Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Standards and Regulations

Ahh, Chief Reason, I should have known I'd find you here (well, I was here too, but since we are bringing our discussion to others, I agree our dialogue would be useful here as well).

We have been having a little chat about the perceptions and issues involving standards and regulations and maybe the readers here would like to say their piece as well. Art has some great points about the issues of standards, mainly that the consensus standards that have been adopted as American National Standards (like your various NFPA standards) since they are being used by OSHA to perform their regulatory duties, should be published and distributed for free, since we all have to live by them.

I don't have a general argument against that, but I do see the side of those organizations that develop consensus standards and know that the development of them isn't cheap (and someone has to pay for the light bill). So what is your take on them?

OSHA-Public Safety Standards? I Wish!

If you go to www.osha.gov, you will find that there are various occupations that have standards written specifically for them. You have General Industry, Construction, Healthcare, Ship building and Meatpacking, among others.

With the most recent government “insertion”, I think that it is time to give serious thought to developing specific standards for firefighting. Yeah, I know that there are provisions for fire protection, but they hardly go far enough to address the complexities of this business.

I hate ambiguity and generalizations and especially where there is wide latitude to cite and fine entities for “violations” of the standards.

So, if OSHA wants to be in our business, then let’s get rid of the “See NFPA 1500” references, write them into a final rule, adopt it and let us take care of the business.

And OSHA really needs to hire folks that have more than an ancillary interest in firefighting. Same goes for the rules makers.

It needs to be made abundantly clear that firefighting is not the same as de-boning a hog or driving a forklift.

Why? Check this out, compliments of Chief BillyG: http://firefighterclosecalls.com/fullstory.php?75264

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Open Your Eyes In 2009

What have we learned in 2008? Are we better off here on the threshold of 2009 having experienced so much in the last year? Or are we destined to repeat our mistakes? Are we advocating better cardiac fitness for our troops? Are we beating the seatbelt issue into their heads on a daily basis? Are we telling them that it's silly to fight fire without using proper PPE and are we telling them that unoccupied buildings aren't worth jeopardizing their lives over?
Are we using better methods for finding fires? Are we using more modern technologies for communicating on the fireground or at the scene of disasters? Are our communications systems interoperable and are we even speaking the same language?

Are we any closer to a National Mutual Aid Box Alarm System? How about working with the military on domestic disaster issues? Are we getting the typing and credentialing issues resolved?

As much as we have learned about ourselves, our industry, and the environment in which we operate, how much of it has translated into positive change for the good of our service? How much is dependent upon funds that are being eliminated? How much is dependent upon that ill-educated politician? How much of our mission is being sacrificed by the self-serving and the egotistical for their own gains?

If we can open our eyes in 2009, and we can look past our own needs and look to the greater good, the communities in which we serve and the brotherhood of the fire service, if we can put our egos aside and agree to work together, career and volunteer, rural and urban, North and South, East Coast and West Coast, labor and management, we can achieve greatness. The fire service is as unified as it is finely divided. Until we can put aside our differences to realize that we DO have some common ground, and focus on solving those core issues, we will continue to fight these same battles. What's more, we'll be fighting them generations from now (if we still exist), because we have been fighting them for generations heretofore.

Have we really learned from our experiences? Or are we doomed to repeat the past? I guess 2009 will tell.

2008-And the Winner Is…

Heart attacks – AGAIN!

First of all, the loss of a firefighter is tragic in every sense. It can shatter a fire department and shake the very soul of a community.

But, if an LODD is preventable, it is tragic, but senseless. And the data that is out there tells us that many firefighter deaths are preventable; particularly heart-related deaths.

I have been involved in the fire service since 1980 and cardiac events have led all other categories as the number one killer of firefighters.

And, we can’t seem to get annual LODDs below one hundred. The numbers of fires are going down; yet, our LODDs are basically unchanged, which means a higher incident rate.

For at least twenty-eight years, the fire service has seen an average of 45% of LODDs due to heart attacks.

Even though the science is there; even though the recommendations have been made; even though grants are available for physical fitness equipment/programs, including medical surveillance, we are seeing no signs of improving our mortality rate.

Think about it: half who die from heart attacks had a “known” heart problem, which means that the problem was ignored. One third who died had heart conditions that routine medical testing would have detected, which means that so much as an annual physical wasn’t required.

A recent study showed that firefighters are following a national trend of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risk factors associated with heart disease. Add to that sudden, extreme exertion, toxic vapors and heat stress and firefighters with underlying heart problems are at greater risk.

The time is NOW to implement our own programs for better screening of candidates, requiring yearly physicals for everyone, creating physical fitness programs, including nutrition/diet information and to use the NFPA physical fitness standards as our rules.

In this time of national, financial crisis, it becomes paramount that we do everything that we can to protect our own. When cities and fire districts are cutting our manpower, forcing us to do more with less, causing firefighters additional physical and mental stress, WE have to stand up and stop it. We cannot allow governments to add to our number of LODDs.

We should have learned by now that firefighting is a very physical and very demanding job. Our strategies should reflect that. Otherwise, we are guilty by accountability; we become the “enablers”.

I want to go to retirements and not LODD funerals. So for me, the choices are very clear.

Make 2009 the year to remember for the RIGHT reasons.

Friday, December 26, 2008

EveryoneGoesHome Firefighter Life Safety initiatives

Have a look at the December E Newsletter located at http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/ . You will find new information on a conference held by key fire service leaders as well as the American military regarding section 13 (Mental Health and Wellness) of the Everyone Goes Home Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives.

In the newsletter is the more focused discussion on the need to define the "best practises" for the fire service regarding the delivery of Psychological support for firefighterveterans and their families.

As we look into 2009 and also look back on 2008 there remain many challenges that have been overcome and many more that face us.

Our resolve to take better care of ourselves must remain a goal which each and everyone in the fireservice is 100 percent committed to. The results of taking ourselves out of the front lines from stress or "Operational Occupational Stress Injury" is real and demands a better approach.

The United States Fallen Firefighters Foundation under executive direction of Chief Ron Siaranicki is taking the gloves off and stepping into the ring to do battle. Round 1 has come and gone...14 to go. This is a full on "title fight". Lets make sure we take care of eachother with tools that work for the front lines. No Blank Cheques will be written on this one. Each component of section 13 as it becomes more defined must have as it's goal, the reduction of negative stress outcomes.

Get Connected and stay connected to the Life Safety Initiatives.

In the meantime.................

Be Safe over the remainder of the year...
the very best to all in 2009
Shannon H. Pennington

out with 2008 in with 2009

This is the time of year that one typically reflects on the past year and looks forward to the new year. Personally, this has been one of the most challenging years for me. I am looking forward to 2009, at least in hopes of a better year.

The country is facing one of its most challenging years in recent history. As members of the fire service, we tend to always think of others and neglect our personal well-being. We tend to forget that we are human too and need to pay attention to our own personal issues.

Me...I have decided to try something different this year. I am going to write down all the issues our family has been and is dealing with and on New Year's Eve, I will burn those papers in the fireplace symbolizing that I am putting the troubles away. Maybe 2009 will be a better year for our family and for yours.

Are you planning to do something different this New Year Eve's?

Here's to a better 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Post Fire or Training Close Call Video - Bad Idea

This firefighter gets punished for not wearing gear when he attempts to pry at a structure on the verge of collapse.

Holiday Thoughts Compiled During Fire Season

Winter is sweeping across the country and with it a bevy of fires, ice storms and accidents are following. Sadly, for the fire service, line of duty deaths are happening.

Michelle Smith in Delaware City, a mother of a 12 year old, was struck and killed by an automobile as she worked to help a motorcyclist involved in an accident. As a firefighter she sought to help and now we have lost another sister.

Just East of where this author resides word came that Lieutenant Steve Hagan of the Blenheim, SC Fire Department died today after returning from a call. Like Michelle, Steve set out to perform his duty. Seems a small word, duty, but the price is high.

Examples of courage are on display every day across North America. Men and women going to work, helping put out a fire, stop a spill, or perform a medical assist, all without so much as a thought to glory. Their payment is in a job well done yet even so, among us, people are ignorant of their presence.

This holiday season as we think of family let's all pause to think of Steve and Michelle, and others like them, on duty, ready to respond, paying the price.

(Note - This author has not posted lately. A serious medical issue needs my attention and then I will return. Thanks.)

Free Training!

I wanted to take a moment to touch on the recent theme of education and budget that has been posted here over the last week or so. Both great posts with important thoughts/points.

Last week, I wrote a somewhat related article for FireRescue1 entitled: The Value of Free Training. In it, I highlighted a particular on-line course through the National Fire Academy (NFA) related to community safety education and laid down a friendly challenge to Fire Chief’s across this great land of ours. Please take a moment to read it if you get a chance.

Anyway, after reading the two previous posts related to education, it hit me that a lot of folks are not aware of the NFA on-line courses that are available and – FREE! In addition, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) also offers a wide a variety of on-line courses perfect for the fire service. At the minimum you can earn Continuing Education Units for your efforts. Depending on the course, and educational institute you may be attending, you may also earn actual college credits! Not too bad in these tight economic times!

For more information go here: NFA On-Line
And here: EMI Independent Study

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blogging on weather delay

I'm headed home to Oklahoma City this week, where the temperature is supposed to drop from 60 to 17 degrees in a couple of days. The weather looks beautiful here in San Diego, but my half-hour layover is now at almost two and counting...

The scuttlebutt among the delayed passengers seems to be that bad weather up north has trickled down and delayed almost all flights everywhere.

I, a nervous flier, am inclined to think, 'better safe than sorry.' By all means, please keep the plane in Portland to de-ice it. As I peruse the fire service news, I'm reminded even more of how dangerous thing this winter weather can be.

A run-down of a few articles and blog posts I've seen over the last couple of days:
FireGeezer: Fatal Ambulance Crash In Alabama Fog
FireHouse: Montana Firefighter Struck and Killed
FireRescue1: Wash. crash leaves bus, wheels dangling over I-5
and a nice winter photo at Firefighter-EMT.com

Stay safe, everyone!

Getting the "Job Done"/ Budgets/From our Past

I was invited to the United Kingdom (England) to represent the Canadian Fire Services in their National Memorial Day for all of the U.K. L.O.D. in 2004.

A visit to England:

In 2004.... looking back.....I received an invite to the United Kingdom Fire Fighters Memorial Trust Dedication of a new statue at St. Paul's Cathedral honoring over 2500 members killed in the line of duty.

I took Alvina Drennan from N.Y. who represented the United States Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation along with out team from Canada and family members of firefighterveterans of the Canadian Civilian Overseas Firefighters who served on the front lines as Canadian Fire fighters in WW2. This was truly an "international event". The Canadians served with the U.K. fire service during the Blitz of WW2.

Under war time conditions the following took place:

The U.K. fire services in WW2 used a trailer pulled behind a taxi or a 3/4 ton dodge truck, yes a taxi, with a gas powered climax coventry pump on a trailer along with hose positioned in a rack at the back of the trailer.

They fought the great fire bombings of London by the German Air Force using water from the Thames river and relay pumping wherever they had to. These were "gas powered rigs"!!!. The taxi drivers took a 3 man pump or 4 man pump crew with them.

Outriders on motorcycles led the way through damaged streets. Most of the motorcycles were crewed by women. Many were killed doing this vital work. See firehouse651.com for the story of the "Canadian Corps of Overseas Firefighters".

They also used the "task force concept" and under that header during the greatest fires that threatened to consume all of London, they brought in over one thousand pumps along with fire brigades from as far away as Scotland. Everyone had to make it work using common practises and working with other departments that had the same "command structures" along with centralized depots, rehab areas, rest barracks, food and maintanence centers.

Are we so tuned in and networked in our local areas of responsability? Have we done the work before the "big one" as an event that will take all of our resources and put them on the front lines under a "maximum effort/push?".

I am posting this as a gauge of where we are for rigs and deployment of assets which are becomming increasinlgly harder to buy and put into service.

Where we go from today in the "here and now" is contained in the history of the fire services during war time. That America is safe...... is obvious. Howerver we look at the problem, the elephants called "finance, budget and restraint", have entered the room and it is getting very very difficult to move in any one direction.......

The "IF" and the "WHEN" factors in the future will play havoc with making budget descisions and the crisis we face with diminished funds will challenge all of us to find creative solutions......so.....

We can make our budgets work if we consider the entire picture and not just the local view from the hose tower of..... larger, bigger, better, faster.


....getting our heads up from the ledger books and balance sheets, one can find "innovation" in the services.

By "tailoring the fit to the need" we will bring fiscal restraint into the front line along with equipment that will get the job done. Another tool for the tool box and not just another fool in a fool box using the thumb under the weigh scale of creative financing.....

My p.o.v.
take care

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ignition Of Fuels During Live Burn - VIDEO

I had to share this video with you all. I spend about an hour a day searching websites for videos, and it seems as though there is always something to be learned from these videos. My tip for people searching for videos...you need to be patient and you need to watch the whole video. If you are too lazy don't bother, I do that for you.

Anyway, I typically do not use video footage that is a compilation of photos. This video I am sharing with you starts out as photos, but at the 1:30 mark it switches to what seems to be a video camera left in the basement of the live burn. Watch and see what happens.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Taking the Education Thing A Step Farther

As Jeffrey points out, getting an education is an investment in your future. Yes, there are things that need cutting back in departments, but the training budget should be one of the last to go. As a chief officer in your organization, are you putting your money where your mouth is? As a member in the department, are you really concerned with providing the best service you can provide?

Education not only gets you a nice certificate on the wall; it opens your mind up to possibilities, it expands your horizons. And I'm talking about the benefits to the entire department, not just to the individual. When someone comes back from training, we don't always do the best job of picking their brain for new ideas, or getting feedback on what best practices we are doing now and what we could be doing.

The training budget is to emergency service what the research and development budget is to corporate entities; organizations that fail to perform research and continually improve are likely to be lower performers than organizations who don't.

Take advantage of the opportunities for providing R&D for far less cost than doing it in-house; send your people to school and if you are in a department that encourages you to go to training, take advantage of it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Education and the budget crisis

Many, ok most every fire department is facing budget shortfalls and budget downsizing. In many instances, education funds get cut. What do you do if this happens to you?

You can stop completing the courses for your degree or you can pay for the degree yourself. Think about this, you are making an investment in YOUR future, don't stop now. The opportunities you will have after completing your degree will far outweigh paying for your degree.

So, what will you do if your agency quits paying for your college?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blogger Profile

Stage Your Own Pandemic

A study to be published in the January 2009 Journal of Hospital Infection, (Phin NF, Rylands AJ, Allan J, et al. Personal protective equipment in an influenza pandemic: a UK simulation exercise. J Hosp Infect 2008;71(1): 15-21) holds some surprising findings with major implications for Fire and EMS departments. The authors staged a 24 hour pandemic PPE drill in a 29-bed inpatient medical ward at a U.K. hospital. During the drill, health care workers (HCWs) used 13 times more gloves and 10 times more surgical masks than normal. They also used considerably less high level PPE than expected (gowns, respirator masks, and goggles). The authors note that WHO (World Health Organization) recommendations for stockpiling pandemic PPE seem to overshoot on high level supplies and underestimate low level needs. Waste generated from PPE used in patient care increased 3 to 4 fold. Workers complained that wearing PPE was uncomfortable (hmmm, sounds like the problem we have with SCBA...), and patient care procedures took considerably longer than normal. Traffic through the ward was excessive and ultimately, demonstrated that merely plugging additional PPE into the health care delivery model would simply not work during an actual pandemic.

Probably the most fascinating conclusion from the authors is that none of us will fully appreciate costs, preparedness levels, supply needs, or implications for service delivery until we actually conduct a real time simulation like this one in the U.K.

Fascinating. One added consideration regarding PPE: read some labels. You'll probably discover that your gloves, masks, and other disposables are made in China or somewhere else overseas. If you think you'll be able to bulk order these items during a pandemic, think again. It's fairly likely that's where a pandemic will begin...

You can view the full article by clicking this link to the journal.

Mike McEvoy

National Survey Confirms Concerns

I have developed a very close, personal relationship with my state representative.
We have become very good friends and have managed to balance our friendship against the work that needs to be done in our state on behalf of the fire service.

Unless you live in a cave, you have seen the political crisis that has affected Illinois during the past three years. Our state budget has been used in a very disgusting, immoral and unethical manner by our state government; most notably by our governor. He has held the entire state hostage, including schools, children's hospitals, roads programs and yes; fire departments.
We are a very progressive, small fire department that pre-plans, including our financial forecasts.

In the current climate, how in the world can we look beyond the current fiscal year with any confidence and plan for our next five years with some economic accuracy?

I realize that it is not wise to spend money that you don't have, but what about money that was already approved by the legislature, but has been tied up by the governor for the last three years, because he's not happy that some of his pet projects were not funded? We have $25,000 in grant monies sitting in the Comptroller's office that has yet to be released to us, so we had to move forward with the project, borrow the money, then pay off the loan, because we needed emergency power at our fire station. It was a project worthy of a grant.

With the current budget crisis, I cannot in good conscience prepare our customary five year plan without considering tax increases or reducing services and that sounds strange for a small fire department that is used to running services on a boot strap-thin tax base.
Here is an article that will get your attention: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/press/2008/pr120408SBUDec08.htm
As always, I welcome comments.

Work Ahead In 2009

One of my biggest concerns in 2008 has been the dwindling funds available for urban search and rescue programs around the nation. When things cut loose out there, these are the resources that everyone wants, but given the state of funding for these programs and the state of the economy, they may also be the first programs to see the axe.
When a few of us got together and developed the State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance in the middle of 2005, we had no idea that there was as much interest in putting together regional and state assets as there was. We found that virtually every state (and even some of our Caribbean neighbors and compatriots) were in the process of developing these programs, but people weren't talking the same language (NIMS typing and credentialing was in its infancy), were "reinventing the wheel" in so many facets of their work, and most of all, weren't communicating that they had things to share or that they had needs that could be filled by others.

The nation's emergency service providers should learn a lesson from all of this: we can work together by reaching out to others, and find commonalities that can bring us together rather than to continue to stay in our "silos" and perpetuate the turf-guarding that keps us from solving our serious issues. In this day and age of stripped budgets, if we can show that we are willing to lay down our egos for the common good, we might have a bigger stick to wield when it comes to chasing the vultures away from our already scarce funding allocations.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dangerous Construction - What is Under That Roof?

Although my site gets many visitors a day, the forum has yet to have any participation. One thread I created is called "Complex Roof Framing - What is Under The Roof". It was inspired from a post on http://www.vententersearch.com/ that featured one of there typical posts that shows and image of a particular building, then they show you what it is problematic about it.

I thought of all the poorly built roof structures around my area and started looking for images of poorly constructed roofs around the country. The intent is to give a sense to other firefighters potential problems in framing that could make venting even more dangerous. The thread is the most viewed on the site currently.

Here are a few examples
Big Spacing, Small Lumber, and the dreaded nail plates

That isn't a pile of wood, it is a roof.

Ok, we have a fire on the roof and we need to vent. How long is this roof lasting?

Check out pages of poor construction over at Firefighter Spot

Best Photos of 2008

Tod Parker, a frequent firefighting photo contributor on FR1, has prepared a nice end-of-year round up of his best pictures from 2008 on his site, phototac.com

Tod is based in Indiana and shoots an incident every couple of weeks or so.

The end-of-year set is definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Presence

A long long long time ago....twas the night before christmas.....true.....It was a restless shift with the busy two days we had already been up to 20 runs.....and we had begun our first of two night shifts on December the 24th.

Looking around the hall and wanting to dress up the heavy rescue unit as I was the operator assigned, I found a stuffed teddy bear and some christmas garland and put it on the dash inside of the rig. Taking a look further I borrowed some artificial branches and twisted them on the side of the west coast mirriors....all things considered it looked pretty good. If we had to make a run on christmas eve we were ready ......

The Lt. in charge of the rig had a surprise waiting when we dashed out into the night on a roll over m.v.a. but thought it looked o.k. enough to leave things in place. We had a very busy night starting with the first run out of chute at about 1830 and ended up missing out on a great hot supper. Around 12;30 am we were dispatched to a fully invloved structural fire/ residence. Not much left after it was all said and done. Christmas presents charred and smoking, minus 20 degrees. Single mom and her child crying as they were placed in the safety of one of the chiefs van awaitng the Salvation Army......we all felt the tug at our hearts....and the loss of this womans possessions and her presents....

I remebered the "teddy bear" in the rig and the Lt.'s eyes lit up brighter than a christmas bulb....he dashed over to the rig and hauled teddy out and delivered it to the little girl who was sobbing in her moms arms......she went quiet....and we all stopped for a minute to look at the scene......and then time took over and we finished the job.....we had work to do, hose to pick up, air packs to check,.....back home to the hall...clean up....get ready for the next run.....

Having a Christmas Presence is nothing new to the fire service.

As we staff the food banks and charity drives this christmas and donate to charity our time and our paychecks, our tithes to the church, we think of those in need and we think of the presence of our service in our community......

Operational Pace and rehab means we too, take time out to be with our families and to enjoy the many pleasures we have earned this season.....and too we understand how we can, by the power of one, make a difference in others lives just as "The One" came to us and made a difference for all of us.

Be Safe in Service

I look forward to many more postings on the other side of the "silly season".
In the meantime.............."dashing through the snow" is quite a "challenge"....

....using the seat belt in the rig means you will get there to make a difference in someones life who depends on you.....A Message from EveryoneGoesHome Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives www.EveryoneGoesHome.com

The local fire siren just went off....the crews are running to their rigs....the work continues.....

Something for Christmas

Sending this email after some rest time out.....I was down to Santa Clarita during the tremendous fires that were burning in SOCAL. Interviewed Dan Jordan and John Hicks authors of a book titled: "The First Responders Book of Humor". Dan is a member of law enforcement and John Hicks is with L.A. Fire Department. John had burns on his face from the tremendous whirlwhinds full of brans that the front line fire fighters faced during that event.

We discussed the fire line situation and how the stress has taken it's toll on all aspects of "the system in Emergency Response, ie the tri services law, fire and ems.

Both men are seasoned veterans and collaborated on putting together an excellent book that does one of the best jobs I have seen in describing a stress management model using humor as the introduction. Dan is alos a "magician" and does lectures and presentations in the southern california region using his magic to educate and inform firefighters and law enforcement personal and their families about what they need to do to "balance their lives to always win".

Check it out on amazon.com for a gift you may want for a member in fire, law enforcement, or ems. We all know what stress is. Forrest Gump described the "S" word as "it happens". We also know that stress is taking lives off the front lines sometimes for good. Education is the key element in getting ourselves hooked up to the humour hydrant and letting the fun flow and keep us healthy and well in the most challenging job in the world.

Have a think on the subject and pass on a good gift ideas to partners and friends in the service.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not a Fan of PPV

I read Chief Charles Bailey's excellent article on PPV: Interior Use of Positive Pressure, Part 1

I can readily see the advantages for high rise fires.

But, I am going to tell you straight out that I am not a fan of PPV as an offensive weapon for small fire departments.


Two reasons: 1) Many small departments struggle just to keep up on basic firefighting skills, much less learning some of the more "exotic" tactics and 2) If you polled these same departments, you would find that many do not have written SOPs. No; fire department by-laws are NOT SOPs!

Now; it just so happens that my department is a small department and in all likelihood, we could master the tactic of positive pressure attack.

But, until I can be convinced that we could deploy it successfully 100% of the time-that is to say, not light up a structure from discovering too late that there was a hidden fire or to reduce the chances of victim survival-we won't be doing it.

So, you won't see us on YouTube any time soon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Energy Star Homes - Tighter, Hotter and...Deadlier?

Our town just recently took the plunge into requiring an energy star rating for all homes based on different levels according to square footage's. In reviewing some of the detailing it appears as our jobs as firefighters are only going to get tougher. The ramifications of the detailing would also lead me to believe fires will only be hotter and more dangerous. I also think access into these tighter structures will be hampered by new layers of thermal breaks, insulation, vapor barriers, and rigid insulation. This all complicates your ventilation process. Before ventilation we must consider the ramifications of introducing air into a compartment that probably has almost burned out all of it source of oxygen (unless self vented). Ventilate and enter with caution. All new energy star homes will have a sticker on them...to me it may be a warning sign.

Firefighters should look into the new energy star requirements and the required detailing.


Alliance Reliance

Firerescue 1 has posted a story about the results of a recent survey given to a few Chiefs that was conducted by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Reading the survey, the results seem trivial as they are essentially the typical results found in every reheated executive survey. Notwithstanding the current economic conundrum Chiefs are unwillingly facing, there are some underlying plausible solutions to these perpetual problems. Historically, little has been done to progressively solve some of them other than to rely on shoring up gaps in staffing by buying bigger trucks and radios with a zillion channels; and depending on mutual aid 54% of the time per the survey. Why is this?

Let's consider a few truisms:
  • It is the number of people on the first few arriving rigs that make the difference, not how many eventually get there.
  • "Nice to have" rigs are just that, nice to have. Why do we see humongous rescue rigs flying down the street with two people on them on their way to a car fire? Two people is barely enough to take these rigs for an oil change, let a lone a structure fire. Put those people on the same Truck to split the company to cover every part of the fire building upon arrival.
  • Regionalization is not just buzz ideology for mass transit and entertainment districts, it should be considered for public safety during these decimating economic times. Consolidate, we need to combine everything we have to meet the uncertainty that lies ahead both fiscally and operationally. Having everyone operate, train, look, and act the same is crucial if everyone is going to the same fires anyway. (now that's interoperability!)
  • 50 Training Officers in 50 different organizations in one County that don't talk to each other is absurd. Imagine what 50 Training Officers in one Academy could produce and manage; save the predictable egoism obstacles.
These are just a few that come to mind regarding mutual aid. The survey also delves into recruitment and retention and water supply issues. What truisms lie with these issues?

Which Seat Is Mine?

"Which seat is mine?" I remember having to ask when I was a covering Lieutenant sitting down for the meal at the kitchen table. Usually, the Officer gets the spot closest to the phone or the T.V. on my job; there are perks I guess. In this case, I'll sit anywhere because there are a bunch of great fire service bloggers here who I am honored to be sitting next to.

Hello, my name is Erich and I am the editor of thehousewatch.com. I was asked to join the TKT and leave a few words and thoughts now and then. The fire service blogosphere is growing almost as fast as the political and social blogosphere and it is nice to have a "hub" that brings a bunch of us together. I hope you stop by once in a while. While my (our) intent is to provide commentary and to opine on current issues and topics, there is a tremendous benefit to reading the myriad perspectives. To paraphrase a great book I read a while ago, heterogeneity breeds moderation. I have also come to realize that there is often someone in the room with a better idea or solution than mine. Or more specifically, at the kitchen table...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blogger Profile

Taking up at TKT

I'm honored to be taking a seat at The Kitchen Table. Many of you know me as the Fire EMS guy. I author the DrugWhys column on EMS1.com and the Firemedically column on FireRescue1.com and FireRehab.com. Amongst my many roles, I'm also the EMS Editor for Fire Engineering magazine (www.fireengineering.com). I've been a medic since the late 70's and I still ride the bus and fight fires in my upstate New York home departments. My passion is medicine and that's most of what you'll hear and see me blogging about. I have the privilege of working and teaching at a fabulous university medical center in Albany, New York. Straddling the fence between hospital and street medicine gives me a unique perspective I can't help but share. In my free time, I travel, hike, and climb - those stories are on my personal web site at www.mikemcevoy.com. Thanks for stopping by!

Mike McEvoy

Fire Department Marketing 2.0

I was writing this as a comment on Bill's post, but it got long enough to be its own...

It's been interesting to watch all these social media or 'web 2.0' platforms -- blogs, networking sites -- move from being purely social to being important for businesses. Our parent company certainly has several pages on MySpace, Facebook, etc.

I think where you might be more ahead of the curve, Bill, is in your thinking of a FD as a business that needs marketing. One of our columnists, Jason Zigmont, wrote about this too: Marketing Your Department, though he was talking about marketing for recruiting.

Any business doing marketing these days is looking at these new platforms. Partly because, as you say, they're FREE, they're much easier than even getting a print ad made, and they reach very specific audiences of interested readers. I think if you're marketing your dept. for recruits, outreach or whatever, I think twitter et al are right on target.

(Incidentally-- I got to thinking about the original social networks when I posted this article.)


Just arrived home from the National Fire Academy. I attended the FESHE bi-annual FESHE meetings. Have no idea what FESHE is all about? I think there are many in that boat. FESHE is Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education. The group works to define the model curriculum for associates, bachelors, and masters degrees in fire, fire prevention, EMS, and other venues. I would like to hear what you know about FESHE and how you think the role of FESHE is progressing the fire service.

It seems there are so many things happening to progress the fire service, yet so many know nothing about these efforts. Why is this the case?! Let's hear from you on your thoughts.

Let's Not Be Too Hasty...

The Hon. Michael Chertoff suggests that it would be a bad idea to reorganize DHS and bump FEMA up to a cabinet level, despite the different missions they have. I suggest that maybe its time to let FEMA (and by extension, the USFA and the National Fire Academy) get out of the broom closet and at least have a better seat at the table.

Although I agree one-hundred percent that "emergencies don't come neatly packaged in stovepipes", I don't think the fire service and disaster management professionals are the ones hoarding the information. How about a little love in this new administration for the fire service?

Social Marketing

Yesterday, I continued in my quest to get my department into the 21st century by signing us up for Twitter. This is a potentially pretty cool outreach/communication tool whereby you can provide those interested persons with updates you think important via computer or cell phone. To learn more about Twitter go here: About

As one example of the potential use my first post yesterday was very simple: Do you have a home escape plan in case of fire?

I made two sad posts this morning related to a house fire where triplet 2 year old boys were rescued (all are in various stages of serious/critical condition): MCFRS firefighters rescue triplets (STATter911): http://tinyurl.com/6a4zyg

And: Video report from WUSA-TV: http://tinyurl.com/5eohrx

News that is short and to the point. Folks can then decide if they want to investigate further or delete. That is the future folks and I believe we need to make sure we are ahead of the curve. In addition to the above, I have also signed us up for the following:

Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Facebook page
MCFRS BlogTalk Radio

The beauty of all of this, by the way, is that it is FREE! But, maybe I am way off base here. What are your departments doing? Do you view these internet tools as part of our business or do you think I am wasting my time? What other tools are out there that I am not taking advantage of? Let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Scene Safety Above All Else.

I read this with some interest: Police arrest NM ambulance personnel on scene.

When you read the article, something pops out.

The ambulance personnel interviewed believes that cops and medics are on different pages at a scene. Though they may provide different types of services, I believe that both agencies should be on the same page where it comes to scene safety.

The one medic states that the cops have safety and they have patient care. I disagree 100% with this statement. BOTH agencies should be thinking about safety and patient care. I don't see these two concerns being at odds with each other, so the responders shouldn't be at odds.

Public servants are a special breed. They should respect each other and support each other. Their actions at a scene should be integrated, seamless and in some cases, transparent.

For me, it is embarrassing to see cops arresting firefighters and medics at a scene.

What would be worse is if we ever see a judge convict someone for following their agency's protocol.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lesson Learned?

Today marks the 50 year anniversary of one of the more horrific large loss fires in US history. The Our Lady of Angels (OLA) School fire in Chicago killed 92 kids and 3 nuns.

Sadly this was one large loss fire, in addition to many before and after, that served as a catalyst for reform of building and safety codes around the nation. I say sadly because it seems to always take a fire event of horrific proportions to get people’s attention and garner outrage to initiate change in building and safety codes.

Today also makes me wonder if we really did learn our lesson from this tragedy. With all of the focus on security over the last several years, many schools have taken steps to secure their buildings with the thought of not allowing anyone in but perhaps not considering that maybe folks may need to get out. There is one school system, in particular, close to me that seem to have issues with chaining their doors shut on a relatively regular basis. Around the region, I have been in some schools over the last several years where I have come across means of egress that were blocked for a variety of reasons. I do speak up and most all of the school administrators make immediate corrections though I can tell one or two may be annoyed with me!

My hope is that we have learned our lessons from the past. However, we need to stay vigilant and not assume all schools are in tune with maintaining accessible and working exits. Otherwise, as the old saying goes, we are doomed to repeat history!

Below are some web sites and articles related to the fire that you might find interesting:

Official Website of the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire and OLA community
Our Lady of the Angels School - From Wikipedia
Lessons learned, scars remain from '58 Chicago school inferno
Mass honors, victims, heroes of Chicago school fire
50 Years of Grief – from Firegeezer blog
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