I recently had the opportunity to visit with the Salisbury (NC) Fire Department on an invitation from Chief Bob Parnell to present to his staff on command decision making and situation awareness. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding presentations I’ve ever give. On March 7, 2008, the Salisbury Fire Department suffered the tragic loss of two fiefighters, Victor Isler and Justin Monroe. These incredibly dedicated firefighters had lost two of their brothers and they invited me into help them, in some small way, make sense of the challenges of situation awareness on emergency scenes.
During the visit, Chief Parnell took me to Station 1 where a countywide recruit firefighter training class was being held. There were about 60 recruits from all over the county on the drill ground. The day’s topic was ground ladders. They were busy performing various evolutions with the ladders – carrying, raising, climbing and advancing equipment up and down them. When the chief and I arrived we approached the drill site on foot. When we reached the periphery of the training grounds someone (I was not able to figure out who it was) loudly announced there were chief officers on the training ground and with that, the entire activity on the drill ground stopped… it was completely silent… and everyone (and I do mean everyone, including the instructors) came to attention and faced the chief and they maintained that posture until Chief Parnell told them to carry on with the drill.
Wow! What an incredible act of respect for the fire chief. I have had the opportunity to visit hundreds of fire departments in my 20+ years of teaching classes and I have never witnessed such an act of respect and professionalism. It sends a huge message to each of the recruits and, in this case, to the visitors.
Hat’s off to the Salisbury Fire Department for setting high standards in your training and professionalism. I was impressed. Very impressed.