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Check the Resume

Years ago the fire service shared its opinions, lessons learned, and post fire academy knowledge primarily in magazine articles. There was no Facebook, Twitter, or blogging. Articles were submitted and reviewed by an editorial panel.  The members of these panels were seasoned fire experts who had “done their time” not only in the firehouse, but in the world of fire service literature.  Many readers often judged the quality of magazines based on their editorial panels. An article would be reviewed by technical editors whose job was to make sure that the points in the article had value and were accurate. If you didn’t pass – you got rejected. Often if you did pass, you still had discussions with the technical editor to clean things up. It also took months, if not years, to get your article actually published once it was approved.  That delay caused a mental pause, reflection, and often revision of the content.  It also tended to filter out the fake content and fake authors. This is roughly still the process to get an article published today.
Some may say this is a form of censorship, or that it’s close minded. I think it was and still is a form of quality control. What the internet has done to the fire service scares me. The fire service pulpit is now wide open for anyone who wants to preach. Anyone with a keyboard, an opinion, and a free afternoon can broadcast their views.  There is no experienced technical editorial panel for the internet. If you are charismatic, write well, or can make your blog/page look pretty, you tend to get attention – people look at what you say and may listen to you. What is not really a prerequisite here is to have any actual firefighting experience or any clue what you are talking about.
Some of the best firemen I know are computer illiterate.  They type with one finger, one letter at a time.  They don’t know how to make a pretty blog or Instagram photo – but they know how to fight fire. Sadly, their voices are often lost in the shuffle to someone who has more technical skills than firefighting skills.
Today, access to the firefighting world is instant.  Through the smartphone that almost all of us have in our pocket, we have we can shoot HD video and photos, snazzy them up, edit some text, and post it all to a variety of social networks within minutes. If it’s catchy and goes “viral” – thousands and thousands will see it by this afternoon.  It’s a sad fact that more young firefighters read the internet than read the magazines. Ironically – the shorter your message, the more will read it (think Twitter)!
When reading and considering things, my friend Joe Brown used to always say “check the resume”. An illustration of this point – even in magazine days, the first thing I would do before reading an article was flip to the end and read about the author.  That would highly influence if I would read the article or not, or how much weight I would give to the content.
  • Who is the author?
  • What department are they from?
  • What is that department’s reputation?
  • What kind of / how much work do they do?
  • What is their position in the Department?
  • How does that position relate to what they’re talking about?
  • How much time on do they have?
Those are some of the things I would evaluate in a “resume check”.  You may notice that “time on” is pretty low on the list.  That’s intentional. For some, their “number of years” is their biggest claim – but what kind of years were those? A wise old saying goes, “it’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years”.  I’m more interested in where you’ve been and what you’ve done than how long you’ve been there.
With all of the uncensored opinions out there across all the platforms, I hope you are all “checking the resume” before you embrace the content. There are a lot of people out there who believe that the number of years they have, or their title, or their degrees, give them “experience” from which to preach.  This is a dangerous thing.  Even scarier, some firefighters and departments are actually revising how they do business based on this content! If you look into it, you may find that the author has more time on the keyboard than they do on the fireground.  You may find their department has not provided them with the volume of incidents to back them up. You may find that have little to no real world experience with what they are talking about. You may find they are simply self-proclaimed.
You may find their resume is hidden; that it is very difficult to find specifics.  Where did they work?  When did they come on?  Where was that guy an officer?  Which firehouse were they in? To me, these vague, hidden resumes are indicative of a questionable background, or perhaps an attempt to conceal a career that the author wishes was more than it really was. I couldn’t be prouder of the places I’ve been associated with and the path of my career – what does it say about yours if you hide it?
You know what they say opinions are like, and everyone does have a right to theirs.  They have a right to share it too, I suppose.  I am sharing my opinion right now and I participate in all of the platforms that I talked about above.  I do believe that I have integrity – that I write honestly about only the things I know about, the things that I have done, and that I have the background to back up my thoughts. I try to be responsible, knowing that what I say may actually cause a change in how someone else responds to a life-threatining incident. That doesn’t make my opinions right, or gospel – but if you consider my background and experiences, you’ll see they match up and make sense compared to my opinions.
The internet is a scary, instant place with no barrier to entry. It is causing good and bad changes to our job. Before signing up for a viral movement, I’d highly advise that you check the resume of the author.
I certainly invite you to look at mine.
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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready | Posted on 06-07-2015

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Got Stickers?

Got Stickers?


Firefighters, absolutely love stickers and decals.  I know that you know what I am talking about, and… it’s ok.  It is absolutely fine to be proud of who you are as a firefighter, be you a career or volunteer member.  You should be proud of your fire company and your fire department. Affixing decals and stickers to your personal property is just one way for you to show that pride to others.  I’ve seen fire department decals not only on personal vehicles, but boats, golf clubs, I’ve even seen decals on coolers… and so on and so on.
I’ve also seen some sort of decal on almost every rig I have come across.  Some are big, some are small but they mean something to the members who put them there.  I’ve seen decals with company slogans and nicknames, department mascots, company patches, memorial decals, the stickers run the gamut.  While they all serve as reminders to the members, either in memory or to elicit a source of pride, but in aiding our functionality for fireground, eh…well the decals are really just for show.
Recently, I have taken notice of a few stickers and decals on rigs and placed on certain tools that are absolutely excellently placed for OUR increased safety, and will aid our operations on the fireground.  Now, I will certainly not take credit for inventing any of them, I’m just not that smart.  I just thought that they were great ideas and they can be incorporated into most companies and departments quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively.  A sticker, believe it or not may just save a life!
Take a good look at the lead picture above and those below, courtesy of my friend Joe Brown from firehouse pride (www.firehousepride.com).  Ladder and tool wraps can greatly increase visibility of such important landmarks on the fireground.  Also, they are great identifiers for your tools and equipment.
Another useful sticker found on fire apparatus that I have seen is this RIT/FAST one.  In reality the sticker isn’t for your members, they should know where all the equipment is on your rig… its is for everyone else!  You never know when an additions compliment of RIT/FAST supplies may be needed at an incident.  With this decals placement, there is no need to “compartment hunt” looking for the RIT/FAST pack or associated RIT/FAST tools.

Label your RIT/FAST compartment

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-02-2012

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Helmet Cam Training Video: Removing Window Mounted AC Units During Ventilation

Here is the latest in our Voiceover Training Tips Video Series” straight from the fireground to your computer screen. In this video Traditions Training Instructor Joe Brown takes us through some of his thoughts and actions when approaching a window mounted air conditioning unit during ventilation. The fire is on the second floor of a 2-story brick end-of-the-row home, Joe is part of the Outside Vent Team on DCFD Truck 17 and his actions are in conjunction with the Interior Search Team and Suppression Teams. As you watch the video think about what your actions may have been and how they might vary with different building constructions in your District. Leave us some feedback and open some discussion at your firehouse kitchen table or computer screen. As always, stay safe out there.


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 26-01-2011

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Video & Training Tips from House Fire with One Trapped

TT Instructor Joe Brown created this video of operations at a first floor fire last tour with a civilian rescued from the second floor.  While some of the video is dark, what should be emphasized in this situation is the communication between crews.


The rescue of a civilian is an exciting event.  Our primary mission is to save lives and when a victim is located it can tend to draw others away from their tasks.  You will notice in this video that when the victim is located, assistacne is given to the victim removal where needed but the other tasks continue, and when the victim is removed everyone get’s back to work. We must remember that a successful fireground results from a coordinated series of events – everyone has a job to do and must do it.  If someone drops their task, the entire fireground falls apart.

At present, all accounts are that the victim is hospitalized and will make a full recovery.  Job well done to the members of DCFD Engine 30 / Truck 17, Platoon #1!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, command-leadership, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, news, rescues, technology-communications, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 11-08-2010

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"As Goes the First Line…" – Engine Ops in West Chester, PA

That famous quote nicely sums up the running theme of a 16-hour engine company operations class this weekend hosted by the Goodwill Fire Company of West Chester, PA.   The program focused on the primary goal of the engine company: getting water on the fire.  Over the weekend we discussed a variety of essential issues along those lines.

Chief Kelleher (DCFD / Kentland 33) discusses setup of the rig and a 400' line.

First was the need for versatility on the engine company.  We discussed the importance of setting up the rig with various options in hoseline length, diameter, nozzle selection, etc.  Further, since it’s impossible to have a dedicated hoseline for every scenario, we must learn to use what we do have in multiple ways for different situations.  These variations have to be planned, communicated, and understood by all members BEFORE the fire, much in the same way as a football play.

We also discussed the need to establish a water supply early, and various options to accomplish this.  Of course another running theme was our company motto, “COMBAT READY”.  Students learned to mask-up quickly, with firefighting gloves already on, at the fire door with a goal of less than 15 seconds (many of the students quickly reached this goal!). Students “ran lines” all weekend, honing their skills through repetition in getting the line off the rig and to the fire quickly and SMOOTHLY.


The obtacles that instructors setup throughout the weekend (stairs, picnic-tables, corners, debris, etc) were enough to prove what we first said in the classroom on Saturday morning:  THE SUCCESS OF THE ENTIRE ENGINE COMPANY HINGES ON THE BACKUP FIREFIGHTER’S COMMITMENT TO THEIR JOB.  Though it’s not the “glory spot”, when the back-up firefighter does their job, the line is able to get into place quickly and advance smoothly.  Various techniques for handling obstacles and keeping the line moving were shown and practiced throughout the weekend.

Students stretching the 400' line

We covered various stretches: preconnects, reverse lay, window stretch, standpipes, extending lines and long length hoselines.  Students learned to stretch an 1.75″ line 600′ with only 4 firefighters in under 90 seconds. To illustrate the effectiveness, the line was even flow tested and measured with a Pitot gauge while flowing.

The engine company ultimately has a pretty simple mission at a fire: put the fire out.  However the steps that must be taken to do this can be quite complicated and require skill, practice, and communication.  Over the weekend we stressed the importance of having multiple plans and options, and that everyone makes errors – it’s not about how you screw up, it’s about how you RECOVER.  The students put 110% into the weekend and their perofrmance during Sunday’s box alarm drills made us proud.

Thanks to the officers and members of the Goodwill, Fame, and First West Chester fire companies of the West Chester Fire Department!  We appreciate your hospitality and look forward to seeing you soon!


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, videos | Posted on 19-07-2010

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Tower Ladder Class in Johnston, IA Reinforces Key Point on Knowing Your (and their) Aerial Apparatus!

Last weekend TT instructors Scott Kraut, Mike Stothers, Joe Brown, and Nick Martin headed west to the metro Des Moines area for a Tower Ladder Operations course with the Johnston Fire Department.  The two-day program brought attendees from all over Polk County to talk about truck work and the capabilities of various apparatus.  All kinds of topics were covered, from forcible entry to ventilation to designing riding assignments.  Sunday brought 40 students and 4 different styles of aerial apparatus for an awesome day of hands-on training at a great acquired building.

Click here for more photos…

One of the goals for the weekend was to allow attendees to work with and understand the various capabilities of different aerial apparatus.  While many departments only own one style of truck, it’s imperative that departments understand the capabilities and limitations of any style of aerial apparatus that might respond into their town. Rear-mount, mid-mount, tiller, tower, aerial – they all have specifics as to their positioning needs and use in various scenarios.  The time to find those things out is NOT the fireground – if you don’t know these things in advance, you can’t POSSIBLY put the rig to the best use when it gets to your fire! It was great to work with a forward-thinking, pro-active group of enthusiastic firefighters.  Thanks to the firefighters of Polk County for your hospitality and we’ll look forward to seeing you again!

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, command-leadership, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 05-07-2010

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PLAY LIKE YOU PRACTICE: Part 1 “Introduction to the concept”


A concept which seems to be increasingly lost on today's fire service

Complacency is the foundation on which many great fire service debacles have been constructed.  Many good, sometimes even great firefighters, have allowed themselves to fall victim to complacency.  If this occurs, often it provides them with a front row seat to the “domino effect” it can cause on the fire ground.  Actively training during times of peace is not itself enough to ensure success in war. Regardless of the training regimen employed in the class-room and out in the field, failure to carry that performance onto the emergency scene will no doubt lead to a less than desirable result.

The fireground is the battlefield on which firefighters wage war on a very experienced and aggressive adversary.  The enemy has no care of what you think you know; it worries no more of a 30 year line officer than of a 6 month rookie. It hasn’t the slightest worry for GPM debates, friction loss equations, risk/reward analysis or ISO ratings; it will fight the good fight just like it has done for thousands of years.  It is the burden of the firefighter to stop it.

Just as in battle, the enemy does not always present itself as one might like.  It may hide in wait preparing to ambush its attackers, or it may flex its muscle for all to see, as if to say, “Here I am, what are you going to do about it?”.  To achieve victory the firefighter must meet his enemy swiftly and effectively, connecting adequate training with appropriate timing to knock the enemy down into submission. The key to this concept is appropriate timing.  One single misstep at the onset of an incident will often dictate the next 10 corrective actions it will take to reverse the downward spiral of the situation.  Adversely, one correct, well timed action at the onset of an incident will set the tempo for the rest of the firegrounds journey towards a positive outcome.

(Positive outcome= fire goes out, those in danger get rescued, no more property is burned than when we arrived.)

“Play like you practice” is an adaptation of the better known “Practice like you play” concept which equates to the fact that firefighters must train with as much intensity and purpose as if it were the real deal. Being “Combat Ready” and training with a purpose is absolutely the goal to which all firefighters should strive in their skill building. However this saying alone leads one to believe that a firefighter will automatically perform well on the scene because they practiced before the fact. “Play like you practice” should be a concept used in conjunction with the previous in order to connect all the dots and mount a stout attack on the enemy when it counts.


Spot hydrants, stretch lines and leave room for other units even if everything seems "normal"

Play like you practice, what do you mean?  I’m referring to the fact that a company can be as well rounded in training as is possible, but if they are complacent when the run comes in, it can be disastrous.  Every member can stretch lines quickly and effectively, they know various ladder throw techniques, forcible entry is second nature, ventilation concepts are repeatable on command and the intricacies of their areas streets and buildings are like a glossary index in their minds.  Their preparation can be flawless, but if they show up to a “fire reported out” without stretching lines and throwing ladders the best way they know how then the tempo is already on the side of the enemy when it finally decides to show itself.

We have all seen it done and we have all heard the excuses, “it sounded like BS, it was 2 in the am, we were tired, we didn’t want to rerack all that hose for nothing…” the list goes on and on.  All of these are big, bold examples of how “Complacency” can turn good companies into lawn ornaments when things aren’t as they seem.  Playing “catch up” is no place for a fire company to be when lives are on the line, especially when the flip side is so easily obtainable with correct discipline and effort.

Say you don’t stretch a line or bring ladders to the building for a reported “food on the stove”.  Say you turn out to be right, there really is no fire, it really was so called “BS”, what have you accomplished?  What have you gained?  True, we didn’t waste any extra effort:  True, we don’t have any hose on the ground or tools to be stowed:  True, we can leave immediately for another call.  To these facts I say big deal! Effectiveness is our mission, as such effort is not only a prerequisite but a continued requirement.  So… we have hose on the ground and tools to be stowed, are we serious? This mindset is simply a poor excuse for an excuse.  How long does it really take to disconnect or rerack a line?  How long does it really take to put a ladder back on the truck or equipment back in its compartment?  If the answer is any more than a few minutes then I would say you should probably become more efficient at that also, through practice.

the push

The abandoned school you've run 100 times for alarm bells might look like this on trip 101. Show up ready to play.

Even though there was no fire, still what have we lost?  We lost one more opportunity for our members to use their skills, one more opportunity to “practice like we play”, and one more opportunity to prepare for that time when we open the door for food on the stove and find a kitchen off with people trapped in the rear bedroom.  Complacency and laziness breed further complacency and laziness, and the only way to stop it is by removing it from our mindset. We do this by treating every call as if it were a working fire, we do this by practicing our positioning, our techniques and our size-ups on each call whether we think it is “BS” or there is fire showing.  We must place the wheels in motion for a positive outcome from the onset and ensure that we are giving our crews every possible advantage over the enemy we fight.

A well rehearsed fire scene is pure poetry in motion, effectiveness and efficiency, on display for the community we serve.

A complacent fire scene looks more like a beaten force routed by its enemy, with ineffective actions scattered sporadically across the fireground in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of incompetence.  Firefighters must “Play like we practice” if we are going to match our adequate training with appropriate timing and effective action.

Part 2 will look into some techniques to accomplish this objective on a daily basis and help keep your company at the top of its game, fire showing or not. Stay Safe.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 10-06-2010

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TT Instructors Receive Awards for Valor

Congratulations are in order for Traditions Training instructor Joe Brown, who was recognized last week for his role in rescuing Prince George’s County firefighter Daniel McGown.  Brown (left), a Captain with the Kentland Vol. Fire Department, was the officer of Rescue Engine 33 operating at a house fire in April 2009.  While performing a search, he heard an activated PASS device and quickly located FF McGown at the entrance to the fire room, who was unconscious and without a face piece.  Brown quickly transmitted a MAYDAY, packaged FF McGown, and removed him to a window where other members of RE-833 assisted in utilizing a “Denver Drill” style maneuver Lito take him out the window. Last week, Capt. Brown was awarded a Gold Medal of Valor by the Prince George’s County Fire Department for his actions at this incident.

Brown, Walter Joe_3x5

Tony Kelleher (right), also a TT instructor, is the Chief of Kentland and received a bronze medal of valor for his actions as the incident commander in managing and coordinating the rescue effort and the house fire simultaneously. Thankfully, despite life threatining injuries, FF McGown has made a full recovery and is back on the job.

This succuessful rescue is another testement to the value of a constant COMBAT READY attitude and excellent training.

Well done, men! You make us proud!

Link to PGFD Story on the Awards & Incident

Link to Kentland VFD Story on the Fire

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, major-incidents, news, rescues, RIT / Survival | Posted on 03-05-2010

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New Helmet Cam Training Video from Traditions Instructor Joe Brown

Last week, prior to leaving for FDIC, an interactive discussion began on the Traditions Training facebook page based on a single picture, one moment in time. The picture was placed with a scenario and the readers were asked to give their thoughts and approaches to the scene. The picture was actually a freeze frame from Traditions Training instructor Joe Browns helmet cam footage from a fire that occurred earlier that same day. The below video is that helmet cam footage coupled with voice over training tips to help viewers identify with what is taking place. We have received a lot of positive feed back from Joe’s last video (found here) and how it has helped viewers’ better train and prepare for that next fire. We are pleased to be able to bring you another installment in the never ending process of becoming better firefighters.    

This video is filmed from point of view of DCFD 17 Truck’s outside vent man (OVM) position on a 2 story middle of the row home with fire on the second floor. For more detailed information on the fire visit http://www.30engine.com/fullstory.php?106159. Please feel free to share your thoughts, tips and comments with us in the comments section. Stay safe and enjoy.      


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 28-04-2010

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Truck Company Ops in Brunnerville, PA

While some members of the Traditions Training staff boarded a plane for FDIC 2010, Instructors Dan Doyle, Scott Kraut, Mike Stothers and Joe Brown were with the volunteers of Brunnerville for Truck Company Operations. Although the Brunnerville Volunteers do not have a Truck, the officers and members understood the need for traditional truck company duties on the fireground. The 2 day class covered such skills as:

  • 27069_1363961617050_1171912233_31001466_2417685_nForcible Entry Techniques
  • Street Smart Ground Ladders
  • Through-the-lock
  • Primary Search Techniques
  • Vent Enter Search
  • Victim Removal
  • Tool Selection
  • Crew Management

For day 2 the Truck Company from Lititz VFD was on hand to enhance their close working relationship on a first due Brunnerville fire. Students learned the importance of thinking of the fireground in terms of duties to be completed instead of the apparatus styles they arrived on. Drawing from their previous Traditions Training class on engine ops, the double engine house quickly adapted to multiple scenarios and arrival positions, including splitting their crews and completing both initial engine and truck ops effectively and without delay.

An abandoned school provided plenty of scenario options for day 2 as the Traditions staff tested the newly acquired skills of the Brunnerville Volunteers. Scenarios closely mimicked possible situations the students may find themselves in, from arriving together and finding fire and multiple people trapped to arriving alone for a fire alarm and requesting additional units for a discovered fire. Crews where faced with multiple forcible entry challenges, traveling smoke, search obstructions and multiple victims just to name a few. The Traditions Training staff had a great time and look forward to their next trip to Brunnerville.

26986_10150173814195571_114240140570_12058188_6246429_n IMG00765

To learn more about this or other Traditions Training classes, please click here or contact us.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 26-04-2010