Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 08:01:44 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."

10 ways to better respond to special needs patients

Posted on Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:59:06 UTC

Paramedics and first responders tasks are becoming increasingly challenging with the growing number of special needs patients. According to the 2010 census, 2.8 million school age children were reported to have a disability.

In order to minimize problems and have an effective response, EMS and fire must create a stronger partnership and network with the special needs community. Here are 10 steps to successfully do so.

1. Don’t assume the patient has a mental disability based on their looks.

“Approach a special needs patient as you would a colleague,” said Pete Kelly, EMT-B, medical staff coordinator for Special Olympics Michigan. Once you have established mental and physical ability, than treat accordingly.

2. Have a Town Hall meeting with citizens and all essential resources.

Have 30 minute panel discussion with fire, EMS, law enforcement, transportation and a special needs specialist followed by a meet and greet. This is a great way to hear special needs populations’ concerns.

3. Encourage caregivers to keep information up to date.

The American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics created an Emergency Information Form (EIF). The EIF is a valuable tool for first responders. Click here to download the form.

4. Develop a Special Needs Registry.

Emergency management agencies are creating an online registry to locate citizens with a disability during an emergency. Ohio County recently launched their website Sites are usually in the cloud and need to be secure.

5. Include people with disabilities into emergency response plans.

The U.S. Department of Justice provides an American with Disabilities Act Checklist for Emergency Shelters.

6. Don’t separate equipment from the patient.

During an evacuation or a transport to the ER, try to keep the equipment with and the patient. Separation from an object can create outburst in some patients.

7. Be familiar with the equipment.

First responders can’t always keep up with the latest wheel chairs and devices. Here are a few of the latest devices. Convaid offers a special needs wheelchair product line that has advanced design, seating and mobility combinations for a variety of special needs and physical disabilities.

A child with a TheraTogs Lower Extremity System might be a challenge to transport. The device is designed to address several alignment and functional deviations of the knee joints, developing femurs, and hip joints in a child.

8. Keep the routine.

Mary Porter, owner of Tri-Care, says when dealing with a patient that cannot verbalize a compliant, Tri-Care staff often knows there is a problem when a patient is not sticking to the routine.

9. Get trained.

In recent years there has been a surge in organizations that have created training for first responders. About 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

In addition, Autism ALERT’s mission is to educate first responders and health care professionals on how to recognize and interact with persons on the autism spectrum.

FEMA also suggests the independent study courses offered by Emergency Management Institute IS-197.EM Special Needs Planning Consideration.

10. Use the right communication.

Minimize distractions and use short explanations and use simple language, if the patient has trouble hearing. If you do not understand something the individual says, do not pretend that you do. Ask the individual to repeat what he or she said and then repeat it back. Be patient.

Creating a strategic plan before, during, and after an incident with special needs population is the most effective way to have a good response and recovery.

Glass management: It's more than smashing windows

Posted on Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:34:25 UTC

At every heavy rescue and extrication program, we are taught to remove glass as needed and in as controlled a manner as practical and possible. However, how many times do we go to the session and WHAM and SMASH go the side and rear glass because it’s impressive to watch or fun to do?

But is that what we should be doing? When displacing the vehicle glazing materials, usually referred to as glass management, we want to remove the glass in an orderly, managed process.

Before one window is shattered, it is important to know the types of glass firefighters will encounter and the additional forces that can be present at a motor vehicle accident. The two types of glass to which we have become accustomed, laminated and tempered safety glass, are still the most widely used.

Laminated glass is a sandwich, a series of layers of glass and plastic laminated together. Tempered, or safety, glass will break into small granular fragments when shattered.

However, there are a few new variations in use. Enhanced protective glass is basically a form of laminated glass found in the side and rear windows. Dual-paned glass and polycarbonate glazing are also used.

Some of these materials require a change in our methodology and tools for removing such windows.

And factor in the issues of rear glass hatches in SUVs and minivans. These glass hatches have a nasty habit of flying apart when broken because of the tension placed on them by the multiple hatch struts and the energy absorbed by the vehicle during the crash.

Laminated glass is found in windshields but is increasingly found in the side and rear windows as well. This type of glass must be cut from the vehicle to be removed, which can be facilitated by cutting the peripheral edge with an axe, a glass saw, or even a reciprocating saw.

This operation produces glass dust, which is a respiratory hazard. For this reason, we must add dust masks to the personal protective equipment for glass management.

Tempered glass is usually found in side and rear windows. To break this glass, use an impact tool that imparts a large amount of force into a small concentrated area. Then clean out the window opening by pulling the glass onto the ground with a tool, not with gloved hands.

Vehicles can load the glass with energy from the crash; when it’s broken it can almost explode when that energy is released. We must protect our patient with a protective cover and use hard protection to funnel glass pieces away from the patient.

Photo David Dalrymple

Make sure your eye protection is in place and you are wearing a dust mask. Also, watch out for glass in hatches of vehicles.

It can have up to four gas struts pushing on the glass and creating even more tension. This too might explode when broken; be aware that the struts may also push toward rescuers.

Ideally, the laminated glass that was cut and removed should be folded and slid in under the vehicle out of rescuers way. If at all possible, tempered glass should be removed to the outside of the vehicle, away from the patient and the interior rescuer.

However, some vehicles — especially SUVs and minivans — might have a lot of windows or a rather large window, which produce many glass particles.

Glass particles can be slippery, almost like marbles. It is a good practice to sweep these under the vehicle so that rescuers are not walking on it and stabilization devices are on not on it.

There are two new materials available to help rescuers manage glass. One is Packexe Smash and it is available in North America from ESI equipment. It is a clear film dispensed from a special applicator. The film adds enough strength for tempered glass to be cut.

Photo David Dalrymple

On the flip side, laminated glass dust can be greatly reduced by applying the film first and then cutting through the area where the film is applied. If the glass is wet, it can be wiped dry with a microfiber cloth before the film is applied.

The other material is an extrication wrap made by Protecto. The wrap material is an adhesive rubber compound on one side with a smooth brightly colored film on the other side. The material comes in a roll that firefighters can pre cut or cut-to size on scene.

The up side to this material is it can be used as sharp-edge protection as well. Both of these materials really can make a difference in glass-management tasks. And both materials can handle glass management and sharp-edge protection.

Whether or not you invest in glass-management products, it is critical to invest the time to plan and execute how you approach removing glass at vehicle collisions. A smart approach protects both rescuers and patients.

Why highway safety programs are so hot for EMS funding

Posted on Wed, 13 Aug 2014 21:55:27 UTC

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made a concerted effort to steer funding to EMS and fire-based EMS agencies, particularly when it comes to data-driven initiatives focused on motor vehicle and public safety.

In an effort to increase national safety and accident prevention techniques, the federal agency is encouraging EMS funding in priority areas such as occupant protection, injury prevention, safety initiatives, and public education at the state level through State Highway Safety Offices.

This isn’t purely charitable — NHTSA has made it clear that EMS agencies have the ability to contribute valuable data to reduce deaths and injuries on the roadways, plan efficient responses, and focus training and education to master skills that will best meet the needs of the public.

The transition to Mobile Data Terminals and other evidence-based technology is being used to achieve the best outcome for injured motorists and to make continuous improvements in emergency medical care.

According to NHTSA, “perhaps one of the most important uses of EMS data is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place, by analyzing how, where, and when certain injuries occur and developing countermeasures to prevent the crash.”

Programs that have been funded
EMS agencies and offices all around the country are acquiring funding to contribute to this NHSTA initiative.

Minnesota’s EMS office obtained NHTSA funding to analyze and improve data quality that will help provide a roadmap for improvements in the state ambulance reporting system and ultimately lead to a reduction in fatalities.

Alabama acknowledged a critical issue in response times to crash scenes and a resulting major increase in traffic deaths. With NHTSA funding, they created a Strategic Highway Safety Plan that identified and organized performance data, made improvements to communication systems and volunteer training, and provided air coverage for rural areas.

Most of these initiatives were done on a large-scale, state level; however an abundance of funding is available for local projects. For instance, the push for data has lead to an increase in funding for equipment such as MDTs and PCR software.

MDTs in particular have been placed on high priority due to their ability to provide information that can assess response times and outcomes. This information can help allocate resources to the time and place of highest demand.

The technological advances in PCR software can create a cohesive data system for an entire state that allows for EMS data to inform others about the effectiveness, quality, and impact of pre-hospital care.

NHTSA is willing and has previously funded this equipment and projects that have stemmed from this equipment through State Highway Safety Offices and the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Initiatives to focus on
Additional projects that EMS agencies can acquire funding for include priority areas such as occupant protection and injury prevention.

Collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics has produced a push for child passenger safety in the form of Car Seat Fitting Stations. EMS agencies nationwide are heavily involved in becoming Child Safety Seat Technicians, producing permanent Car Seat Fitting Stations and community outreach events.

Prevention of injury on the roadways has been a major concern for NHTSA since its inception. Certain state offices may deem driver training simulators and other apparatus eligible under this funding a priority as well.

For more information or funding opportunities check out the Highway Safety and EMS Connection website or your state Office of Highway Safety.

4 tips for keeping firefighters cool

Posted on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:48:23 UTC

Summertime is here. Temperatures seem to be hot already, and if it is hot as it was cold this past winter it will be a scorcher.

Firefighters don't get a break from the heat. It is hot coming out of a fire, but when the ambient temperatures are in the high 90s or hotter with high humidity, it is hot. This is a good time to talk about cooling our folks and providing the necessary temperature needed on an incident scene.

Over the past years the number of products available for our rehab sector continues to expand. There are multiple devices on the market.

Before we get too involved, we need to delineate humid versus non-humid temperatures. There is a distinct difference of how we want to cool personnel.

Misting fans and body coolers
If you are in a humid environment, it is recommended that you stay away from misting fans. Using misters in this environment can increase the chances of burns. Conversely, if you are in a dry environment, using misting fans is recommended.

I frequently receive notifications of new products including cooling devices. There are cooling towels that can be issued to each person. The towel is immersed in water and then wringed out remaining cold but not soaking wet. The towel is designed to prevent any microbes from remaining behind and preventing any cross contamination.

You can find chairs with plastic inserts for personnel to soak their arms in a cold-water immersion. The bags can be changed out between use to prevent contamination.

The latest device is arm cooler harness that was developed by firefighters in Australia. The device can be strapped around neck and used virtually anywhere. It has removable inserts to change out between use.

Hydration and temperature change
Regardless of what device you use, keeping personnel cool during the heat of the summer is imperative. Heat emergencies can be life-threatening and needs to be taken seriously.

Hydration is a must for all personnel and not something to do only on the fire scene. Hydration should be done consistently and constantly throughout the day.

One noted consideration is the negative effect of temperature change on the body. For example, using air conditioning en route to the call may not be the best for personnel. Windows open and non-air conditioned cabs help to acclimate personnel to what they'll face during the call.

Even keeping thermostats at the station set a more moderate level is beneficial. Prevention is as, if not more, important as the cooling during rehab. Avoid rapid, extreme temperature changes.

If you are looking for research that discusses the entire cooling perspective among firefighters be sure to read this report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information that compares active and passive cooling for firefighter rehabilitation.

Keep cool this summer and treat your body like it is the only you have, because it is the only one you have.

Looking Is Not Always Seeing

Posted on Fri, 10 Jul 2009 18:06:28 UTC

A few years ago, I gave a patient assessment lecture to a group of EMTs. Early in the lecture, I announced that my assistant would be coming around with a handout. The assistant was a portly gentleman sporting a wide, ugly tie with yellow splotches. After standing in front of each student to distribute the material, he left the room.

Midway through the lecture, I asked the participants to describe his tie, thereby emphasizing the importance of observation to patient assessment. Most participants could not describe the tie or my assistant with any degree of accuracy. About 15 to 20 percent gave a fairly precise description of the tie, generally including the term 'ugly,' and a few must have been asleep as they wanted to know, "What assistant?"

The term for this aptly demonstrated phenomenon is 'inattentional blindness' because while we look, we don’t see. The information doesn’t register because our brains are focused elsewhere and ignoring the visual input. This may not pose a huge problem during a lecture, but can prove to be quite a predicament in the field.

How does our vision work?
Light waves (electromagnetic waves) are continuously bouncing off every object around us. Those light waves in the visible range (we can’t process ultraviolet or infrared waves) that get past the cornea and pupil then hit the retina in the back of the eye. The retina creates electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain, which in turn interprets the information and produces the vision that we 'see.' Don’t believe me? Close your eyes. What do you see?

Signal interpretation
Do we 'see' all the visual signals we receive? From where you are right now, stop reading and take a 180-degree or half-circle view of your surroundings, then close your eyes and recall what you just 'saw.' Now repeat the scan slower, paying attention to details and taking note of what you do not 'see.' All of the light waves bouncing off the objects in your visual field hit the retina and produce visual signals for the brain. Why did your brain fail to give you the total picture of what you saw? Information overload in any system can decrease performance, including your brain. To a significant degree, you determine what you see by the extent of attention you apply to what you are looking at or looking for. A lot of the visual input from the eyes to the brain never gets to perform on your brain's visual screen because you do not pay attention to the content. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

Can you imagine trying to start an IV in a nice fat vein but as you start to insert the needle your vision is overwhelmed with mental images of surrounding objects such as the patient’s clothing, the cot, the blood on the floor, etc., etc., etc.? You would likely be hard-pressed to hit the vein. Our ability to concentrate visual signals on the task at hand helps us select the visual information we need to get the job done.

But what happens when we fail to recognize important visual input? Think about the last time you were providing patient care and asked yourself, "Where did THAT come from?" It might be when the visual input about your patient’s cyanotic lips and weak respirations were sidelined by the visual input of the bloody, deformed open femur fracture, or when you did not 'see' that large pool of blood on the floor before you kneeled down. Or perhaps you found yourself in such a situation after your failure to notice a weapon on the ground. All these events occurred within your field of vision, but failed to register with your brain.

Inattentional thinking
Inattentional blindness has a partner called 'inattentional thinking.' Dispatch sends you to the third intoxicated, unresponsive individual of the day or to the chronic back pain patient that you have visited too many times before. The danger is thinking that the problem is going to be the same as before, or that the scene is as safe as it was the last time you were there. If we fail to consciously evaluate the scene every time, or assess the patient every time regardless of presentation or how many times we have previously seen the patient with the same complaint, we may miss scene hazards or fail to benefit from an accurate patient assessment. What if the intoxicated patient noted above is not just drunk this time, but has a subdural hematoma that occurred from an unwitnessed fall, producing a dilated pupil that we did not think to check? What if the chronic back pain patient on this trip has an expanding abdominal aortic aneurysm that we failed to find because we did not think to examine the abdomen for a pulsatile mass? How many other 'what if' scenarios could feasibly exist?

We all fall victim to unwanted inattentional blindness and thinking. Decreasing the frequency of its occurrence requires awareness, and awareness is fueled by knowledge. If this is your first look at inattentional blindness, I would encourage further study. Resources include Blink, a book on this topic by Malcolm Gladwell, as well as print and video resources readily available by searching the Internet. In the mean time, keep your eyes open and pay attention out there.

1. Rensink RA, O’Regan JK, Clark JJ. To See or Not to See, The Need of Attention to Perceive Changes in Scenes. Psychological Science. 1997:8; 368-373.
2. Simons DJ, Chabris CF. Gorillas In Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness For Dynamic Events. Perception. 1999. 28; 1059-1074.
3. Rensink RA. When Good Observers Go Bad: Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, and Visual Experience. Psyche. 2000:8.
4. Rensink, RA. Seeing, Sensing, and Scrutinizing. Vision Research. 2000:40; 1469-1487.

Lessons from real and simulated events

Posted on Mon, 14 Jan 2013 18:17:45 UTC

"Science with its 'dust free' environments and 'laboratory conditions,' has given us a pattern for approaching the natural world of things: we stabilize the environment, bring together a number of elements, and observe the results. We call those results 'facts.'" — Thomas Cloakley, Command and Control for War and Peace

I sat through a simulated event. There were pictures in front of me of a structure fire. I had a pencil and a radio and one of those paper command sheets that encourage the fine art of box checking. In the scenario one of my crews experienced an emergency soon after I arrived on scene.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. A real call that was possibly a big deal but probably not. I found it difficult to manage, not so much because there were a lot of people in some danger, but rather because the potential for some people to be in a lot of danger was high.

The difference between the two events was striking. In the simulation I was faced with a once in a career high-stress event. In the simulation it was quite likely that two firefighters were in the process of dying right in front of me.

However, in the sanitized world of simulations I did not find my self under any stress. My voice was not cracking; I did not feel the characteristic tightening of the shoulders and gut. It was just a game.

"Facts are very comfortable things to deal with because they are so stable. What was a fact yesterday will be a fact tomorrow, so long as the environment stays the same." — Cloakley

Crucial part of practice
I realize that simulations are more than games. They are a crucial part of practice and can provide critical insights into how one might behave when faced with the real thing. They are not to be taken lightly, but then they are not real in the same way that toy cars are not real cars.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. It was not so real that it made the evening news, not real enough to warrant a mention in the local newspaper. But is was real in the way that makes your shoulders tighten, your perception narrow and your heart rate increase just enough to fog over your processes.

What I think I learned, or perhaps re-learned, is that nothing can simulate the physiological and psychological effects of being placed under critically stressful conditions. In real life people don't answer the radio, or if they do you might miss the transmission.

In real life the time pressure compounded by the temporal distortion is made worse by the lack of good information and topped off with excessive amounts of useless information, creating a potent recipe for disaster.

"…Unfortunately, that kind of fact-oriented approach does not work very well when we're dealing with people and people issues. Human dynamics are simply too complex." — Cloakley

I am a big fan of written control objectives; I believe in them. I preach control objectives to my subordinates.

However, in that real moment I found that I did not so much as write control objectives as I projected them in understated ways, cloaked in the thin veil of tactical orders. In many ways I was just doing stuff.

Seeing the big picture
Compared to the available research on such things, what I did was hardly different from what most people do under stress, but this time for some reason it felt more real.

What I think I learned is that it is always harder to step back and consider the big picture when you are tied up in the little picture. The world of real incidents cannot be summed up in simulations and it cannot be reliably dissected in post-mortem evaluations. This makes execution hard and it makes evaluation harder.

Colonel John Boyd is reported to have said:
"When thing went wrong at the Pentagon, really wrong, you'd always hear some bright guy in a business suit complaining that a country able to land a man on the moon should be able to carry out an operations on the earth: raid Hanoi, drop into Tehran, whatever. I always pointed out to these smart alecks that as I recalled, the moon didn't hide, move around under its own steam, or shoot back."

Maybe that is difference with real incidents — in many ways they hide, move and shoot back.

Crisis intervention teams: Helping our own

Posted on Mon, 16 May 2011 17:01:15 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

Fire cadets and fire departments

Posted on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 20:22:38 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.


‘The only easy day was yesterday’

Posted on Sat, 18 Jan 2014 00:29:58 UTC

We let too many powerful, life-changing quotes and sayings pass through our ears without taking any action on them. It’s time to take pause, listen and then actually change our lives because of them.

Let’s take this one.

“The only easy day was yesterday”

This famous saying is etched above the grinder in the BUD/S compound. Every bleeding back, bruised knuckle and searing muscle produced during SEAL physical training is underneath this sign. But what does it really mean?

For me, there are two powerful and opposing meanings to this statement. One meaning has provided me a refuge, a destination if you will. The other reminds me that this shit never ends, so get used to it.

A Paradise from the Pain
Have you ever done anything extremely dangerous, tough, demanding or painful? Do you notice how good it feels when you’re done? That’s the “paradise from the pain” that this saying represents for me.

People take action for one of two reasons:

1.) Avoid pain
2) Gain pleasure

The avoidance of pain can produce quick results; however, it’s a weak catalyst for action. The acquisition of pleasure, on the other hand, can drive a man or a woman to do some amazing things.

In the early stages of SEAL training, they put you through what’s called “Hell Week.” You’re basically awake for five days and in constant wet, painful and very cold motion. The entire time I was going through this ordeal, all I would think about was how great it would feel on Friday when they “secured” us from Hell Week. All that was on my mind was the pleasure of going to Bullshirt to buy the coveted “The only easy day was yesterday” t-shirt that one only “rated” after the completion of Hell Week.

This motivation to gain something good was my “paradise from the pain” because no matter what was happening, no matter how bad it was, my heart and mind was sitting on this island of accomplishment thinking about how “easy” it will all be once Hell Week became yesterday.

This Shit Never Ends — Settle In
I was training a young man the other day who wants to become a SEAL. We were running on the beach talking about the “mental management” of SEAL training. It was our third evolution of the day, and I was explaining to him that BUD/S is much like this — endless demanding physical or mental evolutions that would go on for more than six months. And once BUD/S was over, it didn’t stop — training for deployment was also demanding. Never-ending. The only easy day would always and only be yesterday because today you have to prove yourself again.

I explained to him that BUD/S could have lasted forever and I would have been fine. I had “settled in” and accepted that every day I would start over and prove myself again.

Putting It All Together
Though these two things seem to be opposite in nature, I find them to be two halves to the equation of life.

On the front end, the saying promises me “pleasure” once the tough stuff is behind me. The reward that has me kick ass every day with a smile on my face.

On the back end is the idea that there will always be a challenge, so there’s no reason to resist it anymore. Just put your head down, keep spitting the blood and don’t stop. I know this sounds a bit “aggro,” but think about it. If you are to live a life of purpose, will you not always have something difficult to accomplish? I mean if you have everything handled financially, physically, mentally and spiritually for yourself and your loved ones, wouldn’t it then be time to hit the road and start helping others who are suffering and dying every day? I think so.

This Shit Isn’t Meant To Be Entertaining
Stop nodding your head like you get it — now what are you going to do? Here are three questions to ask yourself to inspire action:

1.) What are you now going to quit doing in your life?
2.) What are you now going to start doing in your life?
3.) What are you already doing that you’re now going to modify?

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

What does it mean to you?

Eric Davis served our country as a U.S. Navy SEAL and decorated veteran of the Global War on Terror. Eric has been recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the U.S. military and has served as a Master Training Specialist at the SEAL sniper school.

Innovative EMS ideas are ripe for grant funding

Posted on Fri, 20 Jun 2014 00:11:54 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.

Fire chief saves child, earns F-16 ride

Posted on Mon, 9 Jul 2012 15:52:53 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.

Food for Thought at the Firehouse Kitchen

Posted on Mon, 7 Jan 2008 22:21:04 UTC
I always think outsiders would be amazed to see what goes on in the firehouse kitchen, as members try to outdo each other with personal attacks on each other. But these attacks are never spewed with hate or venom in my experience, just good-natured ribbing that keeps everyone honest.

During my early years on the job, I would not even think of ribbing my officer or the chiefs. But today, with a smile, some of the guys will forward funny dialogue in my direction. Although I could take this as a sign of disrespect, it is nothing even close to that. Not always, but sometimes, I kind of set these guys up to give it to me good, and boy do they do so.

Guess what? It is OK because in the firehouse we can have all the fun we want, but on the fireground it must be business and only business. Once that line is clearly defined there are few if any problems concerning fire or emergency operations. And brothers and sisters, do not think for one moment I do not shovel it back in their direction — I can be kind of funny myself at times. Usually when I think about a particular ribbing they gave me, it brings a little smile to my face and I get another chuckle out of a pretty funny line used on me.

The main point is that although we are laughing and fooling around, a lot of good, informative information can come out of these periods. If the group of brothers and sisters had a unique incident or a tragedy that occurred during the shift -- or tour, as we call it in NYC – it's often discussed at the kitchen table. Not only can you learn from some of this information, it is also a type of counseling in a way.

For much of the time, firefighters do not like to talk to strangers or professionals concerning their feelings, but will open up and talk freely with the other firefighters. I have found this to help tremendously in a personal way. This especially applied after 9/11, where your only focus was the task at hand, however enormous and daunting it was. I would sit sometimes with the other brothers and just talk; I didn't even need an answer, I was just getting things off my chest.

I am sure there were many of us in this position who were also helped by this informal session of therapy. So if and when you need to say something, throw it out on the kitchen table. There will be at least one brother or sister, possibly a senior firefighter or officer, who may just have an answer or a statement of support for you. In addition, officers should be aware that some of the statements made are signs that members need help. It all goes to show the value of this kitchen time.

Sharing information
The kitchen at the change of tours and the roll call can also allow officers and members to exchange a good amount of information concerning firefighting and emergencies, It provides a captive audience and the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of the upcoming tour as well as the events that transpired on the previous one. You usually receive your assignment during this period and your size-up of the tour should start at that moment.

Something as simple as the weather and a discussion can create possible scenarios you may encounter that day or night. I know for me a windy day conjures up many horrors that may occur if I respond to a fire: extension of fire to exposures especially attached wood frame structures has me thinking of multiple alarms; a high-rise fire could potentially become an extreme wind-driven fire that always brings problems to the fireground.

Forecasts of snow and ice will inhibit the rapid placement of hand lines to confine or extinguish the fire, and frozen or out–of-service hydrants will cause delays that could be potentially disastrous to the brothers and sisters, not to mention the unfortunate people whose house is on fire. For the left coast folks, I can only imagine what the chiefs are thinking about concerning winds and forest fires. There are numerous possibilities on issues to be discussed during these periods. Officers and firefighters should use this time and be pro-active by discussing a hot topic, a recent response or job and the possible problems that could arise during the tour.

Most importantly, be ready to ride if you are riding. If you relieve someone, ensure you are in your proper uniform, your gear is on the apparatus or at the assigned riding position and you have notified the officer so that he/she can amend the riding list. Do not board the apparatus if you are not expected to be on it, as how will the officer be accountable for you? These are just some of the things to think about during these times.

One final thing. For all you classic rock fans, a very important debate arose the other morning in the kitchen here. Which band had more musical talent: The Who or Led Zeppelin? Personally I stated Led Zeppelin but one of the senior firefighters sided with The Who. The members were kind of concerned because this senior firefighter keeps them nice and happy with his gourmet meals. But while I said that may well be the case, I pointed out that I do the payroll and that they all needed money to pay for those gourmet meals. Lots of silence and oh so golden!

7 common fire grant rejection letter questions answered

Posted on Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:14:42 UTC

If you recently received a turndown letter for your 2013 AFG grant application, you are not alone. FEMA generated several thousand letters as the first round of rejections were relayed to applicants.

Just like clockwork, applicants, after receiving their letter, began the process of trying to determine why their application didn't get funded. If you were one of these applicants, here are some suggestions to help you understand the letter and why you received it.

Let's begin by looking at the three types of turndown letters and the reasons for them. The first type is received because the application did not score high enough in the preliminary review. The preliminary review is an electronic review of your application by a computer.

During this phase of the review process, the computer screens an application to see how closely the answers align with the priorities established by FEMA for this year's AFG program. If your application scores high enough, it is sent to a three-person peer review committee, which reads and scores your narratives.

Peer reviewed
The second group of turndown letters are those that make it to peer review but do not score high enough to be considered for funding.

The third type of letters go to applicants who scored high enough in peer review for consideration, but the AFG program simply exhausted all of its funding before getting to those applications.

Every year, when the first group of turndown letters arrives, I hear the same complaints from applicants. They sound something like this:

  • My turndown letter sounds exactly like my neighbors and exactly like someone I communicate with online who is three states away.
  • My letter really doesn't address our application.
  • What was my score and is there a way to request my score?
  • Why are there references to the AFG Guidance and FOA in my letter?
  • Does my regional FEMA person have a copy of this?
  • Is there any way to appeal this decision?
  • Does FEMA offer tutoring to applicants who haven't had an AFG funded?

Form letter
First, yes your letter is probably exactly like everyone else's. Given the number of letters that must be generated some elements of your letter, such as the initial introduction are boilerplate. These paragraphs are simply an explanation of the AFG program and review process.

Because FEMA receives so many applications, they simply are not able to develop individual rejection letters. Instead the letters are developed around groups of applicants who applied for similar projects.

The next several paragraphs of your letter are generated using the sections of the AFG FOA on which your application scored the lowest. Because these letters are based on groups of applicants, all of the information in this section may not pertain specifically to your application.

It will, however, provide general areas where your application fell short. For example, if your application request was for diesel exhaust removal equipment, and your letter is referencing the sections of the FOA that state the highest priority is to stations that have sleeping quarters, and are occupied 24/7, your station is probably not staffed seven days a week.

Your turndown letter may also cite the fact that AFG does not fund modifications to stations built after 2003. Your station was built in 1955. These citations are provided to give as close of a reference within the FOA as possible, but may include several related references based on the grouping of questions in the application.

Knowing the score
No, FEMA does not issue applicants their score and there is no process to request them. At this point in the process rejected applicants would only have a partial score anyway since their application did not go to peer review.

Even after peer review, your score wouldn't mean anything unless you also knew the scale for the application period. Knowing your score would be like saying the Yankees scored five in last night's game. This really isn't enough information to let you know if they won or not.

There is no way to appeal FEMA's decision. In accordance with appeal procedure outlined in the Code of Federal Regulation, FEMA will only reconsider an application "with respect to an initial grant award decision only when the applicant asserts that FEMA made a material technical or procedural error in the processing of the application and can substantiate such assertions."

The citation further goes on to state that "as grants are awarded on a competitive basis…. FEMA cannot consider a request for reconsideration based upon the merits of an original application. Similarly, FEMA will not consider new information provided after the submission of the original application."

Finally, your regional fire program specialist at FEMA does have access to your turndown letter. If you have additional questions you can always contact this person for assistance.

For applicants who have submitted a substantial number of applications without an award, FEMA does have mentoring services available. In the past, FEMA has considered applicants who failed to receive funding on five or six applications in a row to be eligible for a mentor.

This does not occur automatically. If you are interested, you must make an application through your regional FEMA office for the mentor.

A farewell to volunteer, but not to service

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

It was more than a decade ago that I started 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 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 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.

Apparatus Advances in 2007

Posted on Fri, 28 Dec 2007 18:00:00 UTC

Photo Jamie Thompson
Apparatus on display at the FDIC in Indianapolis in April.

At the beginning of the year, the fire apparatus industry really seemed as if it would suffer because of the new 2007 EPA Guidelines for Diesel Engines. While it wasn't all smooth, it didn't turn out as bad as some had imagined. Admittedly, it did require a lot of redesign and engineering of cabs and bodies to have the new engines fit. But it seems that sales have increased in the second half of the year, with many large orders being placed despite the new designs.

This year brought us the PUC from Pierce Manufacturing, which is a new concept that provides ease of maintenance with easier access to the pump, engine and transmission as well as a Pierce Pump. The vehicle also has more compartment space, chest-high cross lays and easier access to the rear hose bed by an angled ladder.

E-One had an extremely busy year, with several new products being launched including a new ARFF Vehicle, the Titan Force 6, with a five-person cab, exterior pump panel, multiple roof and bumper turrets, 3170 gallon poly water tank and a 437 gallon poly foam tank.

Also designed was the urban pumper, with a low ergonomic hose bed and a hybrid energy command vehicle for homeland security use. At FRI in Atlanta, it introduced a new SUV command vehicle — Comms-One — which promotes command interoperability in radio communication.

In more recent months, KME introduced the Challenger pumper line. The Challenger family features 36 different body configurations in steel, aluminum or stainless with 29" deep body compartments for added storage. It has numerous hose bed and compartment configurations including high capacity and low, easy-access hose beds. All can be built on KME Custom or commercial chassis.

Meanwhile, Ferrara's main launch in 2007 was the Heavy Duty 5 section Midmount ladder, which touts a shorter wheelbase and a lower overall height.

In addition, Crimson has built a new pump panel — ControlXT — in conjunction with Fire Research Corporation. It incorporates a more easy-to-read panel with engine information, water and tank level gauges, pressure governing systems and other customer-selected controls and displays. ControlXT will be standard or optional on all Crimson product lines.

Finally, Rosenbauer America debuted the T-Rex in 2007. In conjunction with Metz, the new articulating platform sets up in 25-30 seconds, has an aerial height of 102' equipped with a 2000 gpm pump and room for 115' of ground ladders. It also features a platform collision avoidance feature and a 1400 lb tip capacity.

All of the manufacturers are building and designing with firefighter safety in mind, which in my book is something that should continue in the coming years. More attention is being placed on larger cabs with more room for firefighter comfort and safety, lower hose beds and increased storage space as well as multi-tasking vehicles because we are all trying to do more with less in this day and age.

Just when you think nothing else could be possible, the fire apparatus engineers come out with another new idea that takes the industry by storm. With all of these new innovations that were introduced this year, I can hardly wait for the offerings in 2008. It should prove to be an interesting year. If that is not enough, newer stringent EPA Diesel Engine requirements crop up again in 2010. Oh well!

Fire service leaders: The difference between life and death

Posted on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:51:40 UTC

Within the fire service, we constantly grapple with one question: What does it mean to be a leader? Clearly, we're not alone in our search, which is why the leadership training industry brings in more than $100 billion worldwide.

Leadership is a constant subject of research, training, education and discussion — in every field of human endeavor. Depending on the source, there are dozens of recognized theories of leadership in the academic literatures of business administration, public administration and management science.

Go to any bookstore, or online bookseller, and search for the "leadership" section or keyword; there you'll find thousands of books penned by people from all walks of life with their perspectives, tips, and techniques for exercising leadership, or becoming (or staying) a "leader".

Attend almost any fire service conference, or professional development gathering in another industry, and you'll likely find several presentations, tracks or panels on leadership.

You can select from myriad different survey instruments to assess your leadership "style," spend thousands of dollars on leadership development programs, and even hire a leadership coach.

Whatever your favorite (social) media channel, it’s almost impossible to miss researchers, politicians, and pundits talking about leadership.

Life-and-death important
The significance of leaders is obvious — they set the tone and impact core values within an organization, for good or bad.

But in our business, it takes on another dimension. Leadership, at all levels, can make the difference between life and death — not just the lives of those we are sworn to protect, but also the lives of our brother and sister firefighters.

If your experiences are anything like mine, the presence, or absence, of leadership is palpable. It's visceral; you can actually "feel" it when it's there, and you miss it when it's not. While leadership may be hard to define, as witness the many (often competing) theories on the topic, we generally think we "know it when we see it."

From my own work as a firefighter, company officer, chief officer, state agency head, non-profit board member, academic researcher, instructor, consultant and business owner, I have certainly benefited from good leadership, and suffered (or so it felt at the time) through bad leadership. Sometimes the two types were indistinguishable, and even came from the same individual, group or organization at different times, or under different circumstances. Sometimes what I felt was good leadership, was seen by others as bad leadership, and vice versa.

With so much invested each year in leadership research, publishing and training, why haven't we figured it out yet?

No "there" there
All the evidence suggests the worthwhile pursuit of leadership excellence is a never-ending journey. In short, it's because there's no "there" there.

If there was an easy 12-step program to develop leadership capacity throughout organizations, it would have been invented already. In fact, the more we discover about human behavior and interaction — and the more it changes with the diverse environmental, cultural, technical and political influences of an era where we are all connected, all the time — the less we actually know for certain.

We don't need to look far to see some long-held leadership lessons reinforced over and over, while others are relegated to the "it seemed like (and may have been) a good idea at the time" bin of history.

Given the high stakes, all the attention and money directed at researching, defining and teaching leadership seems worthwhile. Still, it can be difficult, and at times frustrating, to sort through the many different perspectives on leadership.

So what can we do?

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do believe strongly in the ongoing practice of leadership and the value of introspection as we all pursue this never-ending journey, in both our professional and personal lives. If we do our job right, we might end up with more questions than answers, so please feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences.

Part 2: How different generations see the fire service

Posted on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:35:05 UTC

By Paul Stein and Ettore Berardinelli

In the last article that we wrote on generation gaps in the fire service and we spent a lot of time on the Traditionalist (born 1935 to 1945). In this article we will identify birth years and the impact they have on one's life orientations and tendencies.

The birth years defining generations are generalities, definitely not scientific and are not "carved in stone."

You might identify with more than one generation if your birth year falls near the beginning or end of a given generation. If you fall into that category, consider yourself a "cusper," someone who spans two generations.

Cuspers can be a valuable resource in any work group because they can identify with two generations. They can foster understanding between the two different groups and are often skilled at mediating, translating and mentoring between two different value systems.

With that said, let's explore some different generational characteristics. First, let's review the Traditionalist.

The Traditionalist: Born 1935 to 1945
Traditionalists are very patriotic, showing strong loyalty to their country and their employer. They have worked longer than any other generation and are now either approaching retirement or retired and, because of their generational characteristics, are probably still working in their retirement.

Although as children they lived through World War II, the world was rosy for the traditionalist. Most of their parents served in World War II, or on the home front, dealt with the fears, losses and acute shortages created by that world conflict.

These parents were very strict and maintained control of their children. Dad was the "bread winner" and "wore the pants in the family," while most mothers were stay-at-home moms. Don't try to tell these parents that children should never be spanked and/or that their kids had a right to privacy!

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
Individuals born in this generation got to observe, or maybe even experience, the hippie era. Think about the Traditionalist we just discussed, living through this era of "free love," Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and The Who.

While their kids embraced all of this, it was a case of culture shock for the parents! This generation was best epitomized by the Beatles song "All You Need Is Love."

The Traditionalist thought all you "needed" was hard work! When the Baby Boomers entered the work force, they were compelled to challenge the status quo because of the times they were raised in.

It is ironic that while their parents seldom questioned anything ("Son, you can't fight City Hall!"), this generation was very comfortable asking, why. It seemed to be the most natural thing in the world for them to want to know the "why" of rules and regulations.

Because they had the courage to question the status quo, they deserve a lot of credit for many of the rights and opportunities we now take for granted. Their boundless optimism led many to fight for changes that improved many facets of both our work and family lives.

Due to their large numbers, they faced competition from each other for jobs. In the private work sector Baby Boomers invented the 60-hour workweek, figuring that demonstrating hard work and loyalty to employers was one way to succeed.

Their sense of who they are is deeply connected to their career achievements. So, as you can see, while this generation may have questioned the status quo, they did retain the work ethic of their Traditionalist parents. As a whole, this generation is politically adept when navigating political minefields in the workplace.

Generation X'ers: Born 1965 to 1981
This generation could actually be called the Tech Generation, having grown up in the era of the advent of video games and personal computers. The influences of the Baby Boomers' values and strong work ethic collided with what they actually observed growing up.

This generation was the first to witness skyrocketing divorce rates, parents being laid off after years of dedicated service to their employers, challenges to the presidency and other unnerving scandals involving organized religion and big corporations.

This erosion of what their parents held dear and had raised them to believe as a given instilled a sense of skepticism and distrust of institutions. Because they haven't seen employer loyalty, their loyalty quotient to an employer can be very low.

In contrast to the Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers believe that work is not the most important thing in their lives. They are resourceful and hardworking, but once their workday is over, they're outta there!

Having actually grown up right along with the multitude of technology advances, they have a firm grasp of the latest innovations and have little patience for those who don't immediately understand it. While technology has the ability to simplify some facets of our lives, it also has the down side of creating a big divide among the generations.

Email, text messaging and teleconferencing is second nature to a generation that finds it necessary to work with an older generation that preferred face-to-face communication. Email, PDA's, iPhones and Blackberrys have replaced the value the older generation found in actual human interactions.

When the Gen X'ers decided to join the fire service, this older generation's expectation was that these "new kids" would enthusiastically adopt the values and work ethic of the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist generations.

As with other generational interactions, this expectation never came to fruition. Ironically, we now see the Gen X'ers making the same mistake with the Millennials.

It seems fitting that the Gen X'ers are now facing the same melding of values that the Traditionalists had to deal with when Baby Boomers entered the fire service. The Millennials have already shown us that they will not be simply a younger version of the Gen X'ers. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

Millennials Born: 1982 to 1999
Many in this generation are still in school, but the oldest Millennials are now entering the workforce. Millennials have been raised by optimistic parents that have imparted to them an "anything is possible" attitude. Their parents have been "fully involved" in the life of the Millennials and have convinced them they control their own destiny, notwithstanding a little help from the parents!

And "a little help from their parents" can mean anything from free room and board into their late twenties, up to and including going to job interviews with the Millennial candidate!

Millennials are eager to learn and question things. They are confident and have high esteem. They reject the notion of being limited by the guidelines established by the organization or the rigid confines of a job description.

Additionally, Millennials don't seem to be motivated by mission statements or by the old standby "it's the good of the organization" philosophy. Think about how this clashes with the paramilitary nature of the fire service, civil service job classifications and rules and regulations.

Some people feel that the Millennials are not prepared to work in the fire service. The real question is, is the fire service ready for the Millennials?

In the first article we wrote, we included comments by our friend Dave Hubert. In this article, we are including a comment regarding values from my (PHS) grandson Jason.

Jason is 25 years old so that places him in the category of a cusper spanning the Gen-X'er and the Millennial generations. He is a graduate of Loyal Marymount University and currently working as a financial consultant. Here are his thoughts.

"I am what is termed a Gen X’er, a moniker that is usually offered in the same tone as 'young whippersnapper,' and for all intents and purposes, they are probably interchangeable, given the way they are used.

"However, I would consider myself a Traditionalist, and I know many of friends view themselves in a similar way. I believe in the same fundamental principles that spawned the Industrial Revolution and created the Post Great War American culture; that of working hard, providing for your family and an assiduous pursuit of the American dream.

"I do, however, have an additional perspective that I believe offers a distinction between my generation and that of the more traditional generations of the last 50 years: I strive to attain a work/life balance. This is a term very common amongst the current generation.

"While we still wish to work hard and demonstrate our dedication, we also wish to maintain a fulfilling life outside of work — clearly delineating between the two and striving for advancement in both concurrently.

This balancing act can sometimes place additional pressures on the younger worker, which can often be misconstrued as laziness, indifference or a lack of respect for authority. While that can sometimes be the case, it is more likely that there is an underlying imbalance trying to resolve itself. The balancing act doesn't always work, but we’re a generation that thinks anything is possible."

We agree with Jason. In our generation, most people measured the quality of life by the list accolades, achievements, and how many toys they had. In its simplest terms, success is getting what we want, and most people want wealth and status.

Yet as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they don't have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring loving relationships.

Peace of mind doesn't preclude ambition or desire for material possessions or high position, but it assumes a fundamental foundation of contentment, gratitude, and pride — a belief that whatever one has is enough and an active appreciation for the good things in life.

We know people that have dedicated their life to early promotion in the fire service. Most have achieved their goal, however, in the process they have lost their family, friends, and sometimes, even themselves.

Our question to them is, "Was it worth it?"

We would like to hear from people of your generation. Share your thoughts with us regarding your life's orientation, especially if you see these observations in a much different way.

Paul Stein and Ettore Berardinelli served as chiefs for the Santa Monica (Calif.) Fire Department.

5 firefighting T-shirts I won't wear

Posted on Tue, 5 Aug 2014 17:00:24 UTC

The T-shirt has come a long way in the fire service. From humble beginnings of iron-on letters to the fancy silk-screened, computer-generated graphics we have today.

The term T-shirt comes from how the sleeves and body make a T shape. T-shirts became popular with stevedores in the late 19th century and were even issued to sailors in the U. S. Navy during the Spanish-American War.

T-shirts are easy to clean, can be bought in bulk and can be used to uniformly equip a workforce. It's easy to put company names on the back or front and even put a message on them.

T-shirts are used as prizes in many areas of entertainment. I can't tell you all the sporting events I have attended where cheerleaders or support people threw team T-shirts to the crowd. Some places even have guns that shoot the shirts up into the stands.

Fire department style
Most fire departments allow T-shirts to be worn. There are some exceptions of course; some places want you in button up badge shirts on EMS calls, or want a uniform shirt worn during the day and allow the T-shirts at night.

Years ago we went through a polo shirt phase. I never liked them, but that's just personal preference. Occasionally I see them now and I immediately hear Olivia Newton John singing, "let's get physical."

Where I work, each shift is allowed to design and wear a shift T-shirt. I like that. I think it promotes camaraderie and pride in one's shift.

Many fire departments have slogans on their shirts: Engine this deep in the heat; Station so and so first in, last out. There is a station in my area that has a slogan: "Bringing them out alive." A cool slogan is fine; it promotes a little healthy competition between shifts and stations.

An entire wardrobe
Now let's have an honesty check. I have a lot of fire department T-shirts — some I have bought, some have been given to me. T-shirts are big business. I somehow seem to purchase one at a lot of the fire stations I visit.

I have purchased shirts in Baltimore, New Orleans and Toronto. The usual drill is they have a sign displayed and one guy usually heads up the T-shirt business. Sometimes you have to come back the next day when the T-shirt guy is working.

I have a lot of company shirts, department shirts and a few memorial fund raising shirts. A lot of times shirts are sold as a fundraiser to help a firefighter or his family.

I don't think I have any with witty sayings on any them. Some are clever: "Firefighters Kick Ash." I saw an EMS shirt the other day saying "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round." If you have been on a busy ambulance you can really relate to that.

However, when I attend any of the large fire service tradeshows it takes no time at all in the exhibit hall to find table after table of T-shirts. Some I really have to shake my head at.

So with that, here are five T-shirts I won't wear. The hate mail from the T-shirt sellers should be in shortly.

5. Firefighter: Will work for Cupcakes
Well, about that statement. There are people who already think we sit around and eat all day. Plus, I need to bring home more than cupcakes. Is this the image we want to project?

4. Firefighters Work Where the Devil Dances
No, I'm out. It somehow borders on the satanic. It might have been proper attire at a singles bar in the '70s. Let me go out and turn on my Kojak light.

3. Kiss my Ax
I believe this is meant as a clever play on words. My aunt used to say "go pound sand." A popular sitcom from years ago involved a waitress saying: "Kiss my grits!"

No thanks. Furthermore, I have never had romantic desires involving forcible entry tools. And speaking of romantic desires.

2. Firefighters Have Longer Hoses
I have conducted field research on this topic and I am here to debunk this urban legend. I have visited numerous retail outlets, home improvement centers and hardware stores to investigate this claim.

Regrettably, I have come to a startling conclusion. The standard home usage water hose, commonly known as a garden hose, comes in 50- or 100-foot lengths. These hose lengths are available to the average consumer and can be connected together to make long hoses.

Therefore, firefighters do not have longer hoses than anyone else.

1. Coed Naked Firefighting
What? Are you serious?

This comes from a coed naked craze from years ago. There were T-shirts of coed naked everything: baseball, soccer, football, you name it.

Anybody who wants to fight a fire naked has never been to one let alone been in one. Yes, we are a coed organization and I have worked with several females over the years. I can promise you none of them want to see middle aged me flapping in the wind at the next fire.

How about a Maltese cross on the front and an image of your apparatus, or department name on the back? Let me hear from you.

How to choose firefighting instructors

Posted on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 19:24:42 UTC

Whether volunteer or career, having capable and safe firefighters comes down to how well they are trained. Fire chiefs need to build not only a good training program, but find good instructor who can execute that program.

For effective training you must choose good instructors who teach important, relevant subjects. The training must be real world and practical. Adults must be engaged mentally and physically to learn at the optimal level.

When possible, choose instructors who love the topics they teach. These instructors will use fewer lectures and more participation when teaching adults.

Eight training pitfalls:

  • Failing to take training seriously.
  • Allowing chiefs to discount training.
  • Deciding training starts and stops at the facility door.
  • Teaching adults like children.
  • Evaluating trainees too timidly.
  • Ignoring the technology of training.
  • Concentrating on things rather than people.
  • Defending the perimeter.

Look for an instructor who will train on the problem areas of your firefighters, talk about mistakes and take corrective action. There is nothing to be embarrassed about when a mistake is made unless you ignore the mistake — good instructors understand this.

Videos are a great training tool, but they a supplement not a substitute for a good instructor. If your instructor uses video to supplement training, they should be no longer than 10 minutes.

Simulating reality
Simulations are another effective training tool.

Properly performed, simulations provide firefighters experiences that they will at some point go through on an actual fire or rescue scene. When that occurs, you will know your training is working.

Scenarios are the instructional vehicles for simulation. Their creation, format, and control is more an art than a paint-by-numbers approach. To exploit the learning and evaluation capabilities of a simulated environment, the instructor must use judgment in designing scenarios and in evaluating trainees.

No matter how good or bad a situation may be, a good instructor knows that it can always be improved upon.

Reason and consistency
A good trainer will help firefighters know why they should learn. People learn best when they understand the purpose and expected outcome of the training activity. Relevant training allows the firefighter to use their personal experiences in the training session.

A good instructor will also reinforce the learning process by repeating the right way to do things.

There is often a gap between what we say we do and what we actually do; this is not effective on the fireground. A good instructor will train firefighters like they will be expected to perform at an emergency.

Training programs should be based upon an analysis of the critical tasks required for firefighters on your department. Critical tasks are those tactical functions every firefighter must be able to complete.

If one member of the team is not able to fulfill their part of the game, the team will fail and someone may get hurt or die.

Measuring performance
Learning can be done the hard way; experience without lesson is a poor teaching method. Street smarts can't be learned from a book, but a good instructor can relay experiences through stories that will give firefighters confronted with a similar situation the power to make better decisions.

A training program should focus upon skill development, maintenance and improvement. Every program needs performance standards; these are important for the organization and the individual.

A good instructor will measure performance, not attendance. In many cases, when you measure attendance you measure firefighters' ability to tolerate the instructor, not that they learned something useful.

In order to measure training the system must be developed through an analysis of critical tasks and careful analysis of the department.