How the fire service assassinates its leaders

Posted on Mon, 1 Dec 2014 16:54:32 UTC

As many of you know, Fire-Rescue International 2014 was held in August in Dallas. Since Dallas has hosted FRI several times, I always stay at the Hyatt Regency, which is only two blocks away from Dealey Plaza, the crime scene of the assassination of our 35th President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

One evening as I was coming back from dinner, I walked through Dealey Plaza and sat upon the very stone pillar from which Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination. I sat that evening and reflected on what happened on Nov. 22, 1963. That afternoon, our country lost a president, a woman lost her husband and two children lost their father.

Any person who studies history and is familiar with this event can form their own opinion of whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether it was a conspiracy that involved Lyndon B. Johnson, the CIA, the Russians, Fidel Castro, the mob, or any combination of those and others.

At 12:30 p.m., more than just a president was lost. He was a leader with ideals and convictions about where he felt our country should prevail and emerge. As with any president, not everyone will agree.

In fact, Kennedy took on several unpopular situations such as the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, his instructions to his brother Bobby Kennedy to take down the mob, and his fight against communism. With any issue, there are usually proponents and opponents. Unfortunately, his convictions to taking on the issues led to his death.

Challenging the norm
Things aren't much different in the fire service. We have leaders who challenge the norm, and they too can find themselves the brunt of ridicule and attack. I certainly experienced it with my previous two articles on "fire porn."

It was easier for some to attack and call me names than to consider the other side. It simply puts them in an uncomfortable place; their response is to lash out, and I generally understand that. Flattering to me though, it seemed more supported my position and opinion that a change in what we view as our mission is in order.

When assuming a leadership position, you must know that you will take some heat. It is a privilege of the position. Leaders emerge when things aren't easy. We all look for someone who is competent, capable and willing to take charge of a given situation that isn't easy.

I reflect back to taking the reigns as fire chief for Riverdale, Ga. I was the first outside chief the organization ever had. I was 29 years old and had three battalion chiefs who had 30-plus years each in the fire service, and I was coming from the state fire marshal's office as a fire prevention advocate where, coincidently, the former chief was the new state fire marshal.

Needless to say, I had a few hurdles to overcome, but I was committed to serving the members of the department and the community.

Keeping the focus
Yes, I took criticism because I had to make changes that were unpopular. Everything from anonymous letters to websites were assembled. At times, it was painful because it became personal.

Over time, I learned that you must stay focused on the task and mission at hand, but most importantly, you must remain committed to those who choose to follow and rely on you. You will find that you have more support than you know.

In many of the leadership positions I've held since, I have always had some who opposed, challenged, or disagreed with me. Over time, I have learned to appreciate a different perspective.

In fact, during the onslaught of the negative comments on the fire porn columns, I "liked" them in the Facebook fashion. I truly meant that I appreciated someone taking the time to read my thoughts and reflections, and then to comment, good or bad.

There was only one or two who called me names and had no basis for their ridicule, and that is just a variable that comes with leadership.

Assassinating character
Unfortunately, in many of the fire service websites and blogs, we "assassinate" many of our leaders' character, integrity and ideals. Don't get me wrong, there are many in recent recollection who have committed "leadership suicide," and most likely are deserving of the many negative comments they receive.

However, in today's instant gratification of the Internet and social media, it's easy for people to express thoughts and feelings in a hurtful and undeserving way. The "you pile on, we all pile on" effect can occur, which leads to individuals who know little to nothing about the individual or the situation chiming in with ridicule and criticism.

The effect of this public ridicule now is there are many talented individuals who could be great leaders but are reluctant to take on leadership roles. I can't tell you how many individuals over the last two years have told me they are content where they are because they don't want to face the same stress of criticism and ridicule by the detractors as they have seen their boss or chief go through.

That folks, is leadership assassination.

Being brave
You have to be brave to step outside the lines and challenge the norm. You have to be brave to say and do what nobody else is willing to do. You have to have the energy and understanding to see through the negativity, to find the truth, to see a different perspective, to be vulnerable on occasion, and to keep moving forward.

Leadership is not easy. It has challenges, but it should always be embraced as a privilege and met with enthusiasm.

History has told us that President Kennedy was warned of the dangers of going to Dallas. He understood his role as a leader, he embraced it, and moved forward. We know that in this extreme case, it cost him his life.

However, we must be mindful that our words can be just as deadly as bullets, and can have an equally riveting effect on individuals.

We, as a fire service, must be conscious to develop leaders and their skills, not assassinate them.

Be safe.

‘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.


Fire service leaders: The difference between life and death

Posted on Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:51:40 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do?

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

Can certified firefighter PPE be misleading?

Posted on Mon, 23 Feb 2015 01:03:57 UTC

We have often touted the benefits of third-party certification for firefighter protective clothing and equipment. We truly believe in the benefits provided by independent testing and certification of critical safety products.

We have written at some length on how certification works and where to obtain the latest information on products that are represented as being certified. However, we still encounter some problems within the industry on both sides, manufacturer and user, where product certification may not be all that clear.

Typically, firefighters expect that when a product has a label that indicates certification to a particular NFPA standard, that the product is indeed certified. Fire departments and their procurement groups will look for evidence a certification, which fortunately appears directly on the product label since the NFPA standards require a specific compliance statement.

This compliance statement is supplemented with the listing mark of the certification organization. For North America, those organizations are predominantly the Safety Equipment Institute and Underwriters Laboratories.

Both organizations have distinctive logos that are easily recognizable. But more importantly, as required by the standard and by the various rules that govern certification organizations, these companies provide listings by which you can check to determine if specific products are certified.

Checks and balances
There is nothing in the NFPA standards that prevents other organizations, even those in foreign countries, from certifying products. However, each NFPA standard lists qualifications that a respective certification organization must meet in order to certify fire service products.

For example, certification organizations have to be accredited for personal protective equipment certification by an accreditation body that itself must also be qualified by an assessment body. Thus, two sets of checks and balances are applied.

The certification organization must also use laboratory facilities that are fully accredited to international laboratory testing standards. These provisions are intended to prevent unqualified organizations from simply issuing a report or applying their logo onto a product as evidence of compliance with a particular NFPA standard.

In our litigious society, it would seem unimaginable that both manufacturers and certifying bodies would shortcut the certification processes, particularly for such life-saving products as firefighter protective clothing and equipment.

Yet, we have observed such practices.

Certification police
Fortunately, this has occurred only in limited cases where product manufacturers are either wrongly representing a product as being certified or the certification organization is not following the rules for how it carries out both product testing are certification.

The whole point of product certification is to provide a level playing field and, more importantly, provide end user confidence that the product meets a particular standard. So any such abuses create serious concerns.

Unfortunately, there are no certification police. If either SEI or UL find that a manufacturer is using their logos without authorization, they will act to prevent that from continuing to happen.

Yet, if a less than scrupulous manufacturer makes up a certification or a certification organization itself does not comply with all requirements for issuing certifications, there are few avenues for recourse and often these products can make it into the marketplace.

Some firefighters believe that NFPA oversees the use of its standards and enforces that the standards are correctly applied. This is not the case. NFPA provides a respectable forum to develop standards, but has absolutely no authority to enforce them.

Sometimes, individuals or organizations can write to NFPA and point out that a particular product is misrepresenting their compliance to a particular standard. NFPA may or may not decide to communicate with the particular product manufacturer or parties involved, but it has no legal authority to prevent this practice as NFPA standards are voluntary, consensus standards.

Fraud protection
There are federal laws against misleading or false advertising that are administered by the Federal Trade Commission. FTC will mainly focus on high-profile products and cases.

As with any product, and particularly for consumer products, it is also possible to appeal to the state attorney general's office to indicate false representation of products as meeting standards. Such practices are prohibited by analogous state laws.

However, these appeal processes generally take a lot of time, can require lawyers become involved, and often are not completely enforced unless a significant urgency is demonstrated or a number of individuals are hurt. The latter generally becomes a matter for the courts rather than state or local governments.

Some exceptions, including Texas, have written selected NFPA standards into the state regulations.

Puffed up claims
In such jurisdictions, the state does have the ability to enforce compliance for using products that meet NFPA standards and can possibly address issues of falsely represented firefighter protective clothing and equipment. But these are the exceptions.

In most cases, states default to either federal or their own analogous safety and health regulations to define minimally acceptable firefighter protective clothing.

We also come across claims that firefighter clothing and equipment meets "federal" or "state" regulations that connote a certain significance. For these claims, there generally is no certification and because of the relatively simple requirements, such products may be nowhere near the level of performance of products that meet the more sophisticated NFPA standards.

In many cases, the applicable federal and many state regulations were written in the late 1970s or early 1980s, making the requirements in these regulations woefully out of date. Further, certification is not required and so the product's representation is most often strictly from the manufacturer.

In order for certification to work, the process has to be performed properly and adhered to by both manufacturers and certification organizations and then regarded by the end user community.

Not all certifications may be equal, and, as we stated before, certification is not a guarantee of safety. But it is our hope that all of the fire service industry plays by the same rules in presenting the firefighters with the products on which their safety and health can rely.

Would you rather fight a fire in the cold or the heat?

Posted on Wed, 18 Feb 2015 13:02:29 UTC

Fighting fires in the summer and winter months present special challenges.

Images of exhausted firefighters tethered to an IV bag and those with their gear so frozen over they've practically become statues are all too familiar. Many of us have experienced both firsthand.

Many firefighters will tell you that they would rather battle a fire on a hot summer day over one during the dead of winter. Not accepting this as the final word on the matter, we took to Facebook to ask our fans which extreme they’d rather fight a fire in. Here are some of their responses.

And, if you haven't already, add your thoughts in the comment section below.

"This North Dakotan would rather fight a fire in the heat. Throwing water around at -20 just isn't fun. You can rehab from the heat … try escaping the cold." — John J Colvin

"I worked jobs in Florida and Michigan and the heat is definitely easier than the cold. The ice changes everything, the air hurts, hands don't work, gear freezes, roofs are twice as dangerous, cracked nozzles prevent frozen lines and the whole scene is an ice rink." — Essen Davis

"Doesn't matter. When that bell rings, I'm on the rig no matter the weather." — Raymond Lancaster

"Can I pick spring?" — Mickey Clapp

"Work hard enough in the cold and you become warm. If you work hard enough in the heat, you become dead." — Pat McGinnis

"Cold! You can get heat exhaustion or heat stroke in the heat." — Jeffrey Flaker

"I can dress for the cold, but on a hot day there is little relief." — Charles Ricchio

"Cold. You rehab faster with a harder time overheating from working so hard. Yes, water freezes. But it's not like it's going back into the mains for re-application." — Gor Dandersen

Keys to firefighter roadside safety

Posted on Mon, 23 Feb 2015 00:46:14 UTC

Keeping our personnel safe while operating on active highways and roadways is a very broad subject and many very good training programs have been and continue to be developed.

Consider this a sort of company officer's pocket guide to use for training the crew in a variety of ways, be it a daily or weekly safety briefing (such as traffic safety Tuesday).

The sidebar to the right holds a list of common terminology. Take the time to look it over because we all know what happens on the emergency scene if we're not speaking the same language.

Emergency scene traffic management terms

Advance Warning Area: Notification procedures like warning signs or flaggers that advises the approaching motorists to transition from normal driving to that required by the temporary emergency traffic control measures ahead.

Block: Positioning emergency apparatus on an angle to the lanes of traffic creating a physical barrier between upstream traffic and the work area.

Buffer zone: The distance or space between personnel and vehicles in the protected work zone and moving traffic.

Downstream: The direction that traffic is moving away from the incident scene.

Flagger/Lookout: An emergency responder assigned to monitor approaching traffic and activate an emergency signal if a motorist does not conform to traffic control measures.

Lane assignments: With the direction of traffic, lanes are called left, center and right. If there are more than three lanes, each lane is numbered with Lane 1 being the farthest left.

Shadow: The protected area that is shielded by the block from apparatus.

Taper: Action of merging several lanes of moving traffic to fewer lanes.

Traffic Incident Management Area: The area of roadway — from its upstream to its downstream points — within which crews perform their fire and EMS tasks.

Transition zone: Moves traffic out of its normal path, say from three lanes to only two lanes left.

Upstream: The direction that traffic is traveling from as the vehicles approach the incident scene.

The goal of an incident commander at an emergency traffic incident is to safely, effectively and efficiently create a Traffic Incident Management Area. Several incident management benchmarks guide and direct those efforts.

Who's the boss?
The first two are for the company officer to become or appoint a scene safety officer and to establish the block by positioning the first-arriving rig to protect the patients and responders.

Next is to establish an incident command working relationship with the on-scene law enforcement officer, or do so as soon as they arrive at the incident.

On my scenes, me and the local LEO would agree that I would be the incident commander so long as there were patients to be treated and transported or a fire or hazardous condition to be managed. The LEO would be my traffic management group supervisor with all other LEOs being assigned to that group.

Once the fire or EMS problems had been addressed, I would transfer command to the traffic management group supervisor to continuing managing the incident during the investigation, vehicle removal and TIMA demobilization.

Immediate threat procedure
Establish the advanced warning area and post a flagger/lookout with radio. As part of your incident action plan, establish a "take immediate action" word or phrase for the lookout to use over the radio to alert all personnel downstream that an unauthorized motorist is entering the TIMA.

Chose something simple that will capture everyone's attention on scene because there's not going to be a lot of reaction time. One word that immediately comes to mind is "Avalanche."

Make sure the lookout transmits the word at least three times so that everyone gets it.

Establish the upstream transition area and communicate to all personnel what lanes of traffic are being closed to upstream traffic. Assign a parking area for ambulances and ensure that all ambulances on scene are placed within the shadow.

Safe zones
Ensure that the shadow and buffer are of sufficient size to protect patients, personnel and apparatus operating in the shadow. It should capable of isolating any damaged vehicles, roadway debris, patient triage and treatment area, and all patients and operating personnel and their equipment from moving traffic.

All patients should be loaded into ambulances from within the protected work zone.

Also, be sure that all traffic emitter devices on apparatus are turned off. For nighttime operations, turn off all apparatus headlights to avoid blinding on-coming drivers.

Every responder has an important individual role at a motor vehicle crash. Here are 11 behaviors the incident commander must require from first responders to help maintain a safe TIMA.

  • Maintain an acute awareness of the high risk of working near moving traffic.
  • Never trust moving traffic.
  • Always look in both directions before you move.
  • Never turn your back to moving traffic.
  • Exit and enter crew cabs from the protected side away from traffic.
  • Don the level of protective clothing and equipment commensurate with the potential hazards present including Class II high-visibility safety vests.
  • Always look before opening doors and stepping out of emergency vehicles.
  • Be alert when walking around apparatus.
  • Stop at corner of the unit, check for traffic.
  • Stay on protected side when possible.
  • Maintain a reduced profile when moving through any area where a minimum buffer zone exists.

Unfortunately, working at the scene of motor vehicle crashes continues to become more hazardous with more vehicles traveling over poorly maintained roads and highways in many areas of the country. When we add the drivers who are doing a variety of things besides concentrating on driving, the potential risk to emergency responders on scene grows exponentially.

Working a MVC in today's world is most assuredly a high-frequency and high-risk activity. Make sure that you and your people are prepared every day.

10 more must-do things to become a firefighter

Posted on Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:42:50 UTC

For an aspiring firefighter, there is no easy way to obtain the dream career. As they say, "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it." There is no short cut or fast track to become a firefighter, regardless of what anyone may tell you.

Many of you remember my article "10 Must do Things to Become a Firefighter." Now, it is time to update it with 10 more must-dos. Here they are in no specific order.

1. Prepare for the written examination.
It amazes me how many individuals cannot pass the entry-level hiring process written examination. Or if they can pass it, are unable to score in the mid-to-high 90 percent range.

Although 70 percent is the standard pass point, it is common for departments to only take the top scores to proceed to the next step of the process. Many think they did awesome by passing the written examination with 75 percent only to find out the department only wants candidates with scores of 95 percent and above to continue.

A written examination by itself is not going to tell a department who the best candidate is; it is only one of several items used to weed out candidates who are not fully prepared for the position. If you're not consistently scoring in the mid-to-high 90s, find your weaknesses and do what it takes to increase the scores in those sections.

Also, fire departments typically require cadets to maintain an 80 percent average on all written examinations in the recruit academy — with tests typically occurring at the start of every day. Not maintaining at least an 80 percent average may lead to termination, something that occurs more than you can imagine.

2. Be in the best physical and mental shape.
Face it, most people in the United States are overweight, out of shape, or both — including many within the fire service. Firefighting is a very physically and mentally demanding career that requires candidates to be on the top of their game.

If you are not physically and mentally prepared for the rigors of the recruit academy, you're going to find yourself in a world of hurt. I've learned over the years that when either the physical or mental shape becomes an issue during a recruit academy, the other will soon follow.

That means if someone is having problems performing the physical aspects of the job, their frustration and their knowing it may lead to termination will also affect their mental performance. It's like an athlete who cannot recover from a botched play. Eventually, the recruit becomes a train wreck, leading to either resignation or termination.

Besides all of the physical skills you'll be performing at the academy, you'll also be performing physical fitness. Some departments have recruits run several miles a few times a week and do a number of push ups, pull ups and other related workouts. Have a solid workout plan before you get hired as a firefighter so it is a smooth transition into the academy and your career.

3. Prepare and practice for the oral interview.
In most departments, your oral interview score will make up all or an overwhelming majority of your final ranking on the hiring list. Scoring well on the oral interview doesn't prove you'll be a great firefighter; it just means you can talk a great game.

However, you need to talk a great game to make the final cut, and then you also need to walk the walk to prove you were as great as you said you were.

Use the Internet to research the most common oral interview questions and write down your possible answers. Then rehearse answering those questions, timing yourself in the process to ensure you're not spending more than two minutes on any answer — unless it's the opening statement, which you can spend up to four minutes to answer.

To rehearse the answers, arrange mock interviews with company officers or chief officers who you've built relationships with (see item 8 for more on networking).

Make a video recording of the rehearsal and analyze your performance to ensure you're not doing anything inappropriate or distracting. More importantly, ensure that you're conveying passion, enthusiasm and portraying yourself as someone the board would like to work with and who would fit into their culture.

4. Have a strong character.
Most departments will hire for character and positive attitude, and train for firefighting skills. This is something most candidates don't get; they focus too much on packing their resume with certifications and qualifications and forget that we don't hire resumes, we hire people. We can teach many to perform the basic firefighting skills.

However, we can't teach many to have a positive attitude or have outstanding character traits that should have been instilled in you by your parents, guardians, family members and friends.

5. Prepare to perform under stress
Recruit academies do not test for character, but reveal it. Our academy coordinator puts this sign on the academy classroom wall to remind our newly hired firefighters we will get to know them very intimately over the 16 weeks of the academy.

The oral board that interviewed you for 10 or 30 minutes and thought you were the cat's meow only heard you speak of how great you were. We get to now put you through 16 weeks of a very challenging and at times stressful recruit academy that will require you to perform as an individual and as a team member, something many are not prepared to do.

It's amazing how some perform under stress: some do a great job, some excel, some scream at their teammates, some cannot perform, and some even snap at their instructors, thus showing their true colors. It is common for a fire department to terminate firefighters in a recruit academy for attitude or behavioral issues, even when they are passing their tests with at least 80 percent.

Some may think "they're passing their tests, so what?" If someone is going to be a jerk or not be able to handle the stress, he will not be an asset to his crew or the public; he also will more than likely be a problem for the rest of his career.

6. Obtain a Firefighter I certification.
While most fire departments don't require Firefighter I, I strongly encourage all candidates to complete a fire academy at a college prior to getting hired by a fire department.

That's because many college academies are tougher than some paid fire department recruit academies. And if you can handle a college academy, you have a great chance at handling a recruit academy.

A college academy lets you make mistakes and even allows you to fail and come back again and again if needed. Fire department academies don't provide that same amount of patience and understanding. You either cut it or you're out.

7. Become a paramedic.
In many departments require candidates to be paramedics, even for a firefighter position. Being a paramedic will also lower the numbers of your competitors, since there are not many out there.

8. Network with those in the fire service.
If you haven't figured it out by now, getting ahead in life is not always due to luck or hard work. Many times it's because of timing, opportunity, as well as how much those you know believe you will be a good fit for the position.

Networking doesn't mean sucking up or kissing butt. It means getting to know others who may assist you in some capacity and who you may be able to assist at some point.

Being able to play nice in the sandbox with others, and not taking your toys and leaving is a skills some don't possess, and it definitely shows in their ability to get ahead in life or even stay afloat in their current position.

9. Know yourself inside and out.
Be able to articulate to an oral board who you are, how you have prepared for the job, where you want be in the next five and 10 years, why you want the job, what you can bring to the job, what you can bring to the department, what you can bring to the community, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your values are, what you believe in, and basically anything else that relates to you.

Sadly, many candidates do a terrible job of selling themselves — being able to talk about themselves and why they would be a great fit for the position. If you don't know yourself and can't talk about yourself, who can?

10. Develop good mechanical ability.
Years ago, most fire department candidates came from the trades. Today, very few candidates come with this experience. However, the job of a firefighter has not changed in that mechanical ability and trades experience are still required, given all of the hand tools and power tools we use.

If you don't have trades experience, find someone who does and learn the basics of hand tools and power tools, as well as mechanical ability. Most fire departments have mechanical-ability questions on their written examination.

And you'll need to have a basic understanding of mechanical ability to pass the recruit academy, pass the probationary period, and more importantly, gain the respect and credibility of your co-workers and supervisors. A great website to learn more about mechanical ability is www.howstuffworks.com

It isn't easy becoming a full-time firefighter. However, talk to the overwhelming majority of those working in the fire service and they will tell you it was worth the time and effort they put in to become a firefighter. Good luck.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 01:01:44 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."

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."

How to train for firefighter, police games

Posted on Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:18:19 UTC

On June 26 the 2015 World Police & Fire Games will kickoff in Fairfax, Va. The games' organizers expect over 12,000 professional, public safety athletes from 70 countries competing in more than 60 sports to qualify for over 1,600 medal sporting events.

That's a lot of public safety athletes that are preparing right now to excel in their respective sports and events.

If you are one of these dedicated athletes or just a dedicated public safety athlete not interested in competing, I intend to walk you through a workout program that will get you in the best shape of your life.

The plan is simple: you have six months to train, balance, eat clean, prepare and peak for the pinnacle of public safety fitness. In this case it's the games or maybe just to be better then you are today.

No fitness program for any athlete regardless of the sport is complete without proper mobility and flexibility. No matter how strong you are or how fit, without good mobility (joint motion and muscular flexibility) injury will eventually occur.

Movement matters
The best athletes will fail without proper movement. Movement matters, so you need to move well and move well often.

First is self-myofascial release followed by trigger-point treatment. This is truly where great athletes are made and old injuries go away. The time you spend preparing to workout should be almost as long as the workout.

Think of it as "pre-hab so you do not have to rehab." As I stated in my last article, check off the truck then check off your body.

This approach is perfect for when you are on duty because you have to get you ready for whatever call comes in. As an athlete, some targeted pre-shift stretching is good, but you have to do more. That's where the foam roller comes in.

I like to think of foam rolling as brushing my muscles. As an obsessive-compulsive muscle brusher, I want to roll each and every fiber I can get. Start at the calf, then the hamstring and then the glutes.

From there I like to focus on the front of the leg, and what I call the firefighter spot, the inner thigh. From there, go to the lats and finally the upper back.

Trigger points
The foam roller warms up the big muscles, just like a jog or those dreaded calisthenics we all did in the past. Now, focus on the root of most movement evil, trigger points. The above video explains trigger points very well and demonstrates how to relieve them.

So the superficial tissue is warmed up from the roller and then you got deep with the tennis ball to mobilize those nasty trigger points. At this point, any stretching you do will be much more effective.

That's the pattern you need to follow each and every time you train. A good warm up should take at least 10 to 15 minutes, but it's this scientific approach to movement and mobility that will reduce your chance of injury both on and off the job.

Now that you are moving well and moving often, it's time to train. I'll break training for police and fire games into two articles. This one addresses mobility and stability; the next looks at the priority fitness system that I have developed to create tactical fitness.

Weeks 1 to 3
After you're warm up, do the following six exercises in a circuit. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps for each exercise with no rest between exercises; do the bear crawls the full length of the bay.

Rest 90 seconds between sets and then repeat.

For your cool down, do 30-second intervals on the stepper (bike or rower are OK too) with 15 seconds rest for a total of eight rounds. As you progress to week 3 feel free to add your turnouts to the mix.

Weeks 4 to 6
Each exercise is three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a strict 45 seconds rest between sets. Use awesome technique; sloppy reps do not count.

When done, grab a kettle bell or heavy dumbbell and do farmers walks up and down the bay. Do them left handed, right handed and with both hands. Make sure that your torso is upright and that the shoulders are pulled back at all times during the walks.

After each lap, before switching hands, run the bay three times; if you have a tower hands, do the stairs one time after each lap. As you progress and get used to the movements, do it in your turnouts.

Remember, no exercise program should ever cause injury if it's done properly. Technique matters and so does your diet. Next, we'll look at priority fitness system.

HAZMAT Response Video Supplement: Personal Protective Equipment

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

Fire service has a leadership crisis

Posted on Mon, 7 Apr 2014 15:05:54 UTC

After my last article, I received emails from various people around the country. Some offered thanks and support for continuing to carry the message on the importance of a diverse workforce.

Some gave me even more material to use in future columns about issues that women are confronted with. And some asked permission to reprint the article, which was nice recognition and another avenue to expose the issues women face across more audiences.

I have had the good fortune of meeting some amazing people in the fire service, from firefighters to chiefs, to magazine editors, to leaders of affinity organizations, to scholars, to political leaders, to vendors, and to members of other public safety professions confronting the same challenges we have in the fire service.

Throughout these brief interactions, I have met few brave enough to stand in front of a crowd and voice their heartfelt support on the issue of diversity in the context of their own failures. It has been a long haul of shaking my head wondering when the fire service would finally "get it."

Reason for hope
Why is it still an issue bringing women on the job, promoting women to front-line officer positions, or considering women in chief officer positions? Women lead Fortune 500 companies, women are in high-ranking positions in the military, two women have run for vice president, and we have real potential for a woman running in the next presidential election.

Recently, I received reason to hope that maybe some fire service leaders are finally getting it. IAFC President Bill Metcalf and Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley spoke at a conference hosted by the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services.

President Metcalf admitted that the fire service has failed in promoting diversity. I could not believe my ears when I first heard the words.

I made eye contact with various people sitting around me, and all of us had the same look of shock on our faces.

Then, Chief Critchley said that he had been confronted the day before by someone who challenged him to do more for women. He was told that it was not enough for fire chiefs to say they supported women, and that they were behind us and ready to be there for us.

Changing mindset
Instead, Chief Critchley was challenged to take the forward position on this issue, and lead from the front. Chief Critchley spoke clearly in admitting that there was more that he could, and should, do more for women in the fire service.

Standing before an audience of more than 200 conference attendees, two white male fire chiefs admitted failing women in the fire service. A truly cathartic moment for those of us who have been trying to represent and advocate on behalf of women for what seems like a lifetime.

President Metcalf offered two more issues that relate specifically to diversity. The first was that the fire service is in the midst of a leadership crisis due to the pending retirements of some of our most experienced leaders.

The second was the issue of behavioral health and the importance of fire departments offering programs to mitigate this latest industrial "hazard" that we are experiencing. I agree with the importance of these issues, but, pardon the interruption; we have a bit more to discuss regarding these two issues.

Leadership crisis
I would propose that in tandem with the inability of the fire service to sustain and grow diversity in the industry, we have had a leadership crisis for the last 30 years, starting when women first broke the barriers of entering the fire service.

How can I back up such an assertion?

Because I still hear and receive emails of the issues women confront. For example, two women who are in high-ranking positions in metro-size fire departments have recently been exposed to unethical management practices.

These unethical acts will significantly influence the ability of these two women to reach the highest-ranking position in their department. Both are highly qualified, highly educated, highly respected women. Both are being held back by other ranking chief officer making false accusations on performance issues or just frankly keeping women down.

And these women are defenseless. Their fire chiefs will not step in and correct the issues. If the women file an EEOC claim, their careers and reputation will take a beating. This is simply another failure in leadership.

Champions needed
The issue of behavioral health for women has been around for the same 30 years that we have been exposed to failed leadership. Women who are harassed, mistreated, shunned, discriminated against, etc … have been talking about behavioral health issues (like depression) for years. Yet, no one has been paying attention or admitting the significance of these issues.

Many women have left the service due to behavioral health issues. Respectfully, women are keenly aware of the failed leadership and behavioral health issues in the fire service. We are thankful that these issues are now being addressed on a broader scale.

Yet, our recruitment and retention numbers are diminishing. Women are leaving the service, retiring, and many, many departments do not have one woman on the job.

Have we missed our opportunity for women to reach critical mass in the fire service? Is it worth it for women to continue battling the same issues over and over? Will we overcome?

A universal problem
The good news is that the failure of leadership in the fire service is consistent with the scholarly opinion on leadership in general. Leadership development programs are failing across many industries.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to make the connection that more leadership development programs — degree and otherwise — should equate to better leadership. However, many agree this is not the case.

An interesting perspective on leadership development was recently promoted through a TED talk by Roselinde Torres, senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group.

Torres offered up the following: the reason leadership development programs are not producing 21st century leaders is because many of these programs are designed around a traditional leadership model that was effective 20 years ago.

Today's leaders need to be prepared to deal with complexity and information flow at levels never seen before, she said. Leaders must be more global, digitally enabled and transparent.

You can watch the TED talk to fill in the gaps, but the final analysis comes down to leaders answering three questions for themselves.

Making change
First, where are you looking to anticipate change? Who are you spending your time with; what are you reading; and how are you distilling this into understanding where your organization needs to go?

Second, what is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network? Who do you spend your time with — people like you or people different from you in any way possible so that you learn to establish trusting relationships that lead to the accomplishment of a common goal? Who are you listening to?

And last, are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? Good leaders dare to be different.

Yes, President Metcalf and Chief Critchley, the fire service has failed. You both have shown tremendous courage in speaking to that failure and women do appreciate your support.

We will follow your lead. We will continue to be patient … for a little while longer.

How the EMS Field Bill can help fund the industry’s future

Posted on Wed, 18 Feb 2015 23:13:19 UTC

Experts have long recognized that EMS should serve as a vital link in a coordinated health care system, and the EMS Field Bill is critical to helping EMS establish long-term sustainability.

The culture of ‘we don’t make a difference’ needs to end. Instead, we need to be the face of health care in our communities by focusing on ways to identify and modify risk in target populations, assess and facilitate treatment of chronic conditions and improve coordination of care for acute complaints. These are feasible measures and only become easier with increased federal support from the EMS Field Bill.

This bill impacts all facets of EMS from the field provider to administrator, and is most evident in grant programs that it supports:

1. EMS Excellence, Quality, Universal Access, Innovation, and Preparedness (EQUIP) Grant program covers operational issues that burden systems and implores them to initiate creative solutions to our current practices. It works to:

  • Provide direct funding to EMS agencies for equipment, training, research, and program development
  • Spur innovation in the delivery of field EMS
  • “Improve EMS agency readiness and preparedness for day-to-day emergency medical response.” (H.R. 809)

2. Field EMS System Performance, Integration, and Accountability (SPIA) Grant program

  • Helps provide funding to the second largest aspect of the bill which addresses national standards of quality metrics
  • Allows for nationwide comparisons and a minimum quality standard by funding data collection
  • Supports implementing and evaluating system-wide quality improvement initiatives”
  • “Incorporates national EMS certification for all levels of emergency medical technicians and paramedics”

3. Field EMS Education Grants

  • Promote field EMS as a health profession, ensuring the availability, quality, and capability of field EMS educators, practitioners
  • Fund educational programs that train field EMS providers and promote the “adoption and implementation of the education standards identified in the ‘Emergency Medical Services Education Agenda for the Future’”
  • Develop and implement education courses that instruct “national, evidence-based guidelines” and the “translation of the lessons learned in military medicine to field EMS”

These grants all help alleviate the current financial strain placed on other grant programs, including AFG. By enhancing federal funding allocation to agencies, the focus should shift from providing support that allows organizations to maintain existing standards, to helping them flourish through innovation solutions that go above and beyond the standard of quality care.

Funding Opportunities: What's in Your Backyard?

Posted on Mon, 11 Aug 2008 13:36:01 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, our Department Can't Comply with Rehab Standards

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 13:19:30 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Assembly buildings: 6 safety items for your civilians

Posted on Mon, 26 Aug 2013 09:49:13 UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six steps

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

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

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

Firefighter communication: How to avoid dangerous traps

Posted on Mon, 9 Feb 2015 00:52:03 UTC

Communications plays an important part within our society as it forms the very basis upon which we operate, function, live and relate to each other.

In the fire service, communication plays an even bigger role. It is the lifeline between firefighters working on the fireground, as it also is in the station during non-emergency times.

Communication is constantly and consistently identified as an area for improvement in the fire service.

A majority of NIOSH line-of-duty-death reports highlight how communications was either nonexistent or poorly established, thus leading to a fatality or a serious injury. The recommendation to improve, train, replace or even update communication systems is consistent in these LODD reports.

Stop freelancing
Whenever there is a communication breakdown between working crews and incident command or other sector officers, the dominos of becoming a handicapped firefighter start to line quickly. One of the biggest concerns we have individually and collectively is the safety and well-being of each other; this includes preventing freelancing from occurring.

Freelancing is when we do not communicate to someone, be it an officer, sector officer, incident command or another firefighter what we are doing or where we are going. When this happens, disaster usually strikes, resulting in a bad outcome.

Communication on the fire ground can be very overwhelming, especially when it is a large event and involves numerous crew members, mutual aid and outside agencies.

There are two main ways in which we can communicate with each other: by a portable radio or face to face. Of the two, face-to-face communication is the best as it allows for instant receipt of the message and also provides other means of communication to take place such as facial gestures and body language.

Communication basics
Using a portable radio provides for long-distance, large-area communication. A portable radio is an excellent piece of technology and very useful for our profession. It does, however, breakdown operationally and requires a user to use the device in the proper manner.

Communication requires a sender and a receiver. A common breakdown in communication is between the sender and the receiver. Either the receiver did not receive the message or the sender did not send the message properly.

Communications needs to be in a clear and simple format so that anyone using a portable radio or even speaking face to face can easily understand the message.

The order model is a standard way to transmit messages over a portable device ensuring that both the sender and the receiver understand each other.

This is where the receiver repeats back to the sender the message. By doing this, it lets the sender know that the message was received and understood by the other party.

Training on this method of communicating will help to eliminate the dominos that will line up when communications start to descend on the fireground. And, it will help prevent a firefighter or crew form becoming handicapped.

Safety tips for winter-weather response

Posted on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 08:28:50 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.