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.
Recently, 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.
Over 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.
On 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.
Early 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.
Death: 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.
Dedication: 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 Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 03-06-2016| Posted in
“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” Joseph Stalin
After recently reading Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, and his use of this quote, I pondered if this quote from the feared Communist leader Joseph Stalin could help reduce our line of duty deaths and the answer is YES! While Stalin’s quote was most likely intended for more sinister purposes it does have merit when discussing LODD’s.
First, we are provided statistics in our trade on a daily basis but usually with no associated instructions on what do with the data. Specific to line of duty deaths, we know we average approximately 100 LODD’s, we know the percentages related to what activities, age, gender, etc. are when the catastrophic incident occurred, and we are provided some general recommendations that apply to that affected fire department. But how do we curb the trend of LODD’s based on the statistics provided within our department that may be similar or, more likely, vastly different. Without having this information the line of duty deaths simply become just statistics. This noticeable gap in the equation was the catalyst for 25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD. We took the opportunity to interpret the data and provide solutions to overcome the identified causes in the LODD reports that may be implemented in any fire department.
When we delve into Stalin’s quote and couple it with our process of reviewing LODD reports we can begin to understand that we lose focus on the loss of one firefighter, the tragedy in this case, and focus more on the statistics. For instance, most can recite the average number of LODD’s, but if the LODD did not occur in their department, I would venture to say they couldn’t recite the name of the person who was killed. This behavior is conditioned with the vast amount of mind-numbing statistics, figures, and graphs we receive but it can be altered. Mother Theresa offered a way we can begin to change that trend when she stated,
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Mother Theresa
The numbers are an important metric to demonstrate if we are changing the trend for better or worse but what is important is the person. If we learn the person, we establish a connection and we will learn the story. That story will open your eyes to factors leading up to the LODD and what can be done NOW to prevent it from occurring again. Simply glossing over the numbers will not provide that connection and leads to only honoring someone after they have died which is a disservice.
This process, placing a name and face to the tragedy, is referred to as the “identifiable victim effect” and is utilized everyday in our society to garner your donations or solicit your support. The most notable example is the Ryan White story. While AIDS was very prevalent in the 90’s and everyone had an increased level of awareness, it was something distant and happened in a far away land. That is, until Ryan White contracted AIDS and his was someone you knew. He was an all-American teenager who everyone could associate with; he looked like your son, nephew, the kid down the street, etc.
Ryan became the poster child for AIDS in American and his struggle, and eventual death, led to the Ryan White act. This happened because the AIDS epidemic became the story about a person who you could get to know and support, the epidemic got the attention needed and continues to this day.
How do we parlay this identifiable victim effect into our trade and begin changing the trend of LODD’s in the fire service? We must learn the person. Much like the supporters of Ryan White, we must be most diligent supporters of our fallen firefighters and use the identifiable victim effect to our benefit. The easiest way to start this trend is to review the statistics but also take the time and read the story of each LODD. When you select a report to review with your firefighters take the time to learn:
- What was their name?
- What did they look like (put a name to the face)?
- Where did they work, how many years of service, etc.?
- What actions were they doing when the LODD occurred?
- What were the contributing causes to their death that you could apply to your department and operations?
- What can I do (skill, tip, technique, policy, etc.) to prevent this from occurring in my department, which would honor the memory and sacrifice of the fallen firefighter?
We know firefighters die in the line of duty driving to and from incidents, suffering cardiovascular incidents, and performing their jobs on the fireground amongst many other activities. Your goal is to match the problem or obstacle you are trying to overcome with the story of a fallen firefighter.
For example, if you are teaching new apparatus operators and want to stress the incredible responsibility with this position, pick one of the 17 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2012 responding/returning to an incident. If you are discussing the importance of coordinated ventilation, discuss the LODD of Louis Matthews and Anthony Phillips of the DCFD at the Cherry Road, N.E. fire in 1999. The list is unfortunately vast and plentiful to choose from and each one deserves our recognition.
All the motivation you will need to make yourself, your fellow firefighters, and the future of your fire service, exists in the LODD reports. Learn their stories, share it with your firehouse family, and motivate them to prevent the LODD’s. When we can place a name and face to a cause we naturally rally together to prevent it from happening again. Make them real for the people, learn details of their lives to make more of an impression on the candidates. Saying that a certain firefighter adored only the best keychain knives, might be random but it makes the victim real in the eyes of the people. Take the LODD’s from being just statistics of catastrophic incidents that happen in a far away land and make that tragedy your motivation to help one person at a time and make that one person that firefighter that may be charging down the smoky hallway with you later tonight.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, in-the-line-of-duty, line-of-duty, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 05-02-2015| Posted in
Last post we discussed the process of orientation for leadership development, which was essentially relying upon operational manuals or standard operating procedures as the foundation for leadership. While these documents may be necessary for building the knowledge for rank and position (remember leadership is not a given with rank!), it is not a process for developing leaders of people. This process does more to build effective managers and not leaders who must motivate and cultivate people. Orientation leaves a void in the leadership paradigm but does provide the opportunity to introduce the process of socialization for our budding leaders. Socialization is the process of learning and developing a culture that is aimed toward the common defined purpose. The overriding theme in this process is that it is centered on people and not what is printed on department documents. Fortunately, we are given opportunities to demonstrate the skills learned from socialization daily in our profession. Examples span from the challenges and adversity faced on the fireground to the relative calmness of the firehouse kitchen table.
Let’s go back to our aspiring lieutenant who has now passed his examination and is freshly promoted. He reports for his first day in his new assignment at a firehouse at which he has never worked. His brand new shift gathers around the firehouse kitchen table to have their shift briefing at 0700 hours. All 15 sets of eyes turn to the new lieutenant for his first words of wisdom and leadership.
Is this critical moment for our leader outlined in the manuals? Before this moment, he was one of those 15 sets of eyes looking at the “Loo”; Now he is the boss and he must capitalize on this first opportunity to lead. As a fire service, we must be humble enough to ask ourselves if we have prepared our new lieutenant for this initial challenge. The answer is most likely we have not, and this is where our socialization process can assist.
When the new officer has been prepared for his new role through a mixture of the core principles of the orientation and socialization processes, he is ready for this challenge and greets it as an opportunity. At his first shift briefing, he seizes that moment when all fifteen sets of eyes of his new family are staring at him and offers, “What do you expect of me as your lieutenant?” This is the perfect demonstration of socialization.
The orientation process has taught him what the organization expects of him, but did not address what his new “culture” expects of him. Sure, he could rule with the iron fist and invoke adherence to each and every procedure of the department, but his shift already knows the rules. They may test him by pushing the rules every so often, but if that is consuming all of his time, he is not truly leading, he is just a custodian of the department rules.
His new culture is this group of dedicated firefighters who yearn to be led. They will offer a wide spectrum of skills, personalities, and idiosyncrasies that he must manage and guide to the common goal he sets forth. If the culture were highly functioning and successful prior his arrival he will be greeted with utter failure if he alters it solely because he thought he supposed to as an assumed part of a requirement of being a new officer. Now that we understand the difference between our orientation process and socialization process, how do we begin the implementation process? It’s not as hard you may think and only takes a few tools properly applied. To explain this process let’s use an example most firefighters who are parents can appreciate.
On a snowy day on the east coast in February, I was with my kids in a trampoline park watching them jump up and down and realizing this is the perfect example of leadership. You, the leader who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities coupled with the socialization skills to understand you lead people who have norms, values and expectations of you, are like this trampoline park.
This indoor park is covered with a massive roof that shields us from the 10-degree temperatures outside. As a leader, you provide this shelter for your people, offering that haven to them while they hone their leadership skills. For example, when you face a crisis – a house on fire with black smoke belching out of the front door, reported people trapped, and the heat keeping you inches off of the floor, do your people follow you without doubt or do they question their willingness to follow you? It is natural human chemical reaction of our brain that people want to feel safe and that is provided by having confidence in the person providing this feeling. As a leader, you should be demonstrating this long before this fire ever occurs. You’re investing in your people; teaching, training, and giving your time to them. This does not mean any person can simply seek haven under your leadership. Only those who are accountable to their actions, compliant to the established parameters (rules, order, S.O.P.’s), and aspire for greatness will have that shelter. If you don’t follow the rules of the trampoline park, you can’t come in and seek shelter and the same is true under your leadership. This is the essence of that shared relationship that must exist between the leader and his followers.
Going back to our leadership example of the trampoline house we can see the second part of leadership being demonstrated. Now that my kids have a feeling of safety and know the basics rules of the facility, they can now jump! Is this jumping 5’, 10’, 15’ in the air safe? Nope, but they are doing it anyway because they have faith in arena they are operating, faith in their skills and are striving for greater heights. They have been given the rules of the park and now are free to demonstrate their autonomy. The feeling of safety has led them to not operate under fear of failure but rather eager to seek an opportunity to achieve new heights.
We, as leaders, must create an environment where our people feel free to seek greater heights. They must know the boundaries of the job and then they must be fostered to strive for greater heights without fear of failure. Sure failure will come, in the trampoline park it is usually a misplaced fall or failed attempt at a flip, which culminates with a laugh, and an attempt to do it again successfully. In our world, we will surely fail but wouldn’t we want that to occur in the training and not on the fireground where lives are dependant upon our precise performance? Our people must feel a level of autonomy in completing the mission along with encouraging that constant craving to achieve mastery.
As you can see there is no mention of me soaring through the air with my kids, rather me just marveling at their prudent risk-taking. I don’t do it because my knee surgeon has convinced me that it is not a prudent idea so I leave my risk taking to other arenas. Is what they are doing ‘safe’? Is what we do in our job ‘safe’? Absolutely not, and the term safe is used too arbitrarily and without attention to it’s true meaning. The Webster dictionary defines safe as free from harm. There is not one aspect of charging into a house on fire that is the least bit “safe” regardless of the level of PPE, staffing, etc. you may have with you. As leaders, we should strive for teaching our people to learn and exercise prudent risk taking. When we literally interpret and falsely attempt to portray a safe fireground, it can appear more like risk aversion than being safe. If we are leading correctly, than we have already laid the groundwork and are teaching our people how to exercise prudent risk taking and not being handcuffed by misplaced terms. This begins with the leader knowing both the orientation process and the socialization process.
The weight on a leader is immense because he or she must be a daily learner in addition to being a dedicated teacher. If we are not learning every day, then we are not leading. Take a moment and analyze YOUR leadership style, not what your organization expects of you (orientation). What do you expect of yourself as the leader, and what do your people expect of you (socialization)? Leadership is not about the number of people you leave in your wake on your ascension up the ranks, but the number of people you have brought with you cutting through the waves.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, news | Posted on 10-10-2014| Posted in
Consistency, Visual Cues & Options
I’m a hose load junky, I said it. Every time I travel to another department, or see pictures on the internet I always look at how the hose is loaded. You can tell a lot from hose loads, if it’s neat and meticulous I tend to find the crews operate in a similar manor. There is one thing more important than how the load looks, it’s how it pulls. If given a chance I will often ask “how does this hose load work” and I’m surprised to find many crews have no idea. Either it’s “loaded by another crew” or “it just looks pretty”. Beyond how it physically deploys, or how it looks it only really “needs” to do one thing, deploy easily and effectively for the majority of the fires that crew will face. There is no room on the engine for “parade loads” that look good, or “convenience loads” that just get thrown on to get a rig back in service.
For my crew, and the types of fires my engine fights, the gold standard is at least 50 feet of working line. The working line needs to be placed in close proximity to the entry point, flaked out in a manner that it can be fed easily by our 3 person attack crew (plus MPO)…..and we have to be able to get it in service fast. We also need the ability to get that hose into place through and across neglected yards and to deal with houses converted to rear entrance duplexes or large garden style apartments in our first due. Finally we needed a way to make sure our 2.5 deployed just as smooth and met the same standards as our 1.75 line deployment. Much like any problem, we set down and came up with a list of goals and set about finding a solution. We didn’t have to “invent” a new way, we just needed to adapt those lessons learned from within and outside of our department and apply them. Two of the keys we found to success were “Consistency” amongst our hose loads, and the use of “visual cues”. I think no matter what kind of hose load you use incorporating these things into it can help your crews be better at getting that first line in place.
The consistency component seems the easiest; just load the hose the same way for both 1.75 and 2.5 lines. The reality is we will pull the 1.75 line the most often. Whether it’s training or at fires, the ratio of pulling the 1.75 vs. 2.5 is probably 10:1. Obviously we would like to pull the 2.5 more, but it’s not likely, and by loading the 1.75 and 2.5 the same way we compound our training. If I pull the 2.5 tomorrow the muscle memory takes over and I even though this may only be the 3rd time I’ve pulled it this month, it’s the exact same motions as the 30 times I pulled the 1.75 line and my comfort level should be the same. The difficulty with consistency between loads is can the different size hoses be loaded the same way on your rig, in our case that was a “maybe”. Our crews had relied on transverse mounted pre-connected 200 foot hand lines that made loading of 2.5 and 1.75 lines the same way difficult (it also limited our deployment options as discussed below). We did come up with a load that could be accomplished three wide (1.75) and two wide (2.5) and deployed the same way using the help of Visual Cues. We used these as a stop gap until our new rigs arrived that moved the deployment back to rear hose beds with static attack lines. With the rear static hose beds we are now able to load and deploy the lines identically.
Here you can see rear static hose bed with the 2.5 and 1.75 hoses loaded side by side in the same manner and visual cues laid out identically.
Visual cues became one of the biggest keys to the success of our hose deployment. We did not invent using visual cues to deploy our hose lines, we adapted it from places like Chief Dave McGrail’s highrise system. Basically we decided to mark the halfway points on our hose like we had with our highrise packs (paint or colored tape) and use those visual cues along with tails (a.k.a. loops) and the couplings to make sure our hose always deployed the same. By using the visual cues my crew can walk up at the start of the shift and in a glance know that the hose is loaded correctly and quickly deploy it, conversely they can take a quick look and know if they need to pull it off and reload the hose, there is no “I think it’s loaded ok”.
Here you can see the standard pre-connected load. The long tails on the right side of the stack indicate the “working bundle” of line, the single loop on the left side of the stack is the “drivers loop”. The nozzleman can easily see his bundle and throw it on his shoulder and take it to the fire as an intact 50 foot section. Also visible is the blue “half way” markers in the sections. When the nozzleman approaches he can drop the bundle at the door grab the half way mark and walk it back completing the stretch, he can also drop the bundle short and grab the nozzle and coupling walking it up if the stretch dictates. The “drivers loop” is the visual indicator for the MPO, Layout man, or if needed the nozzleman to grab and clear the remaining line in the hose bed with no wasted effort.
Here is the hose in the static beds, as you can see the nozzle and coupling are loaded at the end along with all the halfway points. Just like the pre-connected lines, the nozzleman knows exactly where his section of working line is. He can drop early and grab the nozzle and coupling walking up to the entry point; or he can drop at the entry point grab the halfway marks and walk it back.
I know that “options” and “consistency” seem a little contradictory but not in the context of this discussion. There are many different hose loads out there, and many are good…for one type of stretch. We wanted something that could be used on small single family residences, garden apartments, 3 story walk-ups, varying setbacks and diverse approaches; our answer was going back to the static rear hose beds. Now it doesn’t matter if the setback is short or long, or if the plug is before the residence or down the street. The nozzleman can take his bundle and head to the entry point and stretches his line; everything else is handled by the officer, layout man and MPO. If the set back is long the officer estimates the stretch and the needed line is pulled; if the plug is at the end of the street the MPO continues onto the plug to catch his hydrant once the bundle is pulled off the hose bed. Keeping the working line deployment simple can be important since often the Junior guy is on the nozzle where the officer can directly supervise. The positions that take care of the remaining hose (MPO, Officer, Layout) are typically more tenured and can overcome the small obstacles that increase the complexity of completing the stretch. The last option we built into our system was the ability to “stretch forward” or “stretch away”. We found if we set the hose up with the coupling and nozzle on the end as a visual indicator most of the time the nozzleman could lay his bundle down and grab the nozzle/coupling and walk up to the entry point for an effective stretch. Unfortunately some yards or apartments made it difficult to drop early and perform a forward type stretch. We overcame this by making sure all the halfway point visual indicators were lined up at the nozzle end as well. Now if the nozzle needs to be dropped at the entry point the halfway points are grabbed and walked straight back making for a virtually identical result.
Here you can see the same line stretched both ways. The straps on the left indicate the line was dropped at the entry point and “stretched away” and the picture on the right shows the bundle was dropped away from the entry point and “stretched forward”.
As you can see our deployment is a constant evolution, and through trial and error I feel we were able to meet our goals. Hopefully by sharing what we have found to other crews they can use similar methods to improve the deployment of their hoselines.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 23-05-2014| Posted in
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.
Example: 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 administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 26-03-2014| Posted in
By: Retired Chief Michael Horst, Harrisburg Bureau of Fire
Often times you only get one chance to make a difference when positioning a tower ladder. You can make best use of that one chance by training for it…by being “Combat Ready.”
In the above photo Harrisburg Tower 1 recently worked a building explosion and fire at a local steel mill. Due to the magnitude of the adjacent exposures large caliber streams were required forthwith. Their positioning on arrival, albeit tenuous, made a difference and enabled operations to keep the fire to the building of origin. Hampered by a debris field from the explosion and both electrical and mechanical hazards the quick thinking members of this truck company were able to end up front and center at this industrial blaze.
The members of this truck company, as have most all Harrisburg firemen, trained for this EXACT evolution on countless occasions. As rookies, as firemen and in their chauffeur promotion all have had to endure this confidence course. The drill doesn’t have a real name but it should be referred to as “Scrub but don’t Scrape.”
The drill is simple, and requires only one prop, the open apparatus bay. The object is two fold. It provides the chauffeur and bucket operator the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities in positioning and flying a tower ladder. It also provides them the opportunity to develop trust in each others ability to operate in tight situations.
The drill starts by having the apparatus positioned in front of the apparatus bay. This in itself is great practice for young drivers and helps them learn proper positioning for “scrubbing the building.” You can setup at various angles just as long as you can clear the chassis and “work” the entire opening. Make sure that the boom will clear and you can swing the bucket into the doorway. For safety there must be one person on the turntable, a spotter and operator in the bucket.
To start go slow and easy because mistakes will equate to contact. Learn the “play” in the joystick or controllers. As a reminder make sure operators understand the nozzle reaction when using an elevated master stream and it’s potential. Once the operator has developed the basic skills and confidence they move to the second phase.
At this point the operator practices close “tracing” inside of the doorway, working all four sides. Here the operator will be forced to use his senses and trust the same of his spotter/turntable operator, a genuine team building exercise.
As skills and confidence permit now the operator can extend further into the building, avoiding “props” and assuring the extended boom doesn’t make contact at the doorway. The turntable operator likewise can gain valuable experience maneuvering an extended boom and platform and get a feel for working with a “dead-man.”
It’s also a great time to change those burned out light bulbs inside your apparatus room. Remember the next time you have to thread the needle with the bucket your training, this training, will never let you down!
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, major-incidents, news, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 06-02-2014| Posted in
On our website at www.TraditionsTraining.com under the resources tab. One of our Senior Instructors Tony Kelleher has posted an article concerning the dangers of Floor to Ceiling Windows. Take the time to check it out and we look forward to more of his training articles from the DCFD and the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department.
Posted by Blog, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 19-07-2012| Posted in
In part one of “Check your Dance Card” we discussed a few items to take a look at before we enter the fire building and start our dance with the “beauty of fire.” In part 2, we will discuss a few more specifics that we should note as we enter the structure. Make no mistake, a constant review of this Dance Card is a must for all members… take mental notes of what you see. You’re going to want to come home from your latest “dance” and tell all your friends all about this “beauty.”
“Ok, let’s move” the boss said, after what seemed like an eternity to you. The reality, it was only mere seconds. We all know that reality is often suspended when you are out on the dimly lit dance floor. You, you’re an eager beaver, and chomping at the bit to get on with this next . Your Officer is more cautious; he’s been burned by this “beauty” before. He remembers the sting of her touch, especially if you are caught moving too quickly on the dance floor. He is trying to show you the patience required, but you are still rather wet behind the ears and excitable…
This “beauty of fire” doesn’t make it easy; she beckons you closer with her dancing flames and warm lustrous glow. Again, the Officer reels you back in…one more review before we hit the dance floor.
As you enter the fire building…
1. WHAT TYPE OF STAIRS SERVICE THE BUILDNG?
Generally we have 2 types of tread design (on the staircase steps) and 2 types of staircases. They are either “Open” (having no sides, walls or doors at the top or bottom) or “Enclosed” (having sides, walls and doors at the top and bottom). Open tread and open staircases allow the passage of smoke, heat and fire to the floors above and are not friendly to our operation. Enclosed steps and enclosed staircases reduce the chances of fire spread in the building (if the doors are to remain in the closed position). It may be wise to announce the style and type of stairs to other units as they arrive, so that they know what to expect. This is of particular importance when in larger multiple dwellings or garden apartments and there are isolated, wing, or multiple staircases that serve specific lines of apartments (i.e. do not transverse the entire building). “Ladder X to Command; we have enclosed wing stairs, we will be using the A wing stairs to reach the fire apartment.”
2. IS THERE A WELL HOLE TO USE FOR THE STRETCH
The presence of a “Well Hole” the space created between the landing section of the stairs and the run of the steps themselves can be utilized for quick hoseline advancement. It must be rehearsed prior with the Engine Co. to achieve maximum effect. It reduces the amount of hose needed to be humped up the treads of the steps and around each newel post (i.e. 1-50’ length can travel vertically 5 floors in the well versus 1 length per floor if going up and around each set of steps, newel posts and associated landings). “Engine 22 to members, there is a well” should be enough to let the members know.
3. HOW MANY APARTMENTS ON THE FLOOR
A quick stop on the floor below can get you a lay of the land. If you bypassed the lobby and forgot to count mailboxes, count the number and note location of the apartments that you see. Remember that depending of the way the stairs run (scissor, return etc), they may be slight variations in the layout when you get on the fire floor.
4. VERIFY FIRE FLOOR AND APARTMENT NUMBER/LETTER
What may have appeared to be a fire on the 3rd floor from the street may turn out to on the second floor depending on the buildings configuration as it relates to the street level. Some buildings have lobby entrances that are raised above street level, which may change your initial fire floor notifications. Verify the fire floor and announce the apartment number or letter over the air, so that those who may be going above can pinpoint the direction they need to head.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 22-02-2012| Posted in
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-02-2012| Posted in
**This week we are featuring a short run-down of each of the programs that our staff will be presenting at this year’s FDIC in Indianapolis**
Tuesday (Pre-Conf Workshop, 130p-530p) – 25 to Survive
25 to Survive
TT’s Lt. Mitchell and Capt. Shaw will co-present thier flagship program, 25 to Survive: The Residential Building Fire. This program highlights 25 critical areas that present themselves to operating forces at the number one fireground killer of civilians and firefighters alike. They will present this engaging, interactive presentation will focus on pre-incident, operations and post incident operations. They will give you street smart tips and take home drills to make yourself and your fire company better prepared at the next residential fire you respond to.
Lieutenant Douglas J.Mitchell Jr., Fire Department of New York and Captain Daniel D. Shaw, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue:
Course Summary: More firefighters are seriously injured and killed while operating at residential building fires than at any other fire we encounter. This dynamic and interactive lecture program will address 25 critical firefighting errors and issues common to the residential building. Learn sound tips and take home practical drills to address and correct errors at residential fires. Topics include combat-ready attitude, leadership techniques, SCBA confidence, overcoming building construction features (setbacks, long stretches), communication failures on the fireground, developing and delivering sound and accurate on-scene reports, coordinated ventilation, and more.