3 legal lessons to learn from 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otterbox cases offer robust smartphone protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Rosenbauer steps into the chassis market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

More uses for locking pliers

Posted on Fri, 30 Mar 2012 21:36:44 UTC

Previously, I looked at how to maximize locking pliers; here are some additional uses. Locking pliers can be used in a number of ways to keep different styles of self-closing doors open.

As seen above, clamping the locking pliers on the hinge of a self-closing door can prevent to door from closing. The top hinge is the most preferred location because it keeps the tool up where it can be seen, and lessens the chance of leaving it behind.

Certain styles of door-closing mechanisms also can be held open by clamping to tool directly on the door closer itself.

The photo above shows the locking pliers being used to hold open a storm door. This works well when the normal keeper, or door open clip, is broken or missing.

The main problem with storm doors is that they typically involve a piano-style hinge, which have a four- to six-inch gap beneath them when in the open position. These features make it nearly impossible to use a standard door wedge with any success.

The photo above shows the locking pliers being used to prevent a magnetic lock from locking the door. Placing the tool on the magnet prevents the door from latching closed.

This simple trick is helpful when walking through a building while investigating an activated fire alarm, during a pre-incident plan walk through, or other nonemergency situations.

On some door handles the locking pliers can be clamped on the handle allowing the tool to extend in front of the latching mechanism to prevent the door from locking. This too is useful during nonemergency situations.

Some styles of rim locks can be twisted off with a set of locking pliers, allowing for a through-the-lock method of forcible entry.

Locking pliers also have nonforcible-entry uses. Here, the pliers are being used to shut off a gas meter. This technique works well in confined-space situations where obstructions prevent larger tools, like a Halligan bar, from reaching and operating the valve.

Locking pliers can be used in a number of different ways on the fireground. With the simple eye-bolt modification and a creative mind, this tool is tremendously useful to have on hand.

Is your firefighting PPE certified, and what does that mean?

Posted on Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:53:04 UTC

Mandatory third-party certification has been in place for firefighter PPE since the early 1990s. In the approximate 25 years since its introduction, this requirement has helped the fire service better recognize products that comply with the various National Fire Protection Association standards.

Prior to that time, product manufacturers were allowed to do their own testing and self-declare that their gear met the respective standards. While some may argue that certification goes too far and adds unnecessary cost to protective clothing and equipment, the vast majority of end users agree that certification makes their lives easier and safer.

The process of establishing standards for turnout gear and other forms of emergency response clothing and equipment entails deciding on the right type of requirements to offer minimum levels of protection and how compliance with the requirements is properly demonstrated.

All NFPA standards for PPE include requirements for third-party certification. As the name implies, this certification is carried out by an organization that is independent of the manufacturer and thus offers an impartial assessment.

In fact, NFPA specifies that only organizations that are accredited specifically for certifying protective clothing and equipment can perform certification. In addition, certification organizations have to demonstrate competency in being able to run the various tests found in each the standards and have those capabilities accredited as well.

Certifying the certifiers
Even the accreditation organizations that qualify the certification organizations themselves have to be accredited. The hope is that this process manages to prevent any slipshod practices, whether intended or not, from bringing unsuitable gear to the marketplace.

Though the process is not perfect, fire service PPE certification entails one of the highest quality conformity assessment processes of any protective clothing and equipment in world.

Certification is much more than just testing against the requirements in a standard. It entails a much more thorough review to ensuring that products will conform to the standard.

The actual testing is relatively limited. In most cases, only a few samples are subjected to various tests and evaluations. This level of sampling is by no means statistically representative of the large numbers of product that are manufactured.

Quality-assurance programs
Certification relies on the manufacturer's implementation of a comprehensive quality-assurance program. It provides details of the manufacturing process to enable consistent material and component selection as well as their assembly into a final product the same way each time.

A good program is about recordkeeping and the ability to trace each part that goes into a product's construction. The certification organization must review the manufacturer's quality-assurance program and audit this process at least twice a year.

Auditors collect samples from various manufacturing plants and send them to the laboratory for follow-on testing. This will determine if the product still meets the requirements in the standard. Thus, certification is an ongoing process and not just one-time qualification.

Certification organizations will only certify products that have completely met all requirements in the standard as well as any others the certification organization has. For example, certification organizations generally require manufacturers to have certain minimum levels of product liability insurance — NFPA has several requirements such as having programs for safety alerts and product recall.

No guarantee
Certification organizations are also responsible for investigating any complaints of malperformance in the field of any certified product.

If a fire department finds a problem with a particular product and thinks it is related to its certification, the certification organization is obliged to look into the matter, conduct an investigation if warranted and report its findings back to the organization initiating the complaint.

The fire service relies on products being certified to knowing whether a product is appropriate or not. In general, this reliance is a good thing because individual first responders have some confidence that the product meets a minimum standard.

On the other hand, meeting the minimum standard is no guarantee that protection will be offered to first responders in all cases. Many departments choose to exceed the minimum requirements and rely on the certification data as the prerequisite for considering any product for implementation within their own organization.

Questions arise all the time as to whether products are certified. All certified products a label indicating that the product meets the respective NFPA standard. This statement is exact wording from the standard itself that must be put on the label clearly identifying the standard and the edition of that standard.

In addition, the product label must also display the certification organization's mark or logo as evidence of certification. Each certification organization will only permit those manufacturers that fully qualify within their own programs to use their mark. Fraudulent use of a certification organization's mark will lead to legal action.

Firefighters also can go to the certification organization's web site to determining whether the product is listed. Third-party certification requires products be listed when certified.

Each certification organization maintains a list of certified products to the different standards for which it provides certification services. The two principal certification organizations in the U.S. are the Safety Equipment Institute seinet.org and Underwriters' Laboratories ul.com.

Code cracker
The most effective way to find all products listed to a given standard is to have the category code.

These category codes vary with each standard. Some common product category codes for the UL website for certified structural firefighting clothing against NFPA 1971 include QGVC for garments and hoods, QGVC for helmets, QGVA for gloves, and QGVK for footwear.

The actual listings will indicate specific manufacturer and the respective products have been certified. In most cases, products are identified by their model number and may include a list of certain features that have been qualified.

The way that different manufacturer products are broken down into these listings may vary with the certification organization, but generally there should be some identifier such as a model or style number that can be used to identify the correct product.

If the product you are inquiring about is not in the list then you should first check with the manufacturer and then the certification organization.

Ever changing
NFPA standards' certification is not indefinite; it is an ongoing and has a limited life. Approximately every five years, NFPA standards are updated through a revision process.

In all cases, products have to be certified to the newest edition at the time they are manufactured at some fixed time after the standard's new edition has been released. This means that only current certified products can be listed.

This further means that products cannot be certified to older editions and that products after grace period must be removed from the shelves unless certified to the new edition of the standard.

Products in the field are grandfathered to the standard when they were certified. An existing product does not fall out of compliance just because a new edition of a standard has been introduced.

Our hope is that all fire and emergency service organizations use only products that comply with the NFPA standards. These standards include certain rigors to impose minimum requirements deemed to provide appropriate levels of minimum protection to firefighters and other first responders.

The standards cannot guarantee protection under all conditions, yet the use and recognition of certified products is one way to help minimize the risks of the extremely hazardous work undertaken by the fire and emergency services.

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:

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Spotlight: HeatSeeker offers rehab tool built by firefighters for firefighters

Posted on Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:11:08 UTC

Company Name: HeatSeeker Technology & Design
Signature Product: HeatSeeker Mini Six Shooter
Website: http://www.firegroundrehab.com/

HeatSeeker Technologies & Design LLC. was founded by firefighters with a sharp eye focused on reducing firefighter heat-related injuries suffered while working on scene. The organizational mission of HeatSeeker Technologies & Design LLC. is to provide innovative rehabilitation solutions to today's fire service professionals and to communities where the risk for heat-related illness to workers, athletes and citizens exist.

Where did your company name originate from?
I wanted the name of the company to be part of the product and HeatSeeker is what this tool is all about.

What was the inspiration behind starting your company?
I was fighting a house fire in the fall of 2011 and exited the structure to change my air bottle and found one of my crew members on the ground almost unconscious with heat stress. We moved him away from the scene and removed his gear. He was so hot and red. We gave him some water and a wet towel around his neck, because that’s all we had. He survived that day but it could have been much worse.

Why do you believe your products are essential to the fire community?
I was a volunteer the first 12 years in the fire service where budgets are very tight. I could not tell you how many times I had to drink from my hose line because we had no coolers or bottled water, let alone misting fans to cool us down.

What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?
Visibility and marketing. We are a few firefighters trying to make the fireground a safer place and to promote on-the-job safety. We run off a very tight budget to keep prices down and make our products affordable to all departments.

What makes your company unique?
We are firefighters and know what we have and don’t have to help us perform our duties to the best of our ability. There’s nothing better than a tool built by firefighters for firefighters.

What do your customers like best about you and your products?
We are very affordable and our product is an immediate option to reduce heat stress. In return, it allows firefighters to get back in the fight safely.

What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
There are so many of our brothers and sisters who pay the ultimate price with heat stress every day. There is no better paycheck than knowing that you are helping so many people. I know our units will save lives and also keep our firefighters out of the hospital. Heart attacks are among the top killers in the fire service and I strongly believe that heat stress is a leading factor to cardiac issues.

Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety?
Yes, we donate a portion of sales to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, First Descents and the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund. We believe helping the people and organizations that provide assistance to those that have already given so much to this service places us firmly on the right path.

What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?
We are currently working on a system to remove all emissions from the fireground.

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.

7 common fire grant rejection letter questions answered

Posted on Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:14:42 UTC

If you recently received a turndown letter for your 2013 AFG grant application, you are not alone. FEMA generated several thousand letters as the first round of rejections were relayed to applicants.

Just like clockwork, applicants, after receiving their letter, began the process of trying to determine why their application didn't get funded. If you were one of these applicants, here are some suggestions to help you understand the letter and why you received it.

Let's begin by looking at the three types of turndown letters and the reasons for them. The first type is received because the application did not score high enough in the preliminary review. The preliminary review is an electronic review of your application by a computer.

During this phase of the review process, the computer screens an application to see how closely the answers align with the priorities established by FEMA for this year's AFG program. If your application scores high enough, it is sent to a three-person peer review committee, which reads and scores your narratives.

Peer reviewed
The second group of turndown letters are those that make it to peer review but do not score high enough to be considered for funding.

The third type of letters go to applicants who scored high enough in peer review for consideration, but the AFG program simply exhausted all of its funding before getting to those applications.

Every year, when the first group of turndown letters arrives, I hear the same complaints from applicants. They sound something like this:

  • My turndown letter sounds exactly like my neighbors and exactly like someone I communicate with online who is three states away.
  • My letter really doesn't address our application.
  • What was my score and is there a way to request my score?
  • Why are there references to the AFG Guidance and FOA in my letter?
  • Does my regional FEMA person have a copy of this?
  • Is there any way to appeal this decision?
  • Does FEMA offer tutoring to applicants who haven't had an AFG funded?

Form letter
First, yes your letter is probably exactly like everyone else's. Given the number of letters that must be generated some elements of your letter, such as the initial introduction are boilerplate. These paragraphs are simply an explanation of the AFG program and review process.

Because FEMA receives so many applications, they simply are not able to develop individual rejection letters. Instead the letters are developed around groups of applicants who applied for similar projects.

The next several paragraphs of your letter are generated using the sections of the AFG FOA on which your application scored the lowest. Because these letters are based on groups of applicants, all of the information in this section may not pertain specifically to your application.

It will, however, provide general areas where your application fell short. For example, if your application request was for diesel exhaust removal equipment, and your letter is referencing the sections of the FOA that state the highest priority is to stations that have sleeping quarters, and are occupied 24/7, your station is probably not staffed seven days a week.

Your turndown letter may also cite the fact that AFG does not fund modifications to stations built after 2003. Your station was built in 1955. These citations are provided to give as close of a reference within the FOA as possible, but may include several related references based on the grouping of questions in the application.

Knowing the score
No, FEMA does not issue applicants their score and there is no process to request them. At this point in the process rejected applicants would only have a partial score anyway since their application did not go to peer review.

Even after peer review, your score wouldn't mean anything unless you also knew the scale for the application period. Knowing your score would be like saying the Yankees scored five in last night's game. This really isn't enough information to let you know if they won or not.

There is no way to appeal FEMA's decision. In accordance with appeal procedure outlined in the Code of Federal Regulation, FEMA will only reconsider an application "with respect to an initial grant award decision only when the applicant asserts that FEMA made a material technical or procedural error in the processing of the application and can substantiate such assertions."

The citation further goes on to state that "as grants are awarded on a competitive basis…. FEMA cannot consider a request for reconsideration based upon the merits of an original application. Similarly, FEMA will not consider new information provided after the submission of the original application."

Finally, your regional fire program specialist at FEMA does have access to your turndown letter. If you have additional questions you can always contact this person for assistance.

For applicants who have submitted a substantial number of applications without an award, FEMA does have mentoring services available. In the past, FEMA has considered applicants who failed to receive funding on five or six applications in a row to be eligible for a mentor.

This does not occur automatically. If you are interested, you must make an application through your regional FEMA office for the mentor.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food for Thought at the Firehouse Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Command Post Podcast: The value of unified command in Ferguson

Posted on Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:00:00 UTC

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

This week, hosts Lt. Rom Duckworth and Chief Rob Wylie discuss lessons learned from the Ferguson, Mo. shooting.

"The lesson I learned from it is just the absolute importance of unified command when you're bringing in that many resources," Chief Wylie said. "You have to get a hold of it and in front of it as fast as you can."

They also talk about the story involving four Ky. firefighters getting shocked while helping college students participate in an ice bucket challenge.

"Even if you're going to have some fun and raise some money, the minute that ladder comes out of the bed, you got to have your game face on and you have to be paying attention," Chief Wylie said.

In their frontline tactical tips segment, our hosts interview Chris Lyon at Fire-Rescue International (FRI), with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), about their hands-on training program.

Lt. Duckworth and Chief Wylie also had the chance to talk to some of the International Assocation of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) officers about their new initiatives and incoming officers.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned on the show:

Fire, EMS responders share lessons from Ferguson

EMS chief: How first responders handled the Ferguson shooting

4 Ky. firefighters shocked during ice bucket challenge

Special News Report: Fire-Rescue International 2014 in Dallas

Fire Chief Keith Bryant sworn in as IAFC president, chairman

Safety tips for winter-weather response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

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

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

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

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

So why do we need to change directions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek tragedy for firefighters

Posted on Mon, 12 Jul 2010 21:35:47 UTC

By Jay Lowry

What does the Greek financial crisis that hit the headlines earlier in the summer have to do with fire stations being built?

A great deal. Unlike 20 years ago, we live in a very connected world and the global market is influenced by local events with repercussions felt in cities and towns across the United States.

When Greece received a bailout from the European Union, stocks plummeted in the United States — and didn't stop dropping for a while.

Why should firefighters or EMS care?

There is a steady drum beat for financial reform including pension reform, eliminating deficit spending and reducing salaries. These are local effects of a national and even international problem. NFPA 1710 staffing is being attacked as wasteful and the financial crisis helps those who want to have barebones service.

Some firefighters state this was the worst budget year in history. Not hardly.

In many areas, the big bust will be the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 budget cycles.

The mood of the country coupled with rising debt, deficit spending, massive entitlement programs and loss of investor confidence will combine to make the current situation look tame.

Warren Buffett is known as the "Oracle of Omaha" because of his financial acumen. Testifying before Congress last month, and in subsequent interviews, Buffett discussed rising concerns over municipal bonds.

He has divested, as have others, in muni-bonds because cities and counties are finding it very hard to make payments. This is very bad news.

All is not lost. Fire and EMS will survive but both must plan for tighter budgets while educating the public on the importance of the services performed.

The economy will rebound eventually but don't expect it to happen soon. Even so, the effects will have consequences for years to come.

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.

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.

How arrogance can ruin a fire chief's career

Posted on Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:15:55 UTC

"I can't hear what you are saying because your actions are speaking so loudly."

This could often be heard in the classrooms of the parochial school I attended as a young man. There was a low threshold for nonsense, and the instructional staff made the students aware of this fact whenever necessary.

To be clear, the basic schoolhouse translation is "knock off the dumb behavior and get your actions aligned with your words."

It is simple and straightforward advice sometimes overlooked or not followed in our business. The same rule applies to all in the fire service, especially the chief.

13 Career Crushers

  • Revenge
  • Discrimination, harassment and hazing
  • Inattention to details of the organization
  • Troubled personal life
  • Actions not in align with departmental goals and values
  • Declining health
  • Ignoring technology
  • Illegal activity
  • Irreconcilable differences with the boss
  • Lying
  • Political suicide
  • Political ambition
  • Incompetence

If your actions are not aligned with the expressed goals and values of the department, it will be difficult to be an effective leader. In fact, if the leader's personal actions are too extreme and outside the departments focus, this misalignment can become a career crusher, separating the chief from the department in a hurry.

This career crusher is quite a bit different from last month's as it may best be described as a misuse or abuse of one's legal power and authority over another. Arrogance and self-importance is a polite way to describe this career-crushing behavior.

Case 1: The bully
One case that comes to mind is of a chief who often repeated that he would "rather be feared than respected." Of course, the time he was able to wear all five speaking trumpets on his collar was limited.

The chief was eventually pushed out of the department with tremendous wave of negative fanfare. The backlash came from pressure applied by everyone outside this chief's immediate circle — this included fire department members, local media, elected officials and the general public.

Only a poorly prepared and limited-ability leader will resort to using intimidation and "direct orders" on a day-to-day basis to motivate people to accomplish work. Demanding performance behavior is the last choice a leader should deploy and never a starting point.

Leaders who encase themselves in an air of self-importance and arrogance will be repelled by the masses and can never achieve the ultimate prize: a high-trust and high-performance organization.

Arrogance and self-importance
For clarity sake, using the autocratic style of leadership during street operations is generally desirable and effective in getting time-sensitive work completed. However, this process is quite a bit different then an air of a personal superiority.

The results and reactions to this type of inhumane treatment of the membership vary widely. Sadly, poor leadership behaviors generally causes significant internal stress and interfere with the delivery of service to the pubic. Operational performance goes down — plain and simple.

In many cases, the membership is slow to squawk about the horrible behavior and treatment for fear of personal retaliation. However, at some point, even with an elevated level of intimation and pressure, firefighters will break and seek relief from the oppressor.

The members will reach out to the local media or to friendly elected officials for external help to overcome the tyrant's wrath. Neither of these options is in anyone's best interest and could be avoided if the leader keeps his priorities (mostly ego) in the proper order.

Organizational misalignment
At this point in the process the situation will deteriorate into complete acrimony, with both sides causing as much damage to the other side as possible. It's not a pretty sight to see or live through.

This situation leads to personal and organizational misalignment. But there are strategies to keep the chief on track, employed and in command of the department.

The most likely root cause of not being aligned with the departmental goals is ego, inflated self-importance and/or incompetence. The well-respected, long-serving Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini said, "Egos can and most times do eats brains."

If the errant chief's thought process is: "Do as I say, not as I do," or: "We follow the golden rule around here. I have the gold and I rule," there will be trouble on the horizon.

Words to live by
Most fire departments will incorporate goals into their mission statement; many will include something like: "Saving lives and property." The senior executives of the agency need to live those words every day.

Every action taken and departmental dollar spent should be measured against reaching the expressed organizational goal. At times, the chief can get derailed by confusing a personal agenda as the organizational one.

When the focus becomes something other than reaching the expressed goal, members will notice and apply resistance trying to get the ship righted and back on course. If the first few waves of resistance are not heeded, a tsunami may be building.

Case 2: Bad hires
In another case study, a fire department lowered the employee entry standards with the goal of hiring city residents, which is a wonderful goal to strive to reach. To do this, however, there was a wanton disregard for previous background issues, which is never a good idea.

Some cadet firefighters with sorted criminal records were placed into positions sensitive to public safety. It was no surprise when the local media reported that 24 firefighters had been arrested in just a few short months from the same department.

Once you lose sight of what is important to the department, disaster soon follows. Hiring idiots, thugs and military misfits is never a good idea, regardless of the reason or attempt to justify this major misstep. Always maintain entry-level hiring and membership standards.

Effective public-safety chiefs are always focused on holding and improving the public's trust in their organizations. If residents and visitor fail to have a reasonable measure of trust in the department, they will not call upon it unless it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps this delay will cause the window of being effective assisting in an emergency to close.

Further, the public will only support (financially and morally) the agencies that it trusts. Losing the public's trust, regardless of the reason — such as not being aligned with the departmental goals — is a devastating blow. It will take new leadership a long time to overcome this catastrophic failure.

Walking the talk
The best way that a chief can avoid this negative behavior is to always lead by example. If the chief follows the policies, procedures and protocols of the organization, it sends a loud message to the membership to do the same.

Rather than being all talk, the chief must walk the talk. Firefighters will quickly pick up on a leader who is only paying lip service to role-modeling the desired behaviors demanded of the members.

Leaders should never forget where they came from and what it was like working in the important part of the business. If the boss has not served in operations where the rubber meets the road, he or she needs to latch onto someone who is trust and is directly connected to the working end of the department.

The chief should get out on a regular basis and see first hand what the conditions are like out on the streets facing the members.

Next and perhaps the most important requirement is the appointment process that put the leader into power in the first place.

If the selection is based solely on political favor or friendship, the table has been set for the next negative self-serving leader to embarrass the department, the government and the politicians. The fire-service leader must have the requisite skills, knowledge and abilities to do the job.

Until next time, be safe out there.