How About a Culture of Prevention?

Posted on Mon, 29 Jun 2009 12:32:56 UTC

By Bill Delaney

Reactions to Lt. Ray McCormack's speech at FDIC were varied, with people picking sides — sometimes very emotionally.

My own take on the speech was somewhere in the middle. He never said do not be safe. I think he was really trying to say he fears we are taking the "be safe" component to an extreme. He has stirred a good debate and I applaud him for having the conviction to stand up for his beliefs.

But the one big thing that was missing from all of the discussion that followed the speech, and seemingly absent from all fire service debates/discussions, is the bastard child of the fire service: the culture of prevention.

You know, that annoying little member of our family who we always try to make sure is relatively unseen and certainly never heard from? After all, most of the debate related to "The Speech" does not happen if the fire, gasp, is prevented and never happens in the first place!

There is much national gnawing and gnashing of the teeth as staffing on trucks are being reduced, stations closed, revolving station closures, etc. amidst the current economic climate.

No doubt we should be screaming from the highest mountain tops about all of that as it does involve the wellbeing of our people and those we serve. We are, however, eerily quiet when it comes to public educators and other "prevention" components of our service when they get cut.

Why is this? Well, for me, it is because we DO have a culture of extinguishment! That is where Lt. McCormack was all wrong in his speech. The culture of extinguishment is more than alive and well and probably always will be in a vast majority of departments in the United States.

Don't believe me? Take a look at your own department's budget priorities. Next, look at the departments around you. In the Washington, D.C.–Metro area, we have two departments that now have no public educators and three that cut staffing by more than 50 percent.

Meanwhile, one that has taken its few remaining educators and trained them as inspectors and let them know that most of their duties will fall under revenue generating inspections. I will admit that the last one at least has a prevention component to it so not all is lost.

The old adage is that you cut what you do not perceive to be the greatest value. Fortunately my chief values our risk reduction efforts (as well as firefighter safety) and let it be known that cutting our public education staff is not even an option for discussion.

But actions speak louder than words and the vast majority of departments across our great land have spoken. The proponents of the speech can rest easy — I firmly believe that the culture of extinguishment is alive and well in our great country!

Another great CFSI dinner in the books

Posted on Fri, 30 May 2014 13:47:41 UTC

Each year, the Congressional Fire Services Institute has the distinct honor of hosting the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program. The event brings together fire and emergency services leaders from across the country to our nation's capital.

During their stay, they meet with their members of Congress, attend the CFSI seminars program, and come together as one fire service for a special dinner program honoring the dedication and service of our nation's one million first responders.

The theme of the 26th annual program, which took place on April 30-May 1 in Washington, D.C., was "Cultivating Relationships." Upwards of 2,000 fire service leaders from across the country attended the program.

This was not a social gathering by any stretch, but a unique opportunity to learn and participate in the legislative- and policy-implementation processes. For veterans and neophytes of this program alike, important work is accomplished at the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program that has a far-reaching effect on federal programs that benefit our nation's first responders.

This is why CFSI continues to conduct this event and encourage a large turnout — to cultivate relationships with political leaders who determine the federal government's commitment to important fire and emergency services programs.

Getting educated
Before commenting on the dinner, I'd like to discuss the seminars program. No other event in the fire service covers such a broad range of important federal issues — nor does any other event feature such a broad array of distinguished and knowledgeable experts on national fire service issues.

Our seminar presenters included 32 association leaders, six federal officials, and eight members of Congress. They are experts in such areas as first responder communications, emergency medical services, building codes, leadership, public safety education, health and wellness, and lobbying.

Our federal presenters were there to listen how our government can be more responsive to the concerns and needs of the fire and emergency services.

While CFSI was delivering an educational experience for all attendees, there were separate meetings and business taking place by other organizations and individual groups. There is not another opportunity during the year for such meetings between leaders of so many diverse organizations.

Business cards were exchanged and new business relationships were formed. Industry leaders conversed with fire officials, while many of our participants were walking the halls of Congress and meeting with their elected representatives.

The best ever
This was my 19th dinner as CFSI's executive director and arguably the best one from my perspective. Five of our fire caucus leaders participated in the dinner program. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Peter King (R-N.Y), and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) all addressed the dinner attendees, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once again addressed our board of directors reception.

Many members of Congress would relish the opportunity to address such a large and esteemed audience of fire service officials, but few deserve the time behind the podium — most notably these members in addition to our three other caucus co-chairs — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who addressed the opening session of our seminars program.

These are members who understand our issues, members who work with us on a daily basis to help the fire service become better prepared and trained. They understand our culture, our traditions and our language.

Grant programs aren't funded on their own, nor are federal agencies like the U.S. Fire Administration or the National Fire Academy. Positive changes to the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program require support from the Capitol Hill, as do efforts to enhance first responder communications.

Recognizing excellence
To a large extent, we have our caucus leaders to thank for this work, which is why we always look forward to paying proper tribute to them at the dinner.

The dinner also provides an opportunity to acknowledge fire service leaders and organizations for outstanding leadership.

Since 1999, CFSI and Motorola Solutions have presented the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award to an individual for exemplary leadership at the local, state and national levels. This year's recipient was the Hon. James M. Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association who will be retiring shortly following an illustrious 23-year career with NFPA.

CFSI co-sponsor an award with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation that recognizes organizations for outstanding leadership to advance the cause of firefighter health and safety. This year we honored a government agency (the Office of the Fire Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) and a partnership between two organizations (the Oklahoma Council on Firefighter Training and Ingegris Heart Hospital). The central focus of the award is to recognize organizations that are helping to advance the 16 Life Safety Initiatives developed by fire service leaders at Tampa, Fla. in 2004.

We also present two other prestigious awards: the Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education and the Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Awards.

With the support of the International Fire Service Training Association, we recognized Mary Marchone of the National Fire Academy with the Phillips awards. The EMS award, co-sponsored by the MedicAlert Foundation, honored three recipients from the volunteer, career and combination categories: the Cullman County (Ala.) Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, the Memphis (Tenn.) Fire Department and the Howard County (Md.) Department of Fire and Rescue Services, respectively.

These are competitive awards with formal application processes. It is indeed a distinct honor for the recipients to stand before national fire service leaders and receive these recognitions. They have worked hard to achieve these honors and by doing so, have made the fire service stronger and communities across the nation safer.

We extend our thanks and appreciation to our co-sponsors for their continued support of the awards program. Without them, this program would not be possible.

From the administration
Our keynote speaker was Secretary Jeh Johnson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In his speech, the secretary pledge to grow the department's relationships with the fire and emergency service, stating that the department will continue to listen to the fire service to better understand our needs and concerns.

He spoke of the department's commitment to the SAFER and AFG grant programs, enumerating the many ways both programs have addressed the needs of fire departments across the nation. He also recognized our Fire Administrator Chief Ernie Mitchell and the leadership he continues to provide at the federal level.

Cultivating relationships is the mission of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. The fire and emergency services stand to gain when nearly 2,000 fire and emergency services officials from all disciplines can gather together in Washington, D.C. and present a unified image to our leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Ave.

We thank those who attended for their support and encourage others to contact our office to learn how they can engage in our efforts not only at our 2015 program, but every day during the year. You can reach us at 202-371-1277 or

Lessons from real and simulated events

Posted on Mon, 14 Jan 2013 10:17:45 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.

Fire and police: Bridging the divide

Posted on Mon, 9 Nov 2015 11:36:56 UTC

Detroit's mayor and city council recently made Eric Jones the next fire commissioner. He comes to the position with a purely law enforcement and administrative background.

Commissioner Jones has impressive qualifications. He has over 25 years as a law enforcement officer in Detroit. During his time as a police officer, he obtained a law degree and passed the bar exam. He has deep professional and personal ties to the community. His son is a Detroit firefighter.

He has been the top administrator in a city department. But he's never been a firefighter.

I am guessing I am not the only one who wonders how this decision will be received by rank-and-file firefighters. It reopens questions of the value of fire service experience versus administrative experience when leading a department.

It also opens questions about the relationship between police and fire departments.

Why the disconnect?
Historically, there have always been rivalries between police officers and firefighters. Mostly these rivalries are good-natured, but sometimes not so much.

There are the stories of public altercations and police officers arresting firefighters at emergency scenes. And then there was the lack of communication and coordination between police and fire in New York City on 9/11, a division caused by many years of bad blood between the two departments.

What has caused these conflicts and disconnects? Police and fire departments may support significantly different organizational cultures, but essentially they serve the same mission: to safeguard the community in crisis and prevent harm.

But the differences are real. Historically, police officers are armed and the ones who deal exclusively with crime and violence. Firefighters are not armed, and their focus has traditionally been dangers caused by hazardous conditions rather than people.

Over the years, these lines have been blurred in many ways. Firefighters often find themselves dealing with law enforcement issues, whether it is in responding to emergency medical calls or investigating suspicious fires. Law enforcement officers must often take command of incidents that go far beyond just criminal activity and encroach on what has typically been the domain of fire departments.

Thin purple line
These blurred lines of responsibility and authority have caused tension in some agencies. Firefighters complain that police officers are overstepping their authority at scenes. Police officers complain that firefighters get in the way rather than support their efforts.

Firefighters complain that police get more money. Police officers complain that firefighters always want to be the good guys and paint cops as the bad guys.

Sometimes disagreements are minimal — low-level gossip or fleeting resentments. But sometimes these conflicts translate into organizational cultures that put two agencies that should be supporting one another in opposite camps.

You can see this play out on MVC scenes where firefighters' goal of restricting traffic for safety is at cross purposes with police officers' desire to keep traffic moving. You can add to this, scenes where police are first to arrive at a structure fire and attempt search and rescue or where firefighters deal with EMS patients who become aggressive.

Having police and fire departments perceive one another as enemies or even competitors does not serve anyone's needs. What can a fire chief do to improve relationships and collaboration between these two entities?

Common ground
When I was a firefighter, my department had generally very good relationships with the city police department. Any individual differences were just that and did not translate into organizational conflict.

What factors contributed to this good relationship? Without a doubt, one factor was that in our city, police and fire shared a common localized pension system. Our pension was administered by an equal number of elected representatives from the police and fire departments.

The pension board allowed police and fire to work together on an issue that was of great common interest to both groups. It was also an issue outside of each agency's usual locus of control.

The pension board was collaborative, friendly and completely on the same side of the common issue. And since all board members were accessible to all pension members, it was common for a firefighter to call up one of the police representatives with a question and vice versa.

Cross-training is another way that police and fire can better appreciate and support each other's essential roles. For example, some fire departments have created teams of SWAT medics to directly support police intervention. Likewise, some police departments have trained members to do first-response at hazardous materials incidents.

Top down
Collaborative scenario planning is another way for police and fire to be on the same page when such coordination is most needed, which may be the best opportunity for volunteer or combination departments to work with police.

This type of planning often happens at the top levels of each department and its success or failure depends on personal commitment among individuals in those positions.

And this brings up the most important factor that contributes to good relations between any two agencies: commitment from the top down that such cooperation is not just nice to do, but essential to be able to jointly achieve the core mission that the organizations share.

This commitment must be expressed not just in official statements, but in all everyday activities: refraining from gossip, speaking well of the other, seeking out ways to connect face-to-face, supporting the other in the media and in public gatherings.

This assumption of support does not mean that police and fire departments can never be critical of each other.

Quite the opposite: when a relationship of trust is assumed, then people can be honest, critical evaluators of the other when such diversity of opinion is most needed. But this kind of disagreement should always be done in a way that is respectful and not based in self-interest.

Fire and police departments ultimately do different aspects of the same larger job of keeping the community safe. The more these agencies understand one another and practice collaboration, the better that mission will be achieved and the safer everyone will be.

Experts weigh in on the future of fire research

Posted on Wed, 21 Oct 2015 16:43:09 UTC

I recently caught up with two gentlemen who have been deeply involved in fire behavior research, Dan Madrzykowski and Robin Zevotek, to get their thoughts on where fire behavior research is headed and why they think it's heading in that direction.

What are the results of today's fire behavior research going to mean to the fire service over the next five to 10 years?

Madrzykowski: The fire dynamics research of the past 15 years has moved the research from single rooms inside a laboratory to fire dynamics within structures. These studies have not only examined how the fire will grow and spread due to building geometry and materials, but also how ventilation and suppression impact the fires, buildings and potential victims.

Fire behavior experiments have been conducted in single-family homes, high rises and a few commercial type structures. The knowledge gained and transferred to the fire service includes:

  • Fire growth rates of synthetic fuels.
  • Collapse times for light-weight construction assemblies.
  • Recognition that smoke is fuel.
  • Awareness of wind-driven fires, ventilation-limited fires and ventilation induced flashovers and flow paths.

More importantly is that this information provides empirical evidence that fires can be better controlled by closely coordinating ventilation and suppression tactics.

If the results are adopted and integrated into every fire department across the country, the potential to save civilian lives and property should increase. We would also greatly reduce the death rate of firefighters due to traumatic injuries and injuries to firefighters on the fireground.

The Panel

Dan Madrzykowski is a fire protection engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he’s played an instrumental role in the institute’s fire-behavior research and joint fire research with NIST and UL. Her earned his Master of Science degree in fire protection engineering from University of Maryland College Park, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. Among his awards is a Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2008 for his 10-year study on fire behavior.

Robin Zevotek is a research engineer with UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland College Park, where he’s also finishing up work on his graduate degree in fire protection engineering. Zevotek also served as a volunteer live-in Fire EMS sergeant with the College Park Volunteer Fire Department while working on his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland. He’s served with the Moyers Corners Fire Department, where he attained the rank of captain.

Zevotek: Today's fire dynamics research surely will set the stage for what's to come over the next five to 10 years. The fire service is in the midst of a cultural change. Fire dynamics research is confirming some fire service tactics from the last 10 years while shaping new tactics for the ever-changing fire environment.

As the construction technology and materials for building construction continue to evolve, the fire environment will change with them. The same is true for the fuels that fill our buildings, i.e., the furnishings where synthetic materials continue to replace natural materials.

I think the greater the acceptance and use of fire dynamics research by fire service leaders over the next 10 years will initiate change in the fire service through the use of science. This will pave the way for the use of new tactics and technology. If fire service leaders can adapt current tactics to the findings of fire behavior research, it could result in more effective fire protection.

Beyond that, there must be a push to include the findings of fire-behavior research in fire-prevention initiatives for public education, code development and code enforcement. The results of our most recent fire-behavior research can provide validity to some of the current programs and be the basis for future improvements.

Where do you foresee fire behavior research heading over the next five to 10 years?

Madrzykowski: The research needs to continue as building materials, firefighter protective gear and safety equipment are constantly changing. The interaction of the conditions that a firefighter must work in, as well as the protection a firefighter has, must be taken into account when determining fire suppression strategies and tactics.

Of course none of this research matters if the results are never taught to firefighters or implemented by departments. In fact, some of the muscle memory tactics that are currently being taught on fire training grounds around the U.S. are probably doing more harm than good.

One example that's frequently happening on the training ground is the practice of not allowing the trainee to completely extinguish the fire. This is typically done as a matter of practicality to enable an overtaxed training team to move a large number of trainees through the fire suppression evolution. But is the result a firefighter that is hesitant to open the nozzle and let it flow on the fireground?

What about the practice, in purpose-built training towers with fuel-limited fires or of venting to clear the smoke? In real structure fires today, the fire is likely to be ventilation-limited or fuel rich. In these scenarios, if the fire gases are not cooled prior to ventilation, the fire will get bigger. Are the trainees being taught the difference? This (cooling first) should not be considered theory or an option.

We now have a growing body of fire behavior research evidence that clearly shows this (cooling first vs. venting first) is not a theory. Therefore, we now have a critical need to extend our research into how to safely train firefighters under more realistic conditions that will enable them to have a better understanding of both recognizing different fire conditions and how to best control them.

Zevotek: As fire researchers strive to understand the modern fire environment, material scientists are constantly inventing new materials used in everyday life. As these groups work in parallel, there will always be a need for fire dynamics research to understand how the new materials change the fire environment.

I see fire dynamics researchers partnering with material scientists and physicians to work toward a safe and effective fire retardant. The development of a material that meets the needs of the manufacturer, consumer and is relatively fire safe could potentially reduce the injuries and deaths from fire both in the U.S. and around the world.

Why do you foresee fire behavior research heading in that direction?

Madrzykowski: We need to continue to grow the body of knowledge for fire behavior because the structures and the fuels are constantly evolving. I see the need to keep expanding the scope and magnitude of the research because the fire problem is not static.

Zevotek: We have an essential need for this cross discipline approach to researching how materials contribute to fire growth and spread. Without working together, the problem will be constantly evolving, requiring fire researchers to evaluate new materials after they are being used, never permitting researchers to be presenting a solution at the same time the problem is identified.

How to start your fire grant application now

Posted on Tue, 1 Dec 2015 16:45:44 UTC

It is official, the 2015 Assistance to Firefighters Grant application period will open at 8 a.m. Dec. 7, and close Jan. 15 at 5 p.m.

A number of us aren't too happy with the idea that we may be wrapping our presents while wrapping up our AFG application. So here are a few simple tips to ensure that you can begin the day the application period opens and complete it with time to still enjoy the holidays.

The first and most important tip is to have a Data Universal Numbering System number and be registered in System for Award Management. If you don't have both of these, get them immediately.

It may take four weeks or more after SAM registration submittal before it is active — then add an additional 24 hours for to recognize the information. Information on obtaining a DUNS number and registering in SAM is available here.

Next, if you haven't decided on a project, do so in the next week. Once you have a project, check the Notice of Funding Opportunity to see if it is eligible and if it is ranked as a high priority by FEMA. With limited funding, medium- and low-priority projects stand very little chance of being funded by AFG.

Project data
After that, secure a cost estimate for your project. Remember, since the 2013 AFG, FEMA no longer allows applicants to ask for amendments to their awards for remaining amounts over $10,000.

There are several avenues to get that cost estimate and still be in compliance with Super Circular 2.

  • You can ask a vendor, if that is all you are requesting.
  • You can secure it from a vendor or manufacturer website.
  • You can use figures from a department that purchased the same type of equipment.

Super Circular 2 went into effect at the end of 2014 and this will be the first application period that it impacts those seeking cost estimates before the opening of the grant.

The next item on your list should be securing all the data for your application. This year there is a change in the way AFG is requesting call volume data under the application's characteristics section.

FEMA previously used its own system of categories for designating different types of alarms. This year it will use the NFIRS format. This should allow those departments that are reporting to NFIRS to smoothly complete the call volume section.

There are six other changes to the 2015 AFG application worth noting.

1. Equipment priorities for nonaffiliated EMS
As the basic mission of nonaffiliated EMS organizations is to provide BLS and ALS care and transport in support of the public and emergency responders, all rescue and extrication equipment will now be considered a medium priority for EMS organizations.

2. Product lifecycles
Historically, for most eligible equipment (hose, ladders, hand tools, etc.), the highest funding priority was for equipment 15 years or older or considered obsolete based on the NFPA 1851 standard.

However, for 2015 the useful operational life of EMS technology-based equipment has been adjusted to an 8-year replacement lifecycle in many cases. EMS technology-based equipment categories have been marked with "technology" in the funding priority chart available in NOFO Equipment, Appendix B, II.

3.Transitioning titles in EMS
The U.S. Department of Transportation, under the National EMS Scope of Practice Model, is in the process of changing titles for EMS providers. Under this program, the titles below are changing and FEMA will incorporate these changes into each grant cycle.

  • First responder to emergency medical responder.
  • Emergency medical technician-basic to emergency medical technician.
  • Emergency medical technician intermediate/85 to advanced EMT.
  • Emergency medical technician intermediate/99 to paramedic.
  • EMT-paramedic to Community paramedics (paramedics with primary care certification).

4. Tablets
Mobile computing devices intended to be used at the scene of an incident are now considered a high-priority item under communications.

AFG considers a complete SCBA Unit to be comprised of the harness/backpack, one face piece and two cylinders.

6. Community paramedic vehicle
This year no transport community paramedic vehicles have been moved to a high priority item under all vehicle classifications for AFG.

Are state, federal firefighter PPE safety rules safe?

Posted on Thu, 12 Nov 2015 17:09:21 UTC

We often cite National Fire Protection Association standards because they are the prevailing, most up-to-date and leading standards that relate to firefighter protective clothing and equipment.

NFPA's process directly engages firefighters as part of committees and is transparent. Yet aside from a few states, such as Texas where NFPA standards are part of the local regulations, these standards are nearly always voluntary.

High levels of compliance with NFPA standards are mainly due to their widespread acceptance for several reasons.

One reason is that fire service organizations generally want to follow comprehensive specifications that were created through a legitimate process that completely defines minimum protection. The concern over liability, by both manufacturers and end users, is another reason.

For firefighter protection, regulations adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are found the U. S. Code of Federal Regulations in 29 CFR Part 1910.156, Fire Brigades. These regulations, adopted in 1980, form the basis for mandatory compliance by fire departments regarding firefighter safety.

These include specific requirements for fire brigade organization, training and personal protective equipment. Training requirements are relatively simple and primarily relate to the quality of training being equivalent to fire academies that were considered the best at the time that regulations were written; they provide very little information to define the specific firefighter competencies.

A substantial portion of the OSHA regulations pertain to personal protective equipment.

Federal firefighter PPE regulations define protection requirements for foot, leg, body, hand, head, eye, face and respiratory devices. The general requirements in each of these areas are relatively simple.

Minimum footwear includes either fully extended boots to provide protection for the legs (what were once called hip boots) or protective shoes or boots worn in combination with protective pants. The only performance requirements include water resistance extending 5 inches above the bottom of the heel, a slip-resistance outer soles and a puncture-resistant midsole.

Body protection requirements are linked to the 1975 edition of NFPA 1971 with additional requirements set for testing outer shell materials for tear resistance and heat resistance. Hand protection requirements are from a 1976 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health firefighter glove study detailing cut, puncture, and heat penetration.

Head, eyes and face protection is based on 1977 criteria developed by the National Fire Safety and Research Office (a precursor to the U. S. Fire Administration) and related regulations in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133 for general industrial eye and face protection. The regulations do qualify full face piece respirators meeting respiratory protection requirements and refer to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 for a 30-minute rated self-contained breathing apparatus using DOT-approved cylinders.

Modernization efforts
Needless to say, these regulations are completely outdated. Certainly, all modern equipment now specified by the NFPA standards meet and exceed the federal regulations. There are current efforts to update these and other OSHA PPE regulations.

Yet, these efforts are several years in the making and will likely already be out of date when finished. Consequently, departments should not solely rely on compliance with the federal regulations as this puts the department and its firefighters at risk for not meeting contemporary levels of protection.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1976 requires states at least meet the federal regulations but can have their own plans if those requirements are set at least at the same level.

This is true for California where under Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, several sections define minimum requirements for firefighting PPE. These requirements were developed some years after the federal rules and include several differences. For example, Cal OSHA recognizes the use of personal alarm safety system devices, although they are predicated on a pre-first edition version of the NFPA 1982 standard covering PASS.

Like OSHA, Cal OSHA sets specific requirements for firefighter protection. Head protection requirements reference the 1985 edition of NFPA 1972, which at that time solely addressed structural firefighting helmets. Yet, requirements for visibility materials on helmets and ear flaps were made optional.

The California way
Eye and face protection requirements refer to the use of a heat- and flame-resistant hood, the collar of the protective coat and face shields meeting an old edition of an American National Standard Institute Z87.1 standard for industrial eye and face protection.

Ear and neck protection are to be met by wearing a helmet with ear flaps, using a flexible neck protector worn with the helmet, providing a flared shield attached to the brim of the helmet, wearing a hood or having a high coat collar and throat strap.

Body protection references the 1981 edition of NFPA 1971 but lowers the outer shell's tear resistance and further addresses the flame resistance of trim not then covered in NFPA 1971. Protective gloves must demonstrate conductive and radiant heat resistance, dexterity and grip; the regulations further require attachment wristlets.

Foot protection requirements must comply with a 1975 military specification that only addresses rubber boots. In addition, the boots must have slip-resistant outer soles, corrosion-resistant hardware, toe protection conforming to 1991 industrial footwear standards, and durable outer shell materials.

Fire service respirators are required to be positive-pressure SCBA that include an automatic warning signal that activates when the service time has been reduced to 20 to 25 percent. The regulations further permit SCBA being equipped with a buddy-breathing device or a quick disconnect even if the devices are not certified by NIOSH.

Recently, California began efforts to update these regulations. The state is considering all current editions of applicable NFPA firefighter PPE standards as part of its deliberations. An advisory committee that includes a number of firefighters intends to complete its recommendations by July 2016. This is obviously a step in the right direction.

Real risk
Although these requirements are clearly deficient compared with existing NFPA standards, sometimes we are surprised to see greater-than-deserved reliance on federal and state regulations without supplemental independent certification to the appropriate NFPA standard.

There was one case several years ago where a firefighter wore gloves that met the state standard instead of the modern NFPA standard. The gloves had no moisture barrier and significantly less insulation than would be permitted by NFPA.

Unfortunately, the firefighter suffered extensive burns to his hands after becoming trapped in a residential structure fire. It was argued that the gloves met the prevailing state standard despite other products being available that were certified to NFPA 1971.

The case became pivotal in the debate over whether glove should meet minimum state requirements that are clearly outdated versus those that meet a comprehensive and up-to-date standard that reflects the latest firefighter protection.

Such a case is not an isolated event and until government rules are either updated or interpreted as requiring departments to meet the latest requirements, such issues can occur. All departments and firefighters should consider NFPA standards beyond federal, state, or local requirements in any purchase or use decisions.

This compliance does not eliminate all risks, but it does promote a recognized level of safety that becomes the prudent minimum course of action.

Sorry, our Department Can't Comply with Rehab Standards

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 13:19:30 UTC

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises, attained "standard" status in March of 2008. Emergency services organizations must begin implementing the standard this year. Certainly it is the desire of every fire and EMS administrator to protect their department members in the areas of health and safety. As time proceeds, it will be interesting to monitor the a cceptance and practical application of these standards. Can we expect the "perfect emergency scene" to exist throughout the nation consistently? Where will departments fall short? Are these mandates doable, especially with shrinking budgets and manpower limitations?

Let's look at the nine key components of NFPA 1584, highlighting some practical concerns. I will be taking the "devil's advocate" role in responding to the requirements of the standard. You may note an air of cynicism that is seldom heard in the fire service. This is a very serious topic and my approach is only to show that "If there is a will, there is a way." Organize your team and resources and continue networking in order to achieve success.

Relief from climatic (weather/environmental) conditions:
Firefighting is done in extreme weather conditions. Mother Nature doesn't provide our world with moderate temperatures and working conditions. How can we escape the extreme heat or cold? We just won't respond to calls if it is too hot or cold.

Rest and recovery:
Depending on how many units are in staging, I'd love to take a 30 minute break with every bottle change. We operate two-man engine companies and the closest mutual aid company is twelve minutes out. "Hey chief, I'm tired, can I go lay down?"
We need a 3rd alarm just to get enough bodies to the scene.

Cooling or re-warming:
The only heat source is the inferno we're here to put out. Wearing all this turnout gear causes me to dehydrate before I even get into the structure. City council dinged our request for air conditioned cabs. We're lucky they let us have the air conditioners on at the firehouse. My idea of cooling is sit in the shade of the ladder truck.

Where's the closest vending machine? No one filled the engines water cooler today.
We used to carry bottled water on the rigs but the guys would drink them during truck checks. Hopefully the neighbors will show up with some lemonade to help out America's Bravest. Fire trucks have water in them, don't they? Drink that water.

Calorie and electrolyte replacement:
Hey neighbor, while you're making that lemonade, how about a turkey on rye with extra pickles? No name, free game. The mobile canteen showed up with day old doughnuts and week old bologna sandwiches. Luckily I ate a big lunch because this looks like a long one. That's why we never implemented a physical training program. We like to have our guys with some extra fat on them.

Medical Monitoring:
What do you mean my pulse and blood pressure are too high? That is my NORMAL resting pulse and BP. Maybe these extra few pounds I've been carrying around make it tough. After a couple cups of coffee and some doughnuts, they will go back to normal.
Chief needs three more hand lines stretched and we need all bodies.

EMS Treatment in accordance with local protocol:
Where are the medics? We've got an apartment building roaring and the EMS rigs are two blocks away. Just give me some O2 and I will be fine. It's not bad chest pain. Probably the chili dogs with onion I ate for lunch. I don't want to look soft in front of the young guys.

Member accountability:
I lost my tags. My crew got split up and the captain detailed me to re-fill air bottles.
I don't want to look soft by hanging out in rehab.

Release from rehabilitation:
This will not be a problem. You either get back to work or go to the hospital in the bus.
It feels kinda good here in the air conditioned rehab unit. With all that 5" that needs to be re-loaded, maybe I need to drink another liter of juice.

We all know that changing old habits comes slow for some. Budget constraints do create real challenges in meeting the needs of your department. Truly, for any department to be 100 % compliant in meeting these standards, much planning and focusing will be required. Develop a team of interested staff members to research, develop and implement these life-saving standards. Although it may take months to reach your ultimate goal, it is never too late to make improvements. Best of luck with your efforts to ensure the health and safety of your people. They are worth it!

Firefighter cancer: An inconvenient truth

Posted on Mon, 8 Jun 2015 15:51:22 UTC

How often has someone said I will do anything not to get cancer? Or, you can put anything in place of "cancer."

Regardless, these are easy words to say but difficult actions to carry out. I remember when my wife was fighting cancer. I said if I would get cancer I would do ….

I work in the alternative health care field and often hear people say they would do anything to get rid of a condition.

Yet when the rubber meets the road and reality sets in, they won't do anything. It has suit their lifestyle or needs or whatever they want to do. People don't want to give up certain things. They often say they will do anything except give up (fill in the blank).

Occasionally, I receive emails from readers commenting on my columns. I found one comment especially interesting.

Accepted risk
The individual writes that he believes it is an accepted risk that firefighters get cancer. He continues to write how FDNY is not going to clean their gear after every incident. Respiratory protection is not worn when it should be.

Quite frankly I can't argue with these points. They are reality, not necessarily acceptable practices, but they seem to be the way things are done.

So why do we continue to be sadden every time a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer? Why do we continue to want to put legislation forward on presumptive measures that because we are firefighters it is a job hazard?

Maybe we first need to clean our own closet and do anything it takes to prevent the cancer in the first place. When presumptive legislation is put on the table, how can lawmakers pass legislation when they see firefighters sitting outside their window puffing on a cigarette or not wearing protective gear to prevent them from inhaling the toxic fumes?

Are you getting defensive yet? If so, maybe this has hit a nerve. I certainly hope so.

No more excuses
We need to stop delaying and making excuses. We need to stop turning our heads and making the inexcusable practices acceptable. Enough is enough. Let's quit saying if I would get cancer I would change. Let's quit saying that you would do anything to prevent cancer except ….

Let's take a realistic look at what we can do to prevent this horrible disease. Granted, there are circumstances where we can do everything we have available to prevent cancer yet still contract it.

If we have failed in prevention, then we need to look at how to treat it. How can so many people successful treat their cancer and live many years when others succumb to the cancer after weeks, months or a few years?

The next several columns will look at what we know causes cancer in firefighters and what can be done to prevent it. I have no intentions of sugar coating anything — by the way, cancer thrives on sugar and it has no business in anything we talk about other than getting it out of our diets.

We need to quit being politically correct and address this fast-growing killer before you become the next victim.

Grow fire service leaders with a military playbook

Posted on Sun, 18 Oct 2015 21:16:18 UTC

When it comes to leading people in just about all types of situations, the U.S. military seems to have a corner on the market.

According to the Molossian Naval Academy, leadership is "the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. Command is the authority a person in the military service lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of his rank and assignment or position."

The military services are among the best at consistently identifying and developing great leaders at all levels of supervision. Being able to learning from their leadership selection and development process is just one of the added benefits of closely watching what they do.

Let's face it, the fire and rescue service and the military are in public safety business. Both services, in their own way, protect life and property from all types of harm.

Former U.S. Rep Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) said it best. Paraphrasing his words, the military is our international defenders and the fire-rescue service is America's domestic defenders. Understanding that our mission is similar to that of the U.S. military, taking a close look at their leadership training and preparation process just makes good sense.

Early identification
Military leadership indoctrination starts at the high school level. A youngster considering a military career can enter the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

If this is a good fit for that person, they can advance to the college level ROTC program or enter one of the four military academies: Army, Navy (Marines), Air Force or Coast Guard. Once the person has completed the military academy or university ROTC program, they are commissioned as an officer.

Along with the general academy focus and physical fitness, the military officer candidate must demonstrate personal leadership acumen throughout their college program.

Some will point out that many fire departments operate explore scout or other junior firefighter programs. And of course, we have the National Fire Academy Executive Officer Program.

Yet the leadership, academic and physical fitness rigor is not on the same scale, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Personal responsibility
Once a person is accepted as a commissioned officer in the military, they're obligated to continue their education, personal fitness and leadership growth until retirement or separation from the service. The success or failure of a solider, sailor, airman or marine career is squarely placed on their shoulders with significant organizational support.

Each is empowered and encourage to "be all that they can be" with in their service branch. There are ample opportunities for individual growth and advancement within their service.

Two particular areas of leadership development that the fire rescue service should adopt at a national level are the "pass over rule" and "up or out." We'll explore more about both programs next month.

In the fire service, the leadership preparation and promotional selection systems seems to run the gamut.

Some departments place a premium on developing their members' leadership potential. While other organizations don't seem to see the need for or benefit of spending any energy or resources to develop and identify their current or future leaders.

Officer development and selection is one area that we should have clearly developed and implemented by now, nationally. We need a consistent and effective process to develop fire-service leaders for all of our organizations. Perhaps we should learn more about and closely model the comprehensive military leadership training programs within the fire service.

There are many barriers preventing a required national leadership development focus. However, if it's important, it could happen.

It is very interesting that "the need for high education in the fire service" was identified at the Wingspread I Conference held in 1966. Each one of the following conferences have discussed this topic as a significant national need. I am projecting that Wingspread VI (the 50th anniversary) will point out the same concern.

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 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.

How much do you know about fire trucks?

Posted on Tue, 10 Nov 2015 16:32:56 UTC

‘The only easy day was yesterday’

Posted on Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:29:58 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.

Why hot training may save firefighter lives

Posted on Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:46:12 UTC

As a public safety provider in Las Vegas we repeatedly heard the phrase, "It is a dry heat." When summer temperatures soar above 100 degree and stay there overnight radiating into the next day, it is common to retreat to a chilled dayroom in the fire station.

Company officers push their crews to pre-hydrate as at any time a vehicle crash or fire during the midday desert heat would tax even the most physically fit firefighters. This is compounded in areas where humidity decreases the efficiency of the turnout ensemble's vapor barrier.

While most rehab efforts focus on what to do after the exertion or during the event, science is now revealing that conditioning with heat may make a firefighter more resilient to the heat stresses of firefighting. In the past, working out, running or doing drills in the heat was seen as reckless and for the "animal crews."

The discovery of heat and cold shock proteins has given us a look at how the body adjusts to temperature fluctuations. Heat shock proteins are a family of proteins that are produced by cells in response to exposure to stressful conditions.

They were first described in relation to heat shock by exercise physiology labs. However, they are now known to also be expressed during other stresses including exposure to cold, UV light and during wound healing or tissue remodeling.

Proteins at work
Exercise causes heat shock (muscle temperatures of up to 45 degrees C or 113 degree F and core temperatures of up to 44 degrees C or 111 degrees F) and oxidative stress or the generation of peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The concentrations of at least 15 possible heat shock or oxidative stress proteins are increased in skeletal muscle, heart and liver by exercise.

These proteins peak in an hour after exertion and heat stress and return to normal approximately six hours later.

It may seem trivial to worry about the degree of heat or cold you are subjected to in the course of daily operations. However, much the same way we are concerned about the daily exposures to benzene, carbon monoxide, cyanide and host of other free-radical chemicals, temperature fluctuations can have the same damaging effects — particularly on proteins.

Proteins are one of the key building blocks for all things important, from the myelin sheath coating nerves and brain cells to more heat-sensitive organs like the kidney, pancreatic tissue, heart muscle and a host of circulating proteins in the blood, lymph and interstitial fluid. The human body is in a constant state of need for proteins to replace or repair these systems.

For a protein to be functional it has to be folded correctly; think of it as piece of origami where the geometry of the protein is key to how it integrates into a targeted location in the body. Heat and cold can cause proteins to change their folding and become dysfunctional.

Improperly folded
When a protein is dysfunctional, it is either identified as defective and eaten by the immune system or, in the presence of an immune system overwhelmed by stress or inflammation, goes unrecognized and becomes cancer.

In the absence of properly folder proteins, other diseases like muscular dystrophy and neuromuscular disease can arise.

Consider an improperly folded hemoglobin molecule (protein) that we commonly see after carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide changes its geometry by attaching to the hemoglobin in a slightly different way than oxygen, effecting the folding as it locks on and decreases the hemoglobin's ability to carry oxygen.

Even more dangerous is the increase agglutination or clotting ability of hemoglobin when it is folded in this manner.

An increase in temperature also decreases hemoglobin's ability to carry oxygen. This could be a contributing factor to firefighters' high rate of sudden death.

This trifecta of impacts — carbon monoxide, dehydration and now heat stress — thickens the blood and enables a clot to form and do the damage for what is commonly seen as a cardiac death.

Heat shield
Enter in the heat shock protein. When the body senses heat stress, it can secrete a protective protein to compensate for the heat. The most common heat shock proteins are 40, 70 and 90. There are other smaller heat shock proteins and similar molecules called chaperonins.

Their job is very simple: protect the formation of proteins to ensure it folds correctly and makes it to the cellular apparatus that properly delivers it to the target organ.

Malformed proteins often trigger an immune response. An immune response in turn usually involves inflammation.

This very detailed protein science is important to the fire service because inflammation is often the fuse that triggers cancer. Heat shock proteins are part of the body's protective mechanism to defend against heat and some other triggers of inflammation. More important is the ability for heat shock proteins to protect and ensure the correct protein construction.

The science is now indicating that heat-related conditioning can improve fitness and alter the circulating heat shock proteins.

One study from the University of Oregon tracked the performance of cyclists over a 10-day training period in 100-degree heat. Another control group did the exact same exercise regimen in a much more comfortable 55-degree room. Both groups worked in 30 percent humidity.

Get results
The results showed that the cyclists who worked through the heat improved their performance by 7 percent, while the control group did not show any improvement.

The experimental group not only achieved a level of heat acclimation, but the training also helped them to function better in cooler environments. The profile for a cyclist is similar to a firefighter requiring a combination of strength and endurance.

What it means from a rehab perspective is the need for workouts that use heat for acclimation verses cooled gyms and low air-conditioning settings in the station. Acclimatizing to heat can take anywhere from seven days to three weeks depending on a person's risk factors for heat stress.

Programs like P90X or Cross Fit may be helpful, yet there is little research on these workouts involving firefighters. However, studies on animals showed that using a treadmill for 15 to 40 minutes at a 4 percent grade in a warm or hot environment is enough to trigger heat shock proteins.

Yet the effects of acclimatizing can be lost in a short period of time and declines in as little as two to three days. After seven days out of a hot environment, a person is no longer acclimatized and must restart the process.

In the future, we may see a finger-stick test or some sort of testing process much like the way endurance athletes use lactate meters to identify when they have reached a point where muscle breakdown is occurring.

Until then, acclimating in a warm environment with a cardio workout in short increments may be a lifesaver and maximize the benefits of the rehab process.

The 3 Rs to keep firefighters safe on roofs

Posted on Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:57:58 UTC

Many of us watched in horror this past March as Fresno City (Calif.) Fire Capt. Pete Dern fell through the roof of a burning house and sustained life-threatening second- and third-degree burns. And were are happy to hear of his remarkable recovery process.

However, you don't have to look very far on the Internet to find situations where firefighters find themselves in rapidly deteriorating fire situations. We'll not focus on why vertical ventilation is important or how it should be accomplished, but rather on developing your ability to read red-flag warning indicators.

You must be aware of key risk indicators in order to make better fireground decisions prior to placing firefighters on a potentially fire-weakened roof. Just as reading, writing and arithmetic were the foundations of education, a great foundation for risk management is the 3 Rs of size-up: reading the risk, reading the structure and reading the smoke.

Read the risk
A key risk factor to consider prior to allowing crews to operate on the roof is whether or not the fire has weakened the structural supports. Significant or heavy fire involvement of the structure's roof or floor support system is a red-flag warning sign for crews.

Limited fire spread in the attic or floor void space does not necessarily create a no go situation for firefighters. It does indicate a potentially dangerous fire situation that can rapidly develop and endanger the lives of firefighters. Knowing the location and extent of fire spread into a void space and communicating this is a key safety factor.

Prevailing winds of 10 mph or greater entering the structure through roof openings, failed windows, doors or soffits can produce wind-driven fire conditions that can immediately trap unsuspecting firefighters with little or no warning.

Reading the risk should include overhaul operations. Firefighters have needlessly died or suffered career-ending injuries after falling through the roofs of totaled-out structures, simply because of a lack of situational awareness or the failure to follow SOPs for roof ladder or aerial platform use.

Firefighters have no problem risking their lives when another person's life is at stake. But we should risk less when there is little or nothing left to save. This is not to be confused with doing nothing. It's about risk vs. reward.

Read the structure
Every firefighter should know the dangers posed by legacy vs. modern wood-frame structural support systems and the latter's notoriously fast failure time when roofs and floors are exposed to fire conditions. This style of wood frame construction is a red flag.

Other factors to consider include the age and physical condition of the structure. Look for add-ons and renovations over the years that create a maze with numerous voids. Consider the dead and live load factors on the fire-weakened roof.

Look for the structural features that can help or hinder your operation and for the contents or process hazards involved within the structure. This is where pre-incident planning is an invaluable tool.

Read the smoke
To understand and appreciate the risk posed by smoke and it's toxic brew of fire gases, we must first understand that fuel loads in today's structures have changed significantly over the years.

Fuel loads have evolved from natural-based to synthetic-based fuels. Synthetic fuels create fire gases, which are much more combustible and carcinogenic than what's produced by natural fuels.

If you have been fortunate enough to attend one of Chief Dave Dodson's "The Art of Reading Smoke" classes, you will recall that smoke is fuel. A heavy volume of fast moving, dark smoke, pushing from the attic or around roof-mounted equipment indicates the roof support system is involved and is likely compromised.

This is a red flag for the incident commander. These conditions can go from dangerous to deadly within seconds.

Remember, size-up is a continuous process until the incident is terminated. The skill of reading the 3 Rs is only sharpened through use. It should be a part of every fire officer's skill set.

3 legal lessons to learn from 2011

Posted on Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:26:29 UTC

As the year draws to a close, it is worth reviewing some of the legal issues to hit the fire and emergency medical services in 2011.

Social media is a big deal for emergency service organizations
Emergency service organizations, states, dispatch centers and non-profits are implementing social media in ways that have positively impacted public safety. At the same time, social media channels present a variety of liability risks that must be managed.

Organizations that use social media to engage in two-way conversations with the public are particularly at risk. For example, emergency service organizations that allow members of the public to post in their social media channels may face First Amendment liability when they attempt to remove or edit offensive posts.

These organizations may also face liability if members of the public place calls for help using social media channels and receive no response.

When using social media to communicate with the public, emergency service organizations should use social media like a news feed, not a telephone, providing information but not receiving it.

Organizations must also have published attorney-reviewed social media policies that use disclaimers to discourage citizens from using social media as an alternative to the 911 system.

Restricting social media use among paid employees also has risks. Disciplining employees for comments or other postings they make in social media channels outside of work may create First Amendment liability.

Recent actions from the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), the federal agency responsible for employee-labor relations, suggest that a social media policy that is overly restrictive of employee speech violates the National Labor Relations Act even if the offensive policy is never enforced.

Organizations with paid employees should review internal social media policies to determine whether a particular restriction is necessary to preserve the core operations of the organization.

Provisions that punish employees for making offensive or annoying comments in social media channels during non-working hours will generally not pass muster.

It is extremely important to consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state prior to terminating any employee for their use of social media.

And the labor laws, they are a changing...
The laws governing the relationship between employers and unions are being revisited in a dramatic fashion after years of stagnation.
At the national level, Obama administration policies are shifting the employer-labor balance in favor of the unions. Recent NLRB complaints, NLRB appointments and executive orders have signaled a sharp union-friendly departure from the Bush administration.

Although most emergency service workers' unions fall under the purview of the state labor laws, many states model their labor laws after the federal law and NLRB interpretations are influential.

At the same time, some Republican-controlled states are attempting to sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions.

Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana have considered restricting or already restricted collective bargaining rights.
Even in those states that have not modified the laws, government officials are becoming increasingly resistant to any pay increases for both union and non-union paid responders.

In many cases, officials have relied on volunteers to minimize the impact of funding and personnel cuts.
As states continue to experience budget shortfalls, there will likely be continued shifts in this area which organizations must monitor.

Mutual aid agreements
The continued trend of waning volunteerism and cuts to paid departments have emphasized the need to revisit or readjust mutual aid agreements. Although some states have adopted statewide mutual aid systems by statute, many communities rely on agreements with surrounding departments not only to manage large incident but for day to day coverage.

Although the components of mutual aid agreements will be addressed in a future article, effective agreements must clearly define the relationship between responders from different organizations, allocate risks and create functional mechanisms for reimbursements.

Specifically, mutual aid agreements should deal with the chain of command, workers' compensation coverage, reimbursement for expenses and equipment damage, EMS and hazmat billing rights and payment of overtime.

This article is not intended as legal advice and there is no substitute for competent legal counsel licensed to practice in your state.

Glass management: It's more than smashing windows

Posted on Mon, 12 Mar 2012 11:34:25 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.

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.

Greek tragedy for firefighters

Posted on Mon, 12 Jul 2010 14:35:47 UTC

By Jay Lowry

What does the Greek financial crisis that hit the headlines earlier in the summer have to do with fire stations being built?

A great deal. Unlike 20 years ago, we live in a very connected world and the global market is influenced by local events with repercussions felt in cities and towns across the United States.

When Greece received a bailout from the European Union, stocks plummeted in the United States — and didn't stop dropping for a while.

Why should firefighters or EMS care?

There is a steady drum beat for financial reform including pension reform, eliminating deficit spending and reducing salaries. These are local effects of a national and even international problem. NFPA 1710 staffing is being attacked as wasteful and the financial crisis helps those who want to have barebones service.

Some firefighters state this was the worst budget year in history. Not hardly.

In many areas, the big bust will be the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 budget cycles.

The mood of the country coupled with rising debt, deficit spending, massive entitlement programs and loss of investor confidence will combine to make the current situation look tame.

Warren Buffett is known as the "Oracle of Omaha" because of his financial acumen. Testifying before Congress last month, and in subsequent interviews, Buffett discussed rising concerns over municipal bonds.

He has divested, as have others, in muni-bonds because cities and counties are finding it very hard to make payments. This is very bad news.

All is not lost. Fire and EMS will survive but both must plan for tighter budgets while educating the public on the importance of the services performed.

The economy will rebound eventually but don't expect it to happen soon. Even so, the effects will have consequences for years to come.

Wearable camera for fire inspections, investigations

Posted on Thu, 20 Sep 2012 10:18:37 UTC

Although originally aimed at the law enforcement industry, Panasonic is bringing its wearable camera to the fire service for inspections and arson investigations.

Designed as a standalone unit or able to be integrated with the Toughbook Arbitrator SafeServe software version 7.4 slated for release in autumn 2012, the Panasonic WVTW310 wearable camera features a recording capacity of up to 32 hours using H.264 compression and a battery life of approximately five hours in pre-event continuous record mode or longer without. Delivering extremely wide-angle views, the camera can be used for both day and night recording.

For the fire service, this device can be used to record fire-code inspections, fire-scene investigation and witness interviews. It also can be used by commanding officers to preserve hard-to-document initial scene images that may come into play during a later investigation, such as bystanders, vehicles, or other evidence that can easily be forgotten in the heat of a fire attack.

Software options
The wearable camera systems includes Agent software, which allows the video image data on the camera to be automatically uploaded to a personal computer via the conversion box, and Viewer software, designed to allow the wide angle original video to be played back with stabilization and image distortion correction all while maintaining the evidence integrity of the original file.

In the United States, the Panasonic WVTW310 wearable camera system has a suggested retail price of about $1,000.

"With the adoption of wearable cameras, public safety agencies can achieve total situational awareness and a comprehensive and seamless digital camera evidence capture solution, from the field to the courtroom," said Greg Peratt, director of digital video products, Panasonic. "This single camera platform will provide agencies with a wide-angle audio and video record of important officer engagements while ensuring the integrity of the chain of custody, delivering significant time and cost savings in the acquisition, management and review of recorded evidence."