Wearable camera for fire inspections, investigations

Posted on Thu, 20 Sep 2012 17:18:37 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the fire service past tells us about the future

Posted on Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:54:40 UTC

Among other things, I am an avid reader. While I take a Kindle-Fire loaded with e-books on vacation, I still prefer paper and ink books that I can read, underscore and use for future reference.

So it is common for me to get several books as gifts, especially from my family, on occasions such as Christmas or my birthday.

Recently, I was given "Crucible of Fire — 19th Century Urban Fires and the Making of the Modern Fire Service" by Bruce Hensler. The book's flap indicates that Mr. Hensler is a veteran firefighter with degrees in both fire science and public administration, and experience as both a chief fire officer and public policy analyst.

Before discussing some of the largest urban conflagrations of the 19th century and how these helped shape today's fire service, the book delves into the origins, culture and traditions of contemporary firefighting.

Risk transfer
One notable concept is that somewhere in our past, possibly when citizens began to pay salaries to firefighters. Society in the United States transferred the responsibility for fire protection and the risk associated with unsafe fire behavior from the individual to the fire service and more specifically to firefighters themselves.

This transfer of risk, and the expectation that firefighters will go above and beyond in their duty, are reasons why we in the fire service bear the heavy burden of firefighter line of duty deaths and injuries.

Early on, the author discusses the need to retransfer this risk back to society through technologies such as automatic alarms and residential sprinklers in new occupancies and situational risk analysis in all other structures.

This risk analysis at minimum should include a 360 degree size-up that considers building construction, fire and smoke conditions, risk to occupants and an assessment of their survivability, the number of firefighters assembled, as well as the capabilities and resources available to those firefighters.

Birth of ISO
Following devastating 19th and early 20th century fires in cities such as Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Boston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, San Francisco and Portland, Maine, many fire insurance companies faced insolvency. "Crucible of Fire" describes how the fire insurance industry banned together to develop the National Board of Fire Underwriters, a forerunner to ISO.

The NBFU developed a risk-analysis model for fire protection that graded fire departments in urban areas and dictated the number and location of fire stations and apparatus. Those cities that adhered to the NBFU model received better fire insurance ratings than those that only partially initiated those recommendations.

Cities that ignored the model paid much higher premiums or found they could no longer obtain fire insurance at all. Either way, fire insurance companies felt preventing conflagrations through their risk-analysis model was good for their business.

Volunteers' unfair rap
Part of the NBFU model called for the consolidation of volunteer fire companies into a single citywide paid department. The NBFU rational apparently was that a paid department, under control of the city government, could provide more consistent fire protection throughout the urban area.

With the fire service under the control of the city fathers, pressure could be exerted on the city by fire insurance carriers to more readily comply with the NBFU model.

His book asserts the tale that all volunteer fire companies were groups of undisciplined, brawling ruffians was more a myth spread by the members of NBFU than actual fact. But also that such isolated cases of dereliction were exploited to serve the purpose of bringing cities into line with NBFU's model.

Other factors that contributed to this consolidation of fire departments included the change from hand-drawn, hand-pumped engines to the use of steamers. Also, immediately following the Civil War, most young men had received some degree of disciplined military training.

Hence, the organizational model for a city fire department switched to numbered companies and battalions commanded by lieutenants, captains and chiefs, replacing the independently named fire companies having foremen, engineers and chief engineers.

A better future
Mr. Hensler believes that the fire service should now take a fresh look at risk analysis, but also from a new perspective. First, using the 16 firefighter life safety initiatives developed in 2004 and more recently reaffirmed at the conference held in Tampa, Fla., in March. Second, through accreditation: the process of self-analysis, self-regulation, and a third party audit for validation provided by an organization such as the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

I would add to this mix a change in our tactics and culture that takes advantage of the ongoing research developed on both ventilation control and the indirect application of fire streams before making entry for an interior attack in well-involved structure fires.

Finally, the author calls for a resurgence in the volunteer fire service where leaders are selected on their capabilities and merit, not just their popularity; and where all volunteers are valued — men and women from all ethnicities that echo the diversity of the community they serve.

Mr. Hensler also indicates this new generation of volunteers should be compensated in some way (stipend, expenses, 401K, etc.) for their time, training, dedication and commitment expended on behalf of their community.

All in all, "Crucible of Fire" is an enjoyable, yet at times thought provoking book that discusses the evolution of the fire service in the United States and uses our history to convey several ideas on how we might further evolve in the 21st century. As a fire service leader, it is well worth your time to read.

Food for Thought at the Firehouse Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sorry, our Department Can't Comply with Rehab Standards

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 21:19:30 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview: Chief Goldfeder on the birth of the Secret List

Posted on Mon, 14 Jul 2014 22:47:04 UTC

If the fire service had rock stars, he'd be a Beatle. And a big part of that notoriety is because he's been hitting our email inbox every day for nearly 20 years, delivering his unique brand of firefighter safety.

We caught up with the iconic Chief Billy Goldfeder to talk about how the Secret List came into being, firefighter safety and anything else he wanted to talk about — like his new book, "Pass it on: What we Know, What we Want you to Know," which can be ordered here (all royalties go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Ray Downey Scholarship Program).

How did Fire Fighter Close Calls and Secret List come into being?

In 1997 I discovered the Internet and started looking at fire and rescue; even as a kid when I got an encyclopedia I went to the fire truck section.

As I got into it, I started sharing information with people — if there was a crash here or a fire there. Back then there wasn't a whole lot on there.

One day someone wrote and asked who was on my list and I said it was a secret. I was sending blind copies. I was just screwing with him; I didn't care if anyone knew who was on the list or not.

Then, after every story I'd write, I'd put in parenthesis 'the Secret List' and that's how it started.

One of my firefighters of the day was a big shot at AOL. So I asked him for unlimited access to blind-copy emails. You could go up to 200 before they stopped you; I was able to get several thousand names. As time went on we grew and grew.

Glenn Usdin had a bunch of us teaching for him at Command School. One day Gordon Graham, who I'd been friends with for a long time, said 'With all that stuff you're putting out why don't you start a web site?'

I didn't have the time or the money back then. He said, 'When you find the time, we'll find the funding.' Several months later after thinking about it, I said I'm going to find the time, and we started Fire Fighter Close Calls.

So it is privately funded with donated labor?

There were other sites coming up then with advertising and stories about anything, and we didn't want either. We wanted to have no advertising, and our focus was on firefighter survival.

For a while it was pretty much me putting the stories together. A friend who's fire department I'd been teaching for, Brian Kazmierzak, is kind of a techie guy and offered to help. We were getting so big and so busy that it was getting hard for me to keep up.

We receive about 150 to 200 emails a day. Brian is our operations guy. As we expanded, we started doing daily and weekly drills; of course Forrest Reader does that. We have our personal survival section and that's run by Pat Kenny.

No one gets a nickel; Gordon pays the bills and we do the work. We've got about eight folks who keep an eye on their own section — sort of like adopt a highway.

We don't want any forums or input because we really don't give a shit what you think. We're right, you're wrong and that's how it works. On a serious note, we are proud of our accuracy. Since we started the Secret List, we've had to issue corrections five times.

How big has it gotten?

The Secret List is at about 220,000 on Facebook, and we have more than double that as far as subscribers. At this stage, if you are into the fire service, you are probably receiving it.

We don't put a lot of crap out there. As soon as we fill it up with too much, you are not going to read it. We spend a lot of time and think very hard so that people are going to read what we're putting out.

If we veer off the mission and start putting stories up that you see on any other blog, we're no longer exclusive. We like being the place to go for firefighter safety.

It's worth a lot of money apparently and we didn't know that until recently. We've had some offers, and, obviously, we have no interest in that.

Where is Secret List and Close Calls now compared to where you hoped it would be when it kicked off?

We started as a joke; I was just passing stuff along. And now it's scary because we feel there's a sense of responsibility. It's pretty surprising.

It's when we get a letter from a chief who just subscribed and he writes back and thanks us. That's a big deal. It's right where it needs to be. We're not dependent on it for income, so there's not that stress. We do it the way we want. We don't answer to anybody except ourselves.

You've got to give back and we don't give back enough in this business. We might think we do: 'Oh, I saved a cat or helped put a kitchen fire out.'

That's not giving back. Giving back is feeding the people who come after you. The book we just published is all for donation.

What's been the biggest tangible impact on the fire service?

If people know who we are, that means they are reading our stuff. You read about a firefighter in Soandsoville who got ejected because he didn't have a seat belt on and maybe you'll put your belt on or slow down for the red light.

That's how we think we're mattering and as long as we keep getting the hits, and as long as people reach out to us and say, 'hey, we read this and we did this,' that's our biweekly paycheck so to speak and it's working and mattering.

Have they impacted firefighter safety?

It's a band and we're one of the original band members. IAFC started Near Miss and Fallen Firefighters started Everyone Goes Home.

Actually, the original band member was IAFF. Long before anybody was focused on health and safety, the IAFF was alive and well and doing it — NFPA as well.

Ten years ago when we all started getting really serious about it, Gary Briese and Ron Sarnicki brought people around for the first Tampa conference. That was a significant turning point in the fire service.

We're part of the band and if our part wasn't playing, you'd notice it.

Has there been one story from a reader that sticks with you?

The suicide stuff. We had a letter from one who ended up killing himself. We passed it on and did what we felt needed to be done and found out a year later he killed himself.

That's such a dark thing and society hasn't figured that out yet. I don't know how the hell we're going to figure it out other than through our training and education.

I also remember certain things like Charleston. A fire officer from North Charleston called me and asked if I was aware of what was going on, and that escalated. Who didn't that impact?

Is there an elusive problem that haunts you?

Not much. If technology were different, we'd love to have live stuff — if there's an incident somewhere so you can see that. If it's a big, breaking story, we just link to you guys. I can't think of anything that we wanted to do that we didn't do, which is kind of cool.

What do you expect it will look like in 10 or 15 years?

That's one of the reasons I got other people involved, so if I get hit by a bus tomorrow there's a bunch of others who could step up; we've got enough people involved out there.

I think it will be around a while, and if it went away tomorrow, I'm sure there are other sites that would fill in the gap.

Almost every magazine or website has changed ownership since we started and we're still hanging around. We're kind of like the old neighborhood you go back to where nothing much has changed.

We take a serious, serious look before we change anything like format. We like to be the same. All the Internet gurus in the world tell you, you have to change; I don't believe it.

What should every fire chief know about firefighter safety that they may not?

That's easy. You own this. You can be in the Bahamas on vacation, but if firefighter Sally or firefighter Joe gets hurt, you own it.

You need to understand that it is discipline, it's policy and it's training. It is understanding that company officers are the first line of success or failure in most fire departments. I often say to chiefs, 'find me a problem that wasn't initially discovered at the company officer level.' In the end, look at how little time we spend on company officers.

I'd make a monster (National Fire Academy) course for company officer. Executive fire officer is a four-year course; this might be a four- or five-year course. We've certainly improved over the last several years.

3 tips to securing a grant-funded project

Posted on Mon, 14 Jul 2014 21:46:57 UTC

Beginning to grant write for your agency can seem like a daunting task.

Which project do I start? How do I get it funded? What do I even write?

With a million different complex questions crossing your mind, it's easy to abandon the application before it's even started. Starting a project and getting it funded is not easy, which is why for any project to be successful you need to be passionate.

Here are three keys boosting your chances for success.

1. Target ideas fueled by passion

As a field paramedic, my report with patients provides great insight into the needs of the community. It gives me access to our target population to truly figure out what can have the most impact on those we service.

I've found that I have a renewed passion for health care when creating a project that will improve the community, my agency and positively impact my coworkers.

For instance, community paramedicine is a topic that energized my academic pursuits and breathed new life into my career. So when I was given the opportunity to write a grant proposal to fund a pilot program through NHTSA's Innovation in EMS cooperative agreement program, I was overjoyed to begin work.

Yet, I was quickly overwhelmed by deadlines and the enormity of the application. Whenever I overcame one obstacle five more arose and I began to think I might not have it submitted in time.

However, I burned the midnight oil night after night because I knew what this funding meant: an opportunity to have federal funding for a community paramedic pilot program for my county. It meant a community program proven to better the health care system overall by reducing the burden on individual providers and the EMS system, and decreasing government spending on health care.

If you find your passion project it will be much easier to get funded.

2. Put it on paper

Being prepared to present your project to administrative personnel is key.

I find that writing a brief, but detailed project description focusing on how the project will enhance the community and improve both the agency and my coworkers directly is the best approach.

Give possible funding options including private foundations that have a history of funding similar projects, state grant programs, and federal grant programs. Consider whether your project may need continued funding like pilot programs or community events. Not all projects have to be complicated or span multiple years.

Funding assistance also can be used to buy equipment or apparatuses that can alleviate health care shortages and accessibility issues. Equipment needs can have a significant impact the community and your agency.

Putting a rough plan on paper is incredibly important to gain buy-in from administrative personnel that have the ability to submit grants on behalf of the agency. Developing support from your command staff is also an essential asset to work your project up the chain of command.

3. Follow application guidelines

Once approval has been gained for your project, the real work begins. Remember to re-read the application, keying in on what the grant maker is asking from you.

If you do not follow the guidelines for the application, it will be rejected and you may not have the opportunity to resubmit. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Additionally, if any questions arise, grant makers are typically very approachable. Contacting your grant maker is a great way to clarify information and get a better handle on an application.

Only on rare occasions do I find myself not contacting the grant maker, never be afraid to ask for help.

Lead by Example in Vehicle Safety

Posted on Mon, 23 Jun 2008 16:00:07 UTC
How not to drive a fire truck
An emergency response almost leads to a rollover. Full Video
When I was asked to write an article that would address this year's Safety, Health and Survival Week, I was initially struck with writer's block. Unfortunately within a few short days I found myself facing a situation that provided me with ample material to write about.

Last week my fire department was dispatched to assist to a neighboring department with a house fire. I happened to be at the firehouse so I quickly proceeded to don my gear and grab a jump seat — for once I didn't have to drive! The rear of the ladder truck soon filled with four other members and we turned out down the street.

One of the members sitting across from me was a newly promoted lieutenant. As with many volunteer departments, a line officer is often found riding in the back seat when another line officer has already grabbed the front — we can argue that practice at a later time. I noticed that this new lieutenant was not wearing his seat belt. I immediately said "Dude, where's your seat belt?" Motioning at the retracted seat belt as he glared at me, he replied, "Right here."

My response? "How 'bout you put your seat belt on so that if we crash this thing you don't come across the seat and kill me?" Somehow I went from scoring a coveted jump seat en route to a working fire to the middle of a stand-off. Grudgingly, he put his seat belt on and we continued on our way.

As we pulled up to the scene, this newly minted lieutenant snidely plucked at his seat belt strap and said, "Is it all right to take this off now?" At that point, I felt I'd had enough. Having spent several years as a line and chief officer, this lieutenant for me was setting an extremely poor example for the younger and more impressionable members riding in the rig. I then proceeded to explain my feelings to this lieutenant — perhaps a bit harshly — until another senior member put the discussion to rest by simply stating, "At this station, we wear our seat belts." End of story.

Epitomizes problems
So why do I share this story? I do so because this 3-minute episode epitomizes the problems that we face in today’s fire service on many different levels. The title of this year's Safety, Health and Survival Week is "Committed to Long-Term Results." But how can we commit to long-term results if those in positions of leadership and power won't follow the rules themselves? How is it possible that a line officer can not only get away with not wearing a seat belt, but can then argue the issue with someone who tells him to put it on? Have we learned nothing from those who have given their lives before us?

Imagine this scenario: A fire apparatus rolls out the door with two young firefighters and a line officer. One of the young firefighters sees that his officer isn't wearing his seat belt and figures he doesn't need to wear it either. The truck crashes and the young firefighter is ejected and killed. Who is at fault? The reports and the scuttlebutt will all say that if this young firefighter had just put his seat belt on, he would still be here today. People will question his poor judgment and shake their heads at what they believe was a rookie mistake. But was it?

In reality, that same line officer who set a silent example by not wearing his seat belt is largely responsible for this hypothetical fatality. Like it or not, when you pin a fancy gold horn on your collar or put that shiny white front piece on your helmet, you’ve become someone that younger members look up to and follow. Even when you don’t realize it, these members are emulating you and following your example. Senior firefighters, line officers and chiefs all create a culture that younger and more junior firefighters will learn to live by. It is this culture that can save or cost a life.

If the fire service truly wishes to bring about long-term results, it's time to start holding people responsible for their actions. It seems that every time one of us is injured or killed, the rest of us are hesitant to ask questions or pass judgment. As a result, this culture never changes. How do I know? Look at the number of firefighter fatalities over the past 20 years. Does anyone really see a difference?

So how should we hold people accountable? It's time to start wielding a big stick. Fancy posters and cute little stickers telling you to wear your seat belt haven’t worked. Every year there are still numerous line-of-duty deaths that are a direct result of someone not wearing their seat belt. Want to make a difference? Start randomly stopping your rigs and checking to see that everyone has their seat belt on. If someone doesn't, suspend them. More than three infractions, show them the door. Maybe it's time to have the cops start citing people who can't get the message through their heads. After all, not wearing your seat belt is against the law!

Until these types of attitudes change or people are held responsible for their actions, I don’t believe we will ever reduce the number of line–of-duty deaths, especially those that are a direct result of vehicle crashes. Unless those in charge begin to lead by example and create a culture in which reckless driving, poor attitudes and lack of seat belt use are no longer tolerated, the culture will never change and we will be doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over again.

To those who have already begun to move this ship in a positive direction, my hat is off to you. And to those that refuse to help the rest of us reduce the number of firefighter fatalities by continuing this reckless culture ... I say maybe it's time to go.

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.

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?

Assembly buildings: 6 safety items for your civilians

Posted on Mon, 26 Aug 2013 16:49:13 UTC

How many of your residents would drive a car down a mountain road without making sure the brakes worked or would jump out of an airplane without making sure the parachute is securely attached to their backs? The answer, I hope, is not many of them.

However, many people placing themselves in more dangerous situations everyday without even knowing it. I am talking about the life-safety risks in assembly occupancies.

An assembly occupancy is defined by the National Fire Protection Association as "An occupancy used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation or similar uses."

Since many people enjoy going out, they encounter assembly occupancies on a regular basis. This could include going to a school play, attending a church service, dining at a favorite restaurant or watching a band at a nightclub with friends. In these cases, how often do our community members take the time to stop and consider:

  • Where are the exits?
  • How would I get out of here in a fire?
  • Are there enough exits for all of these people?

If they are like most people, the answer is not often enough.

History of tragedy
Each year, there are tragic news reports of fire and non-fire events in assembly occupancies with shocking death and injury tolls. Some recent incidents include:

  • Fire in the KISS nightclub in Brazil, on Jan. 28, killing 233.
  • Fire in the Cromagnon Republic nightclub, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 30, 2004, killing 180.
  • Fire in the Ycuá Bolaños Botánico Supermarket, Asunción, Paraguay, Aug. 1, 2004, killing 400.
  • Fire in The Station Nightclub, West Warwick, R.I., Feb. 20, 2003, killing 100.
  • Panic evacuation in the E2 Nightclub, Chicago, Feb. 17, 2003, killing 21.

As you can see, the issue of emergency exiting of public assembly occupancies is not unique to the United States. Here are six suggestions that can be easily performed and help your residents decide if the building may be safe.

Six steps

  1. Note the location of emergency exits when they enter a building and ensure that there is an adequate number. If the place has only one way in and out, use it at once.
  2. Ensure that exits are accessible and not locked or blocked. A business owner that allows an exit to be locked or blocked does not deserve anyone's business.
  3. See if the building has emergency lighting. If they think the room is dark during the performance, wait until the lights go out in an emergency.
  4. Gauge the size of the crowd. If the place is packed, they may want to go somewhere else — restroom lines alone can be hazardous.
  5. Be aware of their surroundings. Many assembly occupancies have dim lighting, and in a fire or power failure, it is a good idea to know where they are.
  6. Watch the alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills, which can endanger one's ability to get out of a building in an emergency.

Teach your community that the few minutes needed to scan the building are well worth the time and effort. No one ever heads out thinking tragedy may lie just ahead.

Those who make plans in advance are much better prepared than those who do not. Share these thoughts with your community members at your next speaking engagement.

Landing a helicopter: what firefighters need to know

Posted on Mon, 7 Jul 2014 16:24:57 UTC

Whether you are involved in wildland fires, trauma response, disaster relief or assisting in an observational flight, helicopter landings should be part of your tactical toolbox.

With the increase in wildland fires and the urban interface program allowing structural firefighters greater input into the campaign, fire department personnel can expect to be tasked with providing temporary landing sites.

In addition, Flight for Life, Air Life and similar programs are often called upon to land in outlying areas for patient pickup. In cases of multiple or severe trauma in urban locations, they have been known to drop onto highways, parking lots or the middle of a busy intersection.

Every agency using helicopters has guidelines and detailed policies regarding their own fix-site landing operations. However, temporary landing zones, or LZs, require a general knowledge of universally accepted procedures combined with pilot specifics as relayed in radio traffic prior to actual touchdown.

Site selection
Selecting an appropriate landing area is the first order of business. Ideally, it should be on level ground, free from obstacles with a 100-foot diameter.

The optimal departure angle for a helicopter is an 8:1 ratio. This means that a 10-foot obstacle should be 80 feet from the LZ with its 100-foot diameter — a 20 foot obstacle, 160 feet away, and so on.

The site should be free from overhead wires and all dirt, sand and gravel sites should be avoided unless it can be wet down before landing. Watch for debris and anything not secure or able to be tied down.

As the helicopter enters your airspace it is imperative to establish communications. Ideally, this will be a predetermined radio channel. Radio communications may mean a direct channel or information relayed through dispatch.

If no compatible radio channels are available, there are established hand signals available from the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the local airport authority. Have a copy of these in the engine or service vehicle.

If you have communications with the pilot, be prepared. Weather conditions, patient status and any other relevant information are important prior to touchdown. Pilots are keenly aware of wind speed and direction.

Barometric pressure and ambient temperature can be critical to landing, especially at high altitudes. Some engine crews carry a weather application on their computer or phone and a windsock or flag for just such an occasion.

Marking and lighting
Marking the site can be anything from fire hose in a circle to chemical light sticks in the evening hours. A firefighter with arms extended in the middle of the LZ circle is acceptable to most pilots as long as there is eye contact with the pilot on approach and the firefighter leaves the LZ in a timely fashion.

Keeping an eye on this is a necessity as firefighter fixation on a hovering helicopter can be real.

Landing zone lighting is usually solved by vehicles or handheld spotlights positioned in an "X" pattern centered on the LZ. Pilots vary in their preference for keeping lights on during final decent, and will often use their own landing lights regardless.

A simple radio request for "LZ landing lights off" by the pilot will clear this up quickly; be prepared to turn off all illumination.

During final descent, the downward motion of the helicopter is signaled by a change of pitch in the rotation of the blades. They are not slowing down, simply changing blade angle as they descend.

Eye contact
This is a critical time as it is now difficult for the pilot to abort the landing sequence. It is imperative to have the LZ completely clear and all firefighters safe, whether behind a fire engine or at an acceptable distance from the LZ.

If you are assigned to the center of the LZ, make sure your PPE is secure — helmet strapped, pockets closed, and gloves and eyewear on. You may use flashlights held in one or both hands, but do not point the light directly at the approaching helicopter. Optimal stance is arms out and away in a cross, lights extended pointing directly vertical.

Make eye contact as soon as possible with the pilot and take your action cues from him. Once in line with the LZ and taking one last look at the pilot, leave the LZ by walking backwards always facing the helicopter and staying in visual contact with the pilot until you are completely clear of the LZ. Take cover behind your vehicle or where appropriate.

Once on the ground, if there is no predetermined policy, do not approach the helicopter right away. Let the flight crew come to you or signal you in.

Safe approach
Ideally, movement around a helicopter is safest when the rotors are stopped, but turning off the engine may not be expedient for the work to be done. Again, the flight crew will take the lead.

Always approach the helicopter from the front. This allows the pilot to see you and signal if there is an issue. Always avoid the rear rotors and never approach from uphill.

When approaching from the front, it is perfectly acceptable to hunch over while looking ahead, regardless of location or height. The rule is to always be aware of the blades and their rotation.

Helicopter landings, or chopper assists, are exciting, especially for first time firefighters. But this is not the time for selfies or Facebook. During landings, an innocently activated flash can distract a pilot unfamiliar with his surroundings just enough to have a needless reaction and possibly complicate an already difficult situation.

It is better to wait for a pause in the action and get the pilot's permission for pictures. You will find that pilots are as justifiably proud for their emergency vehicle as you are of yours and their enthusiasm for picture taking may surprise you.

Taking off from a temporary LZ is a straightforward process of aiding the flight crew with patients, equipment and whatever special requests they may have. Scene control and staying clear of the LZ, while maintaining the pilot's line of sight, is the preferred operational directive.

As the bird drifts up and away into silence, you can take satisfaction in having successfully facilitated your temporary landing zone.

7 steps to beat wind-driven fire

Posted on Wed, 14 May 2014 13:40:34 UTC

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, wind speeds as low as 10 mph will cause extreme fire conditions on the interior of a structure fire, regardless if the structure is a high-rise building or a one- or two-story family dwelling.

What is a wind-driven structure fire you ask?

It is a rapidly developing fire that results from prevailing winds entering a fire-vented location of a structure. This pressurizes the interior, creating a deadly flow path of blowtorch-effect flames and untenable temperatures when a secondary opening (vent point) is created.

Capt. William Mora, who retired from the San Antonio (Texas) Fire Department and authored the landmark study Firefighter Disorientation, estimates that between 2002 and 2010 approximately 24 firefighters were killed in structure fires where wind was a factor.

The Houston fire
In the past few months, two major fires that drew national attention were affected by the prevailing wind: the massive lightweight wood frame apartment building fire in Houston that which trapped a construction worker on a fifth floor balcony, soon followed tragically by the Beacon Street fire in Boston, which killed two firefighters.

According to a 2009 NIOSH fire investigation report two Houston firefighters were killed six minutes after making initial entry through the A side door of this 4,200-square-foot residential dwelling. Prior to entry, fire was observed coming from the C side.

Shortly after entering, crews reported hearing a loud roar and being rapidly engulfed in a large volume of fire that swept through the structure from the C side and vented from the A side door.

7 steps
Here are seven steps to help you better manage the wind-driven structure fire threat:

  • Understand that wind-driven structure fires pose a special hazard; failure to do so results in a lack of situational awareness and an inability to calculate and manage risk.
  • Obtain a daily weather report with expected wind conditions, and communicate this your crews.
  • Conduct a 360-degree size up. Consider the effects of wind. Determine if the structure is being pressurized from a fire vented location or will become pressurized if window/door/roof failure occurs. Winds that pressurized a structure fire can super-charge the fire and create "monster fire" conditions.
  • When a wind-driven condition is encountered, the situation must immediately be transmitted to all companies.
  • Vent points must be controlled and coordinated.
  • Advancing through a downwind opening from the unburned side will create a wind trap that will place firefighters and victims in a dangerous flow path.
  • Consider a transitional fire attack from the pressurized (windward) side to knockdown the main body of fire. If structurally sound, enter from the pressurized side to conduct search and rescue and final fire control operations.

It is absolutely imperative that firefighters and officers alike understand the changing dynamics of wind and ventilation at today's structure fire. Failure to do so places victims and firefighters at much greater risk.

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.

Rosenbauer steps into the chassis market

Posted on Thu, 15 Mar 2012 16:50:18 UTC

Not wanting to wait till FDIC, Rosenbauer debuted its completely new cab and chassis at a viewing for sales people, local firefighters and some members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

After a two-year research and development phase, the company decided to manufacture its own cab and chassis at a new recently rented 34,000 square-foot factory.

Rosenbauer wanted to be in total control of the manufacturing process not just building the body, but the whole vehicle itself.

The present design will be available in six cab configurations and five options for cab interiors with seating up to 10 firefighters. The cab is constructed of 3/16-inch aluminum and is available with a wide grill and optional round or rectangular headlamps.

The most noticeable difference on the cab is its one-piece windshield, which Rosenbauer said gives a greater unobstructed view. The company also increased space for foot and hip room for the driver and officer. The floor in the cab is completely flat on all options or cab configurations.

The vehicle comes with Weldon’s V-Mux electrical system, Hendrickson front suspension, a high-performance air conditioning unit providing 67,000 BTUs of cooling power, as well as wider doors and steps for easier entry and egress, and a wraparound dash for driver ease of operation.

Along with the Cummins EPA 2010-compliant engine package, which is available up to 600 horsepower, the vehicles will come with either 3000 or 4000 EVS Allison transmissions and will be available in single- and tandem-axle models with up to 60,000 pounds of axle weight.

I am sure we will see some additions and modifications made to the vehicle in the coming months before the first vehicles leave the factory.

But according to Rosenbauer, over 25 vehicles have already been sold. One of the first is going to the Goldsboro Volunteer Fire Company in Caroline County, Md.

A family-owned business founded in 1866, Rosenbauer has built global partnerships with 11 manufacturing locations worldwide building innovative, safe firetrucks. For more information, click here.

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.

Eight Things to Do for Your Crew in 2008

Posted on Wed, 2 Jan 2008 20:23:09 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

Cold Water Challenge Face-off: Billy Goldfeder vs. Vickie Pritchett

Posted on Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:00:00 UTC

Departments across the country have been making waves on social media with their viral cold water challenge videos.

FireRescue1 and Fire Chief created a Cold Water Challenge guessing game with some of the most notable fire service leaders.

Each week, we’ll run a face-off challenge for you to judge. The game is simple: vote for who you think took the challenge first; we’ll reveal the true order after the bracket is complete.

Our mission is also simple: give firefighters a reason to have a bit of fun and keep the challenge alive — and the associated donations made to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Cast your vote below on which fire service leader you think completed the challenge first. At the end of the game, contest winners will be randomly selected and will receive a FireRescue1 T-shirt and challenge coin as a prize.

Vickie Pritchett became involved in the fire service in 1997. She currently serves as the Director of Public Fire Protection with the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

Billy Goldfeder, a firefighter since 1973 and a chief since 1982, serves as Deputy Fire Chief of the Loveland-Symmes (Ohio) Fire Department. He also hosts and sponsors FirefighterCloseCalls.com.

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