Innovative EMS ideas are ripe for grant funding

Posted on Thu, 19 Jun 2014 17:11:54 UTC

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

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

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

Which ideas are award-winning?

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation grants will continue to grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

How communication centers can aid incident commanders

Posted on Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:03:09 UTC

By Bob Smith
Director of Strategic Development, APCO International

It's 0300 hours, you're in the front right seat of the first due engine on a multi-story residential structure fire with several exposures. As you climb out of the truck and start your size-up you've got about 10,000 things going through your head.

How many personnel are responding to this fire? Is that enough? What units are responding? Is that enough? Should I call for an additional alarm? Or two? Where should I position the ladder when it gets here? And dozens more. The number and complexity of those things you'll need to consider won't really start to dwindle until the clean-up is over and units are returning to the station.

One of the many things being considered during this process is that of personnel accountability. Who's on the scene, where are they and what are they doing? Another issue is incident development. How long has this fire been burning? How long have we been at this offensive interior attack? Is it time to switch tactics to a defensive exterior attack?

Well let's take a moment to discuss an often overlooked resource that can assist an incident commander with personnel accountability and monitoring incident progress — the communications center. An adequately trained and staffed comm center can assist incident commanders in a multitude of areas beyond the traditional dispatch, information management and resource tracking.

PARs in the fire service
Let's start with accountability. Conducting personnel accountability reports (PAR) during an event of any size has become second nature to the fire service. Effective department accountability programs should incorporate PARs on incidents of any size and of any nature.

A PAR is a tool that allows incident commanders to ensure all personnel on scene are safe and accounted for. This action can easily be carried out by the comm center and many jurisdictions have done just that by training their comm center personnel on how to conduct PARs and how to relay the PAR's findings to the IC. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Another tool that comm centers can provide an IC to assist with personnel safety are regular time checks during an incident. Time checks can be designed so that beginning at a certain point in the incident — say 10 minutes after the first unit arrives on scene or the IC announces that knockdown has begun — the comm center staff will notify the IC every 10 to 20 minutes.

We all know that 10 minutes worth of free burning in a traditional structure fire can make the difference between a successful knockdown and leaving nothing but the foundation. Also, most departments have limits to the amount of time they will allow personnel to remain inside a building during interior attack modes.

This "heads up" from the comm center allows the IC to monitor the passage of time during an incident without having to actually watch a clock themselves. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Emergency evacuations
Another area that allows for comm centers to assist ICs during an incident is playing a role in a department's emergency evacuation process. Many agencies across the country have developed emergency evacuation plans that incorporate steps such as having the comm center make evacuation announcements over primary and tactical channels and even activating pagers and radio alerts on scene.

To accomplish this, the comm center personnel must be trained in the department's evacuation plan and the plan must be tested regularly. In addition, comm centers that serve multiple fire departments should encourage all departments to adopt similar evacuation procedures to prevent confusion should a department need an evacuation announcement made during an incident.

All of these actions combined with routine responder safety actions such as monitoring the radio for Mayday calls or other unexpected traffic can increase the level of service and assistance your local comm center can provide to your department.

To accomplish this though, the comm center must have a highly trained and professional staff equipped with the most current tools and resources available. It is the responsibility of every firefighter and officer to encourage your local comm center to ensure their personnel are trained and equipped to the highest level. Because as the old saying goes, "the life you save may be your own."

Fire cadets and fire departments

Posted on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:22:38 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

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

Posted on Fri, 13 Jun 2014 01:00:00 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

7 truths about fire service retirement

Posted on Tue, 3 Mar 2015 15:34:49 UTC

Retirement from a life-long career can be a stressful event, regardless of the field. Research conducted in the military and law enforcement fields shows that retirement from a career in public safety can be more stressful than retirement from the civilian workforce.

Most firefighters I've ever had the pleasure to know have worked hard to get their first job. For many of us, that journey started in the volunteer ranks where we cut our teeth in the business.

Many others worked for two or three paid-on-call services or "comboed" a fire department job with an EMS gig before getting that one job that paid enough to make it their sole fire service endeavor.

Then once we were in, we immersed ourselves in the fire service culture. Our fellow firefighters became our second family; truth be known, we spent more time with that family than we did with our spouses and children.

The break up
When that retirement date comes and goes it might seem like a divorce. Suddenly, that second family will be nowhere to be found. Getting into the fire service was easy compared to what it was like to leave it.

The only other careers that parallel that of the fire service — that strong sense of camaraderie, daily exposures to the unknown, and retirement at an early age — are found in law enforcement and the military.

Here are a few things that you can expect to experience once you hang up your turnout gear for the last time.

1. The loss of camaraderie is real.
No matter how much you complained, you will miss your fire service family within a relatively short period of time. The term divorce is an apt description, despite it being an amiable one.

When you return to your former second home, you'll likely feel that you only have visitation rights, especially when you start seeing all those new faces.

2. The normal world is sometimes a crazy place.
After years of living on a work cycle (mine was 24 hours on and 48 hours off), you'll find yourself needing to adjust to the world of the 40-hour work week, especially if you take on another job.

It was always much easier to shop, make doctor appointments, schedule vacations and the like when weekday hours were fully in play.

3. You'll never be busier than after you retire.
Many of my fellow retirees have remarked how busy they became after they retired. Whether it was getting to all those "honey-do" projects that you never seemed to have time for or taking care of business for family and friends, your weekly schedule can fill up in a hurry.

4. What to wear becomes a confusing.
Choosing what to wear was a lot easier when it meant grabbing a clean uniform. Most guys don't want to admit this, but wardrobe management is not necessarily in our DNA.

If you go into another field of work after retirement that requires real clothes — not one of the 100 polo shirts you accumulated over your fire service career — you can spend more than a few minutes each day finding matching clothes. Over time that equals hours, then days, then weeks that you spend doing nothing but thinking about what shirt to wear.

5. Finding work that's as fulfilling as firefighting hard.
A colleague, upon her retirement, said, "I'm not retiring, I'm 'refiring.'" For most of us, retiring in our mid-50s means finding a new career to help pay for those mortgages and college tuition bills that keep coming.

We're trained to be America's problem solvers, those people call when they don't know who to call. While we're on the job many firefighters and officer might gripe about some of the calls that we respond to, especially those that we felt didn't need the fire department.

But it's hard to beat the sense of satisfaction that comes after you and your crew handled the difficult fire or motor vehicle crash or complicated rescue. It's tough to find that kind of satisfaction working in the non-fire service world.

6. The higher you are, the harder it is.
The higher the rank, the greater the sense of loss of friendships, prestige and self-esteem. In his Executive Fire Officer Program research paper "Problems and Success Factors Inherent in Fire Service Retirement," Gerald Bates wrote that he found a significant relationship between the participants' rank at the time of retirement and their perception of their personal and social relationships.

As we progress through the ranks, our circle of friends and colleagues shrinks. As officers, we learn to maintain that delicate balance between being friendly on the job with firefighters and junior officers and lapsing into friendships that can be detrimental to the good of the order. This is particularly true for men, as research has demonstrated that lasting male relationships are closely connected with their work.

Being a fire officer also means that you probably had some significant roles and responsibilities managing people, physical resources and budgets. After a career of shouldering those kinds of duties, it can be difficult to wake up one day as a team of one.

It can also be a difficult adjustment for your spouse and family as well; as my wife still tells me from time to time, "You're not the chief anymore." Reality check.

7. You'll become familiar with America's health care system.
Your health and wellness moves up on your list of life's priorities. Nothing says you've moved into the second half of life's football game like retirement.

Those little nagging aches and pains take on a new significance, especially when you don't have that peer pressure to keep working through them. Think about how many retired firefighters finally get surgeries for those knee and shoulder problems that they've been putting off for years.

A successful retirement
In his research, Bates found that 95.7 percent of his survey's participants felt that their retirement was successful.

"The primary determinant of a successful and satisfying retirement appeared to be directly related to the level of planning that went into it," he wrote. "The most satisfied retirees tended to be those who planned for their retirement several years in advance."

As firefighters, we know the value of conducting pre-plans for target hazards in our district and there's great value in applying that strategy to your second career. Consider these retirement target hazards and pre-plan accordingly.

  • Your personal characteristics.
  • Your reasons for retirement.
  • Your financial security.
  • Your level of activity in retirement.
  • Your social and personal relationships.
  • Your physical and mental health.

Everyone's responses to the above will be different, but the one key for everyone is to plan for your retirement early in your career. Begin early in your firefighting career and focus on your career expectations, long-range financial plans, and the importance of developing a career and retirement plan in general.

Why a lazy firefighter may not be lazy

Posted on Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:09:28 UTC

A fire officer was recently describing to me a member of his crew. "He's terrible to work with," the officer said. "He's the most lazy and incompetent person on the entire shift."

I've heard these two words used together before when officers talk about so-called problem employees. Lazy and incompetent — they seem to make sense together.

There almost seems to be a cause-and-effect linkage between them. If you're lazy, then you probably won't engage with training or other activities among the crew. You won't do projects that build skills.

So a lazy person, by definition, is likely to be incompetent.

There are people who are truly lazy, either because they are arrogant, or they feel entitled, or in some cases they are just exhausted. But it is also possible to look at the cause and effect between these two characteristics in the opposite direction.

When people are incompetent — if they know their skills are poor and if they feel insecure about performing essential tasks on the job — their insecurity will likely cause them to avoid performing those tasks. They don't want to be judged. They don't want to be found out.

The path of least resistance in some cases is just to avoid performing that task altogether. Better to be seen as contrary or lazy than incompetent.

I've seen this happen in the fire service.

Learning discouraged
There was a firefighter on the job who rarely fully participated in practical training exercises, especially those involving air packs. Superficially he acted like he was above it — he'd been on the job over 20 years. Why should he still have to train on the basics?

But the real problem was quickly demonstrated when he came into a certification process he could not avoid. His skills were poor, his confidence almost nonexistent. And his performance — well, it goes without saying that it was not good.

This firefighter was found out in a situation where people were certifying on an air pack course for time. It was a competitive situation. His poor performance in that venue became a much talked about event among department members, even kind of a joke.

He left the job not long after that. Some might say that was a good outcome. The guy was incompetent and came across as lazy. He shouldn't be on the job.

Maybe this was true. But the fact is that he was on the job for over 20 years. For a good portion of that time, he was probably in the same state of readiness as he was that day when he performed so poorly.

What if that had happened on a big fire? What if he had become trapped inside a building? The consequences would have been very high.

Better training attitude
A fire department cannot afford to have a single person on the job who feels incompetent or insecure about his or her skills. Everyone should have confidence and a sense of mastery about their position, which comes through training and experience.

But some kinds of training undermine this goal.

If this firefighter had had the opportunity to go through the air pack course without a lot of judgmental spectators eager to capitalize on his failures, he might have been willing to ask for help. He might have admitted that he didn't feel comfortable performing the task and he might have been able to get the training and support he needed to master the necessary skills.

This should be the goal of all training — not competition, not proving that you are better than somebody else. Training should be about bringing everyone to the same high standard. In this way, emergency response can be as safe and predictable as is possible under the changing circumstances.

Everyone knows a firefighter that they would describe as being lazy. Take another look at these people.

Are they highly competent in their skills? Do they feel comfortable mentoring others or being mentored themselves? Are they willing to make mistakes and ask for help?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the perceived laziness of these people might be avoidance, and might be masking a much more serious problem with deep safety implications.

Firsthand account: 10 lessons from a massive flood

Posted on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 06:52:02 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue tools: Pros and cons of 3 power sources

Posted on Fri, 12 Jun 2015 20:43:24 UTC

Remember the days when pry bars, hacksaws and axes were pretty much the only tools available for vehicle extrication? Those human-powered tools still have application, but today's responders can pick from a wide variety of hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical tools.

Nearly every fire department across the United States is involved in a vehicle extrication incident, and every firefighter should have a good working knowledge of the powered extrication tools their department carries.

So let's take a look at the three predominant operating systems being used in today's powered vehicle extrication equipment: hydraulic, pneumatic and electric.

Hydraulic-powered tools first came to the fire service from the automobile body and fender world. Port-a-power spreaders and cutters, along with hydraulic jacks, were the first mechanical extrication tools to find a place on fire and rescue apparatus.

The big leap in hydraulic-powered extrication equipment came with the introduction of Hurst's Jaws of Life. The Jaws of Life was first used in 1963 as a tool to free race car drivers from their crashed vehicles.

Hydraulic rescue systems have three basic components: an electrical or gasoline engine power unit, a hydraulic fluid pump, and a reservoir with associated valves to control direction and pressure. The hoses transmit the pressurized fluid to the cutters, spreaders, rams, etc.

This is a closed system as opposed to a pneumatic system, which is open and vents/consumes its power transfer medium. Hydraulic systems have a pressure port (output of the pump), and a return port for hydraulic fluid to flow back into the reservoir. For best operations the fluid temperature should be between 60 and 140 degrees F.

Pros:

  • It's proven technology that has been around for many years.
  • The tools are among the most powerful.
  • It provides big power for incidents that involve heavy metal construction.

Cons:

  • The equipment is heavy.
  • It relies on caustic hydraulic fluid for operation.
  • Gasoline-powered models create noise pollution on scene.

Pneumatic systems
Pneumatic rescue tools are powered by pressurized air from SCBA cylinders, vehicle-mounted cascade systems or vehicle-mounted air compressors. Whizzer saws and air chisels are examples of pneumatic-powered tools.

Pneumatic tools weigh less than hydraulic tools, are very portable and have many excellent applications.

Air tools, with the exception of air bags, are often measured in not only in operating pressure but also cubic feet per minute. This is the amount of air the tool uses to work; the speed of the air is expressed as feet per second. These factors can be affected by friction loss in the hoses.

Pros:

  • They are lightweight.
  • They are easily transportable.
  • They have quiet operations.
  • There are a wide variety of appliances.

Cons:

  • They are limited to available air supply.
  • They have limitations on cutting and prying for heavier metal construction.

Electric systems
Electrical power has been used with vehicle extrication tools first through power cords linked to electricity generators and more recently through batteries. These can serve as both a primary set of tools or as a redundant system alongside gasoline-powered hydraulic tools.

Electric tool systems have three general parts: power generation, transmission and tool. Users should understand the operation of each part and know where it fits in the operational envelope.

It is also important to understand some terms and units of measure concerning electricity. This information is often displayed on the tool.

One helpful way to think of these parameters is to liken them to fireground pumping operations. Volts are comparable to the pressure the pump creates to flow the water; amperage compares to the gpm of water flowed. Volts, whether from alternating current like our house outlets or direct current like that from a battery, is power. Voltage is the pressure or amplitude of the energy of the electricity.

All appliances have a specific amount of amps required to make them work efficiently, which is measured in amperage or amps. The operator can influence the amount of amps or load that the tool draws. For example, if you push your reciprocating saw till it bogs down and stalls in the cut, the amps will increase probably causing a circuit breaker or similar protection device to trip or shut the tool off.

A watt is the amount of energy consumed by the tool. You can calculate the amount of watts used by a tool or appliance by multiplying its amps and volts.

Pros:

  • They are lightweight and easily transportable.
  • They have quiet operations.
  • They have a wide variety of appliances.
  • Newer, long-lasting battery technology is improving duration of operation capabilities.

Cons:

  • They are limited to available electrical supply, particularly for battery-powered units.
  • There are some limitations on cutting and prying capability for heavier metal construction (however the technology is constantly improving in this regard).

Regardless of the extrication tool technologies used by your department, the successful use of a tool and its components is predicated on several factors. First, is the initial and ongoing training for personnel in the safe, effective, and efficient use of the tool.

Second, the knowledge and experience of the individual operator in using the tool so that they are always using the right tool for the job — operating within the tool's capabilities.

And last, but certainly not the least importantly, the tool is adequately maintained according to the recommendations of the tool's manufacturer.

Quick Clip: How to attack the McMansion fire

Posted on Thu, 6 Nov 2014 09:04:53 UTC

Download this quick clip on iTunes, SoundCloud or via RSS feed

In this week's quick clip, Chief Rob Wylie and Lt. Rom Duckworth talk about how to attack a McMansion fire.

"There are a lot of unique features to consider," Lt. Duckworth said. "As these things start popping up around your response area, you can't just think of them as slightly bigger homes. You have to take an entirely different approach."

Chief Wylie said pre-planning is the answer.

"Most people wouldn't mind you going around their house and taking measurements," Chief Wylie said. "As far as distances for hose lays, using preconnects, places to do ventilation, all of these things can be pre-planned just as you would on a commercial building."

How does your department pre-plan for these types of fires? Sound off in the comment section below.

Apparatus Advances in 2007

Posted on Fri, 28 Dec 2007 10:00:00 UTC


Photo Jamie Thompson
Apparatus on display at the FDIC in Indianapolis in April.

At the beginning of the year, the fire apparatus industry really seemed as if it would suffer because of the new 2007 EPA Guidelines for Diesel Engines. While it wasn't all smooth, it didn't turn out as bad as some had imagined. Admittedly, it did require a lot of redesign and engineering of cabs and bodies to have the new engines fit. But it seems that sales have increased in the second half of the year, with many large orders being placed despite the new designs.

This year brought us the PUC from Pierce Manufacturing, which is a new concept that provides ease of maintenance with easier access to the pump, engine and transmission as well as a Pierce Pump. The vehicle also has more compartment space, chest-high cross lays and easier access to the rear hose bed by an angled ladder.

E-One had an extremely busy year, with several new products being launched including a new ARFF Vehicle, the Titan Force 6, with a five-person cab, exterior pump panel, multiple roof and bumper turrets, 3170 gallon poly water tank and a 437 gallon poly foam tank.

Also designed was the urban pumper, with a low ergonomic hose bed and a hybrid energy command vehicle for homeland security use. At FRI in Atlanta, it introduced a new SUV command vehicle — Comms-One — which promotes command interoperability in radio communication.

In more recent months, KME introduced the Challenger pumper line. The Challenger family features 36 different body configurations in steel, aluminum or stainless with 29" deep body compartments for added storage. It has numerous hose bed and compartment configurations including high capacity and low, easy-access hose beds. All can be built on KME Custom or commercial chassis.

Meanwhile, Ferrara's main launch in 2007 was the Heavy Duty 5 section Midmount ladder, which touts a shorter wheelbase and a lower overall height.

In addition, Crimson has built a new pump panel — ControlXT — in conjunction with Fire Research Corporation. It incorporates a more easy-to-read panel with engine information, water and tank level gauges, pressure governing systems and other customer-selected controls and displays. ControlXT will be standard or optional on all Crimson product lines.

Finally, Rosenbauer America debuted the T-Rex in 2007. In conjunction with Metz, the new articulating platform sets up in 25-30 seconds, has an aerial height of 102' equipped with a 2000 gpm pump and room for 115' of ground ladders. It also features a platform collision avoidance feature and a 1400 lb tip capacity.

All of the manufacturers are building and designing with firefighter safety in mind, which in my book is something that should continue in the coming years. More attention is being placed on larger cabs with more room for firefighter comfort and safety, lower hose beds and increased storage space as well as multi-tasking vehicles because we are all trying to do more with less in this day and age.

Just when you think nothing else could be possible, the fire apparatus engineers come out with another new idea that takes the industry by storm. With all of these new innovations that were introduced this year, I can hardly wait for the offerings in 2008. It should prove to be an interesting year. If that is not enough, newer stringent EPA Diesel Engine requirements crop up again in 2010. Oh well!

The best tools for firefighter rehab sectors

Posted on Tue, 19 Jul 2011 10:21:35 UTC

By Ken Lavelle, MD, FF/NREMT-P

Anytime we need to do a job, we look for tools to help us do it more efficiently. However, these tools also need to help us do it reliably. If a tool causes us to get wrong information, then it is not a very good tool. This is particularly the case in medicine — and remember, EMS is medicine.

One of the challenges of the EMS provider in rehab is to quickly do intake and assessment as a company or group of firefighters enters the rehab area.

If the firefighters have to wait 10-15 minutes for anyone to see them, they very well may wander away. We need to engage them quickly, not only to make sure there is nothing life threatening occurring with their condition, but also to "get them in the system" and make sure they stay in rehab for the appropriate amount of time.

Usually one person will be getting their name, age and company. This "scribe" can be anyone — it does not need to be an experienced medical provider.

They could be a cadet, a new member to the organization, even a spouse or friend that got sucked into a major event because they were out with an EMS provider that had a responsibility to respond to the incident. Obtaining this information can occur at the same time other activity is going on.

I usually like to get the firefighter to sit down and get their gear off, so the cooling down process can start. Next, we need to get baseline vitals. This is a mildly controversial area.

My former Division Chief, a very experienced EMS and fire physician, prefers to wait 10 minutes and then get a set of vitals. His view is that it does not matter much what the initial vitals are at the start, and that it is much more important what the vitals are at the time that the firefighter may be released.

I think there is some validity to this, however I would prefer to know if there was a problem sooner rather than later. If a firefighter's heart rate is 200 because he is in a dangerous arrhythmia, I don't want to miss this, even for only 10 minutes.

If their blood pressure is extremely low or extremely high, I also need to keep a better eye on them. While in most circumstances they should have either a complaint or physical appearance that should clue us into this abnormality, this is not always the case.

I think both approaches are reasonable — discuss with your medical director which is better for your department.

I have found that obtaining vitals is often the bottleneck in the initial rehab evaluation. There are two vital signs I definitely want immediately — heart rate and blood pressure.

A third vital sign that I think is reasonable to obtain sooner rather than later is a carbon monoxide level. I am not concerned about the temperature because it is my opinion that getting an accurate core body temperature is not feasible in the field.

Doing so requires taking a rectal temperature, something neither I nor the firefighter are much interested in doing. The other, non-invasive methods of getting a temperature are not very reliable, and an elevated temperature is almost always associated with a significantly elevated heart rate.

So how can we get these vitals quickly?

The pulse can be obtained by the good old fashioned method of feeling a radial pulse and counting, but we can also use a number of other tools, such as pulse oximetry, a heart monitor or a carbon monoxide monitor.

have found that either feeling and counting the radial pulse, or using CO oximetry, is the most efficient in obtaining a pulse rate. Using CO oximetry allows us to get both a heart rate and a CO level with one action.

The concern is of course is whether it is truly reliable. I believe it is, but if you are concerned, feel for a pulse at the same time and compare the results. This will likely not add much time to the task.

The blood pressure also needs to be obtained quickly and reliably. Now I am generally a fan of automatic blood pressure cuffs. In the hospital, these work fairly well and allow us to trend the blood pressures — follow them over time.

However, in the field, I have found that they are becoming more and more of a problem. Too often the machine pumps up the cuff and then slowly goes down. And up. And down. And down some more. And then back up. And then down. And then fails to give a value.

EMS providers end up staring at the screen awaiting this important vital sign. So, I think the best way to get a BP in the field is the manual sphygmomanometer and stethoscope.

If a firefighter is found to have a significantly abnormal BP, and they become a patient, then using the automatic machine to confirm and trend is reasonable. But I bet most EMS providers can take a manual BP faster.

Once you have these vitals, and assess the firefighter's appearance and any physical complaints, they can then be sorted into the medical sector or just to the rest and refreshment area.

But we need to have these vital signs to do so, and we need them quickly and to be accurate. Remember we call them vital signs for a reason — they are important.

Stay safe (and hydrated!)

Fire department tests bounce-house rescue device

Posted on Wed, 1 Apr 2015 10:01:07 UTC

POKENIOUT, Mass — With the rash of inflatable bounce houses taking flight last summer, one fire department is "aiming" to do something about it.

New Bedford neighbor Pokeniout (Mass.) Fire Department is beta testing a device one of its members invented that will make quick work of fly-away bounce houses.

The invention, dubbed Rescuepoon, incorporates a medieval crossbow and now-outlawed lawn darts tied to a spool of deep-sea fishing line.

The device works like this. When a call comes in for an escaped bounce house, the fire department will deploy its Rescuepoon crew, that will put the dart in the crossbow and fire it into the bounce house.

"If the dart seats well enough into the bounce house, we can reel it in," said Pokeniout Fire Chief Isley Fulakrap. "If not, we use the line to track it once it lands."

The device was relatively cheap to build, the chief said. The only difficulty was locating lawn darts, which were taken off the market in 1988 following a previous ban in the 1970s. Chief Fulakrap says they are working up a modified version for when they buy up all of the Ebay and Etsy supply of darts.

That version, RescuepoonXL, will use a harpoon gun to fire a four-foot pike pole, also tethered to fishing line. The XL will be heavier and harder to store, the chief said, but he believes it will have a 35 percent greater shooting distance and be less susceptible to wind conditions.

Although the chief was extremely positive about the Rescuepoon, he did say it had a few minor bugs to sort out.

"It took us a while to train up our guys on the crossbow, and there may have been one or two mishaps with passing birds," Chief Fulakrap said. "We did nick a Rescue Randy Jr. in the head one time and one of our captains lanced Engine 1's rear tire."

Chief Fulakrap said he also plans to push bounce house makers to make them safer for kids by designing them to deflate faster when pierced.

"You pop a Jart into one of those suckers and it takes on a mind of it's own," the chief said. "In our testing, we've seem 'em do four, maybe five complete high-speed 360s before slamming into the ground. We just want the manufacturers to take some responsibility for kids' safety."

The chief plans to deploy the Rescuepoon this summer.

Fighting the balloon-frame construction fire

Posted on Wed, 11 Feb 2015 16:19:50 UTC

A successful fireground operation begins with a proper size-up that identifies the type of construction involved. Balloon-frame style construction is one of the two most common styles of traditional wood-frame construction, with platform frame construction being the next most common.

Balloon-frame, which was built from the early 19th century until World War II, poses unique firefighting problems because it lacks horizontal fire stops between the studs inside of the exterior walls.

Most balloon-frame homes are two or three stories tall. This allows for unimpeded fire spread from the basement to the attic in a matter of minutes via the interior stud channels of the exterior walls.

Platform frame became popular after World War II and shortened the exterior walls to 8 or 10 feet and provided fire stopping between floors.

Fire's pathway
The lack of fire stopping within the exterior walls can pose a major challenge for firefighters. In addition, the joist channels underneath the floors are interconnected with the exterior wall stud channels. A basement or interior fire that enters this void space can result in vertical and lateral fire spread throughout the structure.

If conditions permit, check the attic void soon after arrival. Once fire gains control of the wall and floor voids, it often dooms the structure. It is common to find a large finished room within the attic of these homes. This further complicates accessing a fire that has extended into the attic void.

I responded to a fire in a balloon-frame residence one evening in which the fire originated in the basement. Several minutes after crews gained entry into the basement, fire began to vent from the attic windows.

We discovered the attic room had a finished hardwood skating rink installed over the floor, covering the entire top floor of the residence.

Another common avenue of fire spread within a balloon-frame structure is the transoms. The transom is an operable window above interior room doors to allow air circulation while the door is closed. Fire can quickly breach the transom and spread unimpeded from the room of origin into hallways and adjoining rooms.

Additionally, balloon-frame homes often have open stairwells that are quickly compromised by the heat, smoke and fire. This may necessitate laddering for the rescue of occupants. They also have large search areas.

Wolf in sheep's clothing
Until recently, it was reasonable to assume most two-story or greater wood-frame homes built before World War II were balloon-frame. However, modern lightweight wood-frame construction methods can achieve the look of older Victorian-style construction.

Do not be deceived. Fire spread characteristics and collapse potential are vastly different in lightweight wood frame structures compared to homes of the balloon-frame era.

Often, the true balloon-frame constructed homes will be located in older neighborhoods built in that era, and may exceed 5,000 square feet. Whereas, the new lightweight-constructed homes will likely be in newly developed locations. Their average size is between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet.

A closer look at a newly built home will reveal building materials not available in the early 20th century, such as vinyl siding, vinyl window, synthetic porch decking and decorative trim.

Safety precautions
Traditional balloon frame homes were often built and can be identified with native stone or block used in the foundations. Original lot sizes found in many traditional homes tend to be narrow and deep, compared to lots built upon in recent years, which tend to be wider and less deep.

Additionally, these units are also being converted from a single-family dwelling into multiple apartments, frat houses, and bed-and-breakfast type occupancies are common. Multiple occupants should be expected in these conversions often with the only means of egress being a single, narrow interior stairwell.

Fires in balloon-frame homes can rapidly spread throughout the structure in a variety of ways, entrapping unsuspecting occupants. Such was the case of an early morning house fire in Stamford, Conn. on Christmas Day 2011, which claimed the lives of five family members.

Firefighters must be prepared for a variety of challenges, with limited staffing, when arriving on scene of a balloon-frame structure fire. These fires will be labor intensive and will pose a significant challenge for firefighters. Training and pre-incident planning are essential for successful operations.

In addition, public education training is essential for the occupants regarding the importance of smoke alarms and escape planning. The use of residential escape ladders from upper story bedrooms is a good recommendation to discuss with homeowners.

How About a Culture of Prevention?

Posted on Mon, 29 Jun 2009 12:32:56 UTC

By Bill Delaney

Reactions to Lt. Ray McCormack's speech at FDIC were varied, with people picking sides — sometimes very emotionally.

My own take on the speech was somewhere in the middle. He never said do not be safe. I think he was really trying to say he fears we are taking the "be safe" component to an extreme. He has stirred a good debate and I applaud him for having the conviction to stand up for his beliefs.

But the one big thing that was missing from all of the discussion that followed the speech, and seemingly absent from all fire service debates/discussions, is the bastard child of the fire service: the culture of prevention.

You know, that annoying little member of our family who we always try to make sure is relatively unseen and certainly never heard from? After all, most of the debate related to "The Speech" does not happen if the fire, gasp, is prevented and never happens in the first place!

There is much national gnawing and gnashing of the teeth as staffing on trucks are being reduced, stations closed, revolving station closures, etc. amidst the current economic climate.

No doubt we should be screaming from the highest mountain tops about all of that as it does involve the wellbeing of our people and those we serve. We are, however, eerily quiet when it comes to public educators and other "prevention" components of our service when they get cut.

Why is this? Well, for me, it is because we DO have a culture of extinguishment! That is where Lt. McCormack was all wrong in his speech. The culture of extinguishment is more than alive and well and probably always will be in a vast majority of departments in the United States.

Don't believe me? Take a look at your own department's budget priorities. Next, look at the departments around you. In the Washington, D.C.–Metro area, we have two departments that now have no public educators and three that cut staffing by more than 50 percent.

Meanwhile, one that has taken its few remaining educators and trained them as inspectors and let them know that most of their duties will fall under revenue generating inspections. I will admit that the last one at least has a prevention component to it so not all is lost.

The old adage is that you cut what you do not perceive to be the greatest value. Fortunately my chief values our risk reduction efforts (as well as firefighter safety) and let it be known that cutting our public education staff is not even an option for discussion.

But actions speak louder than words and the vast majority of departments across our great land have spoken. The proponents of the speech can rest easy — I firmly believe that the culture of extinguishment is alive and well in our great country!

Another great CFSI dinner in the books

Posted on Fri, 30 May 2014 13:47:41 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

5 steps to water rope rescues

Posted on Thu, 28 May 2015 16:30:39 UTC

It never fails. The victim is flying down river, we have rescuers spaced out on the shore, everyone is equipped with throw bags, and the first rescuer makes his throw; the bag goes completely off course and into the trees.

Throw bags are probably the most versatile and essential rescue device we have for swift water rescue. They are inexpensive, can be deployed from anywhere in the environment including watercraft, and they always give us one of the safest alternatives to effect a rescue.

There are three basic throwing positions: overhand, side arm and underhand.

An overhand throw mimics throwing a football or baseball. Hold the end of the rope in your off hand and throw the bag with your dominant throwing arm with an overhand motion. This position is ideal for short, precise throws.

You will not achieve great distances with the overhand but it is very accurate. It also enables throwers to be in the water, on the bank surrounded by ground covering and branches and on the watercraft.

Sling and pitch
The sidearm throw mimics throwing a disc. Hold the end of the rope in your off hand and throw the bag with your dominant throwing arm with a sidearm motion. This will achieve greater distances than the overhand and can also be delivered from difficult body positions.

It does, however, require more immediate room around the rescuer to make the throw and it is far less accurate. Sidearm throwing takes a great deal of practice and the arc of the bag leaving the rescuer becomes more lateral than vertical. This decreases the reliability of the rope landing across the victim.

An underhand throw mimics throwing a horseshoe. Hold the end of the rope in your off hand and throw the bag with your dominant throwing arm with an underhand motion. This throw requires the most room immediately around the rescuer but will achieve maximal distance and accuracy.

The key to success with these throwing techniques is practice, practice and more practice. Throwing can be routinely performed about anywhere, like the apparatus bay. You don't have to deploy the boats and don your dry suits to get in consistent throw bag practice.

Before applying these throwing techniques, review these five general principles of throw-bag rescues.

1. Be redundant
Always get two throw bags if you can. Having a backup bag will allow rescuers to redeploy a bag quickly and have an alternative bag if the primary washes downriver or gets entangled.

2. Prep the bags
When moving down the bank and into position, keep the drawstring on the bag cinched. This prevents the rope from getting snared or spilling out.

Once into position, loosen the drawstring completely. Pull the end of the rope out and grasp it firmly in the non-throwing hand. This end of the rope should be pre-rigged with a figure eight on a bite or other appropriate knot with a bite.

The bite should be large enough to fit your fingers into comfortably. Do not pass your hand through the bite and allow the bite to seat on your wrist. This action could result in the rescuer being pulled into the river.

Good throw bags will have an adjustable grab handle on the top of the bag. Fully adjust this handle out so that the rope will play freely out of the bag when thrown.

3. Coach the victim
As the victim approaches from upriver, communicate loud, early and clear. The universal command is to yell "rope" right before throwing the bag to the victim.

The first throw attempt should be made when the victim is upriver from the rescuer's position. This may allow the rescuer time to make a second attempt if the first throw misses the target. The target should be on line with the victim and beyond the victim.

Don't try to lead the victim. Throw bags will travel faster in the water than the victims, so you are better off being slightly behind the victim than in front of them. This target zone should result in the bag going over the victim and the rope landing across them or slightly up river from them.

Once the victim has the line, coach them to put the line over their inside shoulder — this is best communicated by using left or right commands. The inside shoulder technique creates a natural ferry angle for the victim and dramatically assists in bringing them to the bank.

Often, when victims don't do this and lock in the rope on the shoulder that is closest to the rescuer, they get pulled over into the prone position where take a face full of water and stay in an in-line body position in the water holding on for dear life.

4. Be prepared to tend
As soon as the throw bag leaves the rescuer's hand, the rescuer should pass the rope behind their lower back or rear end to body belay. The bite end of the rope should be in the up river hand of the rescuer and the rope going to the victim should be coming off the rescuer's down river hip.

It is also important to have other techniques depending on the environment. Strong currents may require the rescuer to sit down or even have a partner who sits down behind them to help anchor the line. When working in flood like conditions, the body belay may not be an option because rescuers may be throwing in chest deep water.

We often end up in water this deep bracing against trees to get to the main body of water in flood states. When faced with this challenge, use the trees as friction anchors instead of your body. Throw from a position on the upriver side of the tree. As soon as the victim receives the rope, bring the rope across the tree toward the bank and use the friction on the tree to control the rope.

5. Watch the rope, communicate downriver
If the entire rope is floating downriver, it must be communicated to downriver personnel. This is essential if watercrafts are positioned downriver.

Rope in the water and props do not mix and your watercraft will end up out of commission.

You can never have enough throwers. Position support personnel in optimal throw positions as close as possible to the victim as well as downriver. And always be prepared to deal with rescuers becoming victims.

HAZMAT Response Video Supplement: Personal Protective Equipment

Posted on Sun, 30 Sep 2007 18:28:40 UTC

‘The only easy day was yesterday’

Posted on Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:29:58 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.


Looking Is Not Always Seeing

Posted on Fri, 10 Jul 2009 11:06:28 UTC

A few years ago, I gave a patient assessment lecture to a group of EMTs. Early in the lecture, I announced that my assistant would be coming around with a handout. The assistant was a portly gentleman sporting a wide, ugly tie with yellow splotches. After standing in front of each student to distribute the material, he left the room.

Midway through the lecture, I asked the participants to describe his tie, thereby emphasizing the importance of observation to patient assessment. Most participants could not describe the tie or my assistant with any degree of accuracy. About 15 to 20 percent gave a fairly precise description of the tie, generally including the term 'ugly,' and a few must have been asleep as they wanted to know, "What assistant?"

The term for this aptly demonstrated phenomenon is 'inattentional blindness' because while we look, we don’t see. The information doesn’t register because our brains are focused elsewhere and ignoring the visual input. This may not pose a huge problem during a lecture, but can prove to be quite a predicament in the field.

How does our vision work?
Light waves (electromagnetic waves) are continuously bouncing off every object around us. Those light waves in the visible range (we can’t process ultraviolet or infrared waves) that get past the cornea and pupil then hit the retina in the back of the eye. The retina creates electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain, which in turn interprets the information and produces the vision that we 'see.' Don’t believe me? Close your eyes. What do you see?

Signal interpretation
Do we 'see' all the visual signals we receive? From where you are right now, stop reading and take a 180-degree or half-circle view of your surroundings, then close your eyes and recall what you just 'saw.' Now repeat the scan slower, paying attention to details and taking note of what you do not 'see.' All of the light waves bouncing off the objects in your visual field hit the retina and produce visual signals for the brain. Why did your brain fail to give you the total picture of what you saw? Information overload in any system can decrease performance, including your brain. To a significant degree, you determine what you see by the extent of attention you apply to what you are looking at or looking for. A lot of the visual input from the eyes to the brain never gets to perform on your brain's visual screen because you do not pay attention to the content. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing
Can you imagine trying to start an IV in a nice fat vein but as you start to insert the needle your vision is overwhelmed with mental images of surrounding objects such as the patient’s clothing, the cot, the blood on the floor, etc., etc., etc.? You would likely be hard-pressed to hit the vein. Our ability to concentrate visual signals on the task at hand helps us select the visual information we need to get the job done.

Curse
But what happens when we fail to recognize important visual input? Think about the last time you were providing patient care and asked yourself, "Where did THAT come from?" It might be when the visual input about your patient’s cyanotic lips and weak respirations were sidelined by the visual input of the bloody, deformed open femur fracture, or when you did not 'see' that large pool of blood on the floor before you kneeled down. Or perhaps you found yourself in such a situation after your failure to notice a weapon on the ground. All these events occurred within your field of vision, but failed to register with your brain.

Inattentional thinking
Inattentional blindness has a partner called 'inattentional thinking.' Dispatch sends you to the third intoxicated, unresponsive individual of the day or to the chronic back pain patient that you have visited too many times before. The danger is thinking that the problem is going to be the same as before, or that the scene is as safe as it was the last time you were there. If we fail to consciously evaluate the scene every time, or assess the patient every time regardless of presentation or how many times we have previously seen the patient with the same complaint, we may miss scene hazards or fail to benefit from an accurate patient assessment. What if the intoxicated patient noted above is not just drunk this time, but has a subdural hematoma that occurred from an unwitnessed fall, producing a dilated pupil that we did not think to check? What if the chronic back pain patient on this trip has an expanding abdominal aortic aneurysm that we failed to find because we did not think to examine the abdomen for a pulsatile mass? How many other 'what if' scenarios could feasibly exist?

Summary
We all fall victim to unwanted inattentional blindness and thinking. Decreasing the frequency of its occurrence requires awareness, and awareness is fueled by knowledge. If this is your first look at inattentional blindness, I would encourage further study. Resources include Blink, a book on this topic by Malcolm Gladwell, as well as print and video resources readily available by searching the Internet. In the mean time, keep your eyes open and pay attention out there.

References
1. Rensink RA, O’Regan JK, Clark JJ. To See or Not to See, The Need of Attention to Perceive Changes in Scenes. Psychological Science. 1997:8; 368-373.
2. Simons DJ, Chabris CF. Gorillas In Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness For Dynamic Events. Perception. 1999. 28; 1059-1074.
3. Rensink RA. When Good Observers Go Bad: Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, and Visual Experience. Psyche. 2000:8.
4. Rensink, RA. Seeing, Sensing, and Scrutinizing. Vision Research. 2000:40; 1469-1487.

3 steps to get your agency grant ready

Posted on Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:30:14 UTC

You are toned out for a man down. In less than 60 seconds an ambulance is rolling from a posting location, a first responder fire engine is responding from quarters, and a dispatcher is giving compression-only CPR instructions. Your agency is “cardiac arrest ready,” as well as ready for other medical emergencies, traumatic injuries, and all-hazards responses.

Applying for and receiving grants requires a comparable level of readiness. Is your agency grant ready?

Here are three steps that will help your agency be better prepared to apply for local, state, regional, and national grant funding!

Step 1: Have necessary documents on file

Many foundations or other grant making organizations require a common set of documents. At a minimum, have on hand current year and previous year budgets, an organizational chart, and a list of directors or policy makers as well as their affiliations.

For non-profit agencies make sure to include your agency’s IRS determination letter stating your 501c3 designation. You might want to support this with financial and income statements.

Step 2: Write up information on the department

Grantmakers want to know about your organization; its mission, history, and accomplishments. Write a background document that in a half to a full page gives insight into your department for potential grant makers.

Step 3: Create a “one sheet” for your agency

A “one sheet” is a snapshot of the most important statistics, performance measures, and demographics about your agency. Having this at the ready will save you hours of time searching and compiling data when a deadline is quickly approaching. Our EMS grants team recommends the following one sheet data points:

  • Annual call volume
  • Distribution of incidents by type - medical, trauma, structure fires, alarms
  • Mutual aid responses
  • Cardiac arrest responses and related data (i.e. ROSC, 30-day survival)
  • Motor vehicle collisions requiring extrication
  • Number of full-time staff (paid), part-time staff (paid), and volunteers
  • Distribution of staff by level of certification
  • Number of on-duty injuries (per year)
  • Coverage area (square miles)
  • Number of stations
  • Number of apparatus
  • Population in coverage area
  • Median income
  • Recent grant successes
  • Recent service enhancements or improvements

Being grant ready, just like readiness for a major trauma patient, takes time. Having the information outlined in this article at the ready can not only help you meet a critical deadline, it can also help you assess whether a grant is the right fit for your project.