(0) Comments

I am Sorry What Did You Just Say??? By: Larry Schultz

By: Larry Schultz


I am taking a break from my typical anarchist message and, pleading with you to read this very personal story as a personal assessment tool. I am a fire service traditionalist to the core and my style of writing is always intended to offer an opposing (or alternative) view of what I term the “overzealous safety culture”. My issue(s) are not, nor have they ever been about safety itself, but our approach to assessing and managing risk, without using emotional coercion.

I am going to attempt to address a true risk / health and safety concern, and do so without violating my, no emotional coercion rule. It’s my personal experience and I share to give people something to consider. Before you start jumping to the conclusion that this will be an on-line conversion where I join the “I hate old-school” fan club, simmer down a minute.

My plan is to share a very personal story of cancer and how it has the potential to affect more than ourselves. I always give a shout-out at the beginning of my sermons to the person(s) who get me so twisted up about something that I have to write about it. This one goes out to two people. First is my son, who is my hero of heroes and that’s all that needs to be said about this guy. The next is one of coolest dudes I know Donnie Wedding (DLW) and a brother Traditions Training instructor. Over the past month, DLW and I have been walking through this issue (cancer) together, bouncing thoughts, ideas and frustrations off of one another. The irony of these two recipients is that in spite of never meeting one, DLW and my son Joe were cut from the same exact mold.

While the information and focus on firefighter cancer is a reasonably new topic, over the past 10 years, various studies have concluded the relationship between increasing cancer rates and firefighters. Each day, we are exposed to multiple cancer causing agents, through both inhalation and absorption of carcinogens. The exposures come from structure fires, auto fires, dumpster fires etc. This occurs not only during the incipient and free-burning stages, but well in to the overhaul stage and after. These issues far exceed exposure to carbon monoxide and smoke my friends.

The list of cancers include Testicular, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Skin cancer, Brain cancer, Breast cancer and a whole host of others. In fact, studies are showing more aggressive types of cancer at a younger age then the civilian population. If this isn’t depressing enough, the fact that we are regularly being exposed to multiple agents through multiple routes – multiple times a shift, we are prone to get multiple types of cancer. The hotter the environment and the dirtier we get, the greater the exposure; the lungs and dermis becoming the greatest routes of entry in to our bodies/organs.


On December 31st 2013, I was driving home from Pennsylvania to celebrate the New Years in anticipation of what promised to be “a new – new start”.  About 10 minutes in to my drive, I got a phone call from my son. My boy is and has always been as steady and stoic as a man could be and never gets flustered with anything in life. In typical fashion as part of a normal conversation, he told me he was just diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unless you have experienced this, you have no idea what that feeling is like. I couldn’t even comprehend it, let alone figure out how I would tell his mother and sisters.

Like most fathers, I tend to be a ‘fixer” of things, only this time, I hadn’t a clue how to fix this. For me that means digging deep and educating myself about it, and started to read everything I could about testicular cancer. When I entered the keyword for the search, the very first link that appeared was a study on firefighters and the exponentially elevated risk they faced for testicular (and other) cancers.  The more I read, the more I read. The more I kept reading, the bigger the pit in my stomach. Remember, the nexus between cancer and firefighting studies are relatively new. The fact is, that common sense always told me that the things we breathe in are pretty gnarly, but I rarely considered things like dermal absorption, post incident exposure contamination (through dirty gear, uniforms and soot) and cross contamination.

So here is my confession. Like most, I loved every part of being a “big city” fireman, most importantly the heavy workload. When I say every part, I include the persona of dirty gear and the sooty look and smell that comes along with it. It wasn’t uncommon to go to a few fires a shift, so why shower… in fact, my goal at the end of each tour-of- duty was to look like Pig-Pen (a character from Peanuts for you youngins).  I honestly loved every bit of that.

My gear was always in the back of my vehicle when I left work; I would go home after being up for 24 straight and fall asleep wherever I could find a spot, still in my raunchy clothes and covered in soot. It wouldn’t be long before my little dude would wake up, come down stairs and hang out with me while he watched TV, and I snored. My uniforms, t-shirts, washed with his cloths and my shoes/boots trampled plenty of crap into the carpet that he crawled around on. I can’t tell you the number of times; I put him in to my gear. If you know me, you know I am a “good hair kind of guy” lol. Many of you can relate that for days after a good fire, you couldn’t get the stench of smoke out of your hair. You would smell like that for days at a time. My friends, this went on for years and years and I am certain, that I exposed my family selfishly and unnecessarily.

There is no history of testicular cancer in my family and my son had zero medical history as well. While there is no definitive proof that his diagnosis was caused by secondary exposure to carcinogens that I exposed him to, I know this to be true: cross contamination exposure to carcinogens is very real and those exposed are at greater risk; I exposed him and my wife (and daughters later on) to that crap for years and lastly, I will have to continue to think about this every day and wonder if I caused or contributed to his cancer.

This is where hypocrisy enters the picture. I never wore a nomex-hood in my career (stupid), in fact my crew would call it (my hood) my personal department issued handkerchief. I worked towards being the last one to have to mask-up and the first to take it off; all part of the identity. How stupid do I feel now?

You can be “salty” (yes that’s still a good thing), without “looking” the role, by simply letting your actions speak louder than your appearance or attitude. You know the right things to do (wear your mask, take a shower when you get back, wash your gear regularly, no gear in the living space and wash your uniforms separate for other items), so do the right thing for you and your family.

My son is in full remission (continues to undergo regular follow-ups) and has blessed us with our first grandchild (which was not supposed to happen as a result of his illness), a true miracle.



Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, news, Testimonials | Posted on 08-01-2016

(0) Comments

Building Leaders for the Fire Service – Part 2………..By Dan Shaw

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.


Have a purpose, set the boundaries, and watch your people soar.

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 | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, news | Posted on 10-10-2014

(0) Comments

Outside the Box Apparatus Positioning

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 | Posted in 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

(0) Comments

Combating Attic Fires

By: Larry Schultz

380927_282468061801486_394045475_n copy If you are in to fire porn, then there is an unlimited supply to be found on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook these days. I would surmise that if you have an ounce of fire service passion left in you, then you too are a fan of fire porn. Over the last several months, I have watched many videos of fires where the fire was located in the attic area and more obvious in the void spaces of the knee-walls.

As I always say, it is ridiculous that we reinvent how we deal with these fires over and over in spite of the fact that they are very predictable in how they are going to behave and what needs to be done to deal with it.

Here are just a few reminders for company officers and IC’s to consider.

For the sake of the article, I will clarify a few terms so that we are all on the same page. It doesn’t particularly matter what terms we use as long as we understand a few back principles. The first and most important one is that these fires (attic’s and knee-walls) are very predictable in how they behave and even more predictable based on the type of structure involved.

When I use the term attic, I am speaking about the space under the roof of a house, where that space is large enough to be used as a livable space or as a storage area. This space will have access via interior steps. This is different then a cockloft which I would describe as the small space (non-livable) that lies above the top floor and below the flat roof, commonly found in a rowhome.

When I talk about “knee-walls” I am talking about a constructed wall of 2-4 feet, constructed in the “A” framed area of the attic, built primarily to keep you from smacking your dome on the ceiling (see picture above).


There are some pretty common signs that a fire has moved in to the attic/knee-wall area, most notably smoke and fire pushing from the dormers and gable ends. Interior environments where you are experiencing high levels of heat, but cant locate the fire can be indicative of fire concealed in the walls as well.

There is good opportunity to make an aggressive push on this fire if you can beat the fire to “flashover”. Generally speaking, this is a doable scenario if you remember a few basic things (always goes back to core basic skills).

Engine Company(s)
• Starts with a good stretch using an appropriate sized line. Remember, you need enough water to out perform the heat release rate not blow the roof off. You will likely be stretching up at least two flights of steps including in to the attic. Avoid the absurd “big fire big water” mentality and go for maneuverability.
• Good stretch means, chasing kinks, using the well of the stairway properly, tying off the hose when needed (keeps you from constantly having to hump line) and knowing how to quickly remove the balusters if necessary (limits wasted hose length)
• Stretch the line dry until you get to the point where you need to mask-up.
• The Engine Officer should report the conditions (smoke, heat, fire, clear) as soon as they cross the threshold and provide the same report for each ascending floor.
• Once you’re ready to make the push, this is the perfect time to ditch the “pistol grip” (just kidding). Get that nozzle out in front of you and use good nozzle pattern selection.
• If the roof is not vented then flow your line from the steps or consider the attack from the underside (pulling the ceiling from the floor below the attic).
• Remember, hood on, collar up and flap’s down

Truck Company
• Start venting the easy stuff first, dormer windows and gable vents. In order for the engine company to make the push, you need to get that roof opened up. This is the one scenario where you do not always need to get to the highest point of the roof. When dealing with knee-walls make your cut dormer level high. Don’t forget to punch through the drywall.
• Empty your ladder bed.
• The livable space of the attic must be searched. Do so, only after the line has advanced in to the area.
• Walls and ceilings must come down, aggressively and completely. Fire in the walls, open up the ceilings, fire in the ceiling open up the floor above. Keep going until there is no more fire or you can see the sky, which ever comes first.
• When space and visibility inside is limited and your dealing with wood frame construction, consider open up, from the outside in. Take the siding and lapboards from the outside will provide you the same access often times quicker then from the interior.
• When dealing with knee-walls remember that the attic stairwell walls will allow you access to the void area behind the knee-wall. This allows good access for water application.

RIT Team
• Validate that upper level windows are fully cleared and ladders are in place.
• Remember that stairwells are likely to be overcrowded with people and hoselines. Look for alternative points of ingress and egress.
• Have a chainsaw available and ready to go in order to expand window openings

Incident Commander
• Control the number of hoselines going up the stairs
• Have 2nd in hoseline maintain a position at the bottom of the steps until requested. Have the Company Officer help in keeping the stairway clear
• Pay attention to the vent work
• Watch smoke behavior, it will tell you how well things are going or not going.
• Don’t play catch up with Truck’s; always have one in staging ready to go.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, fires, news, Training Resources, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 06-01-2014

(2) Comments

Sharon Hill, PA. Entangled Firefighter


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

(1) Comment

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

(0) Comments

Officer School in San Marcos, Texas

Traditions Training is bringing our 16-hour “Officer School” to San Marcos, Texas. October 11th and 12th, 2012 we have been invited to teach by the San Marcos Professional Firefighters Association. Our program brings a review of leadership challenges and principles along with a review of breaking down incidents into manageable parts for the company officer and the command officer. By reviewing incidents we look at failures and successes of different departments and personnel. We then provide plans for both officers to develop good habits and practices for their own department incidents. This interactive and engaging program will hopefully make you and your department better when faced with the challenges of todays fireground.

You can go to the San Marcos Professional Firefighters website to register

San Marcos, TX Officer School Download the brochure…

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, news, Uncategorized, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 07-06-2012

(0) Comments


**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**


Join Dan & Doug as they present an engaging and interactive presentation on the most influential unit on the fireground – The Engine Company! As firefighters, we must be able to adapt to the environment we operate in which is changing every day. Some of the practices we employed years, weeks, or days ago may not apply to the fire you encounter tomorrow. Dan & Doug will provide a review of time tested and proven strategies and tactics along with new tips, tools, tactics for the modern firefighting environment.

Modern Engine Company Essentials

Captain Dan Shaw, Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue Department & Lieutenant Douglas Mitchell, Jr., Fire Department of New York (FDNY)

While the ultimate job of getting water to the fire has not changed, building construction, fire behavior, staffing levels, and much of our equipment have. This class will teach sound tactics and techniques for preparing and operating the modern day engine company. Factual hose and nozzle data will enhance the student’s knowledge of the new tools available for the firefighting arsenal. The instructor will provide a comprehensive and definitive blueprint to hoseline/nozzle selection and deployment and discuss the tools, tips, and drills that will work best in your fire department.


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, fires, news, Training Resources, Uncategorized, Upcoming Classes, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 06-02-2012

(0) Comments

Forget the Excuses – Just Get to the Roof!

Many initial operations depend on firefighters accessing the roof early in the incident.  Providing a report from the rear and sides, assessing lateral extension, opening natural openings and cutting a hole may all be potential tasks, but our first task is to GET TO THE ROOF.  The truck’s aerial is of course a preferable option and ground ladders are a close second – but what about if you can’t get either up?

This was the case at a fire on Kennedy St, NW in DC the other night.  First-in companies found fire in a church on the 1st floor of a 3-story occupancy.  The building sat about 20 feet back from the curb with power lines running along the curb.  These prevented use of the aerial, even though the truck was able to position right on side A.  Ground ladders would have been difficult because with the building’s height a 35 would have been unlikely to make the height and the 45 would have been unwieldy in the area of the wires and companies making the stretch through the front door.

Like many others, I too have seen people encountered with such a situation just give up – it’s easy to fall back on the explanation of why you didn’t do it.  But a COMBAT READY out-of-the-box-thinking fireman will forgo the excuses and just get the job DONE.  This was just the case for Truck 11’s tillerman, who quickly thought to use the adjoining building’s porch roof.   By quickly placing a 24′ ladder to the porch roof, the 14′ roof ladder was used to go from the porch to the fire building roof.  In hindsight it seems like a simple and obvious idea – but this kind of creativity is more difficult in the heat of the moment.  Pay attention to your buildings, plan for fires before you go to the fire, and think outside of the box!  (photos courtesy of D. Smith, DCFD T-11)


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, news, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 13-12-2010

(0) Comments

Registration Open for Officer Development School in Ringwood, NJ – January 2011

There are just a few spots left!  Sign up today!  Traditions Training is excited to announce that registration is almost full for our “Officer Development School”, to be held January 29th, & 30th 2011 at the Erskine Lakes Fire Company in Ringwood, NJ. Learn real-world leadership and street-smart tactics featuring experienced officers from the Kentland VFD, FDNY, and Fairfax County Fire Department.

Click here to download the flyer!

Featuring hands-on participation with various leadership challenges and tactical scenarios, this program will have you interacting with leaders of other departments and challenging your decision-making as you examine and improve your personal leadership style.

To insure individual attention and participation, enrollment is limited.  Register today! To register, please e-mail info@traditionstraining.com with the following information:

  • Attendee’s Name.
  • Attendee’s E-mail.
  • Attendee’s Department Affiliation & Rank.
  • Whether paying individually or through department purchase order.

**Please note that due to fixed costs, registration is non-refundable after 12/29/10.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, major-incidents, news, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 19-11-2010