‘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.


Rescue is a Thinking Person's Game

Posted on Wed, 8 Aug 2007 12:38:53 UTC


AP/Minnesota Daily, Stacy Bengs
Firefighters size up the scene after the bridge collapse in Minn. last week.

Years ago, when I took my first search and rescue class, the instructor talked about the six-sided review of a building or incident. "Look up, look down, and make sure you look all around before committing yourself," he told us.

Over the years, I have thought of that simple saying on many emergency incidents and have passed it on to thousands of my students during training. The bottom line: Don't get sucked into something before you give it the old once over.

It's easier said than done sometimes, especially when lives hang in the balance and quick action will affect the outcome of an incident. But what about all of those other occasions when you may have the time to do it right?

What is your approach and thought process when you come across a technical rescue or any type of rescue for that matter? Is it a well executed series of steps or a fly by the seat of your pants operation?

Good team members, the right tools and practical training shouldn't be under valued, but that doesn't replace mentally being on your game.

To do that, you have to do something that most people hate or are too lazy to do Rescue is a thinking game you need to play the "what if" game. "What if a car goes over that edge, what if that building falls down, what if that place blows up, what if I have to cut that guy in half to get past him, what if I have to crawl in that hole to get that victim?"

It's not enough to just know how to use the tools, or be well practiced or to have a cohesive team. Rescue is a thinking game, and the people who can plan ahead, see something coming and be ready for it are worth their weight in gold.

Organized chaos
You're always behind before you get there, that's a given. But how far ahead of the incident are you when you arrive? I used to work for a battalion chief who would say, "You don't bring a crisis to an emergency." Sure it's organized chaos at some scenes, but your level of organization and the ability to achieve the required levels under the most impossible circumstances is the real key.

How many of us can say that we are "masters" of our craft and how many want to be? Chances are, if you're reading this column, you're already a student of the trade, which makes you a cut above the rest. But there is a lifetime of learning to be done and every day is a school day in our profession.

If you think that you know it all, have seen it all or have it done it all, we're all in trouble and chances are you're probably a liability at a significant incident. Confidence should never be replaced by arrogance.

Rescue is a thinking game. The best people who have seen a thing or two tend to mostly be humbled by the experience they don't say much, but when the going gets tough they often get going.

I love watching new firefighters, they have so much energy and so much enthusiasm, and they're great to be around. It's also fun to watch them expend all of that energy to no successful end sometimes. But with age and experience comes wisdom!

The veteran firefighter may not always be as enthusiastic, but that tempered approach, years of real world experience and knowledge of the tricks of the trade often carry them through most calls.

But to be in the class above, you have to love it a little more to be really, really good at it. Superstars train harder, practice longer and are very, very focused.

So what does it take to be a master of disaster? Out of the box thinking, the ability to write down your first 20-30 moves on any type of rescue with a twist and a constant desire for perfection. And don't forget the lifetime of learning, listening and talking about the "what ifs" of our job.

Funding Opportunities: What's in Your Backyard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Firefighter invents tool to keep doors open on the fireground

Posted on Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:10:33 UTC

Company Name: FatIvan
Headquarters: Cleves, Ohio
Signature Product: FatIvan® Door Chock
Website: http://www.fativan.com

FatIvan® proves vital for many fields including fire, police, commercial, residential, hotel/motel and all deliveries. The easy one-handed operation opens quickly for insertion and never slips off hinge — guaranteed. Just place FatIvan® on any hinge, top, middle or bottom; then let it go and walk right through.

Where did your company name originate from?
As a Cincinnati firefighter for over 23 years, I was used to oddball names for tools, such as a Halligan or Hux bars. This got me thinking that most firefighters would remember, and actually appreciate, a fun name like FatIvan®! Our corporate name, NEWCAL, LLC, is a hybrid taken from the two partners: Ron Newcomb and Nick Caliguri.

What was the inspiration behind starting your company?
After watching a wooden wedge slide on a concrete floor and then getting locked out of the building. I knew there had to be a better way. A buddy of mine was making angle iron with hooks welded on them. This was better than the wooden wedge, until you fell on the ice and landed on one still in your pocket, plus they were too heavy.

It was then I realized the best tool would be one that hung over a hinge, and then folded up when not in use. A trip to Lowe’s provided two heavy duty door hinges that I proceeded to cut up. An old tent stake was then fashioned into a hook. A little JB Weld to hold it together and the first prototype was born!

Why do you believe your products are essential to the fire community?
Whether we're dragging a line in, carrying a person out, or taking a cot through the door, we must have the door held open.

A FatIvan® tool can withstand 500 degrees for up to nine minutes with no degradation. They are 100 percent corrosion resistant and will not rust. FatIvan® tools are tough. Soon we will have Glow in the Dark labels. This will be a huge safety benefit!

What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?
Getting the word out about our products. It is tough to start the marketing process, no matter how good your product is. Marketing is now, and has always been, our biggest challenge. Also, getting all the patents and trademarks was a nightmare!

What makes your company unique?
We are pretty much the embodiment of what is great about America. We had a problem, found a solution, went in debt up to our eyeballs to create the tooling, then produced a product which has been a homerun. We now have distribution around the world. We feel very blessed to have had such a great response to our efforts.

Our tool is very unique in that it can be used in three different positions. You can hang a FatIvan® over the hinge (door open at 90 degrees), it can be magnetized to the hinge (door open at 45 degrees), or it can be magnetized to the strike plate (door closed but not latched).

What do your customers like best about you and your products?
I think our customers appreciate the fact that our tools work exactly as promised. We invented the better ‘mousetrap’ and customers seem to appreciate a fresh look at an old problem. A FatIvan® inserted over a hinge cannot come out accidentally. You can fold a FatIvan® up when finished using and store it in your pocket, or put in a helmet band for quick access. When you need a door held open, you need a FatIvan®!

What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
When we are at a convention and someone comes up to tell us how great our tools are. Or when someone will interrupt our sales pitch to tell the potential customer how great our product works. That is a moment of great satisfaction: knowing we invented a tool for the first responder market, and getting the appreciation for a tool designed well.

Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety?
We have supported the Cincinnati Fire Museum and other individual benefits. Our goal has been to support grass roots efforts over the national level organizations.

Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share with our users about you or your company?
Since our inception how many tools have we sold?
A: 5,000
B: 25,000
C: 100,000
The answer is C. NEWCAL, LLC has sold FatIvan® tools on 5 continents.
We have also been on QVC, selling to housewives across the country. Can you believe that?

What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?
We are about to launch a line of FatIvan® tools with Glow in the Dark Labels. They will be ready for the Christmas season. We are very excited about these and feel they should be a great safety product.

We are also looking for a company to partner with for a LED light attachment. I can’t think of a better safety item for the line firefighter than a blinking light at the point of exit.

At NEWCAL, LLC we are always looking forward! We will be at FDIC in a big booth with both BlackJack Flashlight holders and FireCam. We are all firefighters who came up with products for firefighters. It is my favorite show of the year, and in fact, is the show where we launched the FatIvan® line of tools in 2011.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ our Facebook page: FatIvan Door Chock

Can the fireground be research driven?

Posted on Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:34:01 UTC

Evidence-based fire suppression strategy and tactics are being made available through the research being conducted by the NIST and UL.

However, the practices and solutions to fire suppression techniques are not always implemented on the street. In fact, many times the research is combated vigorously, occasionally almost violently.

In many cases the resistance is based upon the emotional attachment to the idea that we have to "fighting the red devil."

Traditionally, safety research has focused on data analyses to identify firefighter safety issues and to demonstrate that a new practice will lead to improved efficiency and firefighter safety. Much less research attention has been paid to how to implement practices.

Yet, only by putting into practice what is learned from research will firefighters become safer.

Implementation strategies
Implementing evidence-based safety practices are difficult and need strategies that address the complexity of fireground operations, individuality, leadership and ultimately changing the culture to be evidence-based safety practices environments.

Evidence-based practice is the conscientious and judicious use of current best evidence in conjunction with expertise and new values to guide fire service leaders through the decision-making and change-management process.

Best evidence includes empirical evidence from randomized controlled trials. UL and NIST are doing a significant amount of controlled trials in a variety of situations. This is the first time in the history of the fire service that we have research that is being used to validate, or not validate, our current strategy and tactics.

When you research how the theory of fire suppression was developed, it is very hard to find evidence-based research.

History of evidence
Chief Lloyd Layman is considered the father of fog firefighting tactical operations. He first presented a paper "Little Drops of Water" in 1950 at FDIC in Memphis, Tenn.

That paper was extremely radical for the time and coined the term "indirect attack." Most of the theory Chief Layman shared came from research conducted by the Coast Guard.

The fire service has not been blessed with a sufficient research base and therefore decision making is derived principally from experience. This has not always served the fire service in the most positive manner.

The books written in the fire service in most cases are based upon larger departments with adequate staff and equipment resources. Departments with limited resources or long response times try to emulate what is written in the tactics textbooks.

Each fire department needs to take the information being disseminated today and examine it to determine a course of action that matches their situation and the facts available.

The strategic decision making process is different for rural, suburban and urban departments based upon resources, response time and staff capability. Ultimately, the size and complexity of the fire will determine the strategy.

SLICERS
One of the new decision-making models developed by Hanover County (Va.) Fire-Rescue Div. Chief Eddie Buchanan and used by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors in their new video "Modern Fire Behavior" is SLICERS. The acronym stands for Size-up, Location of the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish; Rescue and Salvage are added in as necessary.

This is all about hitting it hard from the yard for 15 seconds, then going inside to put it out. While most agree that the latest research can improve firefighter safety, they struggle to translate the research into fireground tactics and implement that change in a successful manner.

This program rethinks the tactics of old and incorporates the latest research into tactics using the SLICERS method. The concept has been vetted with the lead researchers involved and has their endorsement.

The acronym is designed to replace the well-known RECEO VS method that has been widely adopted by the fire service over the years. This program also discusses overcoming resistance to change and the lessons learned in real-world implementation.

SLICERS is one decision making model. If you are satisfied with the model you are currently using and you believe it gives you the required options to make the right decisions at the right time to ensure firefighter safety and appropriate tactical application.

Changing world
The REVAS model was an upgrade from the RECO model developed by Chief Lloyd Layman in the 1950s. RECEO was the foundation for Layman's 1953 book "Fire Fighting Tactics." His tactical priorities of Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguish and Overhaul were innovative, but were developed when a 2×4 was truly 2×4 inches, cut-and-stack framing still existed, and interior furnishings were still primarily made from natural materials.

Today, as we all know, the structural components are lighter and less capable of handling a fire of any consequence. Framing materials are now made from small dimensional lumber and engineered wood products. Floor plans are an open concept that includes many common spaces with few, if any, doors.

Lightweight trusses with gusset plates are the antigravity mechanisms of choice, and interior furnishings are primarily made out of plastics and hydrocarbons (comfortable gasoline). These interior furnishings burn more quickly and produce many times more BTUs and poisonous toxins than natural materials, creating atmospheres that are survivable only for a very short time.

The additional challenge we face today is that many times there is less staffing available for fire combat operations. This staffing reduction is caused by a variety of factors, but the incident commander must be aware of the staffing or lack of staffing issue.

The command component must develop a risk-management assessment and plan. A realistic assessment and plan will reduce the risk to firefighters and ultimately reduce injury and death.

Simultaneous vs. sequential
Chief Billy Goldfeder years ago talked about the fire departments' ability to deploy tactical operations simultaneously or sequentially. There is a huge difference between the actions tied to those two words.

If you have limited staffing or other resources that are not adequate, the commander must prioritize the tactical actions necessary that are logical and make sense. This is a part of the tactical decision making model and establishes the sequential priority to tactical actions.

This is part of the critical decision making process that needs to be enhanced. The effective incident commander must recognize that the sets of facts presented today may require a different response to a standard decision making process.

Accumulating the right experience is critical to growing in the role of competent incident commander and not making decisions based upon automatic responses to recognized patterns.

Have a Plan for the Tactical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

Posted on Fri, 13 Jun 2014 01:00:00 UTC

By Douglas Cline
Feb. 8, 2011
Updated June 13, 2014

Some fire service leaders expect that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus.

You hear it as you talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at an International Association of Fire Chief's strategic planning meeting.

So why do we need to change directions?

The fire service already handles the majority of emergencies and crisis within the community. We need to focus on a proactive approach.

This would allow for not only a safer community but help focus on the quality of life of our residents. Preventing incidents from occurring significantly reduces cost, improves the quality of life and increases the potential for economic sustainability.

New rules of engagement
The impact of budget cuts is witnessed almost daily in the fire service with browning out of stations, closing of companies, staff reduction through attrition and yes even critical staffing reductions by employees being laid off. The fire service has reached a new fold in its history.

With this new fold occurring we must adapt our philosophies, strategies and even our beloved tactics.

When corporations and builders engineer and construct disposable buildings then we need to tactically focus our efforts on engineering and code requirements of automatic fire suppression systems and early detection systems. When the owners and builders ignore this option and a fire catastrophe strikes, we need to use the new rules of tactical engagement.

Fire departments will need to shift from traditional emergency responses services and transition into a combination of emergency responses services with a primary focus on being a community reduction team focusing on public safety in a multidimensional approach of safe buildings through code enforcement, building requirements, environmental impact, community safety, responder safety, community health and wellness and community risk reduction through research and education.

We will become the mother ship that guides critical thinking in all aspects of safety throughout our community.

The fire service will need to focus on assembling a set of best practices in risk reduction and work diligently to manage risk via educating our communities, proactive engineering practices and code enforcement.

However, the fire service does not collect data well at all. We have to transition to being very analytical of collecting certain complete and accurate quantifiable data based upon a standard data model for comparative benchmarking studies.

The battle is won however on the proactive side through risk reduction and risk management. The long-term impacts will benefit everyone. Our success will be determined by not solely the retrospective data but community and family buy in. This relates to the true potential risk that exists, verses how it has been reduced

Rescue lesson: How to 'read' vehicles before cutting

Posted on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 09:24:45 UTC

We know the importance of reading and discerning fire behavior. Analyzing the structure and the way it is burning allows us to make competent decisions to put the fire out.

The same is true for performing vehicle-extrication operations. One of the most common mistakes involves misplacement of tools when trying to move metal.

The first thing is to develop is an understanding of the anatomy and construction of today's vehicles. This falls into two basic categories: body panels and structural elements.

Body panels are the vehicle's skin. Generally, late-model passenger-vehicle body panels are thin and lightweight and provide minimal rigidity or resistance. Rigidity or resistance is greater where bends are present, particularly on fenders, quarter panels and deck lids.

These are somewhat reliable points to push against or establish capture points. The flatter body-panels surfaces are easily displaced and sheared unless they have significant reinforcement. Hoods, deck lids, and roofs will present a wide variety of reinforcement, but the only panel that may have substantial reinforcement is the roof.

These flat areas are unreliable push-and-capture points. If you have to use them as such, the reinforced areas should be identified so that you can focus your attention there. Here are two examples.

Case 1
You arrive on the scene of a SUV on its side. You want to stabilize the roof side with struts, but the roof does not provide a good capture point.

You can use simple hand tools to quickly shear the thin roof panel to make a pocket for the head of the strut, or if the strut has a piercing head, drive it into the panel.

It is important to position this capture point and the head of the strut as close as possible to the structural rail above the high-side window openings. If the strut head were placed in the middle of the roof panel and the vehicle shifted, the potential for the strut to shear the panel and become displaced is significantly increased.

Modern body panels are typically attached to inner construction or more structural elements with automotive adhesives and plastic retention pins or clips. Nuts and bolts are few and far between. This allows rescuers to easily peel and displace body panels.

However, this is often an undesirable outcome. Peeling body panels exposes inner construction but does not increase access to our objective. It also weakens the overall design of that vehicle component and makes the removal more difficult.

Case 2
When attempting to force a door by popping the Nader pin and door latch, you place the spreader tip on the edge of the door and quickly see separation between the outer layer of the door panel and the inner construction of the door assembly. This is commonly referred to as skinning or peeling.

If you continue to spread, the outer panel will separate but the Nader pin and door latch connection that you are attempting to pop will remain intact.

If you relocate your tips to the inner construction of the area you are trying to attack, the metal will displace rapidly and fold around the latch rather than popping. That is because you have weakened the overall resistance and rigidity of the door.

How they present
Once you understand these fundamentals about body panels, you can apply some methodology to your tool placement and extrication techniques. When forcing doors, look at how they present and read them.

The weakest part of a door is the middle. Using vertical spreads in the window opening to create purchase points for hinge or latch access make the most sense. It makes sense because it attacks the weakest portion of the door and develops an outward extrusion in the door. This will take the energy and movement of a door pop away from the victims inside.

The next objective is to spread the latch assembly and or spread or cut the hinges. It is easy to develop tunnel vision toward the latch assemblies and hinges and attempt to gain access to these by spreading the door at their locations.

These are the strongest points of connection between the inner door construction and the vertical posts or pillars of the vehicle. This misapplication of tool placement often results in peeling or skinning because the initial tip placement occurs on the outer panel.

Attacking the gap
If you assess the door presentation after the initial window spread, there is typically a purchase point or gap created between the window rails and the vertical posts of the vehicle. The window rails are a more structural steel that commonly runs down into the door assembly and is connected to the inner door construction.

Attack this gap and incrementally spread and relocate the tips. Work deeper towards the inner construction and progressively move down towards the latches or hinges. This maintains the integrity of the door and increases the likelihood of an effective displacement.

Once you have gained adequate access to the door's inner construction around the latch assembly or hinges, spread it out and pop the connection or cut it.

Take a moment to look at the body panels. Evaluate the inherent weak points and use those as well as the overall design and presentation of the panel to your advantage. Let the tools do the work.

Structural elements
The structural system is the skeleton and muscles of the vehicle, yet it does more than give it form. It has energy-absorption points known as crumple zones. These are segment breaks or weaker points in a structural member that allow it to withstand tremendous impacts and absorb or dissipate energy before it reaches the occupants.

We now have eye-popping collisions with tremendous vehicle damage with passengers that are entrapped but minimally injured based. The other facet to these engineering principles is that newer vehicles have incredibly rigid and strong structures around the passenger compartment.

This means high-strength steels that are difficult to cut or move. This translates to new tool requirements and a deeper understanding of what we can effectively cut and where we should cut.

By looking at the structure of a vehicle as a skeletal system, we can determine that isolated relief cuts are usually far less effective than multiple relief cuts. Rather than trying to remove an entire element, simply weaken the areas around that element and then move it. Here is an illustration.

Case 3
You have removed the side and roof of a vehicle in which the dash is impinging on a passenger. You prepare to lift the dash by making one relief cut in the A pillar between the dash and the rocker.

You then place your spreaders into the cut and attempt to lift, but the dash reaction is minimal and the A pillar that you are spreading starts to shear apart and displace in an undesirable way. If you continue to spread, you may start to shear the floor pan, separate the rocker and push the floor down.

This may get you what you need, but the travel is contained to the gap between the original position of the floor and the ground or cribbing. If you take the time to add a relief cut to the fender rail between the front wheel suspension hub and the firewall, you will free up the dash so it can freely displace with minimal resistance.

Fold the B post
The weak points within the structural system are generally connections between members or the crumple zones. Understanding the structural system and its relationship with the body panels will pay dividends when extricating.

I apply this frequently with side-out techniques. Instead of always making two initial cuts on an intact B post, I often make a single high-side cut and fold the B post down by spreading the cut, or placing a ram between the roof rail and the door at the bottom of the window opening and pushing.

When folding a B post, the spot welds that attach the B post to the rocker usually breakdown and allow the entire side to be walked to the ground or sheared with greater ease.

If I am performing a rip and blitz or a side-out technique where I am opening the entire side like one big door, I ensure that I am shearing the partial cut at the bottom of the B post by spreading against the rocker and a point very close to the lower hinge on the door.

This uses the structural resistance of the rocker rail and the inner construction of the door and hinge to my advantage. This also helps pull the B post out and away from the passenger.

It is easy to get overly focused on the task at hand and not take the time to really look at what the vehicle is giving us. Here are the take away points.

  • Attack the gaps that give you structural or inner construction access.
  • Don't pull on the skin and expect the body to move.
  • Bend the joints and connections or create joints with cuts to move components efficiently — It's easier to move the leg if you bend the knee.

Every extrication event is different, but every passenger vehicle is fundamentally the same. Rely on the constants to overcome the variables. If we take the time to read the vehicle, we will be much more effective at accomplishing our objectives.

Fire service has a leadership crisis

Posted on Mon, 7 Apr 2014 15:05:54 UTC

After my last article, I received emails from various people around the country. Some offered thanks and support for continuing to carry the message on the importance of a diverse workforce.

Some gave me even more material to use in future columns about issues that women are confronted with. And some asked permission to reprint the article, which was nice recognition and another avenue to expose the issues women face across more audiences.

I have had the good fortune of meeting some amazing people in the fire service, from firefighters to chiefs, to magazine editors, to leaders of affinity organizations, to scholars, to political leaders, to vendors, and to members of other public safety professions confronting the same challenges we have in the fire service.

Throughout these brief interactions, I have met few brave enough to stand in front of a crowd and voice their heartfelt support on the issue of diversity in the context of their own failures. It has been a long haul of shaking my head wondering when the fire service would finally "get it."

Reason for hope
Why is it still an issue bringing women on the job, promoting women to front-line officer positions, or considering women in chief officer positions? Women lead Fortune 500 companies, women are in high-ranking positions in the military, two women have run for vice president, and we have real potential for a woman running in the next presidential election.

Recently, I received reason to hope that maybe some fire service leaders are finally getting it. IAFC President Bill Metcalf and Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley spoke at a conference hosted by the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services.

President Metcalf admitted that the fire service has failed in promoting diversity. I could not believe my ears when I first heard the words.

I made eye contact with various people sitting around me, and all of us had the same look of shock on our faces.

Then, Chief Critchley said that he had been confronted the day before by someone who challenged him to do more for women. He was told that it was not enough for fire chiefs to say they supported women, and that they were behind us and ready to be there for us.

Changing mindset
Instead, Chief Critchley was challenged to take the forward position on this issue, and lead from the front. Chief Critchley spoke clearly in admitting that there was more that he could, and should, do more for women in the fire service.

Standing before an audience of more than 200 conference attendees, two white male fire chiefs admitted failing women in the fire service. A truly cathartic moment for those of us who have been trying to represent and advocate on behalf of women for what seems like a lifetime.

President Metcalf offered two more issues that relate specifically to diversity. The first was that the fire service is in the midst of a leadership crisis due to the pending retirements of some of our most experienced leaders.

The second was the issue of behavioral health and the importance of fire departments offering programs to mitigate this latest industrial "hazard" that we are experiencing. I agree with the importance of these issues, but, pardon the interruption; we have a bit more to discuss regarding these two issues.

Leadership crisis
I would propose that in tandem with the inability of the fire service to sustain and grow diversity in the industry, we have had a leadership crisis for the last 30 years, starting when women first broke the barriers of entering the fire service.

How can I back up such an assertion?

Because I still hear and receive emails of the issues women confront. For example, two women who are in high-ranking positions in metro-size fire departments have recently been exposed to unethical management practices.

These unethical acts will significantly influence the ability of these two women to reach the highest-ranking position in their department. Both are highly qualified, highly educated, highly respected women. Both are being held back by other ranking chief officer making false accusations on performance issues or just frankly keeping women down.

And these women are defenseless. Their fire chiefs will not step in and correct the issues. If the women file an EEOC claim, their careers and reputation will take a beating. This is simply another failure in leadership.

Champions needed
The issue of behavioral health for women has been around for the same 30 years that we have been exposed to failed leadership. Women who are harassed, mistreated, shunned, discriminated against, etc … have been talking about behavioral health issues (like depression) for years. Yet, no one has been paying attention or admitting the significance of these issues.

Many women have left the service due to behavioral health issues. Respectfully, women are keenly aware of the failed leadership and behavioral health issues in the fire service. We are thankful that these issues are now being addressed on a broader scale.

Yet, our recruitment and retention numbers are diminishing. Women are leaving the service, retiring, and many, many departments do not have one woman on the job.

Have we missed our opportunity for women to reach critical mass in the fire service? Is it worth it for women to continue battling the same issues over and over? Will we overcome?

A universal problem
The good news is that the failure of leadership in the fire service is consistent with the scholarly opinion on leadership in general. Leadership development programs are failing across many industries.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to make the connection that more leadership development programs — degree and otherwise — should equate to better leadership. However, many agree this is not the case.

An interesting perspective on leadership development was recently promoted through a TED talk by Roselinde Torres, senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group.

Torres offered up the following: the reason leadership development programs are not producing 21st century leaders is because many of these programs are designed around a traditional leadership model that was effective 20 years ago.

Today's leaders need to be prepared to deal with complexity and information flow at levels never seen before, she said. Leaders must be more global, digitally enabled and transparent.

You can watch the TED talk to fill in the gaps, but the final analysis comes down to leaders answering three questions for themselves.

Making change
First, where are you looking to anticipate change? Who are you spending your time with; what are you reading; and how are you distilling this into understanding where your organization needs to go?

Second, what is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network? Who do you spend your time with — people like you or people different from you in any way possible so that you learn to establish trusting relationships that lead to the accomplishment of a common goal? Who are you listening to?

And last, are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? Good leaders dare to be different.

Yes, President Metcalf and Chief Critchley, the fire service has failed. You both have shown tremendous courage in speaking to that failure and women do appreciate your support.

We will follow your lead. We will continue to be patient … for a little while longer.

Food for Thought at the Firehouse Kitchen

Posted on Mon, 7 Jan 2008 14:21:04 UTC
I always think outsiders would be amazed to see what goes on in the firehouse kitchen, as members try to outdo each other with personal attacks on each other. But these attacks are never spewed with hate or venom in my experience, just good-natured ribbing that keeps everyone honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

A farewell to volunteer, but not to service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight Things to Do for Your Crew in 2008

Posted on Wed, 2 Jan 2008 12:23:09 UTC

With 2008 under way, it's time for us to reflect on the year past and to begin developing our plans for the future. Here are eight straightforward ideas that company officers can use right now to help their crews stay ahead in 2008.

1. Be an informer
Passing on relevant information about decisions, plans and activities to the people (your firefighters) who need it to do their work is vital. You can't expect them to accomplish goals that they know nothing about. Discuss the daily objectives at the morning briefing, including any training, inspections, pre-fire plans or scheduled community education. You can never provide too much information to your people.

2. Promote the team
Crew cohesion, or working together as a team, is an important human factor in firefighter safety and for getting things done. Problems with crew cohesion have been identified with several near-misses and tragic accidents. Look for and promote good work practices that safely and effectively accomplish team objectives. Stress the importance of how individual capabilities contribute to the team's success.

3. Create a training plan to keep your crew ready Your training goal should be to prepare your firefighters to be ready to operate safely and effectively at any intensity level, anywhere, anytime, and to return home alive. Readiness training demands teamwork, dedication and sustained practice. Create a flexible and believable training plan that addresses the training needs for your crew while prioritizing those training needs, focusing on safety first.

4. Address problems as they occur
Be willing to confront problems head on and have those tough conversations with your firefighters. A team that is comfortable talking openly with each other, and willing to air their disagreements or problems, will move forward together. Identify and remediate all performance issues immediately, understanding that everyone operates at a different level.

5. Define your expectations and keep them believable
It's pretty simple. Let your crew know what you expect of them. Here are a few examples: Be safe by responding safely, following operational policies, maintaining and operating equipment properly, and practicing personnel accountability. Be proficient by training for readiness and improvement, arriving on scene ready to work, communicating effectively, and following the chain of command. Be professional by practicing a positive image all the time, everywhere you go. Be nice to each other and everyone you meet. If your team makes an effort to follow these basic expectations, you will have a safe and rewarding year.

6. Motivate them
Recognize the likes and differences of your firefighters to help you motivate them to be a more productive team. Appeal to their individual emotions and values to generate enthusiasm for their work. Invite their participation when making decisions, and allow them to have responsibility in carrying out their work activities.


7. Recognize and praise them, at the right time
Provide praise and recognition for excellent (not ordinary) performance. If it's really good work, put it in writing. Be specific about what you are praising. Give praise for weak performance that’s improving. Recognizing their efforts shows your appreciation for the work they do.

8. Support and mentor them
Act friendly and considerate. Be patient and helpful. Do things to facilitate your firefighters' skill development and career enhancement. Be responsive to their requests for assistance or support, and set an example for proper behavior. Be their leader.

Take some time and see if you can add a few ideas to the list. Even if you can only address a few of these recommendations you'll be on the road to developing a fresh attitude and healthy approach for a new and exciting year.

Tools and techniques for forcing a door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 ways to defend yourself against verbal abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparatus Advances in 2007

Posted on Fri, 28 Dec 2007 10:00:00 UTC


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fire officers: Don't give 'fraudulent, bogus' performance evals

Posted on Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:46:27 UTC

A few years ago I worked with a fire department that did not do performance evaluations for any of its members. The attitude on this department was that if you did something extraordinarily good, you got a written commendation. If you did something particularly bad, you were written up and disciplined.

Between these two extremes, everyone was assumed to be doing an adequate job and was treated equally in terms of performance.

I felt very conflicted when I heard about this system. It was certainly an exception to the rule that most departments follow, that performance evaluations are necessary, useful and something that should be done on a regular basis with quantitative results.

What about feedback? What about distinguishing among candidates during promotional processes?

But the more I thought about it, the more logic there was to this department's approach. Performance evaluations should be useful and constructive, but they're usually not.

'Fraudulent and bogus'

Studies show that up to 90 percent of workers dislike the performance review process and nearly as many managers dislike giving them. Samuel Culbert, professor of management at UCLA, wrote a much-discussed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal several years ago calling performance reviews "fraudulent, bogus, and supportive of bad management."

For many organizations, the problems with performance evaluations start with the system itself. Quantitative scales for measurement became widely used in the 1960s and 1970s, but in many cases, applying such scales to many of the performance criteria makes little sense.

For example, is it really possible to rate employees on a scale of one to 10 on whether they show up to work on time, or wear the proper uniform? And are such questions really applicable in a six-month or annual evaluation anyway? Shouldn't problems such as these be addressed immediately, either through informal coaching or formal discipline?

Other types of rating criteria are problematic for different reasons. Too many evaluations still include categories for things like attitude or being a team player.

Out-of-balance scales
To give a rating in these areas requires the evaluator to make a completely subjective judgment, a conclusion based on his or her personal experience and biases. How is it possible to rate such qualities on a scale of one to 10?

Further, many fire departments do little or no training on how to do performance evaluations, and little attention is given to rater consistency. This fact in itself discredits the validity of the evaluation process in quantitative terms.

If one officer thinks a firefighter is doing a fine job, he might give that person all eights and nines on his evaluation. But that firefighter's previous officer, with a similar opinion, might have given him all nines and 10s.

So even though that firefighter's performance might have improved since the last evaluation, the result is that he has been downgraded (and no doubt demoralized) due to the process itself.

Performance evaluations are further undermined by the logistics of doing them. When evaluations are only done annually, it is easy to fall into the bias of weighting recent events more heavily than something that happened six months earlier.

Add to this the fact that many officers find themselves doing performance evaluations for people they have worked with only sporadically and may have only limited experience with.

The result is often a centering tendency as a way of being safe. If the rating scale is one to 10, then evaluators will give a lot of sevens and eights. Evaluations done in this way have little meaning and are mostly a waste of everyone's time.

A better mousetrap
It is possible to do better. Some organizations have moved away from quantitative performance reviews to a more qualitative yet still structured discussion of goals and accomplishments.

But doing evaluations in this way is a much more difficult process, and requires training and commitment at all levels of the organization. Training would need to take place regarding the specific system being used, and if quantitative scales are used at all, they must be normed through regular sessions aimed at developing rater consistency.

Feedback is not useful if only given once a year in a generic way. Everyone on the department needs to learn how to give and receive feedback, and officers must be coached and supported to seek out feedback from their crews as well as give useful feedback on a regular basis.

The ability to give useful and constructive feedback is a key element of leadership, but it is not one that comes naturally to most people.

The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned. Openness to feedback can become an organizational value that is practiced all the time, not just once a year when performance evaluations are done.

Performance evaluations can be a useful way to summarize feedback over time and check in on stated goals. But for the process to really work, it must be transparent, meaningful and embraced at all levels on the department.

Without this relevance and buy-in, the performance evaluation process can often be little more than a waste of time, and sometimes can do more harm than good.

Fire service leaders: The difference between life and death

Posted on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:51:40 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do?

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