How fire races to the eaves

Posted on Tue, 11 Feb 2014 22:03:17 UTC

Last November I wrote about tactical considerations for managing fires involving vinyl-siding clad structures. Since then, additional information regarding the combustibility of vinyl siding has come to my attention.

As my previous article reflects, many in the fire service have long believed that vinyl siding is very combustible and has been the primary culprit responsible for rapid fire propagation up exteriors.

However, the latest research by both the National Institute of Standards and Technology and UL regarding the combustibility of vinyl-clad structures indicates additional fuels behind the vinyl siding may contribute significantly to rapid exterior fire spread, rather than the vinyl itself.

Vinyl plays a role but not alone according to Steve Kerber, director with UL Fire Safety Research Institute. The combination of vinyl and foam insulation board seems to be the bigger issue as it pertains to having fast-moving vertical fires that become attic fires.

There is also a big difference between the typical vinyl siding and vinyl siding that is meant to look like cedar planking or shake, Kerber said. There is more material and mass in the latter and the fire spread is more powerful.

According to Matthew Dobson, the Vinyl Siding Institute's senior director of code and regulatory, who wrote in his article "Siding with Design" in the October 2007 issue of The Construction Specifier magazine, that vinyl siding is composed mainly of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, which is inherently flame-retardant. PVC resists ignition from another flame until approximately 730 degrees Fahrenheit, will self-ignite at about 850 degrees, and is recognized for approved use by the International Building Code.

Dobson further notes the ignition temperature for vinyl is significantly higher than typical wood framing, which self-ignites at approximately 770 degrees.

Melting vinyl
Fire officials understand very well, however, that fire exposure temperatures to vinyl siding can far exceed those temperatures noted for auto-ignition. Vinyl siding softens and sags and will often drop out of the way when exposed to flame.

The combustible underlayment is then exposed to direct flame contact, which is a significant factor. According to Dan Madrzykowski, a fire-protection researcher with NIST, typically the exposed underlayment consists of weather wrap over oriented strand board, or it could be expanded polystyrene, or poly isocynurate foam board, all of which are very combustible and are not to be installed in an exposed manner as per the labeling on the product.

The vinyl siding is supposed to serve as a fire-resistant barrier to the underlayment materials. However, with direct flame or heat exposure, the vinyl siding will be quickly breached, thus allowing the combustible underlayment material to ignite. Rapid fire extension can then occur upwards into the eave and attic space.

The attached video shows eave fire experiments conducted by UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute as part of the 2011 DHS grant evaluating fire service attic fire dynamics and suppression tactics. A series of three large-scale experiments were conducted that examined exterior fire spread into the eaves and how and the speed at which exterior fires transitioned to attic fires.

Kerber said the results of these UL experiments will be published in the next few months.

To the firefighter on the street it may make little difference exactly which fuels are involved. However, my intent is to put forth only factual information, based on solid fireground experience and current science-based fire research.

From a tactical perspective, the end result on how to effectively manage this type of fire threat remains the same. A rapid developing fire on the exterior of a vinyl-clad structure can pose a serious risk to firefighters and occupants alike if not quickly and properly dealt with.

NYPD fire death highlights need for education

Posted on Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:14:28 UTC

It is a tragedy anytime a first responder loses his or her life trying to save others. The hurt is greatly compounded when the death was preventable.

It is impossible to know if an SOP, even one that was taught rather than just written, on high-rise fire response would have prevented N.Y. housing police officer Dennis Guerra and his partner Rosa Rodriguez from using the elevator during an April 6 Coney Island fire. Guerra died and Rodriguez remains hospitalized.

The two officers were on scene before firefighters and took the elevator to the 13th floor — the fire floor — to help rescue residents. They were overcome by smoke and later rescued by firefighters.

To their credit, New York police and fire officials worked together to draft a protocol for police who arrive first on fire scenes.

Stories of police jumping in to help fire victims is nothing new. They are often first on scene simply because they are already in their vehicles. And in communities protected by volunteers, they can be on scene for 10 minutes before fire crews arrive.

What surprised me is that New York didn't already have a protocol for this in place. I would venture to guess that many jurisdictions are in the same boat as New York when it comes to how police behave on fire scenes.

Police have made some incredibly heroic rescues at structure and vehicle fires. They've also gotten into trouble, putting themselves in peril and drawing limited fire resources away from fire and rescue activities.

Having an SOP for police response isn't enough. Nobody needs another sheet for the binder. Police need to cross train with firefighters, even if it is just tabletop exercises, on how to best help victims and other responders. And they need to understand how fire behaves.

This may mean that fire chiefs, especially volunteer chiefs, will need to reach out to their police counterparts. It might mean developing special training or lessons — but if it saves one cops' life, it is worth it.

Spotlight: The WauK board lightens load of patient extraction

Posted on Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:47:07 UTC

Company Name: The WauK board
Headquarters: Middletown, Ohio
Signature Product: The WauK board
Website: www.waukboard.com

After experiencing excruciating back pain during a patient extraction in a narrow hallway, Brian Bandel knew there had to be a better way. He and his father Garry invented The WauK board to rescue supine patients while preventing back injuries to the first responders. The elder Bandel shared his thoughts in an email interview.

Where did your company name originate from?
Our founder (and my son), Brian Bandel, works for the Waukegan Fire Department. WauK board is short for Waukegan and a play on the word "walk". Because of its uniqueness it has also allowed us to register "WauK" as a trademark.

What was the inspiration behind starting your company?
Brian and his crew were on a call for a full arrest. They walked into a small house that was not built to code and had multiple families living there. A team of 5 firefighters and paramedics tried moving a 300+ lb. patient around a tight corner and could only utilize two personnel since the hallway was so narrow. The resulting back pain was his main motivator – and he thought there should be an easier way to do this operation. Thus, he invented the Wauk board.

Why do you believe your products are essential to the EMS community?
Our product is designed to prevent back injuries to first responders and extend their careers. It allows them to rescue a boarded (supine) patient by rolling the patient instead of carrying the patient. It is the only self-contained product on the market that addresses rescuing a supine patient in tight spaces or down stairs that doesn't involve carrying the patient.

What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?
There have been many big challenges, but two come to mind as the biggest.

First, getting our patent approved took four years and involved overturning the original rejection of the patent office. Without patent protection we would not have been able to maintain our uniqueness in the marketplace.

Second was deciding to manufacture and market the product ourselves after we spent two years trying to convince major backboard manufacturers to license our product. Licensing would have required someone else to arrange for the manufacture and marketing of the WauK board. Once we decided to do this on our own, we had to find a manufacturer who could engineer and manufacture the WauK board and we had to find distributors willing to market and sell it. We have been successful on both accounts. Our manufacturer, Granger Plastics, is a world-class rotational molder and their president, Jim Cravens, does the engineering and design work. Without Jim, there is no WauK board.

What do your customers like best about you and your products?
Without a doubt, our customers have loved discovering that the WauK board has a self-contained footrest, permanently mounted wheels and 500 lb. capacity. Anyone who has ever rescued a patient by carrying them on a backboard or stretcher immediately recognizes the benefit of a self-contained dolly. Many times we hear "that's so obvious, how come no one else has invented that?" and "I could have used that last week when..."

What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
Every person affected by back injury represents someone Brian might know on the job. Back injuries can put professionals out of work for months, years and even permanently. Their quality of life is decreased and their families are affected. To us, it's personal.

Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share with our users about you or your company?
We also market the WauK board to the funeral service industry. Earlier this year we were making a video that demonstrates how to remove a deceased body from the second story of a house. I was the deceased. The funeral director (FD) we were working with and my son Brian played the FD and assistant. The FD backed his service vehicle into our driveway, opened the rear hatch, and he and Brian proceeded to remove me from the second floor using the WauK board with a body bag attached. I was zipped up in the body bag during this photo shoot. Meanwhile, our neighbor across the street drove by, saw the activity, and noticed the "FD" on the license plates. By the time she reached the supermarket (1 mile away) she was in tears and on the phone with her husband. “Do you know what's happening at Garry's house?” she asked, to which he replied, “Yes, they’re making a video!”

What’s next for your company? Any upcoming projects or initiatives?
We’ve received many great suggestions from the EMS and Fire Service communities. We now have two versions -- each requiring its own mold -- of the WauK board; the standard size and the compact version. The smaller size allows the WauK board to fit into smaller ambulances. The next near term modification will be to develop the Ultra Compact version -- smaller yet -- to accommodate ambulances with even smaller backboard compartments.

Longer term we will develop an outdoor version that will have all-terrain wheels and greater ground clearance to facilitate use in outdoor settings.

For more information on the WauK board, visit www.waukboard.com.

5 traits of great firefighting instructors

Posted on Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:11:41 UTC

When I began to consider what traits make a great fire instructor, I was inundated with ideas. There were so many people who came to mind who had shaped and mentored my career as not only a firefighter and officer, but also as an instructor.

One of the sayings that always comes to mind is, "every officer is an instructor" just by the nature of the position. I have learned over the years that instructing is more than just managing a crew. To truly instruct, you must be invested in the people you are leading, not just ordering them around.

Great instructors have some common traits that make them great. I would argue that instructors are unique in their delivery, in their experience and in the way that they create their own content. But, these five traits are found in almost every great instructor out there.

1. Knowledge
An effective instructor must have knowledge of the topic. I am not talking about "you took a class and now you can teach it" type of knowledge.

No, you have studied, read up on, asked those who are experts, and researched the topic in order to teach it to others. This process takes time; many will skip this step and eventually be caught by a student who knows more about the subject matter than the instructor. That's not a good situation.

2. Experience
With prerequisite knowledge also comes the need for experience. For example, you will not see me teaching farm-rescue classes. Although I have some background in that topic, I have not obtained the correct amount of knowledge or experience to effectively deliver that type of information.

To be effective you have to use knowledge from past experiences to add credibility to what your are presenting. I have witnessed newer instructors take a class and immediately want to teach it because they like the subject and are "into it."

This typically does not end well. Great instructors teach what they know and have experience in.

3. Ability to relate
Effective instructors can make content relevant to their audience. They have the ability to use experiences and events to illustrate concepts and theories.

This is most commonly done with storytelling and knowing how to relate to the audience. So, if I work in a suburban area and use tactics that are geared for a large number of personnel, I need to be able to teach tactics that can be used by a more rural department if that is where I am teaching.

Being able to relate is one of the most important traits a great instructor can have. Think about sitting in an EMS or first-aid class with a doctor as the instructor. That doctor, no matter how smart and how much experience he has, will be completely ineffective if he cannot relate the content to the audience in a way that meets their understanding and needs.

4. Passion
A great instructor must have a passion for teaching and the profession. We have all sat through a class with an instructor who was just there for the money or because he was made to do it. It is a miserable experience.

Passion is something you have or you don't. An "OK" instructor can be very successful because of the passion she exude during the class. It is contagious and it makes people feel good to know that the teacher care about the job and the students.

Normally, those with great passion are also those who take the time to learn the profession and job. They are usually students of the fire service and love passing on what has been shared with them. It's palpable and their students very rarely nod off during the afternoon.

This trait is what drives the instructor to take advantage of every learning moment that comes her way. These are the instructors who will stay after the class to show a group or individual the answer to a question instead of just telling them.

For example, after a hands-on class this instructor is the one who stays to show another technique, to let a student get more reps or try something new that was brought up in the class.

If the instructor is passionate, then the students are more likely to be as well.

5. Humility
Nobody likes a know-it-all. At one time, you were a new firefighter and didn't know as much as you know now. The great instructors will tell you that they are lucky and have been blessed with great mentors and instructors who helped them along.

Being humble is genuine with great instructors because they realize that they still have much to learn and that sharing the knowledge, experience, and information they have obtained to this point is an obligation and responsibility they have to the fire service.

Students are more accepting of information from an instructor who admits not knowing an answer or shares examples of professional failures. Those things help to make the instructor real and more credible and show transparency.

We are in this profession for a short time and our goal should always be to make the next generation of firefighter better than the current one. Humility plays a large role in that.

I'm sure you have your own ideas of what traits a great fire instructor should have, and you're probably right. We all are individuals and have unique gifts that make us effective.

Make sure your information is credible and that you have put in the time to ensure you can effectively deliver and demonstrate the material.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next month. Train hard and be effective in all that you do.

Rosenbauer steps into the chassis market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 easy step to get firefighters to follow safety rules

Posted on Wed, 2 Apr 2014 15:14:58 UTC

There were many big questions in the air at the recent Tampa2 Summit on the 16 Life Safety Initiatives. How can firefighter suicide be prevented? What is the connection between organizational culture and firefighter life safety?

What is the actual instance of firefighter cancer, and how can these illnesses be prevented? Are some casualties inevitable among those who do an inherently dangerous job?

Ten work groups were formed, each creating recommendations on specific topics from behavioral health to wildland firefighting. All of the recommendations were on point and valid, but I could also sense a little frustration among conference participants.

Of course it's important to talk about and plan for the big issues, but what can one person do right now to make a difference?

Immediate impact
This question was on my mind during one lunch break when I happened to share a table with two company officers from a large metropolitan department. They were talking about the problem of firefighters failing to always wear their air packs during overhaul, and how this exposure can lead to a number of long term illnesses.

"When I was a new firefighter, I took off my mask the minute my officer did," said one. "I didn't want to look weak in his eyes."

Others at the table echoed this attitude, reinforcing that the example set by the company officer often establishes the standard for health and safety during an entire emergency response.

Follow my lead
So the first obvious thing an individual can do is set a good example. It is critical that officers do this, but others — the senior firefighter, the highly respected engineer — should not underestimate their influence either.

Then another firefighter at the table recounted a system they had developed on his department for encouraging firefighters to stay on air longer.

"We use Scott masks, and you have to put your palm over your face to unscrew the regulator," he said. "So now when you put your hand over your mask to take it off, we look at it as if someone were holding a hand up in front of your face to stay 'Stop.' And then we look at the five fingers of the glove, and that means, wait five more minutes before you take off your mask."

Simple tools
I don't know who came up with this idea, but it's brilliant. It's not a sweeping policy that says firefighters must stay on air from the minute the get off the engine at the fire until the moment they step back on the rig to return to quarters. Certainly requiring firefighters to wear SCBA 100 percent of the time at fire calls would reduce toxic exposures, and that's a good thing.

But realistically, firefighters are not going to adhere to such an all-or-nothing policy. They will make decisions along the way about when to remove their breathing protection. And systems like the one I heard about in Tampa over lunch are great tools to assist every firefighter in making incrementally better decisions.

There are hundreds of ways individual firefighters can come up with reminders, rules of thumb, or individual systems for making firefighting a safer profession.

Conferences like the one last month in Tampa are great for talking about the big ideas, but may be even more valuable for sharing these smaller, more specific ideas in an informal way: over lunch, over beers, while riding the shuttle back to the airport.

Most importantly, whether the conversation centers on a nationwide study about cancer or a trick of the trade to get firefighters to use their protective gear more effectively, leadership always comes from example.

If officers want their crews to do something or to value something, then they must set the example in their actions and continue to live those values both on and off the emergency scene.

Safety tips for winter-weather response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wearable camera for fire inspections, investigations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The only easy day was yesterday’

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

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

Let’s take this one.

“The only easy day was yesterday”

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

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

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

People take action for one of two reasons:

1.) Avoid pain
2) Gain pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

What does it mean to you?

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


The best tools for firefighter rehab sectors

Posted on Tue, 19 Jul 2011 17:21:35 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!)

How to avoid getting denied AFG money for communications equipment

Posted on Wed, 2 Apr 2014 01:00:30 UTC

If you received an Assistance to Firefighters Grants award for interoperable communications equipment, please make sure that all equipment purchased are APCO Project 25 (P25) compliant.

In recent weeks, we have heard of a number of departments whose AFG awards are now in jeopardy because they failed to comply with the SAFECOM regulations and AFG program requirements.

When this is found to be the case, these purchases are ruled ineligible. If this is discovered when the grantee is requesting to draw down funds, these expenses will be deemed unallowable, and not reimbursed by FEMA. If the non-compliant equipment is discovered during an audit or desk review, or after reimbursement has been made, the grantee will be required to return those funds to FEMA.

The majority of these departments ended up in this predicament unintentionally. Here are some scenarios that explain how they got there, and how it could have been avoided.

Know what you’re buying
The first scenario involves grantees who did not study the P25 guidelines and/or did not examine the communications equipment when they purchased it to ensure compliance. All AFG applicants should conduct market research prior to submitting their application.

Ask prospective vendors if the desired communications equipment is P25 compliant and operates in accordance with SAFECOM regulations and technical standards. If you have questions or are not sure, manufacturers are required to produce, upon request, supporting documentation that shows the specified equipment is P25 compliant.

A second scenario involves departments that purchased communications equipment they were told was “upgradable,” and happened to be significantly less expensive than the P25 compliant equipment.

Remember, anytime you purchase anything that has a drastically lower price, there is a reason. The interoperable communications equipment you purchase with AFG funds must meet P25 compliance the day you take possession of it.

Intentional violation
A third scenario involves departments that may have intentionally violated the P25 requirement. If it is found that these grantees willfully misled the government, either in their application or through their request for reimbursement, they may be referred to the Office of the Inspector General for further investigation and possible prosecution.

It is the grantee’s responsibility to obtain and retain documented evidence that the equipment to be acquired has been tested and passed all the applicable P25 requirements. The grantee should be able to produce such documentation to the AFG program office upon request.

AFG applicants do not have to identify a specific P25 product in their application narrative, but they must affirm that the interoperable communications equipment requested or acquired is P25 compliant.

As an initial step in researching P25 compliant communications equipment, for either your AFG application or award, visit the DHS Lessons Learned Information Sharing website, RKB Certifications & Declarations:

  • Type the vendor/manufacturer name of the equipment being researched into the “Title” box and hit “Apply”
  • Products listed will have supporting P25 documentation. Click on the product for specification details and documentation.

The move to P25 compliant communications equipment is another attempt to standardize our response capabilities. APCO Project 25 is a set of standards produced through the joint efforts of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International, the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors, selected federal agencies and the National Communications System. It’s standardized under the Telecommunications Industry Association.

P25 communications equipment has numerous bene?ts in performance, efficiency, capabilities and quality.

It is programmable, scalable, and can communicate in analog mode with legacy radios and in both analog and digital mode with other P25 equipment.

P25 compliant equipment also has encryption capability, and improved audio quality. P-25 radios will allow users from different agencies or areas to communicate directly with each other.

This will allow agencies at the federal, state or local level — basically any agency — to communicate more effectively with each other when required. This is critical during large-scale emergency situations.

7 essentials to better trench rescue: Part 2

Posted on Wed, 5 Feb 2014 17:32:07 UTC

Part 1 of this series presented some general considerations and practices to enhance both the efficiency and safety of our rescue operations. Those steps took us up to the trench and allow our sheeting material to be placed.

Next comes the challenge of shoring. Here are the remaining three key elements imperative to safe and efficient shoring operations.

  1. Acquire low-pressure trench bags for slough operations and trench wall deviations.
  2. Stop using timber and mechanical shoring. Pneumatics and hydraulics provide an array of solutions for different budgets that are faster and more effective.
  3. Use techniques and tools that allow the trench to be completely shored from the top.

These essentials require training and resources but yield tremendous returns if the objective is a viable trench rescue. Here's a closer look at each.

Low-pressure trench bag
We've already discussed the importance of panel sets that are near vertical and the use of bridging to establish a straight edge or template for straight panels. The next step is to analyze the voids between the straight panels and the trench wall.

When these voids exist, the typical practice is to allow the panel to move out of alignment and marry up with the trench wall as it is configured unless the void is radical. This dramatically increases the likelihood of shoring failure should a secondary collapse occur.

There are three choices to fill these voids and create horizontal load columns that will maximize the shoring's effectiveness: fill the void with soil, cribbing or a medium.

Filling the void with soil is commonly referred to as backfilling. The advantage of this choice is that soil is readily available on every trench rescue scene, simplistic, and conforms and loads well.

The disadvantage is that it is difficult to control and relatively time consuming and labor intensive. This is particularly problematic with the first pair of panels. If there is nothing on each side of the initial panels to contain the soil, then the soil being dumped into the void will fall to the bottom of the gap, build up to the maximal angle of repose, and then spill out around the panels into the trench and onto the victim.

Cohesive and wet soils may be difficult to break up and result in large clumps with extensive voids in the soil pack. The most common way to pull off backfilling is to get a lot of buckets and shovels and start filling them from the spoil pile and dumping them behind the panel.

Filling the void with cribbing provides more control over the placement of the backfill product and can be done quicker than soil buckets typically. However, careful attention has to be paid to ensure that the cribbing, wedges, etc. are placed appropriately for good load columns; soil backfilling is usually required to fill in the remaining voids. Additionally, the cribbing can be unstable initially and roll or shift until it settles into the trench wall once pressurized.

Bag it
Filling the void with a medium — low-pressure airbags — is the best option for large slough zones. These airbags have flat loading surfaces as well as 3- to 4-foot diameters to fill the void behind the panel.

These bags are only 2 inches tall when deflated and up to 40 inches when inflated and have known load capacities which reduce the impact of variables when using more dynamic resources like soil and cribbing.

To use this option, lower the trench bags with accessory ropes into position behind the panel and inflate them until they make contact with the panel, but do not displace the panel. The panels are worked up to pressurization by bouncing back and forth between pressurizing the shore and adding air to the bag.

The key is to maintain the position of the panel until the shore is up to desired operating pressure. We have used pillow cushions or high-pressure bags in this application. They are highly unstable and have limited inflation height, so they are not a very feasible option.

Low-pressure airbags are expensive but have other lifting applications for heavy rescue that make them a versatile investment and worth their weight in gold for trench operations.

Pneumatic and hydraulic shores
Traditional shoring applications using wood, pipe jacks and screw jacks are slow, weak, complicated and typically under engineered. All shoring models should follow tabulated data charts.

Based on OSHA's tabulated data, the allowances for 4 x 4 material to be used in functional spacing configurations are very limited. Only a relatively shallow and narrow trench can accept this shoring material. The required upgrade is to increase the diameter of the timber and close the spacing.

Both of these options are bad in a rescue scenario and become worse when you add the significant increase in time and risk required to construct wood shoring systems. Hydraulic and pneumatic shores will take your trench shoring operations to another level.

Hydraulic shores, commonly referenced as speed shores, are aluminum or steel cylinders with a hydraulic piston and affix to large base plates, rails and other accessories. In the last article we touched on the debate regarding spot shoring techniques.

Speed shoring
Hydraulic shores are often used in these applications due to their larger base plates and rails, which the manufacturers advocate being placed directly against the soil. This depends on the classification of the soil and is extremely risky in rescues. Once a trench is compromised, it should degrade in soil classification by standard rule.

Also, the reduced risk and added strength and engineering achieved with strong backs and panels far outweigh the minimal time saved with spot shoring. These shores have a swivel end and a rigid end with minimal allowance for deflection.

If the base plates on the strong backs, or rails in lieu of strong backs, do not form near 90-degree angles with the shores, the pressurization process may result in catastrophic failure of the shoring system. The manufactures also advocate a 4-foot spacing allowance from the bottom of the trench due to the increased load cone created by the larger base plate (12 x 6 inches).

Hydraulic pumps with large fluid reservoirs transfer fluid from the pumps, through a hose, to the shore to bring it into the desired pressure range for the type of soil. Many of these shores are not equipped with mechanical or secondary captures, which results in a one dimensional safety of pressure maintenance that is solely dependent upon valves and seals.

These shores are very fast and easy to operate and install, but become somewhat time consuming and complex when altering their length. The throw or stroke of the strut is a constant, which is based on the one-size-fits-all piston base.

The overall length is altered by pulling pins and exchanging outer sleeve cylinders and reinserting pins. Lining up the holes and keeping track of the pins can be cumbersome. Finally, extreme discipline is needed to manage the valve controls to ensure that pressure is not inadvertently lost or gained.

Pneumatic shores
Pneumatic shores are aluminum or steel cylinders that can be pneumatically pressurized and mechanically captured. These shores are radically different from hydraulics in that a residual pressure within the cylinder will stroke it out until it meets a resistance of greater force.

Conversely, the hydraulic shores stroke out based only on the quantity of fluid pushed into them and will stop stroking out when fluid is not pushed. This means that pneumatic shores can separate and discharge if panels shift or if the ends are not captured making them more hazardous.

So, be disciplined about managing the pneumatic operating system and remain aware of the hazard level. Pneumatic shores have smaller base plates (6 inches), which eliminate the option for extended spacing.

Generally, these shores are vertically placed a maximum two feet from the bottom and top of the trench with no more than four feet in between struts.

There are variables for mechanical capture. Some have a self-locking strut; others have a threaded collar that must be spun down to capture progress. Some have a rotating collar and pinning system that must be applied to capture progress. Each option present advantages and disadvantages and should be fully understood before selecting a shoring system.

Pneumatic shores are lowered into position and pressurized with air from 150 to 250 psi. This pressurization is linked to the soil classification. I am an advocate of treating every compromised trench as a Class C soil composition to avoid under engineering.

These struts have a wide array of extensions and the swivel base plates allow for more significant deflections, which play a large role in advanced trench applications. Pneumatic shores are more expensive than hydraulic shores but are more versatile and efficient when the dimensions of the trench require augmenting the staged length of the struts.

Build from the top side
Select shoring systems and accessories that can be placed and manipulated from the top of the trench. Any time we can shore up a trench adequately before we place rescue personnel in harm's way, we are succeeding. There are some tricks of the trade and essential accessories that facilitate top side shoring.

Always have plenty of accessory ropes with suitable snap links. This can be purchased at any hardware store and should be a diameter that is easy to handle and commensurate with the loads applied. These ropes can be wrapped around, girthed or connected to the rigging rings on the struts.

One rope should be attached to each end of the strut and a rescuer assigned to each line. Use the top of the strong backs as a centering and friction point for the rope and lower the strut into position. Once the strut is locked, wrap the ropes around the strong backs so they are not trip hazards.

Pre-mark the strong backs at 1- to 2-foot increments with fluorescent or identifiable marking paint. This allows the trench boss and the rescuers lowering the strut to have visual benchmarks that aid in quickly placing the strut correctly from the top.

Purchase or manufacture long-handle tools that mechanically capture the struts. Hydraulic shoring tools should have a hook as well as a coupling release device. This allows struts to be lowered with the hook and the hoses to be released from the struts without entering the trench.

Pneumatic tools should be capable of spinning collars and if applicable, releasing self-locking collars. An easy manufactured version involves purchasing a long general-purpose, telescoping handle from the hardware store.

Wrap the tool attachment end of the handle with accessory rope with 2-inch gaps. Then apply a single-layer wrap of duct tape to keep the rope in place and another layer of reverse duct tape so that the adhesive is outboard.

Take your trench team out and see if these don't increase the speed, safety and efficiency of your operation. I'd love to hear how this impacts your approach to trench rescue.

How, and why, to buy a flammable liquids storage cabinet

Posted on Thu, 3 Apr 2014 20:42:17 UTC

NFPA 30: Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code and other standards bodies advise fire and EMS stations to have the proper equipment installed to store flammable liquids used in the operation and maintenance of fire apparatus and small engine-powered equipment, such as chainsaws, electrical generators, ventilation fans and more.

In order to meet the standard, it is important to learn more about the detailed recommendations for the safe keeping of flammable and combustible liquids. There also are several options available from manufacturers, depending on a station’s storage needs.

The most common approach for compliance in the storage of flammable liquids is the use of an approved flammable liquids storage cabinet. NFPA, OSHA and Uniform Fire Code (UFC) all require flammable cabinets be built to these specifications:

  • Bottom, top and sides of cabinet shall be at least No. 18 gauge sheet steel.
  • Cabinet must be double-walled with a 1-inch airspace.
  • Joints shall be riveted, welded or made tight by some equally effective means.
  • Door shall have a three-point latch.
  • Door sill shall be raised at least 2 inches above the cabinet bottom to retain spilled liquid within the cabinet.
  • Product tested to limit the internal temperature in the cabinet to 325° F for a 10-minute fire test.
  • Cabinet shall have a "Flammable — Keep Fire Away" legend.

In addition to these requirements, UFC requires self-closing doors that are connected to a fusible link. When a fire reaches 165°F and the fusible link melts, the cabinet doors close automatically.

Types of storage cabinets

It is important to assess flammable liquids storage needs before purchasing a cabinet. The typical fire and EMS station is probably home to some of many common flammable liquids that require storage, including gasoline for small engines used around station, automotive fluids and lubricants, paint thinners and strippers (for routine station facility maintenance) and oil-based paints.

Flammable liquids storage cabinets are available with both manual and self-closing door configurations; check with the building and fire code requirements for your jurisdiction before making a purchase. They come in two colors: yellow for aerosols, gasoline and flammable liquids and red for paint, inks and Class III combustibles.

Approved flammable liquids storage cabinets with self-closing doors come in sizes ranging from four gallons beginning around $425 to 90 gallons beginning at $1,200. Manual closing door models tend to run about $100 cheaper than self-closing models.

There are cabinets that can accommodate storage of more than 90 gallons. But these mostly are designed for commercial and industrial applications. These cabinets can be purchases from vendors including Durham Manufacturing, Eagle Manufacturing, Edsal, Jamco, Justrite, Sandusky Lee and Sellstrom Manufacturing.

Fire prevention begins in the home. Reduce the potential fire hazards presented by the storage of flammable liquids in the fire station by properly storing them in a listed and approved flammable liquids storage cabinet.

5 tips for starting public access defibrillation programs

Posted on Wed, 6 Jul 2011 16:48:59 UTC
Bound Tree University

Setting up a successful public access defibrillator (PAD) program should be on the forefront of every fire and EMS agency’s agenda. The American Heart Association notes that for every minute a person is in a cardiac arrest, their survivability decreases by 10 percent. Having easy-to-use PADs that are quickly accessible by the public increases the probability of delivering life-saving defibrillation sooner.

Here are the top five things to consider when starting a PAD program, along with some of the strategies I used to start a PAD program that has grown to more than 1000 PADs over just a few years.

Involve the stakeholders
With any successful startup program, getting the key players involved at the beginning is critical. Start by inviting those organizations and individuals who are the stakeholders – those with a vested interest in the success of starting a PAD program. This group should include fire, law enforcement, EMS, 9-11 communications, hospitals, cardiologists, the local American Heart Association, and other interested parties.

Start with regularly scheduled meetings and open discussions on the importance of PADs to the survival of cardiac arrest patients. You may begin the initial meeting by walking the group through the continuum of care that each member provides, starting at 911, through prehospital responders, to hospitals, and finally outpatient care. This helps everyone understand the many vital roles needed to help increase survivability. This group may grow and develop subgroups as other key tasks or steps are identified.

Funding
After the stakeholders have bought in to the program, one of the next steps is locating funding. Funding will be integral to starting and maintaining the program. A well connected stakeholder group may be able to tap into their individual networks to locate funding, and this task may also turn into a subgroup of the stakeholders. Funding may come from a variety of other sources, including community grants, endowments, fundraising events, matching funds, or other programs.

Hospitals may also have access to funding sources or use other methods to lower costs. For example, in one successful program, a hospital used its purchasing power to lower the costs for PADs. They did this by purchasing in PADs in volume at 100 units at a time, and also by helping to negotiate a lower price. This lead to a lower cost through a volume discount and lower shipping costs per unit. The hospital also offered to use their staff to help augment the program, store, and even tracking individual PADs. Their CEO was an early member of the stakeholder’s committee, and he quickly understood the importance of PADs to saving lives. He was used as part of the negotiating team to help get the lowest possible price for the PADs.

PAD selection and training
The team should determine whether the program will use a single model of PAD, or whether a variety of brands will be used. An argument for a single model is that as the program grows certain things become easier (and cheaper) due to economy of scale such as training, system upgrades, recalls, purchasing batteries and patches. Having one brand may also create a direct pipeline to the company for maintenance and support. Since CPR training includes PADs, if one particular brand of PAD is selected, then models for that particular device can be incorporated into training. This ensures realistic training based on the system.

The team should also ensure the PAD model integrates with the brand of device that prehospital responders are using. This will allow for similar defibrillation technology and protocols from PAD to responders, and ultimately the receiving hospital.

During this step, the team can also begin to focus on the location and placement of the initial PADs in the community. The team should consider sites where mass gatherings are common, areas with large populations over 50 years old, schools, and sites that take EMS longer to respond.

Marketing
This can be ongoing from the beginning of the process, and is important for creating “buzz” in the community. Once word is out, you may be surprised at the demand for the program from individuals and businesses.

Some marketing ideas can also be turned into fundraising opportunities. Two ways to get the word out and involve the community are mass CPR training days, and a contest to name the PAD program. The front of the PAD cabinet is also a prime marketing location and can be used to further market the program with contact information and logo placement.

The PAD program can also rely on local media for marketing. Depending on the situation, consider asking for coverage of successful cardiac arrest “saves,” or giving awards to citizen heroes for taking action.

System Integration
Early on, prehospital providers may be reluctant to embrace the program. Some may view it as encroaching on their turf and won’t fully understand the value PADs bring to increasing survivability. You should clearly explain that PADs will keep patients alive and offer responders a better opportunity to provide their skills to potentially survivable patients. Here are some integration considerations:

  • The dispatching center should have a database that will notify the call taker if a PAD is located at the site, and also provide instructions for use. Some computer aided dispatch programs (CADs) have the capability to flag addresses with PADs located on the property.
  • Some groups may not embrace the change because they may be required to perform new roles or change their operation, i.e. police may have to carry PADs in their patrol vehicles. It is important to overcome these arguments, as police often beat firefighters and EMS to the scene and can start defibrillation even sooner.
  • First responders should understand the importance of PADs and also be able to transition from a PAD to their device for transport. There needs to be guidelines and training on switching from a PAD to a more advanced cardiac device, and also when should they continue using the PAD.
  • This goes back to the importance getting key players from various agencies together so they can communicate the importance of the program back to their organizations.

Conclusion
These are only some of the areas to focus on prior to setting up a PAD program. These programs are easy to start and garner great success by increasing patient survivability from sudden cardiac arrest. If fire and EMS agencies do not step up and provide the necessary leadership to start a PAD program, some other organization will fill that role and take a significant new standing in your community. A successfully implemented PAD program is one of the only tools presently available for a city or EMS system to increase the rates of patient survivability from sudden cardiac arrest.

Feel free to contact me for any questions on PAD programs. I've helped start several programs, including one which received the national heart safe community award.

Firsthand account: 10 lessons from a massive flood

Posted on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 13:52:02 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.

4 people you meet on the EMS scene

Posted on Mon, 7 Apr 2014 13:54:46 UTC

After you attend enough medical emergencies you begin to recognize the same people time and time again. No, not the same individuals, but those with the same traits.

I guess it's just human nature how different people react to different events in their lives. However, you can count on meeting some of these four people at emergency medical scenes.

1. The translator
The translator will answer every question in the primary exam for the patient.

"Sir, how long have you been experiencing chest pain?"

"He has had chest pain for about an hour."

"Did you take anything?"

"He took a nitro about 5 minutes ago."

Now at the risk of sounding sexist, the translator is usually played by a female. Naturally, there can be male translators, and I have met a few.

"Sir, do you have any allergies?"

"He once had a reaction to starfish omelets in Borneo."

At some point I will politely ask if the patient can talk. That usually will help the translator gently understand we want to hear from the actual patient.

Obviously if the patient is incapacitated or a small child, a family member with information is very helpful and much needed.

2. The hospital selection expert
These can be very problematic. It usually starts at the time of dispatch. The selection expert will inform the call taker that the patient has to go to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake Hospital because that is where her doctor is.

When you walk in the door you are greeted by the selection expert who announces that this patient is going to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake and that is final.

Well, about that.

We usually try to accommodate these things, especially if the patient has a serious medical condition and she has recently been seen at that facility. Sometimes the medical condition dictates where we have to go. A certain level of trauma should go to a trauma facility; a suspected stroke should go to a stroke facility and so on.

Now I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. However, I don't think the urologist is coming down to the ER at 2 a.m. to look at a broken toe. I'm pretty sure the urologist will let the emergency room doctors handle this. Medical professionals please correct me if I am wrong.

But, in the end the selection expert will have none of this. Even an explanation of the protocol that says "transport to the closest appropriate facility" has no effect. They see nothing wrong with passing five hospitals on the way to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake.

However, sometimes it is a heavy call-volume night or the hospital request is completely unreasonable, like being in another state. This request was to go from Texas to Virginia.

We will politely explain that, no, we are going go St. Somewhere, which is five minutes away. This always ignites an uproar, and the inevitable, "I pay my water bill for this!"

3. The navigator
Once in the medic unit the navigator will question you on your route to the hospital.

"Are you going to go Main to the freeway? It's faster to go Route 1. I would go Maple to Main because Barnyard Memorial is right there on the right."

I usually smile and tell the navigator this is the route we have to go as dictated by Homeland Security. They always look confused after that. Of course in the case of the persistent navigator I use the fail-safe: "talking to the driver of an emergency vehicle is prohibited by federal law."

That always works.

4. The TV medical expert
Although they hold no medical training certifications of any kind, the medical expert has watched every episode of "Grey's Anatomy" and has Googled all the major aliments. They are a wealth of information and suggestions.

"This person needs a CT scan, I suspect a GI bleed, are you going to check the blood sugar? My mother died of this."

I attended a seizure call one afternoon at a bus stop. We knew who we were going to see before we left the station. A middle-aged homeless man resided at the bus stop.

He was and is a frequent flyer. He has a seizure disorder and gets transported a lot. The bus stop was one of those covered ones and this gentleman ate and slept there. On occasion he would get run off by the transit police, but most times he was there.

On this particular outing he had fallen during the seizure and bumped his head. A middle-aged woman was on the scene holding a towel to his head when we arrived. She gave her patient assessment and finished up with the statement, "It's my professional opinion that he be transported to a medical facility."

I acknowledged and thanked for her patient report and asked if she was a doctor or nurse.

"No," she said thoughtfully pointing to the end store in a strip center. "I run the wig shop over there."

The only thing missing was her saying, "But I did stay in a Holiday Hotel last night."

I politely invited her to be on her way back to the wig shop.

Let me hear from you.

Fire chief saves child, earns F-16 ride

Posted on Mon, 9 Jul 2012 15:52:53 UTC

At two or three Gs, the pilot told him in the pre-flight briefing, it will feel like you are wrestling a couple of guys but holding your own. At five Gs, you'll feel like you are losing the fight and at 9 Gs nothing moves — wherever something is, that's where it stays. They went over the procedures to eject if something went very wrong.

This was part of several hours of pre-flight instruction that Hobart, Ind., Fire Chief Brian Taylor went through prior to his 45-minute flight in an Air Force F-16 last week. The flight was in honor of him being named Hometown Hero at neighboring Gary, Ind. air show, following a dramatic rescue late last year.

Hobart is city of less than 30,000 residents that's mostly residential with a sprinkling of retail and light industry. The fire department operates out of three stations and carries a crew of 52 career firefighters. Last year the department responded to 3,650 calls, which includes ALS ambulance runs.

The fire
One of those calls came on Dec. 10, where Chief Taylor was the second to arrive on scene at mutual-aid call for a single-family residential structure fire. A mother and her two young children were inside. The initial report was that the mother was gone, one child had been found and the other was still missing.

"On arrival I had no intention of doing anything but command," Taylor said. "Anybody with kids knows that all rules go out the window."

Chief Taylor has three children.

One side of the house was fully involved and largely destroyed. Chief Taylor entered the structure to find the child — without his SCBA. He knew better; he's a 19-year veteran about to celebrate his second anniversary as fire chief.

"I didn't take the proper steps," he said. Tunnel vision had gotten the better of him, and part way into the structure he feared he might have gotten himself in trouble.

Fortunately, Chief Taylor's left-hand search yielded the room with the child. He was lying on the floor near the bed. Chief Taylor ran with the child to a waiting ambulance (see the accompanying video).

Lake Station, Ind., Fire Department's Lt. Robert Saylor rescued the other child.

"He wasn't breathing and had been in there for a significant amount of time," Chief Taylor said. "He's a miracle."

It was his first save and he regularly visited the child in the hospital. The doctors warned him that situations like this typically ended badly. But against the odds, the child's condition continued to improve.

That save is what landed Chief Taylor on the Hometown Hero radar and ultimately in the seat of the Thunderbird's F-16.

Pulling 9 Gs
During the pre-flight briefing, pilot Lt. Col. Jason Koltes, used a model of the plane to demonstrate what they would be doing in the air. Pulling 9 Gs takes a lot out of a person not used to it; Koltes told Chief Taylor to expect to be very tired the next day.

"It was incredible," he said after the flight. "It was so much more than I anticipated; the sheer power of that aircraft is awesome."

As thrilling as the ride was, it was important to Chief Taylor that a firefighter had been selected as the Hometown Hero.

"This was more of an honor for the fire service than for me personally," Chief Taylor said. "The fire service tends to experience a lack of recognition that it deserves. Over time, a community becomes complacent and views its fire department as an insurance policy."

The lift-assist calls won't be splashed across the news like was his rescue, or even his F-16 ride, but it means the world to that person who needs the help, he said.


Photo Rick Markley
Chief Taylor and Lt. Col. Kolte taxi to the runway.

Near miss
In the end it all worked out — the children and Chief Taylor made it out of the fire and pilot eject mechanisms on the F-16 went unused. And whether Lt. Col. Koltes learned anything from their flight is unknown, but Chief Taylor learned plenty from that December fire.

In addition to learning to keep tunnel vision in check, he learned that his and neighboring departments had problems with primary search, accountability and command structure.

Since that fire, Chief Taylor and the neighboring chiefs have met to go over the incident and how they can improve their response at future mutual-aid incidents. Additionally, they've held joint department trainings to allow the firefighters to get to know and get used to working with one another.

And while Chief Taylor paid close attention to the instructions on how the body behaves at 9 Gs, so too has he paid attentions to the lessons from a fatal fire.

The Command Post Podcast: Social media for firefighters, fitness tips

Posted on Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:00:00 UTC

Download this week's episode

In this week's The Command Post podcast, hosts Lt. Rom Duckworth and Chief Rob Wylie discuss the proper etiquette firefighters should follow when using social media. They also conduct an interview with Dr. Karlie Moore and firefighter Dave Dachinger, with the Ridgefield (Conn.) Fire Rescue, about firefighter physical fitness.

Along with their discussion about social media, Lt. Duckworth and Chief Wylie also talk to Dave Statter, with Statter911.com, about the perils, pluses and minuses of first due firefighter videos.

If you have any topics or items you would like to hear discussed on The Command Post, let us know in the comment section below.

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

N.M. firefighter's Facebook post under investigation

Social media challenges for fire departments

Managing fire department social media: The education tactic

Don't get fired for Facebook: 10 ways to use social media safely

Fire Rehabilitation: Fitness Matters

Firefighter Fitness Warm-up

Helmet Cam: Interior Structure Fire and Roof Collapse

Helmet cam captures house fire

Helmet cam: House fire in Calif.

9 steps to safer initial hazmat response

Posted on Sun, 13 Apr 2014 14:09:48 UTC

Hazardous materials is one of the most detailed and intensive response categories you will ever experience as a firefighter. A verified hazardous materials response is a labor-intensive and resource-demanding critical incident potentially affecting large amounts of people and geography.

Even with the advent of specialized teams — hazmat trailers and sophisticated identification and mitigation tools — firefighters are still finding themselves exposed to undue risk when such expert response is delayed or non-existent.

A fire or vehicle crash is in our wheelhouse of skills and support. But exactly how the "ethyl-methyl bad stuff" spill is resolved successfully is a low-probability high-skills tactical progression.

The amount of information, equipment and training needed to mitigate such incidents is simply too much for most moderate or small departments to navigate effectively. But there are steps we can take as first responders regardless of the situation encountered.

Initial hazmat response steps

  1. Isolate area
  2. Control access
  3. Establish command and communications
  4. Establish emergency decontamination
  5. Identify the materials labels and placards properties and characteristics
  6. Identify product container integrity
  7. Identify product amount
  8. Confirm formal hazmat response (timeline and equipment)
  9. Determine staging locations and full decon setup — warm zone entry and exit

Regardless of the product or its location, isolation and restricted access — upwind and uphill are the first order of business. Evacuating the immediate and adjacent areas, establishing isolation zones through access control and using the Emergency Response Guide throughout the initial response are invaluable actions regardless of the level of threat. To accomplish this on scene, coordination with law enforcement, public works and EMS is a top priority.

Without proper documentation, initial product identification will be wrong. It never fails. Whether it is a nitrate or a nitrite, makes a huge difference in threat levels and correspondingly in response parameters. The chemical properties of one acid over another could be polar opposites — one floating high above the valley, while another sits on the ground in a slow moving mist.

Civilian reports, while well-intentioned, are subject to error. Described as a "powder" by a well-meaning residents, the product is actually in granular form changing its hazard characteristics. What is reported as a fire is actually a fog of unstable and rapidly spreading product. What was relayed as a red sign is actually orange.

Command and Communicate
The next step is to establish formal on-site command and direct that a reference library begin to research the incident.

Simple information seen from a distance, like carrier name on the side of a trailer, description of vehicle, condition of material (in the box, leaking liquid, material on the ground, etc.), as well as any labels and placards observed, when combined with detailed reference materials can contribute quickly and effectively in determining the product and more importantly its potential to do harm.

Next, establish a communications plan. Confirm that all authorities having jurisdiction are being notified and that appropriate resources are activated. Get your operation channels formalized as well as a timeline of arrivals and accountability for any EOC or ICS strategy initiated outside your initial response authority.

While it may be frustrating to not enter the scene, especially when there are confirmed injuries and the potential for fire, remind yourself and your fellow firefighters that you are the eyes and ears of this incident. Mitigation without adequate resources and support is simply not an option.

Use the resources you have on scene to facilitate progress in identification and support services. While you may be an excellent firefighting crew, you are not a hazmat team. Without proper training and protection, your risk/benefit ratio in entering a hazmat incident is off the charts.

Exception to the rule
Saving a viable life is the only exception to a no-entry policy even in the world of hazmat. But without proper training and PPE, the human potential for disaster is at dangerous, if not lethal, levels.

A simple cache of inexpensive hazmat-related gear combined with basic response training, will not only give you more personal protection in securing the scene and encountering the unexpected, but will definitely extend your initial on-scene capabilities.

With enough duct tape, a $12 dollar Tyvek suit, nitrile or latex gloves, bunker boots plus SCBA and you have Level B protection. This is more than enough to initiate a rescue just outside the hot zone for someone who has left the incident or is removed from the product. With a Tyvek suit under your bunker gear, you go from a Level C/D, incapable of any hazmat interaction, to a Level B rescue team in the event of an ignition threat.

Directing civilians toward you and your emergency decon set-up can minimize contamination consequences and speed up rescue and evacuation. A decon and an area of patient isolation can be quickly established with a little planning and a few makeshift items such as privacy curtains, warm clothing or blankets. Make sure your emergency decon with pre-connect and catch basin tarp is set up in a timely fashion for all those exiting the warm zone.

In addition to medical attention, the initial directive for such action is for civilian containment and control. Answering questions and making an occasional phone call while corralling civilians goes a long way in establishing command over the incident and its victims.

The key to an appropriate hazmat response is to subscribe to a particular set of tactical responses, standardized in their approach and straightforward in their application. If these basic tactical criteria are met, initial first responder encounters with hazardous materials will be safe and successful.

Hazmat Cache

  • ERG book: Available through Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The International Association of Fire Chiefs has produced a video to explain how to use the ERG.
  • Binoculars
  • Wind speed indicator
  • Compass
  • Maps, pre-incident plans and reference materials
  • Tyvek suits, nitrile or latex gloves for decon
  • Additional tarps, bleach, petroleum jelly, corn starch, blankets, disposable towels, absorbent pads, clean scrubs and valuables bags.
  • Laptop with various Hazmat programs: Cameo, WISER, ERG, DOT on-line, etc.
  • Cell phone with Chemtrec, Poison Control Center, NRC, SDS, DOT, EPA, etc.

How different generations see the fire service

Posted on Mon, 7 Apr 2014 21:15:28 UTC

By Chief Paul Stein

The combination of several generations working together along with the influx of women, minorities, people with different sexual orientations have made things interesting for today's supervisors. This especially applies to the historically conservative culture in fire departments.

You've heard these terms: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials, X-Boxers. However you want to label them, the wave in the population born between 1940 and 2000 have more names than a typical phone book, and they don't always get along.

I once heard a very experienced fire captain talking about the new breed of firefighters. His comments went like this: "I don't understand them. How can they think that way? They have no work ethic. I just don't like them."

Today's fire service workforce can be made up of four generations. Each generation has its own values, beliefs and priorities. This is why when a person of one generation is relating an experience to a person of another generation, it often results in misconceptions and a lot of eye rolling.

The older supervisor
Many older supervisors don't buy into the values and work ethic of today's employees. Some even feel that the younger generation's commitment and work ethic are seriously lacking.

Another challenge for today's supervisor is dealing with the simple and non-threatening things such as tattoos, earrings, body piercings, different hairstyles and facial hair.

On the other side of the coin, many new workers believe the boss is stuck in the Great Depression mentality they learned from their parents. They describe these supervisors as stubborn, inflexible, an obstacle to change, and having an "it's my way or the highway" attitude.

They don't understand the need for the semi-military rank and structure concept employed by the fire service. Many of the new team members have more formal education than their supervisors, which sometimes manifests itself as a lack of respect for the boss.

Origins of values
People from one generation develop their values and orientation from their environment. It has been said that a person's value system is in place by the teenage years, while other experts believe that value systems are in place by age 10. Regardless of age, people are influenced by their environment.

The value system and life's orientation environmental components are the political system, socio-economic climate, parental influence, home life and peers. Whether it's listening to the news or to Huey Lewis and the News, our environment shapes who we are.

My parents were impacted by the depression of the 1930s. I grew up in a single-parent home. We were on welfare and often didn't know if dinner was going to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a frozen dinner.

During the day, we watched a test pattern on a round black-and-white TV screen because they did not broadcast 24 hours a day. Today you can watch TV while checking out at the local super market. Local and world news only lasted 15 minutes. Today there are entire channels devoted to 24-hour news.

Was it harder than today? Not really. It was just very different, hence the gap in understanding different generational values — it is similar to the gap in understanding between my generation and our parents.

The work ethic of the Traditionalist, born between 1935 and 1945, and the Baby Boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, drives them to spend more time at the job, socializing at the fire station and getting involved through volunteering.

Dave Hubert is a good friend of mine. He and his CSFA Steamer Team are recognized throughout California and the Western states and his great cartoons about the fire service appear monthly in the CSFA magazine.

The Traditionalist
"I am a Traditionalist and proud of it," Hubert said. "My generation built the standard and character of the fire service. Most real men (and women too, I guess) want to be part of it because it offers: community, family, discipline, team, action, excitement and a performance standard that can be found nowhere else.

"We face the realities of the fireground that are true — life and death issues that are real. We, as practical people, understand what makes a good firefighter. When an H.R. manager requires fire departments to hire only those with academic degrees, this is, in my opinion, just wrong.

"The fire service of today still needs the practical persons with a good work ethic. We want to start with a firefighter-type person (not fire chiefs as new hires) and allow that person to progress up through the ranks, based on their abilities. That's the truth of the fire service.

"I know there are limitations to all of us. That's also why we have an issue with the city managers who manage our fire departments. They keep us to a standard, yet allow such standards to be diluted with new hiring practices.

"I am glad I am retired now — I really don't have to face these issues anymore. Also, I am not naive enough to know things don't change. Things can change, but not the standard of performance, work ethics, or devotion to the cause — they shouldn't change.

"In my opinion one has to be in 100 percent or you're not in. Show up on time, in uniform, ready to devote yourself to the profession and the folks you are sworn to serve. If you present yourself in a professional, neat manner and do the best you can, you will never have questions about yourself and you can rest assured that no one else will.

"My wife says I'm a hard liner, but where does one draw the line when it comes to a standard?"

Do you think the new generation of firefighter will agree with Dave? It appears that the newer generations of firefighters believe that family and life style has a higher priority than spending additional time at work. Their saying is: "Happiness is seeing the fire station in my rear view mirror."

What are your thoughts about Dave's comments? Let us know.

Paul Stein is fire chief of the Santa Monica (Calif.) Fire Department.