How to choose firefighting instructors

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

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

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

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

Eight training pitfalls:

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

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

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

Simulating reality
Simulations are another effective training tool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 tips for keeping firefighters cool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 lessons for fire chiefs from an oil pipeline break

Posted on Mon, 8 Sep 2014 01:43:35 UTC

Question: Is your department located near an oil transmission pipeline? Let me rephrase that question. Does your department annually receive a notice of an oil pipeline safety seminar being held in your county?

If so, the chances are that you are located near one of these pipelines. Why? Because a quick search of the web indicates that there are over 55,000 miles of crude oil transmission pipelines and another 95,000 miles of refined petroleum transmission lines across the United States.

So, the chances are you may have one nearby and not know it.

Oil transmission pipelines can be anywhere from 8 inches to 42 inches in diameter. They have an excellent record of safety, and allow a variety of petroleum products to flow from oil fields or ports to refineries, from refineries to storage areas and storage areas to major hubs where the products are transferred to railcars or tanker trucks to their final destination.

The Colerain (Ohio) Fire – EMS has been aware for several decades that a major oil transmission pipeline skirted the western portion of their coverage area in Hamilton County.

The placards placed every half mile or so along the right-of-way not only cautioned of digging in the area, but also give the 800 telephone number for notification if something goes wrong.

Heavy smell of oil
Late in the evening of March 17, Colerain's Engine 103, under Capt. Chris Ruwe's command, was dispatched for the heavy smell of oil in the area of a residence on East Miami River Rd. that runs parallel to the banks of the Great Miami River near its confluence with the Ohio River.

Initially, all the 103's crew could find was a small amount of oil in a creek bed that ran downhill about a ¼ mile away from the Great Miami. At first, the crew suspected that someone had illegally dumped waste oil in the creek. I'd suspect since it was dark, cold and muddy that most crews would have left it to that with a notification to the county EPA in the morning.

But the extent of the pungent smell indicated that it may be something more.

For nearly an hour, the fire crew and a Hamilton County Park ranger walked the creek uphill before finding a large pool of oil in a basin area. Capt. Ruwe requested Colerain's hazmat trailer with absorbent booms and "pigs" as well as Division Chief Brad Miller be dispatched to the scene.

Multi-entity reponse
Chief Miller, who has expertise in environmental emergencies, responded from his residence. Meanwhile the initial crew found the source of the oil as an approximately 5-inch crack in a 24-inch oil transmission pipeline situated on the hilltop above the river in a nature preserve.

Notification was made to the pipeline company, which then shut down the oil transmissions, and started a supervisor and crew to the scene from nearby Hebron, Ky. By daylight, not only were absorbents in place, but a small army of responders were being assembled using nearby Dravo Park as a staging area.

Representatives from Sunoco Logistics, the pipeline operator, U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, Greater Parks of Hamilton County who was the property owner and Colerain Township initiated NIMS using a unified command structure. The Hamilton County EMA erected a three unit modular tent to act as a command post and to shelter the staff from the cold, snow and rain in the Dravo parking area.

Planning meetings were held twice a day to correspond with the operational periods chaired by the EPA's representative, Steve Renninger. Early in the operational periods, I visited the command post and observe the planning process. I had worked with many of the participants in the past including Mr. Renninger, who I knew had an inclusive, but no-nonsense approach at emergency incidents.

Enacting NIMS
While I had been a part of NIMS on several incidents including acting as the logistics section after an F3 tornado struck a nearby county, I had never seen NIMS used in a government/private industry setting.

I was very surprised, especially with Sunoco Logistics representative, Charlie Stewart, at his familiarity in the use of the system. I later learned that Sunoco had just completed a NIMS refresher the week before this incident.

The emergency response phase of the operation lasted over two weeks, and netted over 20,000 gallons of petroleum products from the creek and watershed. At its height, over 160 environmental contractors were used to clean more than a mile of creek and ponds from the site of the pipeline to the residences on East Miami River Rd.

The pipeline crack was also sleeved in accordance with a plan approved by the Department of Transportation, and petroleum was once again allowed to flow.

Special care was also given to wildlife in the area. The creeks and ponds affected were home to several species of salamander that were awakening from hibernation with the change in temperature. These species, along with turtles and frogs were carefully collected, checked for any contamination and relocated so that they could spawn or mate without further interruption.

Three lessons
Currently, the site is in reclamation, a process that will continue for a few more months. In talking with Sunoco's Stewart, I was impressed with his concern. He told me, "We are a visitor to your community, and we will leave it better than it was before the leak."

So what are the lessons for fire chiefs? Here are three.

1. Fire officials shouldn't ignore an invitation to the annual safety training given by the pipeline companies to fire departments in the area.

2. The importance of practicing NIMS on regular basis can't be over-emphasized.

3. Prepare to have a fire department representative involved for the long haul. Colerain Fire – EMS chief officers were not only an integral part of the unified command, but the department also provided Capt. Steve Conn as the public information officer for the entire incident.

The actions of the initial fire officers and engine crew saved an environmental disaster to the area's water supply. Despite the adverse weather, had they not done a thorough investigation and made the proper notifications, this oil leak would surely have spread into the Great Miami River and onto the Ohio River impacting countless communities along the waterways.

Otterbox cases offer robust smartphone protection

Posted on Tue, 21 Jun 2011 22:03:20 UTC

With each new iteration of the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android phone, consumers are faced with the same question: "How will I protect this device from the inevitable drops, falls, bangs, dings, and scratches that inevitably arise from daily use?"

That is even more relevant for first responders who, with the ever-growing use of fire, EMS and police apps, are becoming increasingly dependent on these pocket-sized computers to do their jobs.

For civilians, a broken smartphone means an interruption in their quest to defeat Angry Birds. For first responders, a broken smartphone could mean a lost life or a hamstrung investigation.

OtterBox, with their heavy-duty Defender Series cases, has created a level of smartphone protection that will keep your mobile device well protected through month after month of heavy-duty daily use.

OtterBox sent me a Defender Series case to try out with my new iPhone 4, but they also manufacture models for Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and LG smartphones, as well as the Apple iPad.

The effectiveness of the Defender Series comes from its layered design. Instead of a simple plastic or rubber case that clips around your phone, the Defender has several layers of protection to keep the phone safe from drops and scratches.

The first layer is a polycarbonate shell that clips snugly around the phone. A plastic membrane on the front of the shell offers durable screen protection, making an adhesive screen protection film unnecessary.

Installing the shell took less than a minute and, once in place, it felt totally secure; pulling on the front and back of the case didn't offer any give.

Surrounding the base shell is a silicon cover that smoothes over the base layer's hard edges and creates another level of shock protection. The silicon layer has flaps that cover all the iPhone's ports and clip securely shut, but can easily be pulled open for access to the charging port, headphone jack, and volume buttons.

With the first two layers in place, the protected iPhone then clips into a polycarbonate holster that holds the device face in or face out.

The holster is, essentially, a case for your case, and with the phone clipped into all three (polycarbonate shell, silicone layer, and holster), the phone feels extremely secure.

It's bulky, but not overly so, and for the day I wore it clipped to my belt it never felt intrusive or uncomfortable. Firefighters, Medics or cops — who are used to having gadgets hanging from their utility belts — won't notice the added bulk.

But the real question when it comes to smartphone cases is: How far can you drop it?

I tested it for myself, dropping my Defender-wrapped iPhone from waist height, and then chest height. No damage whatsoever. I was tempted to drop it off our balcony, but the memory of replacing the glass backing of my iPhone a few months ago stopped me.

I asked OtterBox' Public Relations Specialist Kristen Tatti about the case's dropping capability, and she said their rule is "Three feet to concrete," meaning you can drop it from your pocket without risk of damage.

Tatti added that local firefighters in Fort Collins, Colo., (OtterBox' home) have been outfitted with the cases, and all have raved about the Defender's durability.

"They say it's nice to have something sturdy so they don't have to worry about their phones," she said. "With more and more firefighters getting emergency pages on their smartphones, a broken device can really ruin your day."

OtterBox also makes lines of cases more sleek than the Defender, including the "Commuter" (a simpler polycarbonate and silicone combination) and the "Impact" (just a silicon shell). Visit OtterBox' website to learn about all their smartphone and tablet cases.

What firefighter habits follow you off duty?

Posted on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:20:00 UTC

Whether it’s keeping your clothes and boots ready at any moment's notice or finding yourself backing into any and every available parking space, being a firefighter doesn't leave you just because you're off duty.

We asked our fans on Facebook to share habits they find themselves doing when not on the clock. Here are some of the more humorous responses.

Don't see a habit you have? Add yours in the comment section.

"I back into parking spaces way too often." — Mike Hughes

"How about talking to people like you are on the radio? I find myself saying 'stand by, en route, etc.'" — Chad Tucker

"I keep my belt, wallet and keys in my pants when I go to bed. If there's a call, I throw them on and I'm out the door!" — Aaron DePack

"I have set my cell phone ring to the radio page sound — even if my radio is nearby — just in case." — Jordie Dwyer

"Every time I pull my garden hose out, I throw it on my shoulder and run with it." — Travis Miller

"I stop a car length or more in my personal truck behind vehicles at stop lights in case we catch a run." — Ray Harvey

"I make U-turns in my car the same way I do in the ambulance. I pull out to the middle of the intersection and then flip the U-turn. I often get in my car and think it has the column shifter." — Tatiana Barreto

"I drain my garden hose using the over the shoulder method." — Mark Mallett

"I often make the air brake sound when I stop and pull the hand brake in my car." — Tommy Shaw

"I lay the power cord out on the vacuum like I’m laying out a 1 3/4 on a burner." — Michael Miller

"I 360 my truck before going anywhere." — Joel C. Guest

"Wore socks to bed for about 20 years. Tend to spot hydrants, no matter what I'm driving." — Dave Bloom

"I find myself writing my unit number on things before I put it in the fridge at home." — Kevin Douglas

How fire chiefs can make better decisions

Posted on Sat, 6 Sep 2014 23:17:54 UTC

Deeper problems, outside a yes-no decision, require a well-crafted plan to avoid the mental pitfalls that leave the best decisions undiscovered

Fire chiefs make important decisions, in some cases, decisions that affect life and death.

Should you commit resources to an interior attack on a fire? Should the department move ahead with providing ALS services? Is it in your department's best interests to consolidate with a neighboring department?

Each of the decisions above is stated as a binary decision, where basically only one option is considered.

The decision is a matter of saying yes or no, go or no go. Many decisions in the fire service are framed in this way. Quick decisions are often single-option decisions — take a specific action or continue with the status quo.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath point out in their book, "Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work," for more complex decisions, more options should be considered. This seems obvious but it is often surprisingly hard to do.

Outcome bias
The problem with decision making for many organizations is that the decision process often starts with the end already in mind. Leaders may have an inherent bias toward a specific outcome that guides the process of creating options.

Consider the question of whether a department should expand its services to include ALS. By framing the decision in a yes-no context, the outcome would tend to favor those who have a strong preference for one side or the other — either those who want the department to move ahead with the specific change, or those who favor maintaining the current state of operations.

Once people have a preference in mind — and many people come into decision processes with these preferences already in place — then the process becomes more about justifying a position rather than working together to develop creative solutions.

Yes, we should provide ALS, and here are the reasons why. No, we shouldn't provide these services, and here is the justification for that position.

Define the problem
Better decisions are made when time is spent clearly defining the problem before any solutions are put forward.

What is the current state of ALS service in your jurisdiction? What if any needs are not being met by the current service provider? What kind of service does the community require or want?

Notice that none of the questions above are closed ended, yes-no questions. Instead, the process begins by determining what is needed before considering how that need might be met.

Once a need has been clearly defined, options can be generated. But watch out for confirmation bias during this process. It is likely that at least some of those involved in the decision process will have a preference for a solution, and will prematurely narrow options to favor that preference. This kind of confirmation bias often happens at an unconscious level.

Wider scope
One way to avoid confirmation bias in decision making is to appoint someone involved in the process to act as a critical evaluator. This person's job is to find reasons why options might not work or to offer alternatives not already being considered. Anyone can play this role and it is good to have everyone on the decision-making team take a turn doing it.

Another way to widen options is to look outside the organization for those who may have solved a similar problem. Fire departments often practice this type of benchmarking, but they usually do it with other fire departments.

This is fine, but if you really want to consider all options, widen your scope. Is this a problem that has been addressed by the military or other government entities? Are there nonprofit organizations that specialize in this issue? Has the corporate sector addressed this problem in any way?

Gathering meaningful data leads to better decision making. This goes to problem definition as well as the generation of solutions.

Vanishing options test
Beware of basing decision processes on perceptions. It may seem like the public is unhappy with current ALS service, or that you are responding excessively to fraternities on the college campus, or that a piece of equipment is often in need of repair. But what do the numbers say?

Take the time to use objective data to really understand the problem and what is needed.

Once options have been generated and are being evaluated, be careful about committing to one option too soon in the process. Try using what is known as the vanishing options test: if all your currently considered options were to disappear, what would you do? This process can be a creative way to raise solutions not previously considered.

Managing decision processes is a critical part of leadership. Clearly define problems and then creatively and inclusively generate solutions in the widest possible scope before moving ahead with one option.

Approaching the decision process in this way will lead to better outcomes and stronger organizational buy-in for any resulting action.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 08:01:44 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Top 3 products you can't get in the US — yet

Posted on Mon, 22 Oct 2012 23:40:56 UTC

Three interesting products were demonstrated at the European Resuscitation Council 2012 Congress in Vienna, Austria, last week. They are all so brand-new that they're not even available in the U.S. yet.

Physio-Control based out of Redmond, Wash., unveiled its newest product, TrueCPR, a standalone CPR feedback device designed to provide rescuers with real-time feedback on chest compression depth, rate and quality. TrueCPR utilizes Triaxial Field Induction (TFI), a magnetic technology that overcomes erroneous overreporting of compression depth from devices currently on the market when used on a mattress or stretcher. Physio-Control expects to launch TrueCPR in Europe shortly and in the U.S. in 2013.

RhinoChill, a unique therapeutic hypothermia induction device, was on display by Benechill International, from Wallisellen, Switzerland. Designed for initial induction of therapeutic hypothermia in the pre-hospital environment, RhinoChill uses a nasal cannula like an intranasal cooling catheter to cool post-cardiac arrest victims rapidly. An inert coolant is delivered through the catheter while flowing oxygen or compressed air to facilitate evaporative cooling of the brain, effectively lowering core body temperature. BeneChill International currently markets RhinoChill in Europe and expects approval in the U.S. in the future.

The Corpuls CPR, a new automated CPR device, was introduced by Corpuls, Inc. of Kaufering, Germany. Expected to be released in Germany and the rest of Europe in 2013, the battery-operated device includes an integral long backboard and features adjustable depth and rate parameters. The manufacturer has no current plans to bring the device to the U.S. market.

7 changes for 2014 AFG fire grants

Posted on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:18:27 UTC

Hopefully your department has set aside some time during the first nine months of this year to plan and prepare for your 2014 AFG application because opening day is right around the corner.

Micro grants made their debut in 2013 and they will have an expanded role in AFG 2014. Micro grants are applications that request less than $25,000 federal share for their projects.

This year micro grant activities have been expanded to include equipment, modifications to facilities, PPE, training, and wellness and fitness activities. Here's a look at those and other new things for 2014 AFG that can help you prepare a competitive application for funding when the grant opens this fall.

1. Equipment
Any equipment requested must meet the relevant NFPA, OSHA, and ANSI standards. Communications equipment must be P-25 compliant.

Cell phones are not an eligible communications expense. Any equipment that you want to replace must be at least 15 years old to receive consideration.

2. Modifications to facilities
Requests for direct source-capture exhaust systems, sprinkler and smoke/fire alarm systems will receive priority. Older buildings will receive a higher priority for funding.

Stations built after 2003 will not be eligible to apply. Depending on the extent of your project, you may be required to do an environmental and historic preservation review. The cost of this study is an allowable expense under AFG.

3. Training
The highest priority will be given to request that include instructor-lead training and lead to a national or state certification. Priority also will be given to request that benefit the highest percentage of personnel within a department and are open to other departments in the region.

Starting in 2014, all requests for simulators, as well as mobile or fixed fire evolution props have been moved from the training activity to the equipment activity.

4. Wellness and fitness
Applicants must offer, or plan to offer, all four of the following activities for priority consideration: periodic health screenings, entry-level physicals, immunizations and, behavioral health programs

5. Regional applications
Eligible projects include training, equipment, PPE and vehicles. This year you must have a memorandum of understanding in place that is signed by all of the regional partners.

6. Vehicle
Used and refurbished vehicles will no longer be an eligible activity under AFG. A non-transport vehicle for a community paramedic is a high priority.

7. PPE
To be consider obsolete, PPE and SCBA must be a minimum of two NFPA cycles and 10 years or older. This year ballistic protective equipment is an eligible request under PPE.

A set of BPE will be comprised of one vest, one helmet, one triage bag and one pair of goggles. To be considered for funding applicants must be properly trained and qualified in the use of BPE and active shooter and mass casualty incident tactics and procedures. Training and qualifications must be explained in your narratives for the application to be competitive.

FEMA monitoring
The 2014 application will see increased monitoring by FEMA personnel.

If you are selected for an award, FEMA will check your last three applications to see if there are drastic changes to call volume, budget, coverage area, and vehicle age. Several applicants have been caught in recent years inflating or falsifying these numbers.

If you are requesting PPE and received a grant for PPE in the past, the number of PPE awarded in a past AFG must show up on your inventory under the appropriate year of award.

Get good estimates because starting in 2014 you will not be able to keep over $10,000 in excess funds. Any amount over $10,000 will be recaptured by FEMA.

I highly suggest that you attend a workshop if possible. If you can't, there are several opportunities to do so online. In addition, read the program guidance, which will now be known as the funding opportunity announcement.

Finally, as always FireGrantsHelp is only a phone call or email away to assist with your application.

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.

Safety tips for winter-weather response

Posted on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:28:50 UTC

Winter has settled in with record lows, dangerous wind chills and significant snowfall covering much of the nation. Unfortunately, how people respond to these weather events can result in house fires, automobile crashes, carbon monoxide poisonings and personal injuries.

Likewise, how you respond to incidents when the weather is a factor requires extra consideration to ensure your safety as well as those who've called for our help.

Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association confirm what most of us know from our experience in the fire service: that house fires increase during the winter months. The majority of these fires are a result of food left on the stove, candles left near flammable items like decorations or curtains, or space heaters left unattended and close to flammable objects.

When we're called to a winter house fire, we're not just attacking the fire and smoke in the structure or searching for potential victims. We also have to be attuned to what's happening as a result of snow, ice, freezing rain or wind. Snow accumulation on the house and tree limbs, ice that may already be surrounding the house or that will develop from flowing water, and low-hanging or downed wires can all impede our work.

Maintaining situational awareness is imperative. Pay attention to what's going on around you on the scene, including with the structure and your crew. Proper ladder placement is critical in any incident, but when these harsh weather conditions come into play, we must be extra diligent. When possible get someone to heel the ladder for extra stability.

Road safety
Similarly, how people drive can be affected by the weather. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 24 percent of all vehicle crashes in the United States occur during rain, sleet, snow or fog, and the slick pavement it produces.

Keep this in mind when responding to the scene of a crash during bad weather: If the driver who you are on your way to assist had difficulty seeing due to fog, heavy rain or blowing snow, or hit black ice, you should expect to experience the same conditions. While it's important to arrive to a scene quickly, it's far more important that you arrive safely.

It's also critical to be conscientious of how you and others around you are driving at all times. It's common for motorists to become nervous behind the wheel in inclement weather.

That level of uneasiness only increases when they hear sirens or see lights behind them. Their reactions, such as stopping short in front of you or skidding into oncoming traffic, may result in another incident.

Drive appropriately for the weather conditions. And remember that driving defensively doesn't mean driving aggressively.

Above all else, use your seat belts every time wheels roll. Whether you're responding in your personal vehicle or department apparatus, it's imperative that you buckle up. It’s that simple.

The bottom line: Stay alert, drive smart, be safe and stay warm.

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.

Will they remember the 343?

Posted on Wed, 11 Sep 2013 16:45:03 UTC

Sept. 11, 2001 was a life-defining moment and as the events of that day became known, we got a sense of history coming into play. As 9/11 now recedes into history, future generations will come to see that day in different terms and we can only imagine how they will view what happened.

Very little is certain and it is safe only to assume that if history is any guide to the future, events unforeseen will occur and render our inadequate predictions meaningless.

Sept. 11 briefly unified firefighters and increased public respect for firefighters. Recall how frequently you heard, "Thank you for your service."

Now a dozen years past, we don't hear the "thank you for your service" much, perhaps because the event grows more distant in time. Firefighters I talked to in the dark months after 9/11 described an overarching new view of a world where only the polar extremes of black and white existed; any intermediate shading was lost in the collapse of the towers, the destruction at the Pentagon, and the charred hole in the ground in rural Pennsylvania.

Perspective shift
This "black and white" worldview incrementally transformed into an "us versus them" view as the recession cut into municipal fire budgets and angry taxpayers questioned firefighter salaries and pensions.

What I see now of 9/11 comes mostly from the metropolitan New York City and New Jersey area where there remains a steady, reverent and solemn memorializing of the 2,753 civilian victims and the 343.

Something has changed us since 9/11. Years of conflict, economic upheaval, and elected high-officials who place politics above leadership has tired us and almost demoralized us as a country. Cynicism and skepticism cuts a deep vein through public opinion forcing us to identify our tribe or faction, one group demonizing the other, with the fire service no exception.

The unity of 9/11 was fleeting and our collective cynicism seems poised to poison our views of everything, mixing the good with the bad. It is black and white; those not with us are against us.

Forward looking
In 40 or so years, Americans will number about 438 million. Nearly one in five will be an immigrant. In 12 years, the foreign-born share of the population will surpass the total from the last great wave of immigration seen over a century ago.

Latinos, now our largest minority group, will triple in size by 2050 and the non-Hispanic white population will become the minority. Our elderly will more than double by 2050, as the baby-boom generation enters so-called retirement.

The numbers of working-age Americans and their children will grow more slowly than the elderly population, shrinking as a share of total population and finding it more and more difficult to support the aging members of society.

The victims of 9/11 were a diverse group demographically speaking and maybe that will improve the likelihood of future generations sharing at least a small sense of connection to those we lost on 9/11. For it is only a sense of connection that gives us a desire to remember the past.

Realistically though, it is more probable that they will come to see 9/11 solely as a historic event, similar to how we now view Pearl Harbor.

The near things
There will be commemorations and memorials to those who were murdered and those who sacrificed their lives to save others, but the depth of symbolic emotion will fade in time. Let us hope then, that there will always remain at the very least this lesson — that the firefighters of FDNY put their lives at risk for other people and more than 300 paid the ultimate price.

As new significant events capture the thoughts of future generations, life will go on, the memory of the 343 will recede, and that is the point where history takes over. Geographer Waldo Tobler stated that the first law of geography is: "Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related to each other."

I frequently borrow Tobler's Law and use it to think about history, adapting it as: "The nearer people and events are to you in place or time, the more important they are to you all the time."

I am a firefighter and so I care about other firefighters. If you live in or near New York City, you likely care about New York City and 9/11 will always be somewhere within in that frame of reference. All that we can presume is that if you are a firefighter, or you live in proximity to New York City, your world will include 9/11 and the 343, and the memory will not fade with time.

The sacrifice of so many to uphold a commitment to save lives is never easyto understand fully or to forget entirely. History provides the opportunity for future generations to remember the courage and humanity of the 343.

5 firefighting T-shirts I won't wear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Coed Naked Firefighting
What? Are you serious?

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

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

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

The adult conversation about firefighter drinking

Posted on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:23:11 UTC

Earlier this month the Austin, Texas fire union boss threw down a challenge to the city's fire chief: join him in a commitment to not touch one drop of alcohol for one year.

It was said to be a symbolic gesture to draw attention to excessive drinking among firefighters.

I applaud Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr for refusing the challenge. If there were departmental politics at play here, that's Austin's concern.

The larger concern is that symbolic gestures are often nothing more than … well, symbolic. I can't imagine that firefighters with serious or borderline drinking problems would be swayed away from the sauce one iota because the chief and union head are abstaining.

You don't have to look far to find stories of firefighters getting themselves into trouble with booze. The same holds true for cops, medics and combat veterans. We all know that these are high-stress jobs and alcohol is an easy, albeit misguided, go-to for stress relief.

The real, adult discussion we need to have about firefighter drinking should center on the root cause and eliminating the problems that can lead to drinking, drug use or other risky behaviors.

Municipal and fire department leaders are responsible for the safety and well-being of their firefighters. This doesn't give firefighters a free pass from bad decisions.

But we as an industry have our heads in the sand if we believe strong disciplinary policies alone will deter firefighter substance abuse. Drinking to the point of criminal activity is more than likely the symptom of a larger disease rather than the disease itself.

Ask yourself, just how far down the path from healthy mental well-being to suicide is chronic drinking? If fire service leaders are serious about protecting their firefighters from harm, then substance abuse needs to be looked at in this manner.

Catching and correcting mental health issues early will go much further to reducing the incidents of substance abuse in the fire service than will heavy-handed policies or empty, symbolic gestures.

Fire service leaders: The difference between life and death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do?

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

Firsthand account: 10 lessons from a massive flood

Posted on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 13:52:02 UTC

One of the largest disasters I have ever been involved with started in the middle of a plate of rigatoni when I heard our south units in Erie, Colo., speak of significant volumes of rain.

It was 17:30 on Sept. 11. I was in Longmont, Colo., just to the north of Erie. Mountain View Fire Protection District covers a large area, so I pushed the pasta aside and headed south in case things got interesting.

While driving, I noticed that all the irrigation and run-off ditches in the area were running high, but had not over-topped just yet. That was not surprising as it had been raining for the past two days.

The most recent rain event had caused localized flooding south of our Station 6 near Coal Creek. Blocked storm grates had increased the flooding, damaging many houses in that area.

I wasn't too worried that this would happen again. As I drove through a downpour, calls started coming in for downed power lines along a main artery into the town from the local interstate.

Multiple storm-related calls
We blocked traffic in both directions for about a mile to prevent shock while waiting for the power company to repair about six separate line breaks. We lost power to the area around 18:15 as rain continued.

As crews waited for power company reps, the volume of water running down the road increased to the point where soil from local field was being washed downstream and starting to flood Coal Creek and run into the local high school. Normally our crews would assist, but another call to the middle school's fire alarm systems had thinned out our resources.

At about 18:30, I coordinated with local police, who had set up an emergency operations center, to establish any rescue necessities in the areas that had flooded before. The storm drain that had caused issues a week before was working well at this point.

But water continued to flow into Coal Creek; the rising water had overtopped the road, effectively trapping smaller vehicles and stalling others. No rescues were called and by 20:30 the rain subsided and vehicles were able to cross the Coal Creek Bridge. Power returned around 21:00 and the local EOC stood down.

Mutual aid
I made it back to my station around 22:00 and got ready for bed. Around 02:00 I received a call from our dispatch center asking if we had any water-rescue resources that we could send up the canyons, as there were multiple collapsed structures and swiftwater rescues.

Our department has limited water rescue resources, but I called the number given me to inquire about specific needs prior to sending personnel to an unknown situation. The individual I called said that water rescue capabilities of all levels from all the surrounding fire districts had sent to Lyons or Boulder.

It quickly dawned on me that there were significant water-related disasters occurring along Boulder Creek, Lefthand Creek in Jamestown and most importantly the Saint Vrain River in Lyons. All three converge in our district.

I had to refuse to send our limited capabilities out of the region as there were no other resources left for what could be significant water rescues in the near future.

Preparing for the worst
I contacted our chief of operations who was engaged in incident management at the Boulder EOC and set in motion a plan to staff extra apparatus and ensure we could deliver service to both sides of the district once the flood waters divided it.

I also called back swiftwater-rescue certified individuals to staff another specialized rescue apparatus. Our district had recently completed surface, flood and swiftwater training to include the use of a personal watercraft (Kawasaki Jet Ski) for water rescue scenarios.

I drove the district to assess the water levels at all the bridges that crossed the two creeks and one river. At 05:30, water was up to the bridge girders and rising quickly.

About this time came emergency traffic from the incident teams in Lyons and Jamestown advising all personnel downstream to evacuate due to collapses in multiple dams. Six dams had collapsed, 20 had overtopped and that a weather system parked over the area had dumped 14 inches of rain in four days.

In some areas the sheer volume of rainwater run-off caused walls of water 20-feet high to rush down canyons that had no vegetation due to recent wildland fires. And our district was in its path.

People trapped
Water that normally running around 200 to 300 cubic feet per second had spread a half mile wide and was running 10,000 cubic feet per second. It spread out over the banks of the St. Vrain, flooding farm fields, destroying greenway paths and uprooting trees and utility poles without difficulty.

Our first call, around 08:30, was to rescue a couple trapped on their second floor as floodwaters washed through their first floor. When we arrived, the swiftwater training we recently completed had not prepared us for this level of impact.

Every few minutes, you could hear loud cracks as 12-inch circumference trees struck the bridge and shattered. You could also hear trees breaking as they fell into the creek or other trees.

Our first structure was the one with the highest risk and the greatest danger to the civilians. This home had beautiful stucco covered fence structures that funneled the water into and around their home. Horse trailers had been picked up and wrapped around trees. A pick-up truck sat abandoned 30 yards from the home with water up to its hood.

Dangerous 'rescue'
Our plan called for a three-person team to cross the torrent to reach the couple who were using their phones to video the rescue. The first team member struggled but made it across. The second and third members lost their footing, forced to use the water rescue rope to swing them into the far side of the rushing waters.

Once reached by the team, the couple was ready to leave until they saw how they were going to have to cross the water. At this point they refused and would wait until the water lowered. We advised them that the rain was expected to increase, not decrease, but they refused.

Our team reluctantly left them in their home to continue the remainder of the mission. Three other homes in the area were contacted and all persons we talked to were perfectly fine with staying in their homes.

We advised them that staying was not be the best option as the water would be constant for a few days, may increase significantly and more than their homes could be lost. Later that day, a military six-by-six had to be brought in to rescue them; the six-by-six was almost lost to the volume of moving water.

Chin pinned to the car ceiling
Over the next few days, our team rescued people stranded in homes, cars and trees. Most rescues were simple, putting personal flotation devices on our evacuees and guiding them through the water.

One rescue required using our watercraft to help extricate a young woman from her vehicle. The water had risen to her chin, pinning her head against her roof. We broke a window, pulled her out, put a PFD on her and moved her on the personal watercraft.

Our team was also tasked with accessing a gas line in a flooded field breached from repeated assaults from rushing debris. We found and secured the valve.

As we ran from call to call for water rescues, our district was evacuating areas in the flood's path. Getting from point A to point B was no longer a straight-line proposition. Road closures became required knowledge to reduce already extended response times.

Water moving at 10,000 cfs punishes structures, especially bridges. While many bridges withstood the pounding, often the water diverted around both ends of the structure and washed out the road base, collapsing the roads leading to the bridge.

Strained resources
In most cases, evacuation just required going door to door. However, those with limited mobility needed assistance being evacuated. Teams of two helped move them to a patient collection point for evacuation on busses.

To make matters worse, on day two we were advised that the water supply systems had failed. There was no water pressure and the water was considered contaminated. The pipes supplying the water district had been washed away; in some areas missing pipe sections were 300-feet long.

Associated with the no-water issue, some areas were crippled with a no-flush directive as sewage systems failed. The district had portable toilets and pallets of drinking water delivered to all stations. Our command team worked with the FEMA resources through local EOCs to hand out water to residents in our area.

During our evacuation of the mobile home park we noticed that a large amount of water reaching this area was from a failed irrigation ditch. This was the second time in two months a wall in the ditch had failed.

An excavation company hired to dig a new flow path dug through three metal pipelines. As all the gas wells in the area had been shut down for prevention, no leak occurred. All energy companies were contacted to ensure that they would assess their local wells prior to turning them back on.

Once the ditch was diverted, we used four, 12,000 gpm pumps to remove the water from the mobile home park. After approximately 18 hours, the task was completed.

As the water recedes, significant challenges lay ahead. At this time, there are only eight known fatalities and 60 unaccounted for across the entire state. Estimates put losses at more than $2 billion dollars with the number of damaged homes at 17,500. More than 11,700 individuals were evacuated.

10 lessons learned
With the event largely behind us, it is time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong. Here are the top 10 things we learned.

1. One cannot have enough water rescue equipment at a time like this. We rapidly used PFDs for the water rescues. In some cases, we forgot to retrieve them. By the time the local EOCs were able to order and replace them, we were about out.

2. Personal watercrafts work well in deeper water, but in water only a foot deep they can scoop mud into the impeller. An inflatable boat would work better in a shallow draft and has pinpoint access using ropes connected to the raft for stability and steering.

3. Swiftwater rescue training does a great job preparing an individual for water running around 500 cubic feet per second. This event was projected to be about 10,000 cubic feet per second, forcing rescue personnel to be slower and more careful.

4. During rescues our personnel were pelted with debris ranging from trees, railroad ties and barrels to colonies of prairie dogs. We also had to anticipate health impacts from failed sewer treatment plants, septic systems and collapsed or displaced oil storage battery tanks.

5. That people want to see you in times like this, doesn't mean that they want to leave with you. Some will assume they are fine under the circumstances until water or food run out, or until the level of water continues to rise as you said it would.

6. Most fire districts around us sent their water rescue capabilities into the mountains to assist areas with significant flooding. When that water ran into the foothill areas, there were very few water rescue capabilities left.

7. Emergency operations centers had to deal with looting, road closures, oil tank failures, water line breaks, electrical systems collapsing and all that water. While they faced their tasks as gracefully as possible, they were unable to meet the request for logistical needs in the field in a timely manner. Look for alternative means to gain resources or pre-negotiate contracts for equipment and services. We were lucky to be able to provide for the basic human needs of our stations early in this event.

8. Swiftwater rescues took much more time as the unit assigned to this task had to keep up on road closures to ensure initial access routes could be completed and end up at the right area in the shortest time possible.

9. While we were not faced with the violence or mass casualties, we all worked long hours under stressful conditions. After the week-long operation, crews became short-tempered, forgetful and lethargic. It is important to crews that this type of physiological response was normal. Crews should be monitored for the next few months for extended stress-related issues.

10. Many of the homes lost belonged to firefighters. These brothers and sisters should expect our support and assistance helping to get things back to as normal as they can be.

It will take a few more weeks to be able to provide running water and sewer to homes in some areas. It will take significant effort to replace the homes that were lost. We may not have road constructed to get people back to their homes before the winter arrives. It may take as long as two years to get roads and bridges back to the state they were before the 10-day rain.

But make no mistake, all the personnel involved in this event can take home the pride of a job well done. Neighborhoods, individuals, private organizations, rescue groups, local and regional fire districts and emergency management personnel came together to deal with the impacts of the greatest flooding seen in Colorado in maybe a millennium. I am proud and honored to have been able to serve with such an august group of professionals.

6 ways to defend yourself against verbal abuse

Posted on Mon, 29 Jul 2013 16:08:57 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?

The Command Post Podcast: Why firefighters should administer Narcan

Posted on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:00:15 UTC

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

This week, hosts Lt. Rom Duckworth and Chief Rob Wylie discuss a report about a Mayor’s son in California, who was hired despite multiple arrests and convictions, being called unsafe as a firefighter.

"This is beyond comprehension," Chief Wylie said. “To think that this mayor would impose this disaster on a department that is tasked with the safety of the public is just beyond the pale.”

In their frontline tactical tips segment, they talk about why responders are administering Narcan in fire departments that have EMS operations and even others that do not.

“In my opinion, every first responder should have access to this drug,” Chief Wylie said. “The Department of Justice statistics say that 110 Americans die every day from opiate overdose. Someone is going to get there first. In our area, more often than not the police get there first. If that officer can administer Narcan and get that person breathing again, I say go for it.”

And in today's leadership lessons, Duckworth and Wylie dig into the safety issues behind firefighter layoffs.

"When does the chief take a stand against the layoffs and say, “Hey mayor, hey public, this is going to make your town less safe,’” Lt. Duckworth said.

Chief Wylie gave his leadership take on the issue.

“If firefighters come to me and say ‘We need to make a stand,’ if the finances won’t allow for that project or for firefighter positions to be maintained, I have two positions: I have to explain to them why the money isn’t there and I should also have a plan in my back pocket to make it happen.”

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

Report: Mayor's son called 'unsafe' as firefighter

Career plan: How to succeed after probation

Charlotte firefighters to carry Narcan

Police, firefighters clash over right to administer Narcan

RescueDigest Reads: NASEMSO Brief on the Use of Naloxone Out-Of-Hospital

Fire officials: Layoffs slowed hotel fire response

Ohio city, union trying to avoid firefighter layoffs