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Pride, Ownership and the New Generation “All is Not Lost” By: Larry Schultz

I’ll start off as always with my shout-outs for this blog. This one goes to 1st Lieutenant Sarah Read, of the Chili Fire Department Explorer program. You will see why as you read through the blog.

In the past couple years, two reoccurring themes have been proposed in the various classes we have taught throughout the states. First is the demise of the fire service because of “The New Kids” and second is their lack of understanding of pride, tradition and honor. Typically in classes, I will push back on that assumption and ask for the possible causes. The passing on of information, history, tactics/techniques, traditions and other critical fundamentals of the service occur in one of two ways; you either observed it first hand or someone took the time to challenge you to learn it.

As I have shared before, my introduction to the fire service occurred in 1966, when my father joined the community fire department. My Brothers and I consumed ourselves with the service, and spent any, and all discretionary time hanging out at the firehouse in preparation for when our turn came. Over time, we watched and witnessed the various components of pride, tradition, honor in serving, teamwork, comradery, discipline and hierarchy of command played out in front of us. We came to understand these behaviors (expectations) by watching and listening as well as relishing in story time. Not read a book story time, but listening to the stories of the “good ole days”. One by one, each of us joined the department as we reached the age of 16, knowing what to expect and what would be expected of us. We were blessed beyond words at having the opportunity to grow-up like this.

During our lectures, I ask the attendees by show of hand, who was raised in the service or was connected to the service by a relative, and who is a generational first timer. While not a sophisticated analytical approach, 90% of the people in those classes are first generation. When you look at the drastic reduction in the number of volunteers across the country this make perfect sense. As I finish out the discussion on the new generation, I proclaim that if pride, ownership, honor and tradition is important to us, then it needs to be a willful, intentional act, carried out daily, by each one of us. Sorry, I’m not talking about kicking your feet-up at the kitchen table or laid back in the recliner and tweeting about it. It needs to be demonstrated, not talked about. I encourage each of us (myself included) to seek out every opportunity to share the greatest traits and characteristics of our service, in an effort to teach the newer folks, who didn’t benefit from growing up in a firehouse or haven’t been on the job like many of us did. The key is to demonstrate by doing, not talking about it.

12671643_1673038079627414_3021159384020039463_oRecently, while teaching a class outside of Rochester N.Y., sitting in the first few rows of the auditorium was a large group of young teens, representing a Fire Explores Post from the Chili Fire Department. I was blown away, to see a group of 13-16 year olds, in full uniform, vigorously taking pages of notes and eyes fixed forward during the entire class. Looked like they “got it” to me. We identified an opportunity and capitalized on it. We offered a Traditions Training care box (tee-shirts, challenge coins, stickers, books etc.) to the Explorer who submitted the best report on the LODD of Firefighter Anne Sullivan of the HFD. Having a group of young potential fire service professionals fully understand the complexities of the precarious environment in which we operate, and the ultimate sacrifices that so many have made doing it, this must be understood and respected by our youthful fire service.

FullSizeRender 4Over the years, we have forged a strong relationship with the Stafford, Texas FD just outside of Houston. This is the same Department, where Anne started as a volunteer when she was a young lady. During our first trip to Texas, Stafford Fire Chief and Houston Firefighter Larry DiCamillio, presented Ricky Riley and I with an Anne Sullivan memorial challenge coin and Tee shirt, which we hold in the greatest of honor. During each of our trips to Stafford, we have taken time to stop by what’s left of the Southwest Inn Hotel and reflect on what occurred there on May 31, 2013. We walk the property not casting blame, but as a reminder of the consequences of the decisions we are forced to make as Chief and Company Officers each and every day.

 

 

 

TX-Houston-final-report-2On the anniversary of the tragic death of four heroic and noble servants; Firefighter’s Anne Sullivan and Robert Garner, Engineer Operator Robert Bebee and Senior Captain Matthew Renaud; below is the report (sources cited) submitted by Chili Fire Explorer 1st Lieutenant Sarah Read; one of the new generation prospects that “get it”.

December 4, 1988 – May 31, 2013 “The heroism and selflessness of fire professionals must always be honored and remembered.” The definition of a hero is Anne McCormick Sullivan. Anne, unselfishly, put her life on the line every day to save another’s. She was a daughter, a sister, a friend, a role model, and most importantly a hero that was lost all too soon.

920x920-1Early Life: Anne, the daughter of Jack and Mary Moore Sullivan, was born on December 4th, 1988 in Houston, Texas.  She graduated Dulles High School, where as a senior, she honored as Female Athlete of the Year. Anne loved playing soccer and running cross country. However, what thrived Anne was that she loved the camaraderie of being a part of the team. Her coach quoted “You won the award because you worked harder and pushed yourself more than any other athlete, never missing a practice or game and always helping and encouraging your teammates.” She was described as loyal, trustworthy, spiritual, and a true friend by her peers around her. At the age 17, Anne was determined to become a firefighter and her mother could not have been more proud. Her dedication and commitment to fulfilling her dreams let nothing stop in her way. She overcame obstacles that most would buckle under the pressure for. On January 7th, 2013 began her career as a Cadet and a member of Class 2013A at HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility. She stood out to her instructors because she had the “I want to be the best” attitude. Once she earned her certifications, she joined two volunteer fire departments as a probationary firefighter. Like most firefighters, she earned her nicknames very quickly. “Punky” and “Mighty Mouse” is what they called her. The name “Punky” came from the fact that she wore her famous ponytail around the station. “Mighty Mouse” was a name given because she was 5’ 2” and she could carry a 180lb man around the station. Anne put herself through the Houston Fire Academy. Never once did she quit or admit it was too hard. Anne had the exceptional perseverance and due to that she graduated from the academy in 2013.

TX-Houston-4-alarm-fire-SW-InnDeath: Anne answered her last call on May 31, 2013 at 12:07. Houston units were dispatched to a reported Southwest Inn fire. The first crew on scene found heavy smoke with a working fire. Firefighters then quickly advanced into 5 alarm working fire with a 2 ½” attack line and started venting the roof. Although, when they entered they found the fire had spread to another floor. Firefighters were forced to retreat due to the engine running out of water. Once a steady water supply was secured, firefighters advanced into the building for a second time. The second engine, holding Anne and her fellow crew, had already arrived on scene and were quick to act. They rapidly entered the building, backing up the first crew. However, as the advanced the Inn collapsed on top of them causing many firefighters to be trapped and injured. Anne answered her call to heaven with 3 of her fellow crew members that day. The autopsy report showed that she had suffered from thermal injuries, smoke inhalation, and compressional asphyxia. Throughout the call there had been many technical faults with the new radio system. In addition, there were abandoned radio procedures and strong winds that rapidly spread the fire throughout the Inn.

sullivan_anneDedication: Anne will never be forgotten as she was a hero to many and lives through the spirit of her family and the fire department. Her family created the Anne McCormick Sullivan Memorial Scholarship, in her honor, to encourage young women to join the fire service. A drink called the “Punky”, was also dedicated to her by a local Houston Bar. The Anne McCormick Sullivan Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raised 2.8k in Anne’s honor. Anne and her love for education will be remembered as the Anne McCormick Sullivan Elementary School is expected to open in 2016, in Sugar Land, Texas. Lastly, Anne was honored in the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Anne is an inspiration to many. She will be remembered to the Houston Fire Department, family, friends, and her peers by her life loving personality, punky character, and contagious smile. She is the definition of a hero and her story will live on and inspire others to become a member of the fire service around the nation.

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 03-06-2016

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Our History in Photo’s by Donald Wedding

10264345_10152166377959998_8837246434722869868_nBefore we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I wanted to get you thinking…What got YOU into this career of being a Firefighter? Was it a catchy add or employment opportunity you read one day, explaining how rewarding this career would be? Maybe a cool story you heard from your dad, or brother about a fire they went to? Now, either one of those may have led you ‘here’, but I think for most of us seeing dramatic news stories or photographs, along with watching a fire engine screaming down the street, lights flashing, ear piercing sirens blaring, and seeing fireman riding to an alarm to help people was probably more of the attention getters which ultimately led to your interest in this trade, whether it be career or volunteer.

 

The American Fire Service has always been a visual profession, and fortunately one that has been well documented throughout its history. From *Fire-Marks on the front of Colonial Houses in the 17 and 1800’s, to paint schemes on our apparatus, patches showing company and department pride, clean and well maintained apparatus and equipment, to the heroic images of firefighters saving lives and property from the earliest days of American Firefighting to the present. Needless to say, these images captured at those fires would breathe new life into future firefighters and also document moments in time, our history, that would otherwise had been forgotten. *(Fire-Marks were signs or plaque placed on the front of a building or residence which showed which fire company the occupant paid its fire levy tax to.) 

 

1782422_664962526880482_886516077_oSo with those things said, imagine this profession from its formal inception in the early 1700’s to now, with no visual imagery or documentation from photos or paintings (as they did before photography around 1825). I remember vividly growing up with old paintings (re-creations of course) and photographs my dad owned hanging in our basement of fireman wearing stove-pipe hats and wool uniforms, to horse drawn steamer engines barreling down a city street. Moments in time documenting one of Americas oldest trades and professions; Firefighting.

 

When I joined my first volunteer fire department at 15 as a junior member, I spent a lot of time looking through old photo albums. The albums contained not only pictures of the department taking shape and helped me learn its history, but also of fires and other emergencies that they responded to throughout the years. There were also newspaper clippings and articles of calls documented by the local newspaper.

fdny_70_s_053a9230-2577-4476-a088-0051cfea47fd_grandeThere was also a lot of time for watching all the ‘fire buff’ videos of Washington D.C., and the Fire Department of New York specifically. These video and the images captured are still engrained in my mind to this day, thanks mostly to my brother for buying them and always having them on. They would also play a major roll, even back then, towards my determination to work as a Washington, D.C. Fireman.

 

Several months ago I learned a neighboring fire department to mine implemented a strict policy that all personnel were prohibited from taking photos at the scene of fires and other emergency incidents. The department has even gone as far as frowning upon firefighters taking group pictures next to apparatus after fires and training, especially if the photos are shared or posted on social media sites. This seems to be happening more and more as departments try to gain control, or filter rather, what is appropriate and what is not.

 

Now, things have definitely changed since horse drawn steamer engines and wool uniforms. I joined the Fire Service in 1993 and it amazes me how much this profession has changed since then, especially in the past 10 years. Social Media, the internet, and the ability to share and process information happens so fast now it is almost hard to comprehend. Smart Phones and other electronic devices can instantly send a photo, documents, emails and other information to hundreds, even thousands of people instantly. So, one could see how detrimental this ‘sharing’ could be if the wrong information, or poor judgment was made posting a photo from the scene of an emergency or other public event.

 

However, to all but eliminate documenting our history and our profession as a whole is absurd to me, and does the Fire Service a huge dis-justice. I do understand posting photos of the public which may violate HIPPA and privacy laws obviously cannot be allowed. But keeping personnel from documenting defining events and moments in their career, and their departments history, seems crazy to me and goes against what most would consider a very traditional aspect of what we do as fireman; upholding the ‘brotherhood’ and being proud of what we do. Not to mention the elimination of capturing images of incidents that can be used towards our training, avoiding future mistakes, or having significant visual documentation should a formal investigation surrounding a close-call, death, or other event should occur.

 

01aaa-bronxWhat if no cameras where allowed back in the early 1900’s, through the 60’s and 70’s? Can you image the history, documentation and knowledge lost or not obtained? How are we suppose to come up with new training programs and learn from our mistakes, showing actual examples of the same, without visual documentation? I don’t know about you, but ‘Death by Power Point’ is bad enough…Can you imagine no photos? Im out, sorry.

 

 

 

photo 3The fire service as we know it today will be shaped much differently, at least from my perspective, if our history is not documented and shared. The department I am referring to is not the only organization taking these kinds of measures to limit or prohibit members from taking photos or videos at the scenes of emergencies. I’m fortunate to work in a pretty liberal Fire Department. If we grab photos at a fire (specifically) while following our written policy, members send them to our BC and Deputy Chief who will then proof the material and allow specific people to share the information and/or photos . We even have a ‘Facebook’ page and official city website sharing what we are doing in the community, job opportunities, informational and life safety videos, and yes, even showing the public some of the calls and emergencies we respond to. (Believe it or not, there are some people who still think the fire department is here for cats in trees.)

 

One thing I have heard since joining my first volunteer fire organization is that we as a  Fire Service do a poor job of letting the citizens and governing officials (you know, the ones who approve our financial and budgetary needs) know what we do to keep them safe, and what we will continue to need when doing so. Visually expressing what we do, and having photos documenting incidents is a powerful tool justifying the “Why?”. We could tell someone stories and share experiences all day long, but, like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

 

One of the most successful volunteer fire departments in the world, the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the first departments I can remember having a professional website online, displaying their department pride, brotherhood, all while sharing images of fires and other significant events the department responded to through out its history. Now, this fire department responds to a lot of fires and ‘working’ incidents. By visually documenting the responses to these calls, as well as sharing training and leadership tips, they continue to excel and add new membership. Pretty easy concept, huh?

And, because of strong leadership and respect, the department does not post or display anything with a possible privacy concern, or things that could be taken as tasteless.

 

l9_11Now, I do realize most of the photos we see from almost 100 years ago were taken by the public and journalists, not by ‘on duty’ firefighters like we see today. I also acknowledge that social media did not exist and access to any photos of fires and incidents would have been limited to a select audience where a newspaper would be available. But, the fear of possible opinionated backlash or the typical “we don’t want to get sued” response cannot be the motivating factor behind implementing policy. I believe organizations residing on the side of “no photos at all, bottom line” should instead look into what can be gained not only through educating its members, but also marketing their organizations and showing the public they serve what they actually do. Including a filtering process through chain of command is  essential and should be included as well. Members should always present themselves as Combat Ready Firefighters, and display professionalism at all times, even during those crew shots when the fire or incident is over.

 

It would be disheartening for us as a Fire Service to look back 5 years from now and say, “Wow…We have nothing to show our new firefighters, or the public we serve what we have done or accomplished, and have no visual documentation of our history as a department.” Through policy, good leadership, and strong expectations there can be a happy median reached, so we can continue to keep our profession, and its traditions alive and respected.

 

DLW

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fires, Testimonials | Posted on 01-06-2014

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Double LODD Report from Bryan, Texas

As with every class we teach, we urge all our students to read and study Line of Duty Death Reports. Please click on the link below to go to the report from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office.

http://www.tdi.texas.gov/reports/fire/documents/fmloddbryan.pdf

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, in-the-line-of-duty, Incident Command, line-of-duty, rescues, RIT / Survival, Testimonials, Training Resources, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 21-05-2014

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EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY – All Risk Taking is Cancelled Until Further Notice

lazy_b8dbe1_279028By Larry Schultz

At every teaching opportunity, I make it a point to spend plenty of time talking about risk assessment and risk management. For the sake of discussion lets focus strictly on fireground operations.

My concern is and continues to be a growing and unashamed trending towards total risk aversion. I have theorized that there are many reasons for the rapid expansion in “risk avoider” cliques, some of which includes: wanting to be “progressive” fire department, a desire to be a “great fire service leader”, an inability to manage your members, ineffective at making your point through discussion and dialogue with others equally as intelligent as you are, fear of what other “great fire service leaders” might think of you if you don’t join the club and last but not least an inability to strategically and logically think through all aspects of the complexities of fire suppression and fireground management. If you get where I am going, this list could go on forever.

To be clear, my issue is not with defensive operations my stance on that is clear. We must always operate in the correct strategy (Offensive or Defensive), 100% of the time, once a PROPER risk assessment is completed (which needs to occur throughout the incident not just at the beginning). My issue is that many have gotten caught up in the emotions of death and injuries, causing them to lose their abilities to detach themselves from the feelings; long enough to have a discussion(s) based on logic, contemplative thought, competing believes, debate and yes even science. Some are even being dishonest brokers, using emotional warfare as a tool to cover for an inability to manage people and organizations.

norisklogoExample: If we cant enforce the policy for our drivers, to stop at every Stop Sign and red lights (as they MUST), while maintaining full control of the vehicle at the legal speed; or we have promoted people who cant or wont enforce policy, then it becomes much easier to simply coward under the auspice of “safety” by moving to all cold responses. That certainly is one way of gaining compliance and reducing injuries. Hey here is another thought:
• Train your drivers adequately
• Promote people who will enforce rules and regulations
• Validate compliance through the use of vehicle cameras and speed analysis
• Hold both driver and officer accountable for failing to follow policy, every person every time
• Conduct annual drivers license checks

Oh Schultzy, we can’t do that, it’s much easier to just avoid accidents all together. Ok then lets just be honest with the public and tell them we are going to send a FD vehicle (preferably an electric vehicle so we avoid toxic emissions) with one person, for every 911 call, to make sure it is in fact an emergency, then and only then are we willing to out our people at risk by allowing them to all come together on the fire truck. Let me know how that works out for you will you?

If we can’t get compliance from firefighters and fire officers to follow standard operating procedures on the fireground or our people are incapable of executing core basic skills without getting themselves hurt or killed; or if our Company Officers and Incident Commanders lack the ability to do a proper risk assessment, then lets just stop letting them go inside burning buildings. Hey, here’s another thought:
• Develop a comprehensive set of SOG’s
• Train your people on them and test them to make sure they know them
• Make them aware of the consequences for not following them (I know, I’m just mean like that)
• Hire capable thinking firefighters
• Once again, promote Officers who can enforce policy
• Make your people train every day
• Test them on core capability
• Confront fireground problems, each and every one of them, every single time.
• HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE

There you go again Schultzy. I know, it was a momentary lapse in judgment. I was exhausted after a tough day at work (maybe I should stop working, its dangerous to think while your tired). It’s much simpler to just avoid the possibility of injury all together. Hey I’m ok with that if you’re honest and upfront about saying so. Not just in a blog, but to the public as well. Lets remove the part of our organizational mission statement, where we regurgitate our commitment to “protecting property” and just tell people, this is what we will do for you. If your house catches on fire and if you can guarantee us (with 100% certainty) that your family member(s) is still inside of your burning home, then and only then, will we expose our people to risk. If not, we are likely not to enter your home. The good news is we will work hard to extinguish the fire, by depositing thousands of gallons of water, through your roof until either the fire goes out or the water reaches the roofline, which ever comes first. Don’t forget; let me know how that works out for you.

I was recently reading a Forbes Magazine article on the 10 most dangerous jobs. You know which job doesn’t make the list? Well these did:
• Fisherman/Fisherwoman – I think we can all agree, it is senseless for people to die so we can eat seafood. I know an easy fix, criminalize fishing.
• Logging Workers – Is it ok for someone to be killed so we can have a new home or so our kids can do homework? Absolutely not, lets stop all logging activities and simply wait for the trees to fall down on their own. Oh wait, better not, at the rate we burn homes down, it creates supply and demand.
• Aircraft Pilots – Really? Allowing someone to lose his/her life just so you can vacation? I think not. Get those planes out-of-the-air immediately. Unless we need them to run water drops on that next Warehouse fire.
• Refuse Workers – How would we ever justify telling a child that their Dad died while picking up our trash. No more thrash collection. From here on out everyone has to burn his or her own trash. P.S. don’t burn to close to the house. The house may catch on fire and there wont be any planes to do air-drops, refuse workers to pick up the debris, loggers to cut wood for the new house or any seafood available to celebrate after you move in to your brand new home.

I hope you get the point. Using fear as a tactic to disguise an inability to think critically or to manage properly is just as ridicules as the ideas above. Its time to get serious, engage in dialogue, discussion and debate in a logical and professional manner and really figure out how we can do this most noble work in a manner that is both safe and effective.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 26-03-2014

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To Go or Not to Go…By Larry Schultz

Sierra Exif JPEGToday’s blog is inspired by my nephew who I am incredibly proud of after following in my footsteps joining the DCFD. I was fortunate, that as the Chief of Operations, I got to go to a few fires with him and I watch him grow in to a solid firefighter. Unfortunately for him, this often exposed him to the daily serenades of “Uncle Larry’”

Its been interesting managing the difference in fire department philosophy between my views (as the Boss) and his view’s as the one who has to endure the connection with Uncle Larry while still living and working with his peers. If this isn’t bad enough, against all of my advice, my oldest daughter stabs me in the eye with a hot fork, by falling for a guy who also becomes a member of the DCFD.

While I say all of this (tongue in cheek), I really do believe that many of our differences are quite normal. There is usually a wide range of differing views between the bosses and the back step crew, between management and labor and between the ones who have been on the street for 25 years and the ones who have been on the streets for 5 years. That’s all very predictable and I use these discussions as an opportunity to share with them a different point of view; not necessarily a “right view” just a different view. Ok, who I am kidding, I thrive on these opportunities, to pontificate on the issue until they wave the proverbial white flag and cant take it anymore.

You can imagine the smile that came over my face when my nephew was talking tactics with me (by text message) and ended with, “why wouldn’t we go in a vacant building, couldn’t a homeless person be in there?” I began to salivate at the thought of residing on yet another soapbox.

Should I pass up an opportunity to walk him right down the hallway of a two hour eye gouging heart–to-heart, or should I let him off the hook?

I started the discussion by asking him a rhetorical question, which one of the finest Chiefs I have ever known once asked me; If you care so much about the homeless, how often do you spend volunteering in a homeless shelter?

Anyway, my buddy asks a great question and one that we (the fire service) have discussed to the point of nausea. Entertain me for a few minutes as I try to shape the discussion in a different way.

If you know me, heard me teach or viewed a blog, you know that I never miss an opportunity to climb on a soapbox or two. One of my favorite’s is on risk assessment. As a service we have done a horrible job at teaching younger officers how to do a risk evaluation on the fireground and to do it in a very short time frame. My teaching partner Ricky Riley and I reinforce the principle, that proper risk assessment must take in to account: building construction, occupancy, pre-arrival and fireground critical factors, how fire/smoke behave in that specific type of building and available resources.

Once you have carefully evaluated those factors, you are far more prepared for making the first critical decision; what will our strategy be (offensive / defensive)?

We should stop arguing whether we should be in an offensive strategy or a defensive strategy and focus on being in the “right strategy” which will sometimes be offensive and some times be defensive. Once strategy is declared, the next step will be implementing the tactics. Please notice the order of importance, which is strategy first, then tactics. Implementing tactics absent a strategy is both dangerous and ineffective.

Lets just take the word vacant out of the discussion for a minute. This should be easy to do since we still cant come close to agreeing on the difference between vacant, abandon, unoccupied and blighted. Maybe its because in the spirit of what we are trying to figure out, what we call it doesn’t matter.

Lets just agree that any and all structures have the potential for someone to live, squat hide or stow-away in. The potential can be vastly different but that is all part of the normal risk assessment calculation (life safety factor).

You arrive on the scene of a two story, Balloon Frame. On arrival you take a quick look and ask yourself “is this vacant or occupied”.  Looking at the structure, you see some windows with glass in tact and some windows covered with plywood. No cars are in the driveway, but a trash can at the end of it. The lapboard siding is splintered due to extended exposure to the environment and hasn’t been painted in years. There is a couch on the front porch and an old window a/c unit still in place.  There is obvious decline of the roof and the porch steps lack any integrity at all.

If you didn’t know whether the home was occupied full time, part-time (squatters) or not at all, how would you reach your strategy decision point? My guess is, absent of seeing a live, victim, you would have to make that decision based on ofactors known, seen and understood. If its vacant and you see a live (potentially) victim, your likely going to make the push, if it’s a occupied home, in very poor condition and you see no signs of life, you may likely take a different approach.

Either way, you are making sound decisions based on the greatest number of factors observed and understood.  If we would agree to keep the discussion focused on observing critical factors and understanding the various pieces of risk evaluation, we are far more likely to get to the heart of the discussion, which is what is the “right” strategy followed by best tactics; not should we “go” or “not go.

With all this said, there will be plenty of situations where it is apparent that a structure is not being used for normal, legal continuous shelter. In those circumstances we would be foolish to simply assume and cross our fingers that no one could possibly be inside. We would be equally as thoughtless and irresponsible if we didn’t slow down and put-in-place additional risk reduction measures.

That part comes next week. Until then be safe and be smart.

 

 

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, firefighting-operations, fires | Posted on 24-02-2014

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Sharon Hill, PA. Entangled Firefighter

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In surfing the Internet in the morning, I saw an incident in Sharon Hill, PA. that included a well advanced structure fire, and a trapped/entangled firefighter in the basement during the evacuation of the structure by the Incident Commander.
They documented the incident on PhillyFireNews.com and I asked them to share their story with Traditions Training so we could get the word out to all our followers. So please read the narrative of the incident and the account of the firefighter in the basement. The following is their first hand account,
we greatly appreciate the department sharing the information for all of us to learn…

Around 1230 this afternoon tones dropped for Companies 09 (Sharon Hill), 05 (Glenolden), 01 (Folcroft) and RIT 19 (Lansdowne) for the working fire with possible entrapment in the 100 Block of Laurel Rd, Sharon Hill. Tele Squrt 01 under command of First Assistant Chief Carney responded with 4 followed shortly after Tower 5 and 09-2. Crews stretched multiple lines to all floors due to heavy fire conditions. Command called for manpower out of 04 (Darby Fire Company) and 42 (Collingdale Fire Company #2). On the arrival of Pipeline 04, crews from 01 entered in the rear to the basement with crews from 04. During this one F/F from Folcroft became tangled in wires that hung low from the ceiling. This firefighter is sharing his story and it is quoted below. Once the entangled fireman was free, crews regrouped outside, checked par and entered the basement again. Crews still had fire on all 3 floors and fire in the roofline. Crews worked hard and fast to get this fire under control within 2 hours.
Here is the incident from the eyes of the entangled firefighter;
“I am the firefighter that was tangled in the basement of the Sharon Hill fire. I was with the interior crew of 01 and 04. We had a good knock on the fire in the basement, smoke was not an issue, neither was heat, we received the order to evacuate the structure per command, Sharon Hill Assistant Chief T Macann 04’s Chief Caruso and M. Carr, assisted in cutting wires and helped me free myself. What happened was that on our Thermal Imagining Camera (TIC) there is a D ring that clips to our gear. Wires made their way around the D ring but the D ring is so small a gloved hand is unable to open it. The D ring has already been replaced since today’s fire with a new small but easily opened D ring with a fire glove. M. Carr and I used my knife from my pocket to cut the wires. I will also be getting a set of wire cutters for this very instance. I just wanted to pass along this information as a learning tool for all. Always watch for obstructions and have something that will cut with you.”
Thank you,
Assistant Chief Frey

photo 2ohoto 1photo 3

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, news, RIT / Survival, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 25-11-2013

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The Forgotten Value of Fireground Compentency

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By: Larry Schultz, DCFD (ret.)

As a recap from last months blog, I continued to encourage readers to be more critical in thought, when identifying the real issues associated with low performing fire grounds, firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths. I alluded to the fact, that it has become much easier for leaders to take the easy way out and blindly use scientific research to make far-reaching assumptions in how to improve their performance, finally finding a hope of getting their people under control. By failing to take an honest assessment of their organizational problems and mustering up the courage needed to address the “real problems”, these efforts will fail at every level, never succeeding at truly changing culture.

The first suggestion, was to have the audacity to be brutally honest, regardless how difficult that might be, in assessing the current state of your department, by identifying and addressing the true root causes of poor performance on the fire ground and refusing to obfuscate the tough issues. It was then recommended that we develop competency-based benchmarks for operational performance, training our members to achieve excellence in performance of our core basic skills and doing so in a timely manner. To be clear, this is a long and taxing journey, requiring strong leadership and requires relentless follow-through and follow-up (I call this the Riley Factor not to be confused with the O’Reilly Factor)

Today, we will take a look at developing a set of core basic skill benchmarks, that every engine company crew must be able to master in an errorless and timely manner in order to be part of a high performance fire ground. Remember this critical fact, real fire ground safety comes, when and only when, we achieve high performance on the fire ground.

The performance of the first arriving engine will set the tone for the operations on the fire ground. The primary role of the Engine Company is to extinguish the fire. When this occurs as quickly and effectively as possible, our risks begin to decrease. In order to perform the engine company responsibilities with excellence, every person must know what is expected of them and must be able to perform them with minimal error and in a timely manner. As Firefighter Andy Fredericks (FDNY) would say “ good engine companies are aggressive but also disciplined. They take an extra 30 seconds to properly position the rig and estimate the stretch. They chock doors. They chase kinks. They see the big picture. Disciplined engine companies are deliberate patient and professional.” At the end of the day folks, there is no escaping the fact that it all boils down to competency and timeliness.

As I said, if you have the will, desire and courage to really improve your firegrounds, you must know up front that it doesn’t come easy. You must move past the excuses of money and time, as neither of those issues is insurmountable. In the D.C.F.D., one of the largest departments in the country, we managed to have a robust “back to basics” program, doing so with very little extra funding. The key then, as it is today, is to select the right people, provide them with a set of core competencies to be measured and turn them loose to do their job. As for cost, take a minute to look at the Facebook Page of the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company web site. Once there, you can scroll down to see pictures of the variety of training prop’s that they built as a department. These props focus on achieving excellence of core basic skills. Visiting this site will give you an idea, of what can be accomplished with few resources, hard work, some great people and a real desire to be high performers.

Step 1
Below is a basic list of core competency benchmarks for the Engine Company. It assumes a minimum crew of four, which based on your department, may be excessive or understaffed. Remember, these are basic competencies, which we do not have the luxury of changing based on staffing. The time it takes to complete them may very well change, but the need to achieve the benchmark will not.

Step 2
Add any critical benchmarks, specific to your building stock and community risk that may not be included in the list of position specific benchmarks

Step 3
Based on your staffing levels, using a group of high performers, create an acceptable performance based time standard on achieving each individual competency. Remember, todays fire behavior is so time sensitive, that we have very little discretionary (time to screw up) time in order to recover from mistakes, before conditions rapidly deteriorate. Have your crews establish a “baseline” set of times to achieve each task PROPERLY. Know this, it doesn’t matter how fast you can complete each task; it’s how well you achieve them. The goal is to constantly work towards achieving greatness.

Step 4
Focus a minimum of one day a week, every week for a period of 90 days and simply focus on these skills. The goal is not to achieve greatness in 90 days; the goal is to begin to build muscle memory. I know there are several competing training topics that must also be completed. After the 90 day’s are up, begin to sow in some other training as needed, but continue to evaluate your ability to maintain excellence in meeting or exceeding these benchmarks.

Engine Driver
• Knows most direct running route to incident with at least one alternative
• Secures a continuous water supply source (if available) through the use of straight lay, split lay, reverse lay, securing their own hydrant (Engine attached to the hydrant by no more then 50 ft. of supply line) or by Tanker.
• Position Engine (different then parking) pulling past or stopping short of the address, leaving room for the Truck (hose bends, ladders don’t)
• Assist with stretching the initial hoseline, chasing kinks from the Engine to the threshold of the structure
• Once continuous water supply is established and all hoselines are charged and stretched free of kinks, look for opportunities to provide support such as: laddering a window, bringing a “rack” to the front door in the event the stretch is short or a burst section of hose, place a couple of hooks at the front door for quick access etc. Do not let these duties distract you from making sure all water supply systems are functioning properly.

Engine Officer
• Provides water supply location via radio
• Identifies all critical factors on arrival
o Building factors – size, height, construction type, occupancy, interior arrangement, access and exposure
o Fire behavior factors – size of fire, extent of fire, location of fire, direction of travel and time of involvement
o Life hazard factors – location of occupants, survivability, fire control required for searches
o Resource critical factors – Water supply, staffing, responding resources, response times and tactical reserve available
• Provides complete on-scene report (succinct compilation of critical factors)
o Water supply location
o Height of building
o Type occupancy
o Type construction
o Conditions evident
o Strategy (investigating, offensive, defensive)
o Establishing/Passing command (optional)
• Implements appropriate tactics based on risk assessment
o Defensive
• Establish collapse/isolation zone
• Selects appropriate water delivery system (handlines vs master streams)
o Offensive
• Conducts 360 (if there is no SOG in place for other companies to do this)
• Provides a Situation Update (result of 360) report – fire conditions evident from other sides of the building, height of rear side of building, presence or absence of basement and presence or absence of basement access.
• Select appropriate line
• Assist with the stretch by either chasing kinks or assisting with shoulder loads of long-lines (unless you have an abundance of resources, the officer should not be advancing ahead of the stretch)
• Validates that all members, as well as themselves, have full PPE (including hoods, earflaps and chinstraps) on and all portable radios are on correct channel
• Provides Command with CAN (conditions actions needs) Report upon making entry in to structure, upon reaching fire area and at regular intervals
• Maintains full accountability (sight, touch voice) of his/her crew
Nozzle
• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on appropriate tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting the apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Correctly pulls and advances attack line (chocking while making the push)
• Maintains enough of the shoulder load to reach the seat of the fire
• Extends line using “racks” when appropriate and without delay in zero visibility environment.
• Selects appropriate nozzle pattern and uses stream effectively.
• Uses hydraulic ventilation to support Truck Company

Back-up
• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on correct tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Responsible for chasing all kinks from structure threshold to the fire area
• Chocks any unchocked doors
• Always maintains a position of one obstacle (turns, stairs, doors) back from nozzleman
• Always maintains at least 10 ft. of excess hose

Last word, regardless of how determined you are, to force operational changes down the throat of your organization in the name of safety, or how progressive you desire to be; there is no way of arriving at real fireground safety without also taking the time to address the issue of skills competency in your members.

Be Safe and Be Competent

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 03-07-2013

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Lt. Peter B. Lund

Pete-1Another year goes by without our great friend and mentor Lt. Peter Lund. We at Traditions Training miss our co-founder each and everyday. His wisdom, experience and humor made learning from and teaching with Pete a great experience for all firefighters, fire officers and fellow instructors. He could easily relate to the youngest probie and the tenured veteran all at the same time. All would come away from class further educated and ‘combat ready’ for the next incident.

In order to continue to pass along his message, we pay homage to him in all the classes that we teach. It was a true privilege to have been able to sit in on one of his classes and watch him tell the stories and lessons learned by the people that formed his career. What a truly humble and honorable man he was.

So as much as we at Traditions Training mourn the loss of our friend and mentor, we will always remember the father and husband that he was: A family man and fire service legacy. To his children Valarie and Matt, and his wife Andrea, we will never forget the man who even in death continues to shape the modern fire service. Pete, you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers each and everyday.

Lt. Pete “Vulcan” Lund
June 14th, 2005

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Company News, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-06-2013

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OLD WORDS, NEW LESSONS

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OLD WORDS, NEW LESSONS- There are literally hundreds of thousands of trade magazines and books pertaining to the fire service. Some more relevant than others. Sometimes, our greatest lessons can come from articles that were written decades ago. The trick is to find these golden treasures.

Over the past several years, I have been fortunate to have been given a number of these age old publications. As I’ve skimmed through nearly all of them, I can’t help but notice that they have GREAT articles about basic firefighting skills. Something that I believe has been lost or poorly upheld in this day and age.

Some time ago, I began doing in-house drills with my members/co-workers utilizing the books pictured and a large selection of WNYF (With New York Firefighters), old training manuals, etc. I would give each person a magazine or book from over 30-years ago, ask them to choose an article/section and then go around the room talking about it. The main focus was to relate the historical article to our present fire service and how it still applies today.

You see the words “NEVER FORGET” each time we talk about the horrific event of loosing a brother or sister firefighter. This is the same mindset we should be using to remember all of the useful knowledge that will help us protect ourselves and those around us in the fire service profession (career or volunteer). As you have seen and will continue to see from me, we must remember how to perform BASIC firefighting skills! Use the knowledge of those before us…

Please read more from Chief Tony “T2” Kelleher not only on www.traditionstraining.com but also www.workingfirechief.com

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 19-05-2013

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Taking a lesson from “Realty TV”

While I was watching the show Surviving the Cut the other night that highlighted the rigors of the training that the Nightstalkers (160th Special Aviation Regiment) go through, I had an epiphany, or at least I drew a corollary principle for what we should learn from this training in the fire service.160th SOAR

The show portrayed the completion of a hellish, multiple-hours long training session that spanned from mental and physically demanding tasks to ultimate culmination in a nighttime march in full gear. The stress and rigors of their training would be our snot-slinging working fire that demands every ounce of your physical strength and mental focus.

Once the finish line was crossed, in this case their barracks, the candidates were lined up and asked the simple question: “Is every one of the members of your class present?” This would be the equivalent of the accountability report we must give when we reach certain time benchmarks in an incident, change strategies (i.e- offensive to defensive), or reach our finish line, which is when we exhaust our air supply and must exit the IDLH. The depleted and drained Nightstalker candidates responded back “Affirmative”, hoping that the answer would lead to a break and some well-deserved rest. With “Affirmative” spoken, they were then told to turn around and face the memorial located behind their formation that had been constructed to honor all the fallen members of the regiment.

There, standing with hoods over their heads and grasping the P.O.W. / M.I.A. flag, was the class leader and the second in command of their unit. As if in unison, all of the candidates’ heads dropped forward, grasping the reality of their failure to account for their brothers in battle. Their failure was marked by the fact that the two who had been unaccounted for were what you would envision as the most obvious, the class leaders.

This gut-wrenching feeling of inferiority was followed by a thorough verbal reminder by the C.O. of the failure to complete the most basic and fundamental rule to ‘never leave anyone behind.’ Even in the face of exhaustion or simple complacency you must be your brother’s keeper. You must not lose your mental focus in the face of depleted physical strength or the mere taste of completion.

The punishment for their gaff?  They were required to assume a squatting sitting position, grasp an imaginary letter in their hands, and repeat verbatim the letter the C.O. had prepared. The letter he wrote was to the family of the now dead fellow soldiers. In it, he explained that there would be no husband coming home, no father to watch the children grow up, and no son whom the parents could hug proudly. Lastly, the letter explained they would not even have their loved one’s body to bid farewell, providing at least some measure of closure. Instead they could only grasp a memory. The exercise led these hardened men to break down in tears, surely questioning their commitment and ability to carry the name of the unit.

So, where is the parallel to our fire service?  It is Everywhere! A factor in almost all line of duty death reports is the lack of “Accountability”. While this can be from a hardware issue, such as the absence of an accountability system, it also covers lack of accounting for your fellow firefighters in harm’s way. On paper it seems senseless that a causative factor for the death of one of us could be that we did not account for each member of the crew during the heat of our battle – fighting fires. If we remove the hardware issue and look at the ‘human’ side of this issue, one can surmise quickly that the linchpin for us is the Officer (Engine Company, the Truck, Rescue or the Incident Commander.)

How often do we see firefighters promoted to an Officer’s position because they have a wanton desire to be able to adorn themselves with the prestige of the gold badge and not because they want accept the entire breadth of the Officer’s responsibility. Or we see Officers who confuse proper aggressive firefighting with poor tactics applied in a rapid and uneducated manner, demonstrating they really only wanted to be the first in so they can walk out with a charred helmet. The aggressive officer is one who moves with purpose, that purpose being to always ensure his brothers and sisters are measuring their risk (i.e., not safe but prudent risk-taking based upon competence and mastery) to complete the job they took an oath to do. The question that each firefighter who crawls down a hallway belching black smoke, or the Company officer who makes the decision to enter the basement fire with his crew, or the Incident Commander who decides to go “offensive” is this: “Have you prepared yourself and your members for the firefight?”

This preparation is not merely how to pull a line or conduct a primary search; have you also:

  • Made clear your expectations on the fireground?
  • What is your measure of success?
  • Have you provided the training and shared the knowledge to accomplish these expectations?
  • Do you demonstrate these traits every day yourself?

If not, then you have demonstrated that your commitment to “no man left behind” is skewed and you do not mind writing the letter like the candidates in Surviving the Cut. Every officer is charged with responsibility of making a decision on the fireground, a decision that not only mitigates an emergency but has a direct impact on their firefighters. While General Powell was referring to military operations, his doctrine applies in our trade, “Do not put your people in harm’s way for unclear purposes.”

Officers must consider the time when they may have to pen that letter to their fallen firefighters family or look the family in the eye and deliver the heart breaking news. If that unfortunate situation occurred, would you feel as though you had done everything in your power and ability to prepare and train your firefighters? Have you prepared yourself each and every day to recognize hazardous situations and mitigate them correctly, or do you rest on the reputation of your rank that was chiseled by your predecessors?

The clearest sign of true servant leadership is selflessly exhausting yourself to teach, train, and lead those under your command. While our job is inherently dangerous, no measure of this danger excuses leaders from preparing themselves and those under their command to adequately face that danger.  If you need a reminder, consider what you would do and what you would say when you have to face the family of one of your own on the day of their greatest loss.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Incident Command, line-of-duty, news, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Uncategorized | Posted on 21-02-2013