10 ways to better respond to special needs patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Encourage caregivers to keep information up to date.

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

4. Develop a Special Needs Registry.

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

5. Include people with disabilities into emergency response plans.

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

6. Don’t separate equipment from the patient.

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

7. Be familiar with the equipment.

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

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

8. Keep the routine.

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

9. Get trained.

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

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

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

10. Use the right communication.

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

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

3 exercises all firefighters should be doing

Posted on Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:18:29 UTC

I recently taught a fireground fitness class for a small city fire department. This department has three stations and all the firefighters are full time, career.

Although this is a small department, they received a grant for equipment and had built a good gym. But that's where it stopped; this department has mandatory workout time of 60 minutes every shift.

Upon questioning their physical fitness trainers and fitness fanatics, what we found was fairly common. The answer went something like this.

"Well, there is about 20 percent that exercise all the time, 30 percent or so that exercise some of the time and well … the rest just sit on the bench and watch the rest of us work out. Sure sometimes they 'stroll' on the treadmill but that's it, just enough to say they worked out."

My question back: "Are you choosing exercises that are job specific, but that everyone can benefit from?"

"We all kind of do our own thing. Some put on SCBA and flip tires and swing sledge hammers while others do curls and bench presses. We make them workout, but we do not tell them what they have to do."

Working out or training
What's happening here, and in most of the departments we work with, is that the crews are working out when they should be training.

Working out has no goal in mind. It does not take into account factors like time of year, weather or when yearly firefighter fitness tests are done. A workout has no long-term focus; it's short-sighted and often creates many underlying biomechanical issues that have been proven to cause injury.

For example, most workouts tend to focus on "gym science." Monday is chest and tris; Tuesday is back and bis; Wednesday is legs, which most skip and then go back Friday to do chest and arms again. Sound familiar?

A scientifically designed training program specific to firefighters will look like this three-step program.

Week 1 to 3: Foam rolling and active stretching, stabilization training, core conditioning and moderate cardio.

Week 4 to 6: Foam roll and active stretch, 2-to-1 pull/push ratio strength training to begin correcting agonist-antagonist imbalances in the body, advanced core conditioning and moderate cardio.

Week 7 to 9: Foam roll, active stretch, basic power development and high-intensity interval training.

This example shows that timing, phases and exercise order are very important. Physiologically, it makes no sense to train to sheer exhaustion on your long week; that fatigue goes with you the rest of the shift.

Train hard on your short week. Focus on power, mobility and stabilization exercises during your long week. What the research has clearly shown is that it's volume not load that causes most of the on-duty fitness injuries. Not picking on cross fit, but their exercises are almost all high-volume and low-load — sets to failure.

International Association of Fire Fighters' data has shown that 33 percent of all injuries occur from training to not get hurt; too much volume (intensity) causes these injuries. What we are seeing now is that heavier weight (load) is safer when on duty during the long week as high-load, low-rep exercises cause less fatigue, which equates to a lower on-duty risk of injury.

Try these three exercise sequences when on duty to get fit, include all personnel and, maybe, even have fun.

1. Kettle bell progressions
I love kettle bells for the fire service. Hands down, it is one of the best tools a firefighter can use to get fit and build freaky job-specific fitness.

There are hundreds of kettle bell exercises, but this progression has served my departments well. It builds strength, power, core strength and stability. Plus, the first four exercises are self-diagnostic; if you cannot do them properly (heels pop up, you rotate or lean or have pain) go back to your corrective steps: roll and stretch.

Do two sets of 12 to 15 for the first four exercises. Do two to three laps for the remaining exercises.

2. Suspension trainer progressions
There is no fitness tool available that provides as much bang for the buck as a suspension trainer. Plus, it needs very little space, and it can even be attached to the back of your truck. It also works well with all levels of fitness while always building stability, balance, strength and power.

Doing three sets to failure works well with this progression. You can do a straight three weeks of nothing but suspension training and you will have wild success, especially for those firefighters who have let their fitness go.

I strongly recommend watching all the how-to videos, or, even better, get certified as a TRX coach. There is lot to know about this tool.

3. Primal patterns
Part of your job involves crawling, actually, a lot of your job does. Crawling patterns are how we learned to move as children; as adults we often forget how to do these basic, yet vital patterns.

Doing bear crawls forward and back, crab walks, balance beam, ladder crawls (on the ground) are all excellent exercises that build primal fitness, core strength, stability and are truly job specific. After you master the basic patterns and can keep your hips down, strap on your gear or weighted vest.

The bottom line is to move well and move often. Movement matters, but keep the movements (exercises) job specific and safe. If you are unable to do an exercise properly or your form is off, the exercise cannot fix that.

Get on the foam roller, use a tennis ball for self-massage, stretch, and by all means, stay hydrated. Most of your workout should be spent getting ready to train; it's an investment in your career.

Fire chief saves child, earns F-16 ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chief Taylor has three children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue is a Thinking Person's Game

Posted on Wed, 8 Aug 2007 19:38:53 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.

HAZMAT Response Video Supplement: Personal Protective Equipment

Posted on Mon, 1 Oct 2007 01:28:40 UTC

Fire command: Going defensive

Posted on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:19:39 UTC

The safe and efficient transition from an offensive mode of operations at a structure fire to a defensive mode of operation is a transition with which many departments and their personnel may not be experienced in doing. Here are some key behaviors for making such a transition.

The first-arriving incident commander must make a good initial size-up of the situation with clear and concise tactical assignments to the next arriving fire units. This must be followed by a continuing size-up of the situation by the incident commander working from a stationary exterior position that immediately begins evaluating the effectiveness of the initial offensive strategy.

The commander needs to make a conscious decision to pull the plug and call for the immediate transition to a defensive strategy when their exterior observations of fire behavior are worse than those interior observations by interior tactical leaders. In the words of Chief Alan Brunacini, "Good fireground commanders are pessimists."

All tactical leaders must conduct a personnel accountability report to ensure that all personnel have safely exited the structure. An incident action plan for the defensive strategy must be implemented. Most departments don't do defensive operations very often so everyone needs to be on the same page.

The following video provides an excellent opportunity to observe several key pieces of information about this incident as initial resources are arriving and preparing for tactical operations.

Discussion questions

  • Listen to the first few minutes of the radio traffic. What's the impact the communication between first-in engine, dispatch, etc., on the operations?
  • What's the difference between an order to remove personnel from the building to change modes of operation and an order to evacuate the building because of rapidly deteriorating conditions?
  • After the incident commander orders personnel out of the fire building, are the actions of those on the fireground congruent with a defensive mode of operation or not?

5 reasons firefighters should take a job at H.Q.

Posted on Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:41:29 UTC

Many fire departments offer promotional or lateral assignments to personnel of all, if not most ranks, to serve on a 40-hour schedule working at their administrative offices.

That may involve serving in one of the many bureaus such as training, support services, fire prevention, fire investigation, or public education just to name a few. Some departments even make such assignments mandatory for promotion.

You may be thinking, "Why would I want to leave my cozy firehouse where I get to fight fire, save lives and work a shift schedule with the opportunity to work overtime and have lots of time off?"

I get it. However, if you ever have the desire to promote to company officer, or especially chief officer, I highly encourage you to put in for a 40-hour assignment to learn how the other side of the fire department operates.

I realize that is counterintuitive to why most get into the fire service, but if you desire higher rank, working out of the administrative offices will pay off dividends for years to come. Why? Here are five ways you can benefit from working a 40-hour assignment.

Learn the other side
The average firefighter, driver, company officer or even battalion chief working at the firehouse may not have routine contact with personnel working at the administrative offices, even those who are of their own rank.

The world doesn't revolve around the firehouse. Yes, the personnel and apparatus at the firehouse will respond when someone calls 911. And although every department is different, it is usually the personnel working at the administrative offices who ensure the firehouse personnel are properly trained, have properly functioning apparatus, receive the necessary logistical items to survive at the firehouse (toilet paper, furniture, etc.), and most importantly, get paid and receive the appropriate benefits.

Getting to know what each person does to support the firehouse personnel and how you can best assist them will pay off tremendously in the form of building and maintaining relationships that can last a career. And, it will make you appreciate more of what they do and how they can assist you.

See the bigger picture
I have served as a chief officer for about eight years and have been involved as a promotional process rater and proctor for even longer. One of the biggest reasons I see people fail or do poorly at promotional exams is because they act like they're testing for their current position as opposed to the one they aspire to.

What that means is they can't think big picture, which is critical for all ranks, especially the higher you promote. Working at the administrative offices forces you to think big picture in virtually everything you do, primarily because many of your decisions will affect much more than you could ever imagine.

Know more staff
This ties into the first item, but takes it a step further. Everyone at your administrative offices has a job to do. Each of these jobs is to ensure firefighters have what they need to do their job and serve the customers to the best of their ability.

At some point you will probably need to interact with each person working at the administrative offices for some reason or another. Your paycheck is not correct. You have questions about your medical benefits, training, or fire prevention issues at some buildings being constructed in your first-due area. The list goes on.

It's embarrassing when someone from a firehouse calls the administrative offices and doesn't know who to talk to to solve his problem of the day.

It's also embarrassing when a firefighter asks the company officer who to contact at the administrative offices and the company officer has no clue. One of the many duties of a company officer is to be a living resource guide for their personnel and the public they serve.

Be mentored
For some personnel, the senior staffers at headquarters are the "bad guys or gals;" the ones they want to stay away from.

I'll let you in on a secret; most of us aren't that way. Most of us all came from the firehouses and remember where we came from.

Work with those who can help
When it comes time to promote personnel on a hiring list, it is common to have names on that list who many of the senior staff could not pick out of a police line-up to save their lives.

While that can be a good thing if it may mean you never been in trouble, it can be a bad thing because they may not know of your career potential. Realize this can go against you if they get to know the real you, and they don't like the real you.

If you have the desire to ever promote, it is critical to get out of your comfort zone — going to a 40-hour week will definitely do that, and in a good way.

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

Posted on Fri, 13 Jun 2014 08:00:00 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

Spotlight: Everyday Hero Housing Assistance Fund helps first responders achieve the American dream

Posted on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 22:56:39 UTC

Company Name: Everyday Hero Housing Assistance Fund
Headquarters: Denver, Colorado
Website: http://usehhaf.org/

Our mission is to help our heroes buy homes by expanding housing opportunities to fire, law enforcement, EMS, teachers, doctors and nurses; and to promote the value of home ownership as the foundation for building strong communities and financial security for men and women serving their communities.

Where did your company name originate from?
Back in 2005 when we first launched EHHAF, it was called Legacy Housing Fund. The idea behind the initial name was that the organization would be helping our first responders achieve the ‘American dream’ of home ownership and be able to start and leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren. As the economy turned, the founders were forced to close the doors to Legacy Housing Fund. They quickly seized the opportunity to re-launch several years later and renamed the company Everyday Hero Housing Assistance Fund. This new name, they felt, properly describes our clients and expresses how we see them as heroes as they go about their daily lives serving and protecting us all.

What was the inspiration behind starting your company?
The inspiration behind the foundation of EHHAF stems from the fact that our clients nurture and educate our future leaders, they preserve our health and put their lives on the line every day to uphold order and keep us safe, yet they are members of a workforce that is extremely underpaid and underappreciated. As many hours as they work and the preparation and effort they have to put in to be able to excel and do their jobs well, they are grossly underpaid and find it hard to save up the thousands of dollars it takes to be able to achieve the American dream of home ownership. Not enough is being done for them and EHHAF is proud to be leading the charge towards a higher level of appreciation as a grateful nation. This is the least we can do for them considering what they do for us on a daily basis.

Why do you believe your products are essential to the Fire community?
The services we provide are extremely essential to our everyday heroes because it is not an easy task to save thousands of dollars to put towards a home purchase, especially if they have a family to take care of. Closing costs can be as much as 3% of the purchase price of the property and the average everyday hero will most likely have a hard time putting that aside to help make their dream of home ownership a reality. Also, buying a house can be a challenging process and to have an organization like EHHAF in their corner to help make the process a lot less stressful is priceless. Our services are free and the gift funds never have to be repaid under any circumstance.

What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?
Awareness within the first responder market has been the most challenging for us. Once the community learns about us they are thrilled beyond belief to have found us. Because we strive to operate as a lean company it allows us to push more benefits to our clients, but this means we do not have big marketing budgets to spend. We need to be very smart about each and every dollar we spend to create market awareness.

What makes your company unique?
EHHAF is unique because we are one of the very few organizations that offer this type of financial assistance. Other similar organizations place too many stipulations on the clients making it difficult to impossible for them to use and then benefit from their services. We have heard all too often that a client will be forced to stop during the process as the competitor places too many hurdles for them to overcome.

With EHHAF, there are no restrictions on the type of home you can purchase (foreclosure, resale or new construction). EHHAF does not limit our clients to a specific list of homes they must choose from. More importantly we do not place any restrictions on the length of time they choose to live in their new home. EHHAF gift funds are 100% free gifts that NEVER have to be repaid and EHHAF services are absolutely free. We are not aware of any other organization out there that provides this direct type of assistance.

The EHHAF Customer Service team is also very special and unique. We strive to make the process simple and easy by removing the stress that comes with trying to find agents they can trust to work hard for them and communicate well while putting them first at all times. EHHAF has developed a trusted network of agents that they have been carefully chosen, interviewed and trained to work with the EHHAF program across the entire U.S. Our clients can rest assured that these agents will leave no stone unturned to get them the best deal for their home.

What do your customers like best about you and your products?
Our clients appreciate the personalized attention we offer and impeccable service and assistance. They also are so relieved to learn that we stand behind our word and when we say we are offering FREE gift funds – we speak the truth. EHHAF gift funds are absolutely free and never have to be repaid under any circumstance!

What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
The most rewarding part of serving our Everyday Heroes is the feeling of fulfillment and pride our employees feel whenever we successfully help another community hero close on their home. They send us testimonials expressing their gratitude and pictures of them and their families in front their new homes. It is the most awesome feeling knowing that we played a part in their journey on their road to home ownership. We feel like we are giving back to a community that gives our nation so much! Also, when a client calls to say they heard about EHHAF through a colleague of theirs who we helped to purchase their home and they were so pleased that they passed on the word about EHHAF. That brings a huge smile to every EHHAF agent's face. I mean, they are our community heroes and we feel honored to be playing a role in their dream of home ownership. This is truly the least we can do considering how much they do for us. The founder's letter says it all…http://usehhaf.org/about-ehhaf/founder-letter/

Our mission for 2014 is to help 1,000 community heroes and their families achieve the American dream of home ownership. Please help pass on the word to your colleagues about the assistance we offer so that they can have our services as an option.

Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety?
Yes, we are partners with The Virtual Sports Academy (VSA) www.thevirtualsportsacademy.com. VSA, is a charitable organization that has joined the fight against childhood obesity. Their effort along with the EHHAF program helps support healthy communities through healthy living and home ownership thus healthy and happy families.

Fire cadets and fire departments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 legal lessons to learn from 2011

Posted on Wed, 21 Dec 2011 00:26:29 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to rid firefighting PPE of bedbugs

Posted on Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:53:55 UTC

We are routinely asked about problems that firefighters have with unusual forms of contamination for their turnout gear. Other than the commonly reported paint, tar, various hydrocarbons, and other substances, we are seeing a new trend in less-traditional forms of contaminants.

As strange as it may seem, gear can be contaminated by bedbugs — sometimes because of poor storage practices or simply from firefighter clothing contact in areas where infestations have occurred. And as some may know, bedbugs can be difficult to get rid of, particularly if cleaning options are limited.

However, these are not the only bugs that the fire service has to worry about. Given the routine contact with the public, firefighter PPE is being exposed to different microorganisms, some of which can be quite infectious and lead to serious health problems.

For example, over the past several years, some departments have reported rampant spread of MRSA, short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Other infectious organisms are also finding their way onto clothing and surviving for long periods of time.

Take Clostridium difficile, for example, generally referred to as "C. diff." It is generally rampant and difficult to treat in hospitals, and it is now finding its way into the first responder sector.

Gear-care challenge
These forms of biological contamination pose new challenges and a rethinking of gear care and maintenance. Yet, the fire service is no stranger to bio-contamination.

In the mid-1980s, the AIDS epidemic drove OSHA to create blood-borne pathogens regulations, which set specific requirements for employers, including fire departments, to have procedures for addressing blood-borne pathogens, including HIV and various forms of Hepatitis.

Approaches such as universal precautions were adopted and personal protective equipment was mandated for protecting workers (firefighters).

The NFPA responded by creating a new standard for emergency medical protective clothing (NFPA 1999), setting barrier requirements to further the OSHA PPE requirements specific to first responders. NFPA 1971, the standard on structural firefighting protective clothing was revised to include tests for viral penetration of moisture barriers and liquid integrity testing of garments.

As part of EMS responsibilities, firefighters were being exposed to airborne pathogens such as reemerging tuberculosis and emerging diseases such as SARS and the H1N1 flu. As a consequence, the fire service became more aware of biological contamination and adapted with new practices, including how they select, use, and maintain their gear.

Bedbug 2.0
While these new biologically based threats may be no less insidious, they too can be managed effectively, Take bedbugs for instance. Over the past several years, bedbugs have had a resurgence after being nearly wiped out during the mid-1990s.

The new bedbugs are more resistant to many insecticides and conventional pest treatments. Most recommendations for ridding textile-based articles of bedbugs involve applying high temperatures (washing and drying at temperature over 120oF) and using special insecticides.

However, turnout clothing is generally prohibited from being washed or dried at temperatures greater than 105oF.

Insecticides pose specific problems. Many are simply not effective, particularly aerosols that may not fully penetrate into all the recesses and gaps in clothing. Moreover, these insecticides pose their own problems and generally have unknown compatibility with clothing materials and could lead lasting residue.

Big chill
Some departments have found that putting clothing in a freezer can be effective in eradicating bedbugs, though it does take a long time.

University of Minnesota research showed that bagging items and placing them in a freezer at 0°F for a minimum of 3.5 days kills bedbugs at all life stages. This time may be decreased to 48 hours if temperatures average below -5°F (note that many household freezers cannot achieve these temperatures).

Bagging the clothing before going in the freezer prevents bedbugs from exiting the items and perishing elsewhere inside the freezer; the bagging also minimizes condensation.

Invisible threat
Emerging infectious diseases being spread to first responders can be bit more challenging. Obviously, the microorganisms that are the seat of this contamination and potential for disease are invisible and show no sign of contamination. Often, the firefighter or emergency responder will not know if they have been exposed unless there is some telltale sign from a victim.

These microorganisms can easily contaminant clothing and some have amazing persistency, remaining viable in textile-based fabrics for extended periods of time, as long as three weeks under ordinary temperature and humidity.

True, an individual's likelihood for infection is affected by many factors, including the dose of the exposure as well as overall health, state of immune system and general physical condition; however, the incidence of infections has been increased.

Clothing considered to be contaminated with a biological contaminant has to be handling in the ways now applied to blood-borne pathogens. It must be assumed to be contaminated and communicable, that is, universal procedures must be applied.

Universal precautions
This includes bagging and isolating the clothing and using examination gloves, facemasks, eye/face protection, and aprons in handling the contaminated clothing. Commercial laundry facilities often use water temperatures of at least 160°F and 50-150 ppm of chlorine bleach to remove significant quantities of microorganisms from grossly contaminated linen.

Studies have shown that a satisfactory reduction of microbial contamination can be achieved at water temperatures lower than 160°F if laundry chemicals suitable for low-temperature washing are used at proper concentrations.

For turnout clothing, these practices do not work. They are too harsh both with the application of high temperatures and particularly the use of bleach that destroys turnout clothing components.

Instead, the proven process is to use disinfection and sanitization agents that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has established specific requirements for qualifying these agents for significantly reducing infectious agents.

However, the tests do not cover all microorganisms and care must be exercised in choosing specific agents. For example, not all disinfectants and sanitization agents can be applied to protective clothing. Many are intended only for hard, non-porous surfaces and are not effective for textile-based clothing. Others may have unintended effects on the clothing, reducing its performance properties.

The fire service is always up against new threats and challenges as their mission roles change or expand. The new issues can be dealt with effectively but require new levels of vigilance and attention to details related to maintain adequate levels of safety and health, including the care of its personal protective equipment.

5 ways officers can keep firefighters safer

Posted on Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:37:03 UTC

Nobody in a fire department's chain of command should have more influence on the safety performance of its firefighters than the individual company officer. Think about that statement for a moment and see if it doesn't fit your department.

Who is the first-line supervisor for the vast majority of your department's members?

Who has daily responsibility for the majority of your department's physical assets (fire stations and fire apparatus)?

The answer to both questions is a company officer.

Remember when we used to respond to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs)? Now we respond to motor vehicle crashes (MVCs).

So what's in a name? Conventional wisdom says that most MVCs are not accidents because they don't meet the Legal Dictionary's definition of "accident:"

In its most commonly accepted meaning, or in its ordinary or popular sense, the word may be defined as meaning: some sudden and unexpected event taking place without expectation upon the instant, rather than something that continues, progresses or develops; something happening by chance; something unforeseen, unexpected, unusual, extraordinary, or phenomenal, taking place not according to the usual course of things or events, out of the range of ordinary calculations; that which exists or occurs abnormally, or an uncommon occurrence.

Preventable behavior
Most MVCs happen as a result of a driver's behavior that a reasonable person would expect to cause the crash: speeding, failing to slow down in bad weather, failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, following too closely, etc. We've stopped referring to these incidents as accidents because they are preventable.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, every day, more than 12 workers die on the job — over 4,500 a year — and every year, more than 4.1 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness. Most of these deaths, injuries and illnesses are preventable. To bring these numbers down, we need to focus on prevention.

Incidents of firefighters being injured or killed in their working environment, — the fire station or on the emergency scene — are not accidents because such incidents are preventable.

Each year, more than 2 million workers in the United States are injured severely enough on the job that they cannot return to work and need ongoing medical care. A company officer's job is to help protect firefighters from preventable accidents that threaten their work and wellbeing.

Although the officer's responsible for creating a safe work environment, it is firefighter's responsibility to take an active role in maintaining safety. To do this, officers can make sure firefighter follow these five best practices.

Avoid shortcuts
It's natural to want to get the job finished on schedule — or even ahead of time — but with a "get it done quick" attitude, incidents happen. Don't take shortcuts — stick to the instructions and work with diligence and awareness of the surroundings.

Also, if there are shortcomings in the instructions, don't begin the task until they are clarified and all your questions are answered. The firefighters must always be comfortable and familiar with the procedure before commencing any work.

Be safe in transit
According to OSHA, workplace driving accidents cost employers an average of $60 billion a year. Make sure that all departmental vehicles receive a daily safety check. Note needed repairs and complete required work orders to get those repairs completed and follow up to ensure that the repairs are made promptly.

The officer must be seated and belted before the fire apparatus moves. Likewise, the apparatus driver must make sure that all personnel are seated and belted before putting the vehicle in motion.

Always employ the use of at least one ground guide, preferably two, whenever backing fire apparatus even if the vehicle is equipped with a rear-view camera.

Weather the weather
Both inside and outdoor work or training may expose firefighters to extreme conditions. Whether very hot or very cold, both ends of the temperature spectrum can have an adverse impact on health.

When it is cold, be sure firefighters dress in layers and properly cover their head, feet, hands and face — these parts of the body are most prone to frostbite. They should always keep a change of clothes on the fire apparatus in case their clothes get wet.

When it is hot, make sure firefighters wear loose-fitting clothes, take frequent breaks in a cool rest area and get plenty of fluids. Have them remove personal protective equipment when appropriate during emergency operations or training exercises.

Make PPE a VIP
PPE is crucial to prevent injury, so make sure they wear it, and wear it properly. This includes:

  • Goggles and face protection to protect from flying particles, chemicals or caustic liquids.
  • Gloves to prevent cuts, scrapes, punctures, burns, chemical absorption or temperature extremes.
  • Helmets to safeguard against falling objects and bumping into overhead objects.
  • Safety shoes for work areas where heavy objects could be dropped and injure the feet.
  • Ear muffs or ear plugs to protect against hearing damage in noisy workplaces.

Keep an orderly house
Many firefighters and officers don't realize the negative consequences of poor housekeeping. If an unkempt fire station becomes the norm — paper, debris, clutter and spills are accepted as familiar — then more serious health and safety hazards are overlooked and injuries become more probable.

Housekeeping goes beyond personal cleanliness — it also includes keeping all areas of the station orderly, taking care of any slip-and-trip hazards as soon as they arise and removing waste and fire hazards regularly.

Assess your work environment with a critical eye and pay attention to the layout of the workplace, aisle marking, adequacy of storage and maintenance. Report dangers or deficiencies right away.

The foundation of a safe fire station is good company officer leadership that incorporates the aforementioned practices and encourages firefighters to take safety measures seriously.

As a company officer, it's your job to make your firefighters feel comfortable asking questions and reporting dangerous situations — make them feel safe to be safe.

The Command Post Podcast: 7 steps to securing vehicles with electricity

Posted on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:00:20 UTC

Download this week's episode on iTunes, SoundCloud or via RSS feed

This week, hosts Lt. Rom Duckworth and Chief Rob Wylie discuss why firefighters in San Francisco have penned a letter asking the mayor to replace Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White's position.

"What's specifically being called into question is the large number of incidents where it took quite a bit of time for ambulances to arrive at calls," Lt. Duckworth said. "This is related to under staffing of the department and not enough ambulances being on duty."

Chief Wylie said it's easy for a fire chief in a large organization to become decentralized, which makes it difficult for a chief to have good communication.

"As a chief officer, you can't sit in your office and come up with policies and plans," he said. "You have to include the people that are going to be affected and carry those plans out. Otherwise, they're not going to buy it."

In their frontline tactical tips segment, they talk about seven simple steps to secure vehicles with electricity while dealing with extrication.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Check 720 and mitigate hazards
  2. Stabilize suspension and set the brake
  3. Initial patient contact
  4. Adjust the power doors, power seats and power windows
  5. Kill the ignition and remove the key
  6. Turn the headlights off and put the hazards on
  7. Disconnect the battery, HV and pull fuses

And in today's leadership lessons, Duckworth and Wylie dig into how to prepare for a promotion.

"You start preparing for a promotion the day you decide you want to get promoted," Chief Wylie said. "Because everything you do every day is going to reflect on you."

Here are some of the articles and resources discussed in this week's podcast:

Rank-and-file S.F. firefighters call for chief's ouster

S.F. supervisor: Fire department puts public safety at risk

Fire Attack: Vehicle Stabilization

How to make a quick vehicle stabilization chock

Vehicle stabilization: New tools to aid firefighters

The Command Post Podcast: Operation of FEMA USAR teams, newly promoted officer tips

2 ways to prep for the fire-officer exam

Preparation is the Key

36 questions every officer candidate should answer

3 keys to passing fire officer exams

20 Great Oral Interview Questions

Another great CFSI dinner in the books

Posted on Fri, 30 May 2014 20:47:41 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative EMS ideas are ripe for grant funding

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

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

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

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

Which ideas are award-winning?

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation grants will continue to grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 key areas for firefighters strength training

Posted on Mon, 29 Oct 2012 15:55:36 UTC

Whether dragging victims from a building or simply humping hose around the fireground, firefighting demands certain types of physical training in order to perform the job safely and effectively.

Traditional firefighter conditioning has revolved around cardiovascular training such as jogging or treadmill work. But the real world dictates that firefighters must have cardiovascular function with nearly 50 pounds of gear on their bodies.

This changes the equation drastically when it comes to being in shape. It dictates that maximal strength and the highest level of anaerobic endurance must be obtained.

To some extent maximal strength can dictate how much endurance you have. If your maximum-effort dead lift is 200 pounds and you're asked to carry a 200-pound person, you won't be moving that person far before running out of energy.

On the other side, if your dead lift is 600 pounds, then a 200-pound person can be moved with relative ease because it only requires 33 percent of your maximal strength.

3 problem areas
Statistics show that most firefighters' physical injuries involve the lower back, knees and shoulders. This is where strength training takes a specific route to bring up strength and decrease injury.

Lower-back injuries often come from lifting heavy patients. Any firefighter who has run ambulance calls has come across residents who weigh between 300 and 500 pounds, or more in rare cases. Obviously firefighters need to be strong enough for that type of duty.

Injuries occur here due to weak lower back muscles, little-to-no hamstring strength and improper technique while performing a task. The first issue is to bring up the lagging muscle groups, then teach form in order to be mechanically sound.


  • Reverse hyper extensions – This builds important lower erectors and glutes while tractioning the lower back.
  • Glute ham raises – This strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves. Working them with this exercise teaches all the posterior chain muscles to work together as they do on duty.

Knee issues can be more complicated, but often firefighters beat their knees up by having weak hips and hamstrings. When jumping, jogging and carrying equipment at a fast pace, the hips and hamstrings must take their share of the work. If they are lacking in strength, the knee extensors attempt to complete the work. Over time this over use of the knee starts to take its toll.

Pain and injury occurs here due to weak hamstrings, hips, vastus medialus muscles and improper form. Once the hamstrings get stronger, knee pain and injury decreases.


  • Glute ham raises – This builds the hamstring in a functional environment.
  • Straight leg deadlifts – This strengthens the hamstrings in a way they will be required to work.

Shoulder pain, tendonitis and injury usually start with a weak upper back. The upper back — which includes the lats, rear delts, rhomboids and sub scapular muscles — needs to be strong in order to hold the shoulder joint in place under strain and to maintain correct posture while performing various tasks.


  • Rear delt row – This directly builds the rear delt and sub scapular muscles.
  • Bent over row – This builds the lats and also the rhomboids, traps.
  • Lat pulldown – This builds the lats, rear delts and most minor muscles groups of the back.

Cardiovascular endurance
Working on your cardiovascular endurance is important in maintaining your overall health and aiding your recovery. Many firefighters remain on the job well into their 50s; and some, especially volunteers, remain past 70.

High-impact activities, such as jogging, over time will increase injury and wear on the knees, back and hips. Therefore it is important to gain endurance with the least amount of negative impact on the skeletal system.

Sled dragging is one of the best overall tools to develop conditioning while building muscle in important areas. There is virtually no joint impact and with the proper weight can be just as intense as running is on your heart, lungs and lactic acid tolerance.

Dragging the sled backwards is similar to dragging people out of buildings.

Kettlebell swings are a very tough cardiovascular drill and very quickly improve the conditioning level of firefighters. I have seen U.S. Army Rangers buckle to the floor with 60 pounds in less than 5 minutes while doing swings, while it was no biggie for these guys to run more than 10 miles.

A strong lower back and abdominal base must be built before using this exercises with anything more than 25 pounds. The benefits of using a kettlebell is no joint impact and a great workout for the cardiovascular system and much of the entire muscular system.

Training on the job
It is important for firefighters to train at an optimal level of volume and intensity when on duty or scheduled for duty within 24 hours.

Firefighters must still be able to perform their job at any moment while on their shift. Totally wrecking the crew will not be optimal for a possible fire or other emergency. This is why training must be individualized for each person.

These issues are 90% of the problems I have seen in the four years of working with a large fire department. The variety of ages and body types means that training will require different starting points and constant revision to keep individuals progressing.

Off-duty firefighter: playing 'what if'

Posted on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:30:00 UTC

Have you ever played the 'what if' game? It's not very hard to do, but there is at least one rule that I strongly suggest out of experience: never play if you are on a date, especially a date night with your spouse.

The game involves you looking at a structure, perhaps a new fast-food restaurant under construction, a business you're visiting for the first time, or a subdivision where friends may reside and you stop and say. The game requires you to consciously stop, look around starting with the exterior and begin to formulate a pre-incident plan in your mind.

Some of the things you'll want to include are looking for available building access and egress, fire lanes, water supply, type of construction, built-in fire protection such as sprinklers, automatic suppression systems in kitchens, computer rooms or vaults, and fire alarms.

Other factors might be the fire load, occupancy, life hazard, aisle space, security systems, locks, storage, offices, lighting and HVAC.

Want fries with that?
Let's use the fast-food restaurant as an example. Normally there is a fairly adequate parking area and predetermined number of entrances that also serve as exits.

What about the construction? If it's typical and relatively recent, you can bet that it is mostly wood-frame truss construction that is meant to support the roof and the very substantial HVAC.

What about the kitchen? How many cooking units, especially deep fryers does it have? Are they equipped with a suppression system covering all the fryers, grill surfaces and exhaust hoods?

Is the system both automatic using a fusible link and manual? Is it connected to the automatic fire alarm? What would be the more typical fires?

If you said, a grease fire, you'd most probably be correct, but where? Would it most likely be a surface grill, fryer, hood or grease trap? What is your access to each appliance?

Slip and fall
What special hazards have you observed? If you said watch out for the HVAC on the roof, you would be correct. But if you also mentioned the thin layer of grease on the floor, you get a gold star.

If you've ever walked onto the floor of a fast-food restaurant in fire boots, then you know how slippery it becomes. Losing your footing, falling down, or spraining an ankle can happen under the best of circumstances.

But think about how this would be if you were inside and realized that you were experiencing pre-flashover conditions — it might make you think about the option of knocking the fire down substantially from the exterior before making entry.

By the way, did anyone mention the playground inside? The plastic gym set not only adds to the fire load, but could also become a deadly maze for a firefighter in zero visibility.

Soft drink dangers
What type of ceiling do you see? If it's a drop ceiling, how is it hung and supported? Could a fire spread undetected above? Where would be a safe area to lift a tile or punch an inspection hole?

Where would you suspect the utility shut-off to be for natural or LP gas and the electricity? Can you spot any transformers or underground electrical utilities?

During a 360-degree walk around, look for a large intake valve on a remote side near the kitchen. If the restaurant is relatively new, it probably uses liquid carbon dioxide rather than compressed cylinders of CO2 to add the carbonation to its soft drink dispenser. It wasn't that long ago that the Phoenix Fire Department brought this to the attention of the fire service literally by accident.

That department made an EMS call for a person passed out at a recently finished location of a very popular fast-food restaurant chain. What started as a routine medical call wound up a critical incident involving an oxygen-deprived IDLH atmosphere where the rescuers almost became additional victims.

What the crew discovered was a major carbon dioxide leak at the fill valve for the newly installed liquid CO2 system. Since carbon dioxide displaces oxygen, not only the civilians reported to have passed out but also part of the responding medic crew fell victim to oxygen deprivation.

The engine company officer suspected something very wrong was happening and quickly had all hands retreat to safety, evacuate the premises and don full PPE to re-enter and investigate.

Now given the answers to all these questions, how would you attack a well involved kitchen fire reported just past midnight? Would your strategy change if the fire were reported at noon on a Saturday?

So how do like the 'What If' game so far? Remember that fast-food restaurants are probably the commercial occupancy we visit most frequently. Are you ready to take on the big-box hardware and lumber store? What about your friend's house in the new subdivision?

Each structure has its own hazards and requires us to think ahead of the fire by generally knowing what to expect even prior to our arrival, size-up, initial 360-degree walk around, or first attack line. That is the true value of the 'What If' game.

A tip of the helmet
While recently driving across U.S. 30, I yielded to Ligonier (Pa.) Fire Department's heavy rescue truck approaching a motor vehicle accident scene. The driver and officer placed the vehicle across the affected lanes of the divided highway.

They then set up a safety zone with flares and traffic cones so the engine crew, chief officer, police and their crew could safely move about to attend to the driver and her severely damaged vehicle. Remember, always think safety on motor vehicle accident scenes and protect yourself and others by using your apparatus placement to help create a safe area to work.

Fire inspection: Harrowing tales from the frontlines

Posted on Tue, 23 Sep 2014 21:35:20 UTC

This month we honor one of the overlooked and under-appreciated facets of the fire service. One who you usually don't hear much about, although it is a very important aspect of what we do.

Behold, the fire inspector.

Yes, you Mr. Fire Inspector. Armed with your tape measure and code book you can spot a Class 1 standpipe or a blocked exit a mile away. OK, I'm starting to sound like a beer commercial — I'll stop.

I served as fire marshal in a small town for about a year and a half and headed up inspections. I can honestly say I didn't like it at all. It just wasn't my thing. Fortunately there are people who enjoy the work and make a difference.

Historically minded people can readily name fires in our country's history where hundreds died. Rarely these days do you see a multi fatality in a commercial-occupancy fire. This is a direct result of building, fire and life-safety codes and enforcement by our friend the fire inspector.

It's not as exciting as riding the big red chrome machine, but the fire inspector has to take pride in the fact that by reviewing plans or chasing down an extension cord he or she is saving the lives of the public and firefighters.

Two people you're likely to meet
A police officer once told me that a major part of being a police officer is knowing how to talk to people. The same can be said for the fire inspector. Storming into a restaurant during the lunch rush and barking orders like Mike Ditka really won't get you too far.

To take it one step further, the fire inspector is also an educator. A lot of times when the inspector explains and educates a business owner on why a requirement exists, the business person might say, "Wow, I never thought about that."

However, there are the non-conformists, the anti-city government people who resist everything just because. It doesn't matter how you talk to these people.

Over the course of a career, the fire inspector will have these two conversations without fail.

  1. "We have been here 25 years and that has never happened." Clever reply: "I have never been struck by lightning, but I don't stand on golf courses waving a 20-foot aluminum pole over my head during thunderstorms."
  2. "The last guy who came didn't say anything about that." Clever reply: "Oh that was Herb, the blind guy. He retired."

Mounting concerns
Most cities adopt a fire code; there are several around. A fire code usually requires a business to have a fire extinguisher on hand. There is a minimum size (5A10BC in some places), the extinguisher has to be mounted at a certain height and have a current inspection tag. That doesn't really sound that hard.

If I didn't see one I would ask if the business had one and was always told yes. The occupant would begin looking in closets, unpacking cardboard boxes and opening cabinet doors.

I would explain that the extinguisher needs to be mounted in a conspicuous place. Most people would comply, but of course some would react as if I had asked them to purchase the Hope Diamond and to display it.

One female business owner told me flat out, "I don't need one that's why you are around." It's good to be appreciated.

What would Fritz do?
I had a few confrontations in houses of worship. Church folks like to point out the separation of church and state. I would point out the requirements of an assembly occupancy and the fire code.

I never had a problem being a bad guy at a school. If you have ever looked at the photos of the Our Lady of the Angels school fire in Chicago, you wouldn't either.

One of the local schools notified us they were having a giant sleep over lock-in thing for the kids in the gym. They promised a police presence for security and the school nurse would be there so there will be no problems.

Just the same, I paid a visit on the afternoon of the big event. I strolled into the office and the first thing I noticed was a yellow blinking light on the alarm panel.

The alarm was in the trouble mode and silenced. I asked one of the office personnel and was told the alarm was on the "fritz." I told the principal that the sleep-over event wasn't happening until the alarm was "unfritzed."

Things got heated. In actuality, the principal was a very nice lady. She was very open to anything we wanted to do at school and even let us institute the NFPA Risk Watch program.

She smiled and challenged me to meet the parents who were going to be dropping off kids soon and tell them the event was cancelled. I asked her if I could roll her chair out to the curb so I could at least sit down while I met the parents. She called the maintenance office and the alarm got unfritzed.

After that I routinely visited schools to check the status of alarm systems.

Orange is the new green, white and black
The fire inspector has to be ready to see the unimaginable. I remember a warehouse wired with orange extension cords. Orange cords came out of a breaker box and disappeared into walls.

On another occasion I encountered a mom-and-pop auto body shop with a homemade paint booth for painting cars. The suppression system came off the cold-water line under a sink where it had been soldered in.

I told them to have it inspected by a fire suppression company and to get a green tag. A few days later the sprinkler company showed up at the station and a wild-eyed technician started off with a "you're not going to believe this!"

Sure I would.

The fire inspector also has to be ready to make some decisions that can be wildly unpopular. A body shop owner once told me he had friends and he was offering money to eliminate me. The police stepped in after that.

So here's to you Mr. Fire Inspector. Keep up the vigil of keeping us all safe.

Let me hear from you.

‘The only easy day was yesterday’

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

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

Let’s take this one.

“The only easy day was yesterday”

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

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

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

People take action for one of two reasons:

1.) Avoid pain
2) Gain pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

What does it mean to you?

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