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Making the tragedy personal is the first step in preventing the next Line of Duty Death.

 “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.IMG_2074

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)?


    Lt. Pete Lund – June 14th, 2005

  • 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 | Posted in 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

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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.


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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The 10-year Itch

“The 10 Year Itch”

We have been told that our firefighting equipment can no longer be in service after 10 years….

For some fire companies, 10 years would leave it barely broken in… others it would be long since useless and nearly shredded.

So, what’s the point?

While we are not all the “same” in terms of volume… the point is, we are all the “same”… we are Firefighters and Fire Officers.

Your next fire could be the “one” you talk about for the next “10 Years” or just “one in 10” you go to this month.

In Either Case… It’s up to you, how will you perform? How “Itchy” is your team for success? Are you barely broken in, shredded or somewhere in-between?

Is your next job the “one” or just “one in 10?”

Posted by | Posted in Combat Ready, fires, line-of-duty | Posted on 09-12-2013

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Remembering our Friend and Fireman

IMG_9083Today is July 24th 2013, it has been a few years and it does not get any easier. Lt. Steve Velasquez of the Bridgeport Fire Department, Ladder 11 lost his life in a three wood on this date in 2010. I am sharing this portion of a newspaper article written the week of the funeral for Steve.

“Assistant Chief Keith Wallace said that when he cleaned out Velasquez’s locker he found three pieces of paper taped to the door.”

One said:”Discipline, Dedication, Teamwork”

Another one was a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again…If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat”

On the third was the quote:”The brave don’t live forever, but the cautious don’t live at all.”

If you are looking for the definition of a Fireman it was Steve Velasquez.

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fires, in-the-line-of-duty, line-of-duty, Uncategorized | Posted on 24-07-2013

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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

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Check out the Resources Page

In the last couple of weeks we at Traditions Training have been adding to our Resources page on the website. Go there to find LODD reports, NIOSH reports, Command Sheets, and manuals that we reference during our classes. Download them and use them to make you and your department “Combat Ready”
Send us any cheat sheets, command charts or after action fire reports that you feel would help our fellow firefighters and Officers. And we will put them in the Resources section…

As Always Stay Combat Ready

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, fires, Incident Command, line-of-duty, Training Resources, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 16-07-2012

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FDIC 2012: 25 TO SURVIVE (Lecture)

**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.


Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, line-of-duty, RIT / Survival, technology-communications, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 08-02-2012

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Firemen… and “Never Forget”

Firemen… and “Never Forget”

Lt. Douglas J Mitchell, Jr. FDNY.

September the 11th is later this week and I have found myself writing. I have been writing snippet’s down as they pop in and out of my head, emotions from the events from that day, and its aftermath hereafter.

I just can’t watch TV these last two weeks. I can’t take it, it’s just too much. Caught myself getting upset watching a special such as, (I will make something up here…but you know what I am saying) “FIRST RESPONDER HERO’S” brought to you specially by “All Temperature Cheer.”

I can’t read the papers either, thier writers and publishers, who up until this week, were bashing “Firefighter Pension’s” as cause for the downfall of our economy… and so on…. and so on…

I thought to write a little side story, reflecting back on where I was in my career as a fireman when the events unfolded, but it makes no difference. I am just one of thousands of firemen who spent time at the trade center complex, went home from time to time between funerals, memorials and benefits, and came back to thier careers at the FDNY, getting back “on the job”.

Sometimes I wish I wrote down what I did each day, the 2 years of so after September 11th 2001. Most times, I am glad that I didn’t. For my nation, my city, my fire department, my fire company & my friends, words cannot describe the pain.

I’ll try to let the words tell my thoughts. I have posted a few of them this week in different places, but not all together…

“Never Forget” is a well worn adage attached to the brave members of the FDNY who were killed in the line of duty on September 11th 2001. I know that I will “Never Forget,” I can’t. There are times when I selfishly wish I that I could. “Never Forget,” not one day… I just can’t. “Never Forget” is more than just 2 simple words, they means everything and yet nothing at all… depending who you are.

To some, the “Never Forget” moniker is profitable, exploitable, in merchandise, ratings and to bolster arbitrary political posturing in “I’m right and your wrong.” To me, it’s at times silent internal reflection and at others gut wrenching jolts of emotion. You know, that empty in the pit of your stomach, want to vomit… yet can’t, feeling?

Like all firemen, I know my family at home cares for me greatly. We need the support of family, it’s a tough thing… family home alone: nights, weekends, birth’s, death’s, holidays… times when only a human touch can solve a problem and your just not there, you can’t be there your at work. But, we know fire takes no days off.

As firemen, we try to insulate our families somewhat from what we see and do, day in and day out. They don’t, and can’t really comprehend what it is that we do and why it is that we do it. They can’t, because, they aren’t firemen.

As firemen we must look out for each out for each other on this job.  Only we who are firemen, truly know what the job entails.

We must rely heavily on our brothers and sisters on the job for support. That is why we show up and come out for each other in times of need. I saw it in droves after the events in lower Manhattan 10 years ago. Why did you come to NYC to help out? Why, because you are a fireman and that what we do. You saw brothers who needed support and you showed up, it was the right thing to do. I thanked every out of town guy I saw at a funeral or benefit for the support back then, and I thank you again today.

“Never Forget” the great traditions of this job, both in our successes and in our sacrifices.

“Never Forget” how we got to where we are today; in your career, in your fire company, in your fire department.

“Never Forget” the wisdom imparted by those who came before you, for they have laid the path in their sacrifices.

“Never Forget” the love of those around the table with you today, for life is fragile, and they are the present. They will carry that honor forward.

Firemen will “Never Forget” what “Never Forget” means to them, because… well, they are Firemen.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, In the News, in-the-line-of-duty, line-of-duty, rescues, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 09-09-2011

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New Class from Traditions Training

Please save October 29th, 2011 on your calendar to attend a new class from Traditions Training. “Waving Red Flags on the Fireground” will be presented at the Claymont Fire Department in Claymont, DE.
This class is being presented by Chief Larry Schultz, DCFD (ret.) and Ricky Riley, Clearwater Fire and Kentland VFD.
This interactive class will assist all officers and firefighters with identifying certain red flags that we all need to recognize on the fireground and on the radio. We will also assist you in setting up your department and command post for success on the scene.
We will publish more details in the future and open registration on our website at www.traditionstraining.com.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, Incident Command, line-of-duty, major-incidents, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 04-08-2011

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“Lest We Forget” LODD Drill #2

This installment of LODD drills comes from 2006 and the loss sustained by the brothers and sisters of Green Bay, Wisconsin Fire Department. The LODD occurred August 13th 2006.

From the official LODD Report:

August 13th, 2006, 1223 hrs

Arnold W.“Arnie”Wolff, Lieutenant

Lieutenant Wolff and an engineer were ordered to enter the front door of the house and perform a left-hand search. Another two-firefighter crew entered and went to the right.

Within minutes of their entry, a partial floor collapse occurred, and Lieutenant Wolff and the engineer fell approximately 10 feet into the fully- involved basement. Maydays were transmitted by Lieutenant Wolff and the engineer.

Lieutenant Wolff fell into a room that did not have windows, and his path to an exit was blocked by debris. Fire conditions advanced markedly after the collapse, and firefighters were unable to reach Lieutenant Wolff. His body was recovered approximately 13 hours into the incident.

Link to NIOSH Report: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200626.html


Most of us were taught in probie school (recruit school, basic firefighter, whatever name your organization gives its initial fire service indoctrination) that we search on our hands and knees. We crawl along in zero visibility, ever vigilant to stay low, we keep our head looking at the ground (also partially due to the SCBA hampering your neck’s movement). If we are searching with a partner, we search like Elephants walk into the circus, latched together.  Perhaps you were taught as I was, to hold the boot of the partner in front of you. You are now blindly going wherever your partner does, including into walls or your partners hind parts!

Read this month’s LODD report and remember the sacrifice of our lost brother from GBFD.  Take some time to refine your search techniques. Instead of a heads down, four points of contact search, take a heads up approach.  First and foremost, stop crawling!   Crawling on all fours places all the weight on top of you (SCBA) and can propel you forward if you need make a sudden stop or take evasive action.


Conduct your primary search in a position where you keep one leg out in front of you and the other leg bent under your body (a cross between a duckwalk and totally on your knees). In this position, your body will remain upright to observe fire conditions and obstacles (Photo 1). This body position affords us many positive benefits in the firefight. Allow your personnel (in full PPE) to complete a search in utilizing this position. Time how quickly they move, show them how much more area they cover using this technique versus conventional crawling.  Allow them to feel how much more control they have over their body in this position.

Photo 1 - Heads Up Search Position

Once that is done, take the drill to zero visibility! Place them in a room with obstacles and hazards. Assess their ability to find obstacles and hazards with the front leading foot. Have them determine what the obstacles are (wall, bunk bed, table). Next, mark the area, which they cover during their search to determine how much area they cover. Lastly, have them search in pairs and give the warning of “Hole in floor”. They should instantly sit back onto their back leg and recognize the stability of their position (Photo 2).

Photo 2 - The "Sit" Position when an obstacle or hole is found


Learning Points:

  • Primary Search is rapid! We often are searching without the protection of a hoseline and in a structure that has been subjected to fire for an unknown amount of time.
  • This modified position allows quicker movement through the hazardous environment while covering more area.
  • Allows the front foot to serve as a probe, findings walls, holes, or other obstacles. This is much better than your head, awkwardly outstretched hand or facepiece.
  • Outstretched leg allows the FF to quickly sit down onto the rear leg to keep their weight centered. This not only could stop you from falling into a hole but also creates a “roadblock” for your partner who may be searching behind you, from pushing you into the hole.
  • Keeps your eyes in front, and ahead of you, to observe any rapidly changing fire conditions that may demand a retreat.

Conventional vs Heads-up search position - the advantage is clear!

As with all of our drills, we take a moment to remember this fallen firefighter and the supreme sacrifice he made. Honor his memory by training everyday and getting out into your response areas to learn your buildings. Stay “Combat Ready.”


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, line-of-duty, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 17-04-2011