Have a Plan for the Tactical

Posted on Wed, 2 Jul 2008 18:14:57 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

SCBA 'short cuts' put firefighters at risk

Posted on Mon, 9 Jun 2014 15:43:48 UTC

There are several common SCBA problems frequently seen on the fireground that can eventually lead to bigger problems. Two of the very basic parts of the SCBA, and a commonly overlooked or ignored problem, are straps and buckles.

There is a lot of technology incorporated into the SCBA to make it a safe product and to protect firefighters from the IDLH environment. Of the entire SCBA, the straps and buckles are the most low-tech component, but are an intricate part of the SCBA.

They are designed to hold the SCBA to the firefighter's back and waist. This is an important aspect of wearing the SCBA — without the straps and buckles, SCBA falls off.

A great deal of ergonomic study and testing went into the design of the straps and buckles to make the SCBA easier to wear and use. The SCBA harness is designed so that when all of the straps and buckles are properly done up, firefighters experience less fatigue.

Buckle up
Wearing SCBA properly means cinching the waist straps tight and buckling them. It also means using the chest buckle if the SCBA has one and wearing the pack low on back near the tailbone — this shifts the weight of tank from smaller shoulder muscles to larger trunk muscles, thus cutting fatigue.

So why do we still see photos and videos of firefighters on scene with their SCBA waist strap hanging unbuckled down by their legs? I believe there are two answers to this question.

The first is laziness and complacency. The laziness factor comes in from just not taking the extra 10 seconds to snap the waist belt together and cinch it up tight. Instead it is supposedly easier and quicker to just put on the shoulder straps.

The complacency factor comes in from consistent false alarms that do not see the SCBA being used. So after a while, the SCBA is ignored and becomes a nuisance.

Fashion statement
The second answer is style — this is where we have the "G.Q. firefighter." To fit in and look like a cool firefighter, the straps are left unbuckled. This can be due to peer pressure from other firefighters or as a result from a culture fostered around taking short cuts.

So how does this apply to a domino effect on the fire ground? In firefighter survival training, we teach firefighters to always ensure they are properly dressed so that they are combat ready.

This leads to a properly equipped firefighter ready to conduct an interior attack. When the SCBA straps and buckles are not done up right, this will lead to smaller problems developing on the fire ground — such as the straps getting snagged in objects they are walking past or working near.

If firefighters are willing to overlook doing up the straps, what else are they willing to overlook? This ties into their general attitude towards doing things right all the time.

Taking too many short cuts eventually leads to problems arising for the firefighter and others. Take the extra time to ensure that things are done right and are done right all the time, consistently.

The next time you are doing SCBA training, make sure that all the straps are done up right including the waist belt. Make it apart of your muscle memory.

7 ways to get, and keep, firefighters in rehab

Posted on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:29:04 UTC

Your EMS unit is dispatched to a working structure fire on a hot summer day. You and others set up the EMS branch and the rehab sector.

Equipment is readied and assignments are given out. Approximately 20 minutes into the fire, the first two companies, eight firefighters total, are assigned to rehab at the same time.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and emergency services are no exception. These firefighters likely have many thoughts going through their head.

If the fire is not out, they want to get back into the fight. Nobody wants someone's house to burn down, but when it happens, most firefighters want to be involved to try to make a difference. This rehab sector is standing in their way to go back and help.

Anti-rehab
They may not believe in the concept of rehab. It is hard to believe in this day and age, but understandable, especially if they have had a bad experience with rehab in the past.

Perhaps it was done inefficiently and slowly, delaying them from doing their job. Or perhaps they feel they were inappropriately held in the medical treatment area because of a vital sign that was slow to return to an acceptable level. For whatever reason, they have a prejudice against rehab that we must overcome.

These are just some of the many barriers we must overcome quickly so we can do our job to get these firefighters back at work. I have found that one of the best ways to win them over right away is through efficiency.

All of us in emergency services have to make do with less. We may want to have 10 EMS personnel on scene for rehab and transport. But that is unlikely — two to four is more realistic.

So how can we use these individuals efficiently to screen the incoming firefighters for medical issues and prevent them from wondering away? Here are seven methods I use to improve efficiency.

1. Sit them down
It doesn't matter if it is on a chair, bench or the ground. If you can get their butts down it will delay them from leaving. I explain in advance that sitting down and getting gear off is the best way to help those high pulse rates and blood pressures come down to acceptable levels.

Note that I do not say normal — it is unlikely their heart rates will be 90 and the blood pressures 120/80. And clinically, it does not have to be.

This will often take a bit of couching, but be persistent.

2. Attach an anchor
As soon as possible, attach everyone to a machine. This also makes them less likely to wander off. I often hook a pulse-ox to one firefighter and the automatic BP cuff to another. I carry a co-oximeter as well and will attach that to a third.

This also gathers data. I know that manual BPs may actually be better, and I doublecheck any unexpected values. But this shows them we are moving quickly to get the information we need.

3. Have an attraction
In a perfect world, I like to have most or all of the water in the rehab area so members have to come into the evaluation area to get it. If there is a cooler on every bumper, why do they need to come to rehab?

This may not always be practical, however, because we really do want to encourage fluid intake even when not in the rehab sector. So I try to make sure there is no obvious or visible water within eyesight of my evaluation area, thus they are less likely to wander.

4. Have scribes
Have an established and simple rehab form to gather the name, company and vital signs as well as the entry and exit times. If you have non-medical staff that responded to the scene or a neighboring EMS member, they can assist in writing this info down while the EMTs and paramedics can be EMTs and paramedics.

They should not be random civilians due to privacy concerns, but large fires often draw a number of responders, at least early on.

5. Have a chat
When in the rehab sector, I start chatting with the firefighters coming through. While it is more helpful if I know them, I can still get a pretty good idea of how they are feeling.

It is highly unlikely a firefighter will say, "Hey doc, I feel really lousy; I think I should stay in the sector a bit longer, maybe even go to the hospital." I expect military docs have the same problem to a much higher degree.

Thus, I just get them talking. Often I will ask them about the conditions inside. That also gives me an idea of what to expect injury wise.

If they are talking in full sentences, look good, are not winded, have fairly normal (expected) vital signs and deny and concerning symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness, then I’m done. I move on to the next.

But if they have a glazed over look, are unable to focus or have difficulty speaking, then I don't care how much they deny — I'm concerned. These get funneled to the medical area for further evaluation and care.

6. Have a plan
Once the set of vitals is obtained and we know we are just in the rest and refresh stage, let the member know what is happening.

"Your heart rate is a bit high at 180 — we need it to be 120 before we can cut you lose. Sit down, cool off, get some fluids and we will re-check it in 10 minutes."

Then enforce it. If they leave before we clear them, I advise the safety officer. Once you do that the first time it will be noticed — and elopers will be less common. But if they see we are wishy-washy and there are no consequences, they are out of there.

7. Be professional
Regardless of how old you are, if you act like a kid you are going to get the respect of a kid. Have a uniform and not shorts and flip-flops.

Make sure your equipment is staged and working; know how to use it. Know what data you need and know your protocols that hopefully the firefighter has been informed of in advance.

These are just a few examples of how to be more efficient in your rehab sector. By being efficient we will make sure we gather the data we need to make an informed decision about when the firefighter can get back in the saddle.

We will minimize the number of firefighters who leave early and hopefully catch any life-threatening conditions early and address them.

Stay safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Funding Opportunities: What's in Your Backyard?

Posted on Mon, 11 Aug 2008 20:36:01 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis intervention teams: Helping our own

Posted on Mon, 16 May 2011 17:01:15 UTC

In the public safety field, one of the least addressed topics is the mental wellness of our responders. When tragedy and violence hit, we're the first to be there. Having to care for people when they are at their worst, and having to deal with the impact of the call, can take its toll.

This tends to impact the first responders in many different ways. These individuals might be the first people to see the tragedy but they are the last to admit that it has had any emotional or mental effect to them. So, when an outside group comes in to intervene or defuse the situation, there is resistance from the first responders

First responders tend to rely on their comrades in the field. When outside groups or people try to intervene, the responders tend to be reluctant to their offers of help. "You have no idea what we do" is usually the cause for reluctance.

This is why we created a peer-driven support group that we call the Horry County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The team is made up of 11 peer support members, four councilors, one training instructor and one chaplain.

The CIT is continuing to grow and manage all of its internal staff as well as other departments in the local area. They are also recruiting police and 911 dispatchers to round off the group. This will make the CIT very versatile.

Horry County Fire Rescue covers more than 1,134 square miles and responds to more than 42,000 calls per year. The department is made up of 275 full-time uniformed staff and 200 volunteers.

The CIT for Horry County is no stranger to unique and very stressful calls. Some of the calls that the CIT has had to intervene with have been:

  • Horry County Fire Rescue roll-over engine call that had three firefighters and a lieutenant trapped
  • Horry County Fire Rescue volunteer went into cardiac arrest during a medical call and had to be intervened by the same members who responded with him
  • Horry County responded to a fellow firefighter's home, where he had already committed suicide. The crew prior to his shift from his own station responded
  • Multiple child abuse calls; some with death as a result
  • Multiple drowning calls involving children at local motel pools
  • Motor vehicle accident deaths involving children and infants
  • Multi- casualty incidents involving a large number of deaths

These are just some of the calls that have made an impact to Horry County Fire Rescue staff over the past couple of years. Those who responded to these have had the opportunity to get help from the CIT with positive results.

The CIT has also put together a White Paper to describe some of the statistics from the past three years. This paper will give other departments information in the field of crisis management so that they too can make their wellness program complete. Check it out here

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.

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."

Part 2: How different generations see the fire service

Posted on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:35:05 UTC

By Paul Stein and Ettore Berardinelli

In the last article that we wrote on generation gaps in the fire service and we spent a lot of time on the Traditionalist (born 1935 to 1945). In this article we will identify birth years and the impact they have on one's life orientations and tendencies.

The birth years defining generations are generalities, definitely not scientific and are not "carved in stone."

You might identify with more than one generation if your birth year falls near the beginning or end of a given generation. If you fall into that category, consider yourself a "cusper," someone who spans two generations.

Cuspers can be a valuable resource in any work group because they can identify with two generations. They can foster understanding between the two different groups and are often skilled at mediating, translating and mentoring between two different value systems.

With that said, let's explore some different generational characteristics. First, let's review the Traditionalist.

The Traditionalist: Born 1935 to 1945
Traditionalists are very patriotic, showing strong loyalty to their country and their employer. They have worked longer than any other generation and are now either approaching retirement or retired and, because of their generational characteristics, are probably still working in their retirement.

Although as children they lived through World War II, the world was rosy for the traditionalist. Most of their parents served in World War II, or on the home front, dealt with the fears, losses and acute shortages created by that world conflict.

These parents were very strict and maintained control of their children. Dad was the "bread winner" and "wore the pants in the family," while most mothers were stay-at-home moms. Don't try to tell these parents that children should never be spanked and/or that their kids had a right to privacy!

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
Individuals born in this generation got to observe, or maybe even experience, the hippie era. Think about the Traditionalist we just discussed, living through this era of "free love," Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and The Who.

While their kids embraced all of this, it was a case of culture shock for the parents! This generation was best epitomized by the Beatles song "All You Need Is Love."

The Traditionalist thought all you "needed" was hard work! When the Baby Boomers entered the work force, they were compelled to challenge the status quo because of the times they were raised in.

It is ironic that while their parents seldom questioned anything ("Son, you can't fight City Hall!"), this generation was very comfortable asking, why. It seemed to be the most natural thing in the world for them to want to know the "why" of rules and regulations.

Because they had the courage to question the status quo, they deserve a lot of credit for many of the rights and opportunities we now take for granted. Their boundless optimism led many to fight for changes that improved many facets of both our work and family lives.

Due to their large numbers, they faced competition from each other for jobs. In the private work sector Baby Boomers invented the 60-hour workweek, figuring that demonstrating hard work and loyalty to employers was one way to succeed.

Their sense of who they are is deeply connected to their career achievements. So, as you can see, while this generation may have questioned the status quo, they did retain the work ethic of their Traditionalist parents. As a whole, this generation is politically adept when navigating political minefields in the workplace.

Generation X'ers: Born 1965 to 1981
This generation could actually be called the Tech Generation, having grown up in the era of the advent of video games and personal computers. The influences of the Baby Boomers' values and strong work ethic collided with what they actually observed growing up.

This generation was the first to witness skyrocketing divorce rates, parents being laid off after years of dedicated service to their employers, challenges to the presidency and other unnerving scandals involving organized religion and big corporations.

This erosion of what their parents held dear and had raised them to believe as a given instilled a sense of skepticism and distrust of institutions. Because they haven't seen employer loyalty, their loyalty quotient to an employer can be very low.

In contrast to the Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers believe that work is not the most important thing in their lives. They are resourceful and hardworking, but once their workday is over, they're outta there!

Having actually grown up right along with the multitude of technology advances, they have a firm grasp of the latest innovations and have little patience for those who don't immediately understand it. While technology has the ability to simplify some facets of our lives, it also has the down side of creating a big divide among the generations.

Email, text messaging and teleconferencing is second nature to a generation that finds it necessary to work with an older generation that preferred face-to-face communication. Email, PDA's, iPhones and Blackberrys have replaced the value the older generation found in actual human interactions.

When the Gen X'ers decided to join the fire service, this older generation's expectation was that these "new kids" would enthusiastically adopt the values and work ethic of the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist generations.

As with other generational interactions, this expectation never came to fruition. Ironically, we now see the Gen X'ers making the same mistake with the Millennials.

It seems fitting that the Gen X'ers are now facing the same melding of values that the Traditionalists had to deal with when Baby Boomers entered the fire service. The Millennials have already shown us that they will not be simply a younger version of the Gen X'ers. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

Millennials Born: 1982 to 1999
Many in this generation are still in school, but the oldest Millennials are now entering the workforce. Millennials have been raised by optimistic parents that have imparted to them an "anything is possible" attitude. Their parents have been "fully involved" in the life of the Millennials and have convinced them they control their own destiny, notwithstanding a little help from the parents!

And "a little help from their parents" can mean anything from free room and board into their late twenties, up to and including going to job interviews with the Millennial candidate!

Millennials are eager to learn and question things. They are confident and have high esteem. They reject the notion of being limited by the guidelines established by the organization or the rigid confines of a job description.

Additionally, Millennials don't seem to be motivated by mission statements or by the old standby "it's the good of the organization" philosophy. Think about how this clashes with the paramilitary nature of the fire service, civil service job classifications and rules and regulations.

Some people feel that the Millennials are not prepared to work in the fire service. The real question is, is the fire service ready for the Millennials?

In the first article we wrote, we included comments by our friend Dave Hubert. In this article, we are including a comment regarding values from my (PHS) grandson Jason.

Jason is 25 years old so that places him in the category of a cusper spanning the Gen-X'er and the Millennial generations. He is a graduate of Loyal Marymount University and currently working as a financial consultant. Here are his thoughts.

"I am what is termed a Gen X’er, a moniker that is usually offered in the same tone as 'young whippersnapper,' and for all intents and purposes, they are probably interchangeable, given the way they are used.

"However, I would consider myself a Traditionalist, and I know many of friends view themselves in a similar way. I believe in the same fundamental principles that spawned the Industrial Revolution and created the Post Great War American culture; that of working hard, providing for your family and an assiduous pursuit of the American dream.

"I do, however, have an additional perspective that I believe offers a distinction between my generation and that of the more traditional generations of the last 50 years: I strive to attain a work/life balance. This is a term very common amongst the current generation.

"While we still wish to work hard and demonstrate our dedication, we also wish to maintain a fulfilling life outside of work — clearly delineating between the two and striving for advancement in both concurrently.

This balancing act can sometimes place additional pressures on the younger worker, which can often be misconstrued as laziness, indifference or a lack of respect for authority. While that can sometimes be the case, it is more likely that there is an underlying imbalance trying to resolve itself. The balancing act doesn't always work, but we’re a generation that thinks anything is possible."

We agree with Jason. In our generation, most people measured the quality of life by the list accolades, achievements, and how many toys they had. In its simplest terms, success is getting what we want, and most people want wealth and status.

Yet as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they don't have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring loving relationships.

Peace of mind doesn't preclude ambition or desire for material possessions or high position, but it assumes a fundamental foundation of contentment, gratitude, and pride — a belief that whatever one has is enough and an active appreciation for the good things in life.

We know people that have dedicated their life to early promotion in the fire service. Most have achieved their goal, however, in the process they have lost their family, friends, and sometimes, even themselves.

Our question to them is, "Was it worth it?"

We would like to hear from people of your generation. Share your thoughts with us regarding your life's orientation, especially if you see these observations in a much different way.

Paul Stein and Ettore Berardinelli served as chiefs for the Santa Monica (Calif.) Fire Department.

‘The only easy day was yesterday’

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

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

Let’s take this one.

“The only easy day was yesterday”

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

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

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

People take action for one of two reasons:

1.) Avoid pain
2) Gain pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

What does it mean to you?

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


HAZMAT Response Video Supplement: Personal Protective Equipment

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

Cold Water Challenge Face-off: Fiery Four Semi-Finals

Posted on Mon, 25 Aug 2014 14:10:06 UTC

After a week of voting, the fourth round of the Cold Water Challenge Face-off guessing game has its winner! Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, a frequent and regular contributing author to FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, just barely beat out Chief John M. Buckman III, Fire Chief's editorial advisor, with a total of 35 votes versus his 32 votes.

Chief Siarnicki advances to the Fiery Four semi-final round.

For those new to the game, the face-off challenge 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.

Lorraine Carli has been the face and voice of the National Fire Protection Association since 2006 as its vice president of communications; she now serves as its vice president of outreach and advocacy. Prior to joining NFPA, Carli was a public relations consultant working with health care, medical technology, government, and non-profit organizations.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

You can follow the results here:


Updates every minute - View full tournament

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 cadets and fire departments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References
http://www.sandiego.gov

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.

Lessons from real and simulated events

Posted on Mon, 14 Jan 2013 18:17:45 UTC

"Science with its 'dust free' environments and 'laboratory conditions,' has given us a pattern for approaching the natural world of things: we stabilize the environment, bring together a number of elements, and observe the results. We call those results 'facts.'" — Thomas Cloakley, Command and Control for War and Peace

I sat through a simulated event. There were pictures in front of me of a structure fire. I had a pencil and a radio and one of those paper command sheets that encourage the fine art of box checking. In the scenario one of my crews experienced an emergency soon after I arrived on scene.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. A real call that was possibly a big deal but probably not. I found it difficult to manage, not so much because there were a lot of people in some danger, but rather because the potential for some people to be in a lot of danger was high.

The difference between the two events was striking. In the simulation I was faced with a once in a career high-stress event. In the simulation it was quite likely that two firefighters were in the process of dying right in front of me.

However, in the sanitized world of simulations I did not find my self under any stress. My voice was not cracking; I did not feel the characteristic tightening of the shoulders and gut. It was just a game.

"Facts are very comfortable things to deal with because they are so stable. What was a fact yesterday will be a fact tomorrow, so long as the environment stays the same." — Cloakley

Crucial part of practice
I realize that simulations are more than games. They are a crucial part of practice and can provide critical insights into how one might behave when faced with the real thing. They are not to be taken lightly, but then they are not real in the same way that toy cars are not real cars.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. It was not so real that it made the evening news, not real enough to warrant a mention in the local newspaper. But is was real in the way that makes your shoulders tighten, your perception narrow and your heart rate increase just enough to fog over your processes.

What I think I learned, or perhaps re-learned, is that nothing can simulate the physiological and psychological effects of being placed under critically stressful conditions. In real life people don't answer the radio, or if they do you might miss the transmission.

In real life the time pressure compounded by the temporal distortion is made worse by the lack of good information and topped off with excessive amounts of useless information, creating a potent recipe for disaster.

"…Unfortunately, that kind of fact-oriented approach does not work very well when we're dealing with people and people issues. Human dynamics are simply too complex." — Cloakley

I am a big fan of written control objectives; I believe in them. I preach control objectives to my subordinates.

However, in that real moment I found that I did not so much as write control objectives as I projected them in understated ways, cloaked in the thin veil of tactical orders. In many ways I was just doing stuff.

Seeing the big picture
Compared to the available research on such things, what I did was hardly different from what most people do under stress, but this time for some reason it felt more real.

What I think I learned is that it is always harder to step back and consider the big picture when you are tied up in the little picture. The world of real incidents cannot be summed up in simulations and it cannot be reliably dissected in post-mortem evaluations. This makes execution hard and it makes evaluation harder.

Colonel John Boyd is reported to have said:
"When thing went wrong at the Pentagon, really wrong, you'd always hear some bright guy in a business suit complaining that a country able to land a man on the moon should be able to carry out an operations on the earth: raid Hanoi, drop into Tehran, whatever. I always pointed out to these smart alecks that as I recalled, the moon didn't hide, move around under its own steam, or shoot back."

Maybe that is difference with real incidents — in many ways they hide, move and shoot back.

Part 2: Paradox of prevention and fire porn

Posted on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:01:50 UTC

Needless to say, it has been an interesting past few weeks since my column about the paradox of prevention and fire porn. I certainly knew that I would push some buttons and draw criticism, but I had hoped to generate conversation about the issues I brought up.

I quickly realized that it was going to be a big deal. The column was shared in many blogs and websites including Statter911 where my pal Dave Statter claimed to be Larry Flynt of the fire industry, thus, I assume, making me Jerry Falwell.

I would personally like to thank everyone who responded. I appreciate all of your insights, positions, and points of view regardless of whether in agreement or not.

While I've been called names and received hate mail, I also received tremendous support on my position. I wanted to respond because the over-riding theme of the column was missed by many. I hope the conversation and takeaways will continue as that was my purpose.

Power of the headline
As I stated in a couple of posts, I was not excited about the column's title. It was not my selection and I don't think it painted an accurate picture of the article. I certainly don't believe that fire porn hurts that fire service as much as it attests to the fact that it is what draws attention to the magazines and websites.

I don't believe many could get past the title to read the article before their opinion and bias was formed. However, I'm not sure it may have had the same impact in the fire service or drew the same attention if the title were different.

For many years, the National Enquirer was the top selling newspaper. It was strategically placed in the checkout lines, and even to this day, the headlines catch your eye. But using the term fire porn was for shock and awe purposes, and it too got everyone's attention.

My friends Dave Statter from Statter911 and Rhett Fleitz from The Fire Critic used the column to their advantage by driving traffic and comments to their websites as it was a hot topic. I would like to publically thank them for being supportive on the message and intent that I presented, even though they were not in total agreement because they post an abundance of those fire videos that I referred to.

They maintained their integrity, and even took a little heat with me and for me. So, the lesson learned here is that if you want to get your message out, sometimes you've got to take a risk to capture attention, and also rely on your friends to see the truth.

Question missed
Another lesson learned is to get your question answered, you sometimes have to ask it again. There were plenty of comments that supported the fact that prevention and community risk reduction isn't as popular or attractive as suppression.

I agree; I even said that in the article. But how do we make it sexy? How can we change the fire service culture to build more support and incorporate it in all of our duties and responsibilities more than just giving it lip service?

If changing magazine covers, conference presentations, and videos that include more prevention functions isn't the answer, then what is? I didn't see the questions answered and I am still looking. I hope they soon emerge.

It seems many missed the point in the column. I never said the fire porn should be eliminated. I said that we should begin incorporating, actually assimilating our members to, more photos and videos of prevention and risk reduction into our magazine covers, content, websites and conferences.

Missing the point
My point wasn't an attack on suppression, it was to promote prevention and find a way to make it as sexy, popular and as important as suppression. My attack was on our culture that there still is a belief that suppression is the only reason the fire service exists of which our constant exposure to only those images and videos could contribute.

I stated in the article that I have and always will support suppression as it is when training, preparation and opportunity meet. There is a time and place that we will lay it on the line, be aggressive, and risk more than what normal civilians will. At that moment, for the individual we respond to, that is the purpose of the fire service.

That means we should be well trained, brave, and fit to do the job for when that time arises. I would never suggest anything other than that, and I or anyone else would be reckless to say such.

The point is that it also takes bravery to engage in non-suppression activities such as prevention and risk reduction. And if we say that our mission is to protect lives and property, it equally applies in prevention. However, I will never accept that we only exist for suppression.

A good shepherd
From a blog I read, I also understand there are those who wish to be the "sheepdog" preparing for when the wolf shows up, because the sheepdog can protect the sheep. I agree; that is certainly needed because the wolf's arrival is always a risk.

However, a good shepherd should take every opportunity to reduce the risk of the wolf to protect both the sheep and the sheepdog because often instinct can result in tunnel vision of the overall mission. While the sheepdog may fend off one wolf, others could silently and secretly attack.

It doesn't mean that we won't fight the wolf, but the focus should be on making every effort to prevent the wolf from coming, not just fighting it. Equally, fires don't show up just because the sheepdog is there, or in this case, the firefighter.

Like the sheep, most of the American public is complacent about fire. Why wait for something to happen before we fight it when we should make every effort to prevent it?

Prevention is not absolute
Although there was little conversation about sprinklers, the fact is we will always be fighting fires. Not every building and home will be sprinkled, and things will happen that aren't preventable.

I wasn't completely accurate when I said that we only respond when prevention has failed. That is a majority of the case; hence, cooking is the number one cause of residential fires.

However, my good friend Chief Bobby Halton, reached out to me to respectfully disagree. He pointed out that natural disasters and events beyond our control will always happen. Chief Halton was correct and in my haste of getting the point across, I missed it.

Many of the comments said that the videos are a great training tool for individuals and departments. As said by many, with the lack of structural fire training, and even more with the lack of working fires, these videos provide a value to a great many.

It was pleasing to see that said so frequently. I too grew up on FETN and fire videos and learned a great deal from them. The next step is to share best practices on how we do that effectively.

Everyone is watching and reading
On some sites since the article, I have seen more questions asking what appropriate strategies and tactics should be implemented of the videos posted, rather than just throwing a video up.

I would further suggest that these videos be used for prevention purposes equally to help elected officials and the public to understand how important prevention and code development truly is and what can occur with the lack thereof.

A nugget to consider is that firefighters are not the only ones with Internet access. Keep in mind that the video and images of someone's possessions going up in flames is also accessible by that very customer.

Because we tend to beat each other up in the blogs and comments on these videos and images, question strategy and tactics, that customer who lost everything can begin questioning the capabilities of the organization that responded.

So when using these videos as many say they do, keep that in mind.

More encouragingly was the amount of support for prevention that exists. While there were many who respectively disagreed with some or all of what I wrote, there were more who were in agreement.

To me it indicates that we are making progress. And if writing that article was to begin that movement openly, then I would write it again.

Let me be clear
I love the fire service. Even in my career after the fire service, I still eat and breathe the fire service. In my role now, my goal is to contribute to making the fire service better than it was when I arrived. I believe that is all any of us wish to do.

However, sometimes that means we have to question the norm and the culture, as well as do things at the risk of hurting feelings and relationships.

That I have done.

I know there are those who have distanced themselves from me now and question my loyalty to the fire service, or even think this was a publicity stunt to gain "stardom."

Let me be clear, I risked my reputation in the profession I love only because I want to make it better. Going with the flow isn't an option. Watching 37,000 people die in fires since 2002 is not acceptable.

Reading reports of hundreds of firefighters dying in the line of duty and thousands injured responding to and operating at events that could have been prevented is heartbreaking. Watching prevention budgets be slashed because it's not the most important function of our job is criminal.

The black sheep
You can question many things about me as an individual, but my loyalty and love of the fire service is non-negotiable. We are in a tough profession that can be brutal and often very polar in opinions, such as suppression versus prevention.

I knew what I was getting in to and what I may be subject to when I wrote the article. And while I could have phrased some things differently, my values, beliefs and integrity are what I stand on.

If I must stand on the outside as the black sheep of the family because of my passion for prevention and the desire to save lives other than by rescue, so be it. I'll take my place.

I would ask you to read the original article again. I know there will still be some who disagree, but I think if you get past the title, think about the content, and evaluate our culture, maybe you can see the point — agree or disagree.

While I know this article will probably never get the traction or shares as the first, I want you to walk away with the idea that discussion was created. I think it will continue for some time, which is healthy.

I'm not a fan of the term "fire porn" as it was something I heard 24 years ago as a rookie, and repeated often throughout my career — even by some who now are in disagreement with what I have said here. After this article, I won't use it in my writings again.

As I asked one of the editors when he would produce a prevention cover photo of his respective publication, he said it may take some time. Planting the seed was the first step.

Now, I challenge each of you, when you see the cover of your next magazine or watch the next video on the web, before you engage in strategy and tactical discussion, ask two questions:

  • How did it start?
  • What could have been done to prevent it?

We may not get the answer, but if we can incorporate some of that thought process, my goal would has been met.

Be safe!

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.

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.