side with the rescuer transition to a tender. We will save that for another column.

Pick offs require a lot of repetition and are a high-risk rigging event. Watch the video to help drive the material home and then get out there and do it.

Remember you can statically go through the rigging progressions out in the bay so rep it out and be ready. Train hard.

Why involving families is a valuable recruiting tool for fire departments

Posted on Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:23:22 UTC

By Dr. Shana Nicholson
American Military University

Fire departments across the country are struggling torecruit and retain volunteer firefighters. Small departments in rural areas are especially dependent on volunteer firefighters to serve and protect their communities.As a firefighter with Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department in Shinnston, W. Va., our department has emphasized a family-oriented approach in order to recruit volunteers. This approach has resulted in far less personnel turnoverthan the average volunteer department as well as astrong camaraderie within "The Ten House." This legacy of service extends through multiple generations, with parents passing their knowledge, dedication, and passion for the fire service to their children.

How Does "The Ten House" Make It Work?
In 2014, Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department responded to 642 alarms. These alarms ranged from structure fires and medical calls to vehicle accidents with injuries and entrapments. The department, which serves about 10,000 residents for initial response and mutual aid, is fortunate to have more than 40 volunteer members, many of whom are legacy firefighters. It is only possible to have this many volunteers because the department has the support of families and community members.

The Shinnston Fire Department actively involves the families of its volunteer firefighters so individuals can more easily balance personal lives with serving their community. There is a certain social aspect of a small rural fire department that includes cook outs, holiday celebrations, birthdays, weddings, and even football games.

Full story: Visit the In Public Safety blog

Innovative EMS ideas are ripe for grant funding

Posted on Thu, 19 Jun 2014 17:11:54 UTC

A recent DOT-NTSA Innovation Grant opened its arms to a slew of game-changing ideas, and we can expect to see more of this in the future.

Although the submission deadline was June 6 for the grant “promoting innovation for emergency medical services,” I don’t think it’s over by a long shot. More of these types of grans will likely be offered in the future, so the DOT/NTSA process will be onto watch all way through, from award to implementation.

The award winner will receive $100,000 to $225,000 for a solutions-based pilot project implementation, and there is a lot to learn about which agencies get funding and why.

Which ideas are award-winning?

While the application cited integrated mobile health care programs, the grant was open to all types of EMS delivery solutions.

For instance, EMS organizations that want to implement a returning veterans outreach program or a new EMS neighborhood watch program may be considered for an award. Community EMS training and/or EMS citizens’ academies might also catch the eye of grantors.

Much like the Regional EMS Authority in Reno, Nevada, which received a CMS Innovation Grant that collaborates with the University of Nevada Reno Medical School as a grant requirement, the DOT/NTSA’s awardee will engage with its respective state’s oversight agency while implementing the awarded “legal, regulatory and financial frameworks” for the selected pilot project.

As a result of such collaboration, the DOT project innovators must show their solution(s) as offering consistent quality and safety controls, quality medical direction, meticulous data collection, and eventually sustainable program financing.

As it goes with many of these types of projects, government agencies like CMS and the DOT are looking for solutions that may be replicated elsewhere.

Innovation grants will continue to grow

I believe these types of grants offered to innovative public and private for-profit and nonprofit EMS organizations present a win-win problem-solving strategy that is here to stay. What’s more, if the awardee is successful the grant is likely to become available again next year.

And, as a bonus, there is significant prestige and organizational growth that comes with winning and then producing a great solution.

Now is the time to get prepared for the next big opportunity. Treat your new EMS delivery idea like any circumspect entrepreneur by writing a business plan.

Declare on paper the vision and mission for your project. Describe who benefits from the implementation of your program, cite up-front who might disagree or compete with you, and mitigate any opposition.

Be ready to describe the human resources and capital equipment your idea requires, and record the implementation milestones and timelines that will make your idea a real-time solution.

Almost every innovation grant requires proving your idea’s sustainability, so remember to include how your project can continue to fund itself after the grant runs out.

Have a Plan for the Tactical

Posted on Wed, 2 Jul 2008 11:14:57 UTC

Too many candidates get sucked into concentrating too much on the check-off list for their tactical without realizing it. In the process, they lose control of the fire and their score gets hammered.

What's your best tactic for rescue or knocking down the fire? An aggressive attack on the fire! Go fight the fire with your resources. In the process you will get the necessary boxes checked off on the rating sheet, could put out the fire and get a top score.

Yes, you want to cover all the bases to make sure the boxes are checked off on the rating sheet, but again, isn’t the best tactic for extinguishment and rescue an aggressive fire attack?

However, concentrate on a solid plan. Many candidates put too much into play out of sequence early on in the exercise and make the problem bigger than what the raters have actually given them. Often, candidates will give assignments to units to place positive pressure ventilation, a crew to pull ceilings, assign more than one unit to carry out search rescue and other tasks, call the canteen truck, and add a rescue problem that wasn't given to them.

This is before they have the first line on the fire, a RIT team assigned, utilities pulled and a crew sent to the roof for ventilation. The fire gets away from them and they are out of equipment and resources before they realize what happened. How long can you tread water?

These are major areas the raters will be checking off on your scoring sheet that can rack up big points. You must come out swinging. Once you have proven you can handle the call from the beginning, you're nailing it. As soon as the raters know you got it, they will help you over the top to that next badge. It's a beautiful thing when it happens.


Have a plan
Here's a simple example of a fire problem: You give an on-scene size up at a fire involving a residence with fire blowing out a bedroom window. You order your engineer to hook up as you and your firefighter start pulling lines. If you followed this sequence, you have just lost the fire!

The problem here is you went from size up directly into tactics. Most candidates start off on the right foot with a size up of the fire. Then they make a fatal mistake in going directly into tactics without a plan. They confuse tactics with a plan. Once given the fire problem, focus all your energies on developing a plan.

Without a plan, you are out of control. What was your plan on this fire problem? By just taking a few more moments, you would have one. When confronted, candidates that go immediately to tactics regroup and say, "My plan is to confine and put out the bedroom fire." O.K., but if you didn't say it, you didn't have a plan. Size up, plan, and then tactics.

Fire chief saves child, earns F-16 ride

Posted on Mon, 9 Jul 2012 08:52:53 UTC

At two or three Gs, the pilot told him in the pre-flight briefing, it will feel like you are wrestling a couple of guys but holding your own. At five Gs, you'll feel like you are losing the fight and at 9 Gs nothing moves — wherever something is, that's where it stays. They went over the procedures to eject if something went very wrong.

This was part of several hours of pre-flight instruction that Hobart, Ind., Fire Chief Brian Taylor went through prior to his 45-minute flight in an Air Force F-16 last week. The flight was in honor of him being named Hometown Hero at neighboring Gary, Ind. air show, following a dramatic rescue late last year.

Hobart is city of less than 30,000 residents that's mostly residential with a sprinkling of retail and light industry. The fire department operates out of three stations and carries a crew of 52 career firefighters. Last year the department responded to 3,650 calls, which includes ALS ambulance runs.

The fire
One of those calls came on Dec. 10, where Chief Taylor was the second to arrive on scene at mutual-aid call for a single-family residential structure fire. A mother and her two young children were inside. The initial report was that the mother was gone, one child had been found and the other was still missing.

"On arrival I had no intention of doing anything but command," Taylor said. "Anybody with kids knows that all rules go out the window."

Chief Taylor has three children.

One side of the house was fully involved and largely destroyed. Chief Taylor entered the structure to find the child — without his SCBA. He knew better; he's a 19-year veteran about to celebrate his second anniversary as fire chief.

"I didn't take the proper steps," he said. Tunnel vision had gotten the better of him, and part way into the structure he feared he might have gotten himself in trouble.

Fortunately, Chief Taylor's left-hand search yielded the room with the child. He was lying on the floor near the bed. Chief Taylor ran with the child to a waiting ambulance (see the accompanying video).

Lake Station, Ind., Fire Department's Lt. Robert Saylor rescued the other child.

"He wasn't breathing and had been in there for a significant amount of time," Chief Taylor said. "He's a miracle."

It was his first save and he regularly visited the child in the hospital. The doctors warned him that situations like this typically ended badly. But against the odds, the child's condition continued to improve.

That save is what landed Chief Taylor on the Hometown Hero radar and ultimately in the seat of the Thunderbird's F-16.

Pulling 9 Gs
During the pre-flight briefing, pilot Lt. Col. Jason Koltes, used a model of the plane to demonstrate what they would be doing in the air. Pulling 9 Gs takes a lot out of a person not used to it; Koltes told Chief Taylor to expect to be very tired the next day.

"It was incredible," he said after the flight. "It was so much more than I anticipated; the sheer power of that aircraft is awesome."

As thrilling as the ride was, it was important to Chief Taylor that a firefighter had been selected as the Hometown Hero.

"This was more of an honor for the fire service than for me personally," Chief Taylor said. "The fire service tends to experience a lack of recognition that it deserves. Over time, a community becomes complacent and views its fire department as an insurance policy."

The lift-assist calls won't be splashed across the news like was his rescue, or even his F-16 ride, but it means the world to that person who needs the help, he said.


Photo Rick Markley
Chief Taylor and Lt. Col. Kolte taxi to the runway.

Near miss
In the end it all worked out — the children and Chief Taylor made it out of the fire and pilot eject mechanisms on the F-16 went unused. And whether Lt. Col. Koltes learned anything from their flight is unknown, but Chief Taylor learned plenty from that December fire.

In addition to learning to keep tunnel vision in check, he learned that his and neighboring departments had problems with primary search, accountability and command structure.

Since that fire, Chief Taylor and the neighboring chiefs have met to go over the incident and how they can improve their response at future mutual-aid incidents. Additionally, they've held joint department trainings to allow the firefighters to get to know and get used to working with one another.

And while Chief Taylor paid close attention to the instructions on how the body behaves at 9 Gs, so too has he paid attentions to the lessons from a fatal fire.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 01:01:44 UTC

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. — It's being blamed on a lightning strike or possibly a surge from a ComVolt substation. Either way, the destruction of the station DVR has left agony and uncertainty in its wake.

"We just don't know where to turn," said Sleepy Hollow Firefighter Ted Riklyner. "In a split second everything was gone - all seven seasons of "Rescue Me" with outtakes and interviews plus the complete set of "Emergency!" You have any idea the time and commitment our guys put into recording those programs? Many came in on their days off to make sure the DVR was set and running."

The power surge hit about 8 p.m. Friday, setting off small popping sound followed by a flash and a wisp of smoke from the DVR.

"We were just in shock," Riklyner said. "We sat there staring at it; good thing it didn't catch fire as we'd have been goners."

Fire departments rely heavily on their equipment and few pieces are more important than a DVR. Without it, firefighters on low call-volume departments like Sleepy Hollow can go out of their minds with boredom.

Town officials wasted no time bringing in a team of grief counselors to help firefighters cope with this tremendous loss.

Following the counselors' advice, Sleepy Hollow firefighters are spending their time washing trucks and practicing firefighting skills.

"It's a way to keep our mind off the tragedy," Riklyner said. "Eventually, we'll get a new DVR and rebuild the collection; we're just not at that place yet."

Fire Officers: How to keep your crew safe at crash scenes

Posted on Fri, 16 Jan 2015 22:31:06 UTC

Traffic management at emergencies on highways and by-ways is getting a great deal of attention in recent years, and with good reason. Too many members of public safety agencies, not just firefighters, are struck and killed by distracted drivers passing through emergency scenes.

Federal statistics show that from 1996 through 2010, 22 percent of the firefighter deaths were attributed to some form of vehicle collision. During those years, 70 firefighters were killed when struck by a vehicle.

This safety topic is very broad. There are several very good training programs that have made the scene in the past couple of years, including free, online training modules that teach emergency responder safety on highway incidents available at ResponderSafety.com.

The company officer can have a more positive influence on safety when setting up and operating within a Traffic Incident Management Area (TIMA). The U.S. Department of Transportation puts traffic incidents into three general classes based on their projected duration.

  • Minor: expected duration under 30 minutes.
  • Intermediate: expected duration of 30 minutes to two hours.
  • Major: expected duration of more than two hours.

Secondary threats
A recent DOT report stated that approximately 18 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide result from secondary incidents. These secondary collisions are often more serious than the first, especially when they occur between free-flowing traffic and stopped traffic — you, your people and your equipment.

Your role in preventing these secondary incidents begins long before you and your crew ever responds to the initial incident. Develop a keen sense of awareness in both yourself and your team about those factors that can lead to a secondary incident and how to mitigate them.

Train your people to use these conditions — reduced vision and driving conditions from heavy rain, ice, snow, fog, curves and summits — as triggers that ensure everyone has a heightened sense of awareness while in route to the call and after arrival at the scene.

Ensure that your personnel understand the organization's SOGs regarding working in and around moving traffic. Be unyielding in your efforts to make sure everyone complies with those SOGs.

Ensure that the members of your crew wear appropriate high-visibility apparel, like reflective safety vests, during all activity in and around moving traffic. Although all firefighter turnout clothing has retro-reflective markings per the requirements of NFPA 1971, these requirements fall well short of the requirements for safety garments to be worn on the roadway.

These vests should comply with American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association 207-2011, American National Standard for High-Visibility Apparel.

Safety message
Take the time while responding to the call to communicate a TIMA safety message for every call that's going to place you and your crew at risk for a secondary incident. Hit these three points in your message.

  • Start thinking about the potential hazards we're going to face working around moving traffic.
  • Keep your eyes open and scanning the scene from the moment you get off the truck.
  • Make sure to wear your safety vest before leaving the truck.

Sounds too simple, right? Your firefighters will feel that you're insulting their intelligence, right?

Wrong.

Our brothers and sisters in the wildland firefighting community get just such a briefing before every deployment into the hazard area. A bit more detailed to be sure, but the same basic content nonetheless: what are the potential hazards, pay attention, and wear your protective equipment at all times.

So make good use of those few minutes — and the nice intercom system on your apparatus — and get everyone's head in the game.

Train drivers beforehand to place the apparatus in the proper position, and make sure your expectations are clearly understood well before arriving at the incident. This is particularly true for younger and less experienced drivers; make sure they're learning the correct behavior with every response.

Block with first-arriving apparatus parked at an angle to protect the scene, patients and emergency personnel. Block at least one additional lane and position a second apparatus with the pump panel is facing downstream so that the driver is not exposed to traffic when operating the pump.

Partner with police
Make initial contact with the local law enforcement officer on scene, or as soon as possible after they arrive, to begin developing a cooperative temporary traffic control zone.

Law enforcement personnel are very cognizant of the likelihood and severity of secondary collisions. This can be a cause of friction between police and other emergency responders at the scene of roadway incidents.

Police are under pressure to keeping traffic flowing and clear the scene as soon as possible, as this helps to minimize traffic delays and reduce the possibility of a secondary collision. In their view, the more apparatus and people brought to an incident, the more time it will take to eventually clear the scene, putting more sources of contact for secondary collisions on the roadway.

The needs of both agencies must be balanced. You can make a significant contribution to inter-agency cooperation by proactively making contact with the police on scene and getting a management plan started together early in the incident.

Now take this to another level. Before the incident ever occurs, talk shop with those police officers who you work with on a daily basis. These are good low-stress opportunities to learn what the expectations are for your respective agencies and work out any conflicts.

Attempting to iron out these issues while standing in the roadway during an incident at 2 a.m. is rarely successful.

Why firefighters die in the fog of battle

Posted on Tue, 13 Jan 2015 17:29:21 UTC

"No, nobody ever fights wars as well as they should have, especially in hindsight." — Shelby Foote, Civil War historian

The same must be said of fighting fires.

In the frigid early-morning hours of Dec. 20, 1991, four Pennsylvania volunteer firefighters died when they were trapped by a partial floor collapse during a structure fire in the community of Brackenridge, north of Pittsburgh.

The four were members of a mutual aid truck company that were assigned to prevent fire extension from the basement to the ground floor of a two-story commercial building. It was a building that the local firefighters thought they knew.

Unfortunately they knew very little about the building.

Although the four wore full protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus, they were overwhelmed by severe fire conditions erupting as a section of the ground floor collapsed into the basement. The resulting collapse cut off their primary escape path, as the fire burned through their hose-line leaving them without protection.

The volunteers who died were all members of the Hilltop Hose Company. They were: Michael Cielicki Burns, 27; David Emmanuelson, 29; Rick Frantz, 23; and Frank Veri, Jr., 31.

What went wrong
The four men died in the line-of-duty executing a routine tactic while (apparently) totally unaware of the situation that was developing in the basement fire room below them. Not only were they unaware, but we have to presume that the command officers also lacked full situational awareness.

The four men died in spite of the fact that they were experienced firefighters operating within the standard tactical framework of the era and with adherence to known safety factors of the time.

There was no pre-fire plan that might have helped them understand the risk. The warning signs were not heeded and, as in so many cases of firefighter fatality, the triggering circumstances flowed from the result of multiple failure points conspiring to create the worst possible outcome.

Almost always without too much deep thinking we chalk these firefighting nightmares up as inevitable given the fact that we mostly operate within the fog of battle. As pragmatic practitioners of the craft of firefighting, we willingly accept the inherent dangers and that is how it always has been and always will be.

An honest reading
We shy away from and fiercely resist any accusation or condemnation of the actions or judgment of those directly involved. We analyze the event, but only up to a point seeking not to point a finger, but to discover "lessons learned" with the hopeful intention to not repeat the mistakes.

If that is case, are we then fooling ourselves?

A report issued after the fire cited valuable lessons for the fire service and pointed out that the lessons were not new discoveries in 1991. Unfortunately, 23 years later, today's fire service still fails to absorb those lessons. An honest reading of the 1991 report leads one to ask questions, questions that flow naturally from the facts as presented.

Given the inadequate water supply, were there too many small lines in operation? Until an adequate water supply was set up, should the attack have been limited to one or two lines?

Given the faulty assumptions about the building's construction, how aware was the incident commander of the real situation inside the building? Did the commander sufficiently confer with the sector officers? Was the commander overwhelmed with problems that might have been dealt with by delegation or a chief's aide?

Were the problems with communications such that instead of just acknowledging them something else could have been done such as using face-to-face communication? Could freelancing have been contributing to the confusion affecting communications and preventing personnel accountability?

Lessons from 1991
There will always be lessons learned and until something changes those lessons will be repeated time and again. We know well the lessons from the Brackenridge fire.

  • An effective pre-fire planning program should cover all major structures in the community.
  • The need for standard operating procedures for incident management is particularly great in areas where there are numerous autonomous fire companies.
  • Fireground information must be effectively communicated and processed to formulate a risk assessment and incident attack plan.

Over two decades later it is easy in hindsight to critique the people involved and what they did that December morning. We ignore the facts, not because it is the truth pure and simple, but because the facts get in the way of what we want to believe.

The sadness from a tragic and sudden loss leaves us uncomfortable with the reality that this was not a case of inevitable fate. We have to memorialize the loss of the brave firefighters because our failure to fully know the enemy in the fog of battle and to willingly accept the risk demands tribute.

Crisis intervention teams: Helping our own

Posted on Mon, 16 May 2011 10:01:15 UTC

In the public safety field, one of the least addressed topics is the mental wellness of our responders. When tragedy and violence hit, we're the first to be there. Having to care for people when they are at their worst, and having to deal with the impact of the call, can take its toll.

This tends to impact the first responders in many different ways. These individuals might be the first people to see the tragedy but they are the last to admit that it has had any emotional or mental effect to them. So, when an outside group comes in to intervene or defuse the situation, there is resistance from the first responders

First responders tend to rely on their comrades in the field. When outside groups or people try to intervene, the responders tend to be reluctant to their offers of help. "You have no idea what we do" is usually the cause for reluctance.

This is why we created a peer-driven support group that we call the Horry County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The team is made up of 11 peer support members, four councilors, one training instructor and one chaplain.

The CIT is continuing to grow and manage all of its internal staff as well as other departments in the local area. They are also recruiting police and 911 dispatchers to round off the group. This will make the CIT very versatile.

Horry County Fire Rescue covers more than 1,134 square miles and responds to more than 42,000 calls per year. The department is made up of 275 full-time uniformed staff and 200 volunteers.

The CIT for Horry County is no stranger to unique and very stressful calls. Some of the calls that the CIT has had to intervene with have been:

  • Horry County Fire Rescue roll-over engine call that had three firefighters and a lieutenant trapped
  • Horry County Fire Rescue volunteer went into cardiac arrest during a medical call and had to be intervened by the same members who responded with him
  • Horry County responded to a fellow firefighter's home, where he had already committed suicide. The crew prior to his shift from his own station responded
  • Multiple child abuse calls; some with death as a result
  • Multiple drowning calls involving children at local motel pools
  • Motor vehicle accident deaths involving children and infants
  • Multi- casualty incidents involving a large number of deaths

These are just some of the calls that have made an impact to Horry County Fire Rescue staff over the past couple of years. Those who responded to these have had the opportunity to get help from the CIT with positive results.

The CIT has also put together a White Paper to describe some of the statistics from the past three years. This paper will give other departments information in the field of crisis management so that they too can make their wellness program complete. Check it out here

How to train for firefighter, police games

Posted on Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:18:19 UTC

On June 26 the 2015 World Police & Fire Games will kickoff in Fairfax, Va. The games' organizers expect over 12,000 professional, public safety athletes from 70 countries competing in more than 60 sports to qualify for over 1,600 medal sporting events.

That's a lot of public safety athletes that are preparing right now to excel in their respective sports and events.

If you are one of these dedicated athletes or just a dedicated public safety athlete not interested in competing, I intend to walk you through a workout program that will get you in the best shape of your life.

The plan is simple: you have six months to train, balance, eat clean, prepare and peak for the pinnacle of public safety fitness. In this case it's the games or maybe just to be better then you are today.

No fitness program for any athlete regardless of the sport is complete without proper mobility and flexibility. No matter how strong you are or how fit, without good mobility (joint motion and muscular flexibility) injury will eventually occur.

Movement matters
The best athletes will fail without proper movement. Movement matters, so you need to move well and move well often.

First is self-myofascial release followed by trigger-point treatment. This is truly where great athletes are made and old injuries go away. The time you spend preparing to workout should be almost as long as the workout.

Think of it as "pre-hab so you do not have to rehab." As I stated in my last article, check off the truck then check off your body.

This approach is perfect for when you are on duty because you have to get you ready for whatever call comes in. As an athlete, some targeted pre-shift stretching is good, but you have to do more. That's where the foam roller comes in.

I like to think of foam rolling as brushing my muscles. As an obsessive-compulsive muscle brusher, I want to roll each and every fiber I can get. Start at the calf, then the hamstring and then the glutes.

From there I like to focus on the front of the leg, and what I call the firefighter spot, the inner thigh. From there, go to the lats and finally the upper back.

Trigger points
The foam roller warms up the big muscles, just like a jog or those dreaded calisthenics we all did in the past. Now, focus on the root of most movement evil, trigger points. The above video explains trigger points very well and demonstrates how to relieve them.

So the superficial tissue is warmed up from the roller and then you got deep with the tennis ball to mobilize those nasty trigger points. At this point, any stretching you do will be much more effective.

That's the pattern you need to follow each and every time you train. A good warm up should take at least 10 to 15 minutes, but it's this scientific approach to movement and mobility that will reduce your chance of injury both on and off the job.

Now that you are moving well and moving often, it's time to train. I'll break training for police and fire games into two articles. This one addresses mobility and stability; the next looks at the priority fitness system that I have developed to create tactical fitness.

Weeks 1 to 3
After you're warm up, do the following six exercises in a circuit. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps for each exercise with no rest between exercises; do the bear crawls the full length of the bay.

Rest 90 seconds between sets and then repeat.

For your cool down, do 30-second intervals on the stepper (bike or rower are OK too) with 15 seconds rest for a total of eight rounds. As you progress to week 3 feel free to add your turnouts to the mix.

Weeks 4 to 6
Each exercise is three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a strict 45 seconds rest between sets. Use awesome technique; sloppy reps do not count.

When done, grab a kettle bell or heavy dumbbell and do farmers walks up and down the bay. Do them left handed, right handed and with both hands. Make sure that your torso is upright and that the shoulders are pulled back at all times during the walks.

After each lap, before switching hands, run the bay three times; if you have a tower hands, do the stairs one time after each lap. As you progress and get used to the movements, do it in your turnouts.

Remember, no exercise program should ever cause injury if it's done properly. Technique matters and so does your diet. Next, we'll look at priority fitness system.

Lead by Example in Vehicle Safety

Posted on Mon, 23 Jun 2008 09:00:07 UTC
How not to drive a fire truck
An emergency response almost leads to a rollover. Full Video
When I was asked to write an article that would address this year's Safety, Health and Survival Week, I was initially struck with writer's block. Unfortunately within a few short days I found myself facing a situation that provided me with ample material to write about.

Last week my fire department was dispatched to assist to a neighboring department with a house fire. I happened to be at the firehouse so I quickly proceeded to don my gear and grab a jump seat — for once I didn't have to drive! The rear of the ladder truck soon filled with four other members and we turned out down the street.

One of the members sitting across from me was a newly promoted lieutenant. As with many volunteer departments, a line officer is often found riding in the back seat when another line officer has already grabbed the front — we can argue that practice at a later time. I noticed that this new lieutenant was not wearing his seat belt. I immediately said "Dude, where's your seat belt?" Motioning at the retracted seat belt as he glared at me, he replied, "Right here."

My response? "How 'bout you put your seat belt on so that if we crash this thing you don't come across the seat and kill me?" Somehow I went from scoring a coveted jump seat en route to a working fire to the middle of a stand-off. Grudgingly, he put his seat belt on and we continued on our way.

As we pulled up to the scene, this newly minted lieutenant snidely plucked at his seat belt strap and said, "Is it all right to take this off now?" At that point, I felt I'd had enough. Having spent several years as a line and chief officer, this lieutenant for me was setting an extremely poor example for the younger and more impressionable members riding in the rig. I then proceeded to explain my feelings to this lieutenant — perhaps a bit harshly — until another senior member put the discussion to rest by simply stating, "At this station, we wear our seat belts." End of story.

Epitomizes problems
So why do I share this story? I do so because this 3-minute episode epitomizes the problems that we face in today’s fire service on many different levels. The title of this year's Safety, Health and Survival Week is "Committed to Long-Term Results." But how can we commit to long-term results if those in positions of leadership and power won't follow the rules themselves? How is it possible that a line officer can not only get away with not wearing a seat belt, but can then argue the issue with someone who tells him to put it on? Have we learned nothing from those who have given their lives before us?

Imagine this scenario: A fire apparatus rolls out the door with two young firefighters and a line officer. One of the young firefighters sees that his officer isn't wearing his seat belt and figures he doesn't need to wear it either. The truck crashes and the young firefighter is ejected and killed. Who is at fault? The reports and the scuttlebutt will all say that if this young firefighter had just put his seat belt on, he would still be here today. People will question his poor judgment and shake their heads at what they believe was a rookie mistake. But was it?

In reality, that same line officer who set a silent example by not wearing his seat belt is largely responsible for this hypothetical fatality. Like it or not, when you pin a fancy gold horn on your collar or put that shiny white front piece on your helmet, you’ve become someone that younger members look up to and follow. Even when you don’t realize it, these members are emulating you and following your example. Senior firefighters, line officers and chiefs all create a culture that younger and more junior firefighters will learn to live by. It is this culture that can save or cost a life.

If the fire service truly wishes to bring about long-term results, it's time to start holding people responsible for their actions. It seems that every time one of us is injured or killed, the rest of us are hesitant to ask questions or pass judgment. As a result, this culture never changes. How do I know? Look at the number of firefighter fatalities over the past 20 years. Does anyone really see a difference?

So how should we hold people accountable? It's time to start wielding a big stick. Fancy posters and cute little stickers telling you to wear your seat belt haven’t worked. Every year there are still numerous line-of-duty deaths that are a direct result of someone not wearing their seat belt. Want to make a difference? Start randomly stopping your rigs and checking to see that everyone has their seat belt on. If someone doesn't, suspend them. More than three infractions, show them the door. Maybe it's time to have the cops start citing people who can't get the message through their heads. After all, not wearing your seat belt is against the law!

Until these types of attitudes change or people are held responsible for their actions, I don’t believe we will ever reduce the number of line–of-duty deaths, especially those that are a direct result of vehicle crashes. Unless those in charge begin to lead by example and create a culture in which reckless driving, poor attitudes and lack of seat belt use are no longer tolerated, the culture will never change and we will be doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over again.

To those who have already begun to move this ship in a positive direction, my hat is off to you. And to those that refuse to help the rest of us reduce the number of firefighter fatalities by continuing this reckless culture ... I say maybe it's time to go.

6 ways to defend yourself against verbal abuse

Posted on Mon, 29 Jul 2013 09:08:57 UTC

For years now, I have taught EMS responders to keep in mind that nothing a patient says is personal. While teaching classes on successful verbal interactions with patients, I have frequently emphasized that the patient doesn’t know you. Therefore, nothing that they say can be taken personally. How could it be personal if they don’t know you personally?

I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes, the verbal abuse hurled at us can be personal. And not taking it personally can be remarkably difficult. Verbal abuse is a hostile act and it is intended to cause harm.

Since a verbal attack leaves no physical mark, we often ignore its intent, and we also disregard its potential to harm us. But, I’ve come to believe that these episodes can do harm, if we fail to properly defend ourselves emotionally. To do that, we first have to recognize that a verbal attack on our person is not benign, even though we’ve been taught otherwise.

As children, we learned that "sticks and stones can break our bones but words could never hurt us." I believed it. You probably believed it too. The childhood nursery rhyme is wrong. Words can hurt us. Some words can hurt for a long time. Some words can be carried with us for a lifetime and nobody will ever see the scars.

Our awareness that verbal abuse can be harmful begins with the recognition that some of our patients are remarkably good at verbal abuse. Many of them have been victims of abuse themselves and they learned the language of abuse at a very young age. Some verbal attackers can size us up remarkably fast and pick out our weaknesses and insecurities with great accuracy.

Physical and social targets
The target of the verbal abuser's attack may be physical or social. Any physical imperfection you have may become a target for a verbal attack including your weight, height, the size of your nose, your receding hairline or your visible birthmark. If the verbal abuser suspects that you harbor any insecurity over your appearance he or she will likely take a shot.

If a physical feature can’t easily be exploited, then social attributes may also be tested. Gender, race, religious beliefs and sexual orientation tend to be effective areas of emotional vulnerability. What could be more personal than our gender, our ethnicity, our belief about creation or our choices regarding physical intimacy? These things define us as a person. They are deeply personal and that’s why they are so frequently the subject of verbal attacks.

This recognition that verbal abuse can be extremely personal has left me considering an important question. What should we do to defend ourselves against verbal abuse from our patients?

Here are some of the ideas with which I’ve been experimenting:

1. Recognize that you are being attacked: While a verbal assault may not be as obvious as a punch or a kick, but it is still an attack. The person targeting you with verbal abuse is attempting to hurt you. They want you to feel pain and discomfort. They want to feel that they have control, power and influence over you. They want you to feel hurt, sad or angry and they are probably quite good at instigating these feelings. While you may have been trained to ignore these behaviors, recognizing and defending yourself against a verbal assault is appropriate. Your internal defense against a verbal attack may be as invisible as the words that that the patient spoke, but it should still exist.

2. Check your physical safety: Physical assaults are often preceded by a verbal attack. Use the patient’s verbal aggressiveness as a prompt to reconsider your safety. Is the patient properly restrained? Do you have the resources available to manage the patient’s potential for escalation? Do you know the location of your exits? Do you have a reliable way to call for help? Verbal abuse should immediately prompt you to double check your physical safety. If you aren’t safe, back off until the resources you require are present.

3. Relax your posture: It’s easier to remain calm if you have an open body posture and relaxed muscles. Take a deep breath. Open your hands. Calm your facial expression and think about your words before you speak. Just because the patient is speaking with a rapid cadence doesn’t mean that you need to have a quick response. As long as you are not in physical danger, there is no need to move or speak quickly. You can move the scene forward at your own pace. Have confidence in your own authority. Do your best to keep yourself relaxed, calm and alert.

4. Say to yourself, “How interesting:” The phrase, “How interesting,” places us in a powerful position of analysis. When we make a conscious choice to analyze a situation we change our mindset. The process of analysis reminds us that we always have the ability to choose how we will feel in response to something someone says. Consider why the patient feels that causing others emotional pain is their best course of action. How has this worked for them in the past? This is a behavior that few people witness on a regular basis. The fact that it is rare makes it interesting on at least a cursory level. Choosing fascination over anger can help you see the big picture.

5. Make an honest observation: We’ve been trained to ignore the hurtful things that patients sometimes say, but I’ve been exploring a more reserved confrontational option. Instead of dismissing the remark, try calling the patient’s bluff and identifying the nature of their aggressive statements. Try a response like, “That’s a very hurtful thing for you to say.” or “Those remarks are highly inappropriate.” or “I’m not going to engage in a conversation that’s profane or hateful.” Calling the patient out on their own inappropriateness might be more effective than simply pretending that they aren’t being verbally abusive.

6. Consciously forgive the offense: Forgiveness is a powerful tool. I don’t believe that people are born with hatred inside of them. Hatred is learned and it is something that passes from person to person. The patient’s ability to verbally attack you is something that they learned consciously or not. After the call is over, take a moment and purposefully allow yourself to forgive the patient for every attempt that they made to cause you emotional pain. When you choose to forgive the patient for the words that they spoke, you automatically place yourself in a position of power. You recognize that the words that were spoken did have the power to hurt you and you also have the power to heal, let go and move on.

If you work in EMS, it is almost inevitable that you will be the subject of verbal abuse. What do you do to cope with the hurtful things that patients’ can sometimes say? Do you have any good tips for managing the verbally aggressive patient?

Fire cadets and fire departments

Posted on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:22:38 UTC

Fire cadets play an important role in assisting local fire departments. They also are a great way to encourage young people to go into firefighting careers and EMS programs. While cadet programs aren't considered direct recruiting tools, they are ways to expose students to the life of a firefighter so they can decide if it might be the right career path for them.

Many people aren't even aware that fire cadet programs exist. What are fire cadets and what are their duties? Here's a brief breakdown of how these young future firefighters contribute to local fire departments.

Generally, programs for fire cadets accept people between the age of 16 and 20. Some require that they be at least in the 10th grade. If they're still in high school, most programs require that students maintain at least a 2.0 grade average in order to remain active in the program. If they've graduated from high school, they should be in college and maintaining a good grade average.

Application acceptance for fire cadet programs can be ongoing through local fire departments, or it can be limited to once or twice a year. Applicants must have undergone CPA training and certification prior to applying. If accepted, cadets go through a training program.

The cadet basic training program teaches them introductory level knowledge of firefighting skills, tools, equipment and fire science. It also helps cadets develop positive mentoring relationships with firefighters. The cadet instructors evaluate the students during basic training to assess their ability to undertake duties and their commitment to becoming a fire cadet. Proficiency exercises take place at this level to assess the student's physical abilities.

Some fire cadet basic training programs also require that trainees participate in ride-alongs with firefighters and

Fire cadets generally spend about 100 hours or three to six months in supervised cadet training activities. After that, they are considered for ride-along certification, which gives them an opportunity to accompany firefighters to emergency calls. During this phase of training cadets can spend anywhere from 12 to 24 hours on a firefighting under the supervision of a mentor or instructor.

Although special instructors are responsible for fire cadet training, fire station personnel also sometimes assist with basic training.

Once they've been certified as fire cadets, inductees are allowed to assist fire departments in a non-hazardous capacity. Their duties might include cleaning equipment, restocking supplies and helping to clean up fire scenes.

References
http://www.sandiego.gov

10 more must-do things to become a firefighter

Posted on Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:42:50 UTC

For an aspiring firefighter, there is no easy way to obtain the dream career. As they say, "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it." There is no short cut or fast track to become a firefighter, regardless of what anyone may tell you.

Many of you remember my article "10 Must do Things to Become a Firefighter." Now, it is time to update it with 10 more must-dos. Here they are in no specific order.

1. Prepare for the written examination.
It amazes me how many individuals cannot pass the entry-level hiring process written examination. Or if they can pass it, are unable to score in the mid-to-high 90 percent range.

Although 70 percent is the standard pass point, it is common for departments to only take the top scores to proceed to the next step of the process. Many think they did awesome by passing the written examination with 75 percent only to find out the department only wants candidates with scores of 95 percent and above to continue.

A written examination by itself is not going to tell a department who the best candidate is; it is only one of several items used to weed out candidates who are not fully prepared for the position. If you're not consistently scoring in the mid-to-high 90s, find your weaknesses and do what it takes to increase the scores in those sections.

Also, fire departments typically require cadets to maintain an 80 percent average on all written examinations in the recruit academy — with tests typically occurring at the start of every day. Not maintaining at least an 80 percent average may lead to termination, something that occurs more than you can imagine.

2. Be in the best physical and mental shape.
Face it, most people in the United States are overweight, out of shape, or both — including many within the fire service. Firefighting is a very physically and mentally demanding career that requires candidates to be on the top of their game.

If you are not physically and mentally prepared for the rigors of the recruit academy, you're going to find yourself in a world of hurt. I've learned over the years that when either the physical or mental shape becomes an issue during a recruit academy, the other will soon follow.

That means if someone is having problems performing the physical aspects of the job, their frustration and their knowing it may lead to termination will also affect their mental performance. It's like an athlete who cannot recover from a botched play. Eventually, the recruit becomes a train wreck, leading to either resignation or termination.

Besides all of the physical skills you'll be performing at the academy, you'll also be performing physical fitness. Some departments have recruits run several miles a few times a week and do a number of push ups, pull ups and other related workouts. Have a solid workout plan before you get hired as a firefighter so it is a smooth transition into the academy and your career.

3. Prepare and practice for the oral interview.
In most departments, your oral interview score will make up all or an overwhelming majority of your final ranking on the hiring list. Scoring well on the oral interview doesn't prove you'll be a great firefighter; it just means you can talk a great game.

However, you need to talk a great game to make the final cut, and then you also need to walk the walk to prove you were as great as you said you were.

Use the Internet to research the most common oral interview questions and write down your possible answers. Then rehearse answering those questions, timing yourself in the process to ensure you're not spending more than two minutes on any answer — unless it's the opening statement, which you can spend up to four minutes to answer.

To rehearse the answers, arrange mock interviews with company officers or chief officers who you've built relationships with (see item 8 for more on networking).

Make a video recording of the rehearsal and analyze your performance to ensure you're not doing anything inappropriate or distracting. More importantly, ensure that you're conveying passion, enthusiasm and portraying yourself as someone the board would like to work with and who would fit into their culture.

4. Have a strong character.
Most departments will hire for character and positive attitude, and train for firefighting skills. This is something most candidates don't get; they focus too much on packing their resume with certifications and qualifications and forget that we don't hire resumes, we hire people. We can teach many to perform the basic firefighting skills.

However, we can't teach many to have a positive attitude or have outstanding character traits that should have been instilled in you by your parents, guardians, family members and friends.

5. Prepare to perform under stress
Recruit academies do not test for character, but reveal it. Our academy coordinator puts this sign on the academy classroom wall to remind our newly hired firefighters we will get to know them very intimately over the 16 weeks of the academy.

The oral board that interviewed you for 10 or 30 minutes and thought you were the cat's meow only heard you speak of how great you were. We get to now put you through 16 weeks of a very challenging and at times stressful recruit academy that will require you to perform as an individual and as a team member, something many are not prepared to do.

It's amazing how some perform under stress: some do a great job, some excel, some scream at their teammates, some cannot perform, and some even snap at their instructors, thus showing their true colors. It is common for a fire department to terminate firefighters in a recruit academy for attitude or behavioral issues, even when they are passing their tests with at least 80 percent.

Some may think "they're passing their tests, so what?" If someone is going to be a jerk or not be able to handle the stress, he will not be an asset to his crew or the public; he also will more than likely be a problem for the rest of his career.

6. Obtain a Firefighter I certification.
While most fire departments don't require Firefighter I, I strongly encourage all candidates to complete a fire academy at a college prior to getting hired by a fire department.

That's because many college academies are tougher than some paid fire department recruit academies. And if you can handle a college academy, you have a great chance at handling a recruit academy.

A college academy lets you make mistakes and even allows you to fail and come back again and again if needed. Fire department academies don't provide that same amount of patience and understanding. You either cut it or you're out.

7. Become a paramedic.
In many departments require candidates to be paramedics, even for a firefighter position. Being a paramedic will also lower the numbers of your competitors, since there are not many out there.

8. Network with those in the fire service.
If you haven't figured it out by now, getting ahead in life is not always due to luck or hard work. Many times it's because of timing, opportunity, as well as how much those you know believe you will be a good fit for the position.

Networking doesn't mean sucking up or kissing butt. It means getting to know others who may assist you in some capacity and who you may be able to assist at some point.

Being able to play nice in the sandbox with others, and not taking your toys and leaving is a skills some don't possess, and it definitely shows in their ability to get ahead in life or even stay afloat in their current position.

9. Know yourself inside and out.
Be able to articulate to an oral board who you are, how you have prepared for the job, where you want be in the next five and 10 years, why you want the job, what you can bring to the job, what you can bring to the department, what you can bring to the community, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your values are, what you believe in, and basically anything else that relates to you.

Sadly, many candidates do a terrible job of selling themselves — being able to talk about themselves and why they would be a great fit for the position. If you don't know yourself and can't talk about yourself, who can?

10. Develop good mechanical ability.
Years ago, most fire department candidates came from the trades. Today, very few candidates come with this experience. However, the job of a firefighter has not changed in that mechanical ability and trades experience are still required, given all of the hand tools and power tools we use.

If you don't have trades experience, find someone who does and learn the basics of hand tools and power tools, as well as mechanical ability. Most fire departments have mechanical-ability questions on their written examination.

And you'll need to have a basic understanding of mechanical ability to pass the recruit academy, pass the probationary period, and more importantly, gain the respect and credibility of your co-workers and supervisors. A great website to learn more about mechanical ability is www.howstuffworks.com

It isn't easy becoming a full-time firefighter. However, talk to the overwhelming majority of those working in the fire service and they will tell you it was worth the time and effort they put in to become a firefighter. Good luck.

A farewell to volunteer, but not to service

Posted on Mon, 20 May 2013 13:51:32 UTC

It was more than a decade ago that I started VolunteerFD.org to bring together volunteer fire departments to share best practices and solve shared problems. What started as an idea grew into a network of over 25,000 departments sharing their bylaws, fundraising, grants, SOPs, training, and recruitment and retention programs.

In this time I have written more than 100 articles, and this will be my last regular article.

For me, as with many of you, volunteering has been a lifelong passion. My mother jokes that I did my first call about a month before I was born. My father and pregnant mother spent rode out a storm in the firehouse serving food to hundreds were without power or shelter.

I remember growing up in that firehouse, always wanting to be a firefighter; I couldn’t wait to join the explorers at 14. My father was chief, and there was a time when I wanted to be chief also.

A path of learning
Since my start in the fire service, I have collected just about every certification I could and spent countless hours listening to "dinosaurs" to learn everything I could about firefighting.

I also earned my paramedic license and spent 8 years in commercial EMS. I thought about being a paid firefighter, but realized that I could make more of an impact teaching others.

That started me on a path that would end in my earning a Ph.D in adult learning with a dissertation being on how paramedics learn.

As with many volunteers, my path in life has taken me away from the fire service. I continue to serve, but am on a slightly different mission.

'You can have everything in life you want'
I have found my focus and mission in life, which is to improve healthcare through learning. It may be a hefty goal, but as Zig Ziglar said, "You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want."

I have chosen to dedicate my life to the goal of improving healthcare through learning due to the combination of spending too much time with my mother in the hospital and a chance run-in.

One day I was sitting in the EMS lunchroom when a medic came in all happy and cheery. I asked the medic what happened, and he said, "I've been a medic a year, and I haven't killed anyone yet."

Maybe I was naïve, but I asked the QI person if this was real, and he said, unfortunately, yes. I then asked, "What percentage of the staff would you allow to work on your own family?"

I won’t share that answer here, but needless to say it was so low it set me on a path to improve healthcare for my family and yours.

Luckily I now find myself working for a health system that is truly pioneering and that is just as passionate about improving healthcare as I am. This has taken me more than 600 miles from home and that firehouse I grew up in, but I know it is the right thing to do.

Continued service
I no longer volunteer as a firefighter, but I continue to serve. I try to help every department and member that contacts me and I continue to try to share the knowledge at VolunteerFD.org and speak at local and national conferences.

There may come a day when I am back in the volunteer fire service and I will likely start writing again at that time. Until then I leave VolunteerFD.org in the hands of the Praetorian Group and all of the great staff and columnists of the network including FireRescue1 and EMS1.

I also encourage you all to take up the cause of sharing your best practices and solving problems together. If there is one thing I have learned about the volunteer fire service it is that there is always another volunteer who is looking to help, and that is why there will always be a great tradition and service.

If there is ever any way I can help you, please do not hesitate to ask. You can always catch me on LinkedIn.

Funding Opportunities: What's in Your Backyard?

Posted on Mon, 11 Aug 2008 13:36:01 UTC

With most grant programs becoming more competitive, I've noted more emphasis being placed on applicants providing thorough vulnerability assessments of their area. These are intended to identify vulnerabilities in the jurisdiction requesting the funding and how the approval of your grant application would address them. Often, these vulnerability assessments can be crucial in the ultimate award decision. So how does one conduct a thorough vulnerability assessment? At the outset it would appear to be a daunting task. However, if the individual conducting the assessment utilizes the proposed systematic approach, it may be easier than you think.

The first step in conducting the assessment for your jurisdiction is to identify the risks, both natural and technological, that could have an impact on your community. Natural risks include weather phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, flooding, etc. I think that these vulnerabilities are often overlooked when assessments are written. A query of the local National Weather Service office will often yield a substantial quantity of data for inclusion into your assessment. This portion of the assessment does not need to be lengthy – but a few sentences that describe the natural risks to your community does provide the grant review team with a sense of your community and it shows that you have performed a thorough assessment.

Technological risks are much broader and can be more complex. I like to look at components of the infrastructure first, beginning with utilities. Examine the power grid of your community. Contact the local utility provider and arrange to meet with them. Ask them to describe the components of the power grid that provides electricity to your community. Where is the power generated? How many sources of power generation are there within the grid? What plans are in place to provide for supplemental power should portions of the grid be compromised? How many substations are within you community? How long will it take to repair or replace a damaged circuit or switch within the station? You will find that the power grid is more complex that most might think.

Water supply is the second most important utility component. Again a meeting with your water utility company might be warranted and again there are three many components that you should be interested in. Where are water supplies located? The supply sources may be reservoirs, wells, streams or rivers. These intakes are critical and sensitive components of the infrastructure and should be discussed within your assessment. Other components to identify are storage locations of treated water and the location of valves that serve distribution grids.

Communications (telephone), dams, natural gas supply and sanitary sewer infrastructure should also be investigated and discussed within your assessment. However, should your jurisdiction contain power generating facilities, major power transmission infrastructure or sources of water supply always mention it in your assessment. These are crucial components your community’s infrastructure.

After reviewing utility infrastructure, I then focus upon transportation vulnerabilities. Interstate highways and the bridges that connect these highways between jurisdictions are always listed first in my assessments. Not only should you identify these transportation arteries and how many miles are within your jurisdiction, you should also obtain traffic count data and list it as well. This data is often obtained from the state department of transportation or highways. Most of these agencies provide this data electronically. Find it and include it in your assessment.
I list railways next. Determine which railway companies have tracks within your jurisdiction and how many miles they operate. Passenger railways should also be included and remember to include the number of passengers that utilize the railway annually.

In the case of both highway and railway, I include commodity flow analysis data. This data is easily obtained from railways, though often more difficult for highway transportation. Most of the major railways will provide public safety personnel with a list of the most frequently shipped hazardous materials from the previous calendar year. This data is obtained by writing the railway and asking for it. This data, which may fluctuate a little from year to year, will provide you with you with the quantities and hazard class of the materials being transported through your community.

As I previously mentioned, highway commodity flow analysis is more difficult to obtain. However, some states do compile this data and will provide it to public safety personnel. In my jurisdiction, the local emergency planning committee commissioned a local university to develop a commodity flow analysis for the several interstate highways that traverse the region. Another method that I have used to collect the data is a simple windshield survey of placards and trailer types conducted over a period of several hours at different times of the day. While not ideal, I’m always able to identify the hazard class and I usually try to extrapolate the number of shipments over a 24 hour period using the number of bulk shipments identified within peak and non-peak travel times.

I next focus upon industrial vulnerabilities. These often include facilities that store extremely hazardous substances (EHS) or hazardous chemicals. The local emergency planning committee is the primary source of obtaining this data for your jurisdiction. With respect to EHS facilities, I list the number of facilities, the types of chemicals stored and the area (in terms of square miles) of the jurisdiction that are included within each facility’s area of vulnerability. The area of vulnerability is the portion of the community that could be impacted by a release of an EHS. Don’t forget to mention EHS facilities within your assessment.

Finally, remember to analyze other industrial, commercial and large population residential occupancies that are an integral part of your community. I list the top five employers of my jurisdiction to provide some perspective of the economic impact of natural and technologic disasters. I also list a large retail hub (15 square miles of commercial occupancies) within my jurisdiction that provides economic benefit to the entire region. Does your jurisdiction contain multi-family (large population) residential developments? Do you serve retirement or assisted care facilities? While you may not think that these facilities are critical, they are a significant component of your community and should be included in your vulnerability assessment. Don’t forget government facilities. Be sure to list any federal, state, county and local government facilities within your jurisdiction. One of the most frequent hazardous materials responses for our regional HazMat team has been to a federal government facility.

Once completed, the vulnerability assessment of your community should provide the reader with a thorough review of the risks to your community. Divide the assessment into the components as described above and the process will be easier. Remember to keep the document current and revise it annually. You will find that once completed, it is easy to cut and paste the data into any grant application and will allow you to focus upon other portions of the application – such as how funding your application will address one or more of those vulnerabilities.