Friday, February 27, 2009

Information Needed - Apartment Fire, Ladder Rescue

I found this video recently on youtube. It caught my eye immediately when I saw the woman at the window sill. If you stick with the video you see civilian attempts at rescue, FD rescues, and at one point it appears a police officer is on the ladder truck.

Does anyone know the history of this fire?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remember: It Could Be Worse!

Reading the headline above most of you will assume this will be an article related to all of the economic woes that are hitting our great country, and our department’s budgets, hard. Well it is not though the eventual lesson learned could be applied to the situation.

Some of you (at least I hope some of you) may have noticed I have not posted in a while. The reason is I have been struggling with a herniated disk between my C5 and C6 (vertebrae in my neck for you non-EMS types) that eventually resulted in my undergoing surgery a couple of weeks ago. As a result, I have nice scars on the front side of my neck and down by my hip and a part of my hip bone is now acting as a disk between my C5 and C6. It was actually minimally invasive and I was home the next day – amazing technology really!

Just prior to surgery good people all around me would comment on how bad this must be and generally, and very politely, that it sucks to be me. My response would always be that I am blessed and grateful it is not worse and that there are others out there who have it much worse than I on a lot of levels. Little did I realize that my point would be drilled home in the form of my roommate for 24 hours in the hospital.

My roommate was a 27 year old “kid” (I can say that as I am 45) who is an Army vet of the Iraq war who injured his back while he was over there. We had a nice long talk and I learned he had undergone about four surgeries on his back with little success and that only seemed to lead to more problems. His care at the hands of the Army’s doctors, in my former medic opinion, was not very good. He actually had to fight to get the Army to allow him to go outside the military healthcare system to find a competent specialist to try and fix some of the problems. The good news is he did find a good one and that doc was able to correct some of the problems that the Army docs had said they could not.

Bottom line is this vet, who is a mechanic, will be in constant pain and disabled for the rest of his life. He must undergo further surgeries in the future and he gets around about as well as an 80 year old. In addition, he is going to have to fight for some benefits that the Army now does not want to provide. How sad is that?! Despite all of that, the kid remains upbeat and determined!

I could go on and on but blog postings are supposed to be relatively short. My whole point in this is that not matter what befalls you, whether health or wealth related, do remember that it could be worse! Be thankful for what you have during these tough times!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Information Sharing

Just a quick note to start a thread here of where you are getting your fire service information these days?

There are so many news blogs and websites from so many different sources. There is the new use of TWITTER that is really beginning to take off thanks to Bill over at Firegeezer.

Let's post some comments about this so we can all share. Which websites and BLOGS do you check daily? Which ones do you check weekly?

Oh yeah....and do you believe all that you read as fact, or as the opinion of the author? Sometimes we lose sight that a posting may just in fact be another point of view.

Anyway with all of the great information about the things in the fire service today, we are closing the world of information so that even the smallest departments can benefit from large amounts of great opinion and training information.

Use technology to your advantage to help you and your department.

New Tactical Definitions: Where do you fit in?

I spent a large part of this past week, and the entire day and evening yesterday conscientiously working on refining sections of my lecture program that will be presented at this year’s Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in April. I was deeply immersed in some research and in reviewing a number of case studies and line of duty death reports, while furthering my concepts related to a new methodology on fireground operations and command risk management that I call Five Star Command TM . This got me thinking alot about the manner in which the modern fireground is managed, the way the current generation of firefighters and officers see themselves, and the manner in which strategic and tactical battle (IAP) are developed and executed. It got me thinking about what, we as firefighers are thinking when we find ourselves in the center of a "good" rockin' job....

I have been giving a lot of thought over the past couple of months to the continuing challenges and issues surrounding firefighter LODD and the issues of dynamic risk assessment, command decision-making and company level accountability. My recent lecture at the South Carolina Fire Academy’s annual Firefighter Safety & Health Conference provided an enlighten forum with a wealth of critical thinking and dialog amongst the attendees on firefighter safety, command risk assessment and tactical accountability related to opinions on the emerging new model of modern fire suppression strategies and tactics.

I got to thinking about the manner in which I functioned as a company officer when I first got promoted and the kinds of things we used to do; when we were young and both naïve to the true risks of fireground operations and filled with a sense of fireground invincibility. I know, I placed myself or found my company in positions and places of greater risk, “back in the day”, for the sake of getting more nozzle time in a well involved structure fire, or extended our stay-times in hostile places that were not safe or acceptable by today’s standards. WE, were lucky. Anyone of us could have then or even in the present day, could find ourselves in an instant, in the wrong place, operating under the wrong plan for all the wrong reasons. We looked for ways to increase our “playtime” for the pleasure, enjoyment, adrenaline rush, exuberance and at times euphoric pleasure doing what we do best; and that was fighting fires.

To think that this is not happening in today’s fire service would be absurd and illogical. If we look at the ways many departments, companies or personnel are operating on the fireground during structural fire operations and the places we are assigning and directing them to operate within, we would be asking ourselves, WHY?

There are tremendous national, state and locally efforts and initiatives directed at enhancing firefighter safety, reducing firefighter line of duty deaths and injury rates, on effective command management, skill development, competencies and cultural changes to improve and enhance the fire service. But it all has to start with the basic unit of operation; the Company, the Officer and personnel.

Today’s incident scene and structural fires are unlike those in past decades and will continue to challenge us operationally when confronted with structural fire engagement and combat operations. Operationally, We need to be doing the right thing, for the right reason in the right place to increase our safety and incident survivability.

We need to stop "entertaining" ourselves, the job is dangerous, it has risks, we are not invincible, and we can die; at any alarm, in any fire, at anytime for any number of reasons.....

Let me leave you with some new thoughts and concepts related to operational safety and the definitions that I’ve come to develop that may support apparent or contributing causes to many of the fire service’s undesired events or incidents. Think about the definitions; think about how they apply to you, your company or your operations; past, present or future. I’ll share more insights on these evolving definitions in upcoming postings.

TACTICAL AMUSEMENT ˈtak-ti-kəl ə-ˈmyüz-mənt
1: of or relating to structural fireground tactics: as a (1) a means of amusing or entertaining during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
2: the condition of being amused while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
3: pleasurable diversion while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations: entertainment; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL DIVERSION ˈtak-ti-kəl də-ˈvər-zhən
1: the reckless act or an instance of diverting from an assignment, task, operation or activity while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operation for the sake of amusing or entertainment; that places personnel at risk
2: the reckless act of self determined task operations that diverts or amuses from defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL CIRCUMVENTION ˈtak-ti-kəl sər-kəm-ˈven(t)-shən
1: to deliberately manage to get around especially by ingenuity or approach that diverts for the purpose of amusing; assignment, operations or tasks that countermand or disregard defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk
© 2009 Christopher J. Naum

Emergency Services Stress Treatment Program

West Coast Post Trauma Retreat runs a residential 5 day program out of San Francisco at Iverness California. I have just returned from there and want to share some thoughts.

First and foremost it is a program for Law Enforcement Fire and EMS as well as military. You get the whole bag when you "sign up".

Secondly it is "Peer Driven" from those who have had their boots "muddied" on the ground we work on.

Third. Do not sign up for the treatment plan unless your prepared to spill your guts on what you have seen heard and lived through. No free lunch, no muchkin land no "get out of jail free".

You have a chance to break even with yourself when you deal with the ghosts that haunt your mind and heart and face the post traumatic stress that has come from your life and your job. Wounds that are old and new wounds that are fresh are all delt with here. cannot say it better by getting you connected to a treatment plan and an organization that can save your life, your marriage if you have one or, your relationships with loved ones. All stress comes from the consequences of our actions. These people know their stuff and the peers have lived it. No backslidding no hiding from yourself......

There are clinicians who work with the peers and they have been in the system and gone out and re trained and educated, but the program is for you and about you. You are in session
with others who are wounded and who are also seeking help.

The peers help you to face your demons and deal with them. The setting is safe, good lodgings, great food cooked by firefighters and law enforcement/ems. The site is located at St. Columba Retreat House in Inverness California.

Run do not walk to the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat web site and have a look at some of the programs. They are there for you and it is all about you. Now is that not about time that it is about you? That it is about how you need help to find your way out of the "emotional smoke of events" that have haunted you.

I am on retreat myself for the next two weeks after having experienced first hand what they do there. Nothing further can be said.

If you want help with your post traumatic stress wounding it is there.

Web site: click on link to west coast and view our write up on our links page or contact them directly at:

Address is: 4460 Redwood Highway Suite 362
San Rafael, CA 94901
Telephone 415-721-9789

If you are California Emergency Services and worked on or at the World Trade Center CA has mandated that you may be covered for your treatment costs. Check with your city or local family dept assistance program or your clergy.

They use the A.I.D. L.I.F.E. acronym which stands for:

A Ask
I Intervene Immediately
D Don't keep it a secret

L Locate help
I Involve Command
F Find someone to stay with the first responder now
E Expedite. Get help now. Immediate action from professionals is essential

* (reprint from Los Angeles Sheriff's Office Employee Support Services Bureau)

"P.T.S.D. Not All Wounds are Visible"

Saturday, February 21, 2009



Dennis Smith's classic and landmark firefighting memoir, Report from Engine Co. 82, is as fresh today, as when I first read it as a rookie firefighter in the mid 1970's. I pulled the worn copy off the shelf this evening, after working on a number of training programs throughout the day. After skimming through a number of passages, I skipped around and having read throught some various chapters; you can literally feel the gripping and brutally honest reality of firefighting during the war years of the fire service in FDNY. Smith's story telling, prose and his wonderful ability to tell the story of a house unlike any other firehouse around the country, but one set apart by a time and place in the South Bronx and with it, the brothers on the job, the officers, the fires, the Bronx, and the sheer call volume that made FDNY Engine Co. 82 one of the busiest companies in terms of fires and runs in the late 1960's and through the early 1970's.

The words and verse allows you to feel as though your riding right along on the back step, (that's right, we used to do that, back in the day...)or dragging a hoseline up a flight of stairs into a heavily involved room. One engine company, along with Ladder 31, housed in the South Bronx during one of the most turbulent of times in no other city but New York City. The chapters resonance with bravery, heroism, camaraderie, and unflinching courage of New York's bravest, describing a time and place that we as brother firefighters can relate to and understand.

If you've never read the book, I would highly recommend picking up a copy, it will give you a true perspective on firefighting that is a part of the fire service's rich tradition. If you haven't read it in a while, do so; it feels like running into so many brothers who have left the job, a long time ago, are back again, sharing their stories and thier love of the job and one another....
An excerpt from the Dennis Smith's book....
Copyright 1972

The Late, Late Show is on the television and most of us are sitting in the kitchen when the bells start to ring. I take a last sip of tea as I count onetwo onetwothreefourfive one onetwothreefourfive. The kitchen chairs empty as the last number comes in. Box 2515. Intervale Avenue and Kelly Street.

We can smell the smoke as the pumper turns down Intervale, and hands automatically start pulling boot-tops to thighs, clipping coat-rings closed, and putting on gloves. The pumper stops in front of a building just before we reach Kelly Street. We're about to stretch the hose when there is an anguished scream from inside the building. A boy is running out of the doorway, his shirt and hair aflame.

Ladder 31 and Chief Solwin are right behind us, and one of the ladder men goes rapidly to the boy's assistance. Willy Knipps takes the first folds of the hose and heads into the building. Carroll and I follow, dragging the rest of the hose with us. Royce and Boyle are still on the sidewalk donning masks.

Lieutenant Welch is waiting for us on the second floor, crouched low by a smoking door. There are four apartments on the floor, and three of the doors are open, their occupants fleeing. Chief Solwin arrives, stops for a moment at the top of the stairs, and then rushes into the apartment adjoining the rooms on fire. He starts kicking through the wall with all his strength. The smoke rushes through the hole, darkening the apartment and the hall. Knipps and I are coughing and have to lie on our bellies as we wait for the water to surge through the hose. Carroll has gone down for another mask. He can tell it's going to be a tough, snotty job.

Billy-o and Artie Merritt start to work on the locked door. It's hard for me to breathe with my nose to the marble floor of the hall, and I think of the beating Artie and Billy-o must be taking as they stand where the smoke is densest, swinging on the ax, hitting the door with the point of the halligan tool. The door is tight and does not give easily.

Captain Frimes arrives with Charlie McCartty behind him. "Give me a man with a halligan," Chief Solwin yells, and Captain Frimes and McCartty hustle into the adjoining apartment.

360 Degrees of Separation

360 Degrees of Separation

The fireground often has competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission critical or essential information and data has been obtained. The effective assessment of the incident scene is much more than the three-sided size-up methodology of past fireground practices. In fact the term size-up doesn't align with the newest directions in firefighter safety and incident command management.

The 360 degree assessment has become the generally accepted standard from which risk assessment is performed and incident action plans derived. The fact that many LODD case studies and reports repeatedly indicate the lack of an effective 360 degree assessment of the incident scene where structural fire engagement is being initiated was a contributing factor or may have contributed to a different incident outcome.

Think about the effectiveness and value that the 360 ◦ Degree assessment brings to the development of an effective and valid incident action plan and the tactics that are driven by those identified and assumed assessment indicators.

The question is: Are you conducting a 360 upon arrival, and if not WHY?

Remember: All command and supervisory personal and operating companies must be able to recognize and appreciate the risks which are present at an incident in order to carry out an effective dynamic risk assessment. The 360 Degree assessment is a mission critical element for effective and safety incident operations.

Don’t for a moment think, “it takes too long to perform” or that you don’t have time to conduct, especially from a company officer perspective when you’re deploying and initiating tactical assignments. That extra minute to conduct a “three-sixty” may make all the difference in the world…..There may be three hundred and sixty degrees of safety margin that separate you and your company between injury or death....think about it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Missed Opportunities

As a follow-up to my post from the other day about “striking while the iron is hot” in regard to educating others, I discussed a little bit about opportunity at Firehouse Zen.

The long and short of it is this: Anticipating that at some point, an opportunity will occur to implement your vision or educate others, good leaders plan for that moment, and await the timing to be right. If you present a great idea before the time is ripe, the message can get lost and your efforts will be in vain.
Opportunities for positive change present themselves from time to time, and if you, as a leader, fail to plan for them and aren't ready to deliver a message to move things forward when the door opens, don't be surprised if when it closes, you are still standing on the other side of that door, locked out.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Command and Company Officer

Company and Command Officers are crucial to the mission critical effectiveness and safety of company level operations, crew integrity and incident command management and successful mitigation.

What are the key elements that set apart those that can be considered "average" officers from those that are exceptional? What key knowledge, skills, abilities and traits do they have that sets them apart?

What knowledge, skills, abilities and traits do you have that contribute towards your effectiveness as an officer or those that you wish to aspire to?

How are you viewed by your personnel, by your peers, by your self?

Are there area(s) for improvement?

Leadership, character, fortitude, skills, training, abilities, quality, temperament, strength, vision, courage, humility, modesty, compassion, authority, empathy......

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are" John Wooden

Exterior Attacks and Gear - Are you wearing yours?

Pay attention early on as a firefighter is making an attack on a single family dwelling with plain clothes.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

N.F.P.A. book review on Emergency Responder Stress

I conducted an extensive telephone interview with Mike McEvoy in December. Mike is the author of an NFPA book titled:

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT STRESS. His compostiton was accepted by the NFPA and is published by them and distributed by Barnes and Nobel. NFPA No: STRESS04 ISBN 0-87765-481-6. (2004)

Mikes extensive firefighter and medical background is available on line. We will be setting up a link to the book on our web site soon. In the meantime...... comments:

If you are at any stage of your career this book defines stress and takes you through the stages of understanding it from new entry as an emergency services first responder to, having a stress management plan.

Mike, the author, to me, is a gold nugget in his wisdom and the level of his service to our community. You can key google search his name and book titile to read the comments.

Unfortunately this does not seem to be a book that you see on the shelf in firehouse/station library assets......It should be.

Notwithstanding that fact do not walk out to the net (barnes and nobel) and get a copy. Excellent read. Excellent wisdom in the book and the wisdom that flows in understanding stress for our services is something that every first responder needs in thousand gallon tankers on every run we make.

Final Note: I like the front cover although Mike thinks he should have had a cop and medic on it as well.....the photo is one of a youngish firefighter in his bunker gear, helmet off and sitting on a bench with the duty coats of his unit on the coat rack in the background. He is looking straight into the camera...(black and white photo) think it is an awesome bit of understatement which makes it

......go get some education....from a guy who is in the system....highly motivated as a first responder firefighterveteran himself....and who has defined our stress so well....Mike deserves a medal for nailing the problem on the head....and stepping up to the plate for a solid "home run" on firefighterveteran and Emergency Services stress issues.....very well done indeed...

stay safe

West Coast Post Trauma Retreat

I have been asked to peer review the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat in San Rafael California. will be in session with them from Sunday February 15th until the following Friday. We have added them to the front page of our web site and have posted on our links page some comments.

The vital critical message here is that it is the only center of it's kind dealing with firefighters, law enforcement and ems as well as military veterans who have a need to be debriefed from their experiences in a safe confidential setting.

This type of "retreat" is not for everyone nor is it for the faint of heart. This program demands that you be present in your authentic wounding and deal with the emotional fallout and backpressures that have wounded your inner basement where stress smoulders and has flashed over.

I highly encourage any first responder to get connected to their web site and read up on them.

Another tool in the tool box and not a fool looking for a tool in the tool add to that....

I will be sharing some of my observations on the center and what I have observed in later postings.......

stay safe

It CAN Happen Here: The Crash of Continental Flight 3407

Thursday night, Continental Communter Flight 3407 crashed into a house less than two blocks from the firehouse in Clarence Center, New York. This incident killed 50 people and injured several others. It also destroyed a Dash 8 aircraft and the home into which it crashed.

How many of us have heard the phrase "It can't happen here"? This can be heard when firefighters and medics don't want to take NIMS training or to consider EOC or logistics roles because "That's not what I signed up to do". It may also be heard at budget meetings when elected officials or bean counters don't want to fund a capability like a Heavy Rescue vehicle or Mass Casualty unit. The "It can't happen here syndrome" is nothing but denial, plain and simple. No one wants a major, multifatality incident to hit their community, but those incidents can and do happen literally anywhere that aircraft fly, school buses drive, or people live.

Fire and emergency response can be boiled down to four critical elements; Planning, Budget, Capability, and Organization. Your agency should plan for all-hazards response to disasters and major incidents, as well as day-to-day responses. You should budget for the additional capability you need. The additional emergency services funding in the federal stimulus plan should help. You should work to increase your agency's (and your region's) capability in terms of manpower, equipment, vehicles, and other key resources. If your department can't do it alone, work up joint capabilities with your neighbors. Organization is key - train everyone in NIMS, set up disaster plans with your neighbors and other emergency agencies, and plan for operational periods.

Sometimes all you can do is to stop a bad situation from getting worse. It looks as if the Clarence Center VFD, its neighbors, and the other agencies that responded Thursday night did just that.
Brothers and Sisters, thanks for your dedication, hard work, and for working together to keep things from getting worse.

And remember, denial only works when it's a river in Egypt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NIOSH issues Charleston LODD report

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research, Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, issued its long awaited report on the Charleston, SC Sofa Store Fire that occurred on June 18, 2007, in which nine career fire fighters died in the line of duty, when they became disoriented in rapidly deteriorating conditions inside a burning commercial furniture showroom and warehouse facility.
At least seven other municipal fire fighters and two mutual aid fire fighters barely escaped serious injury. NIOSH issued thirty-five (35) fire service based recommendations and eight (8) industry, organizational and municipal recommendations.
How many of these recommendations could apply to your organization?

NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
  • develop, implement and enforce written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for an occupational safety and health program in accordance with NFPA 1500

  • develop, implement, and enforce a written Incident Management System to be followed at all emergency incident operations

  • develop, implement, and enforce written SOPs that identify incident management training standards and requirements for members expected to serve in command roles
    ensure that the Incident Commander is clearly identified as the only individual with overall authority and responsibility for management of all activities at an incident

  • ensure that the Incident Commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning interior fire fighting operations
    train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates

  • ensure that the Incident Commander establishes a stationary command post, maintains the role of director of fireground operations, and does not become involved in fire-fighting efforts

  • ensure the early implementation of division / group command into the Incident Command System

  • ensure that the Incident Commander continuously evaluates the risk versus gain when determining whether the fire suppression operation will be offensive or defensive

  • ensure that the Incident Commander maintains close accountability for all personnel operating on the fireground

  • ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at each structure fire

  • ensure that crew integrity is maintained during fire suppression operations

  • ensure that a rapid intervention crew (RIC) / rapid intervention team (RIT) is established and available to immediately respond to emergency rescue incidents

  • ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to immediately respond to emergency incidents

  • ensure that ventilation to release heat and smoke is closely coordinated with interior fire suppression operations
    conduct pre-incident planning inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate

  • development of safe fireground strategies and tactics
    consider establishing and enforcing standardized resource deployment approaches and utilize dispatch entities to move resources to fill service gaps

  • develop and coordinate pre-incident planning protocols with mutual aid departments

  • ensure that any offensive attack is conducted using adequate fire streams based on characteristics of the structure and fuel load present

  • ensure that an adequate water supply is established and maintained

  • consider using exit locators such as high intensity floodlights or flashing strobe lights to guide lost or disoriented fire fighters to the exit

  • ensure that Mayday transmissions are received and prioritized by the Incident Commander

  • train fire fighters on actions to take if they become trapped or disoriented inside a burning structure

  • ensure that all fire fighters and line officers receive fundamental and annual refresher training according to NFPA 1001 and NFPA 1021

  • implement joint training on response protocols with mutual aid departments

  • ensure apparatus operators are properly trained and familiar with their apparatus

  • protect stretched hose lines from vehicular traffic and work with law enforcement or other appropriate agencies to provide traffic control

  • ensure that fire fighters wear a full array of turnout clothing and personal protective equipment appropriate for the assigned task while participating in fire suppression and overhaul activities

  • ensure that fire fighters are trained in air management techniques to ensure they receive the maximum benefit from their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)

  • develop, implement and enforce written SOPS to ensure that SCBA cylinders are fully charged and ready for use

  • use thermal imaging cameras (TICs) during the initial size-up and search phases of a fire
    develop, implement and enforce written SOPs and provide fire fighters with training on the hazards of truss construction

  • establish a system to facilitate the reporting of unsafe conditions or code violations to the appropriate authorities

  • ensure that fire fighters and emergency responders are provided with effective incident rehabilitation

  • provide fire fighters with station / work uniforms (e.g., pants and shirts) that are compliant with NFPA 1975 and ensure the use and proper care of these garments.

Additionally, federal and state occupational safety and health administrations should:

  • consider developing additional regulations to improve the safety of fire fighters, including adopting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus standards.

Additionally, manufacturers, equipment designers, and researchers should:

  • continue to develop and refine durable, easy-to-use radio systems to enhance verbal and radio communication in conjunction with properly worn SCBA

  • conduct research into refining existing and developing new technology to track the movement of fire fighters inside structures.

Additionally, code setting organizations and municipalities should:

  • require the use of sprinkler systems in commercial structures, especially ones having high fuel loads and other unique life-safety hazards, and establish retroactive requirements for the installation of fire sprinkler systems when additions to commercial buildings increase the fire and life safety hazards

  • require the use of automatic ventilation systems in large commercial structures, especially ones having high fuel loads and other unique life-safety hazards.

Additionally, municipalities and local authorities having jurisdiction should:

  • coordinate the collection of building information and the sharing of information between building authorities and fire departments

  • consider establishing one central dispatch center to coordinate and communicate activities involving units from multiple jurisdictions

  • ensure that fire departments responding to mutual aid incidents are equipped with mobile and portable communications equipment that are capable of handling the volume of radio traffic and allow communications among all responding companies within their jurisdiction.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is perfect practice really necessary?

Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach once famously said "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

Old Vince had a good thought, but face it, perfect practice on a regular basis is unattainable for most people. More importantly, is perfect practice really important to the fire service?

An unknown author's reply to this was "Practice makes perfect, but nobody's perfect, so screw practice."

Frankly, this is a really bad idea - don't give up before you start, or you have no chance of success, except by sheer luck. What we do is much too important to trust only to luck.

I think my brother John has the best solution. He once told me that "Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough"

A little background on this...John is a cardiac anesthesiologist. He has been keeping patients alive during open heart surgery for over three decades. His explanation is that if you try to be perfect in the details of everything you do, you tend to get distracted by details. That often leads to missing an important part of the overall picture. When you're working on a critical process, if you achieve a workable solution to 100% of the problem, you're going to be successful almost all of the time. If you achieve perfection on 90% of the problem, the 10% you don't get to may kill a patient, or a firefighter.

Let's practice until we're good enough on everything we do, and perfect on the few things where it's really important...keeping our patients, our customers, and ourselves alive and in the best possible shape.
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Stimulus Money Marked For Wildland Fire Uses

Deep within the bowels of the massive stimulus bill is a one billion dollar allotment for wildland fire uses. Fire Rescue 1 reports on specifics that include;
  • modifying, upgrading, or constructing state and local fire stations
  • hazardous fuels reduction
  • hazard mitigation activities in areas at high risk of catastrophic wildfire
  • creating incentives for increased use of biomass from national forest lands
Remodeling stations is consistent with the new President's theme of retrofitting government buildings as a way to re-employ American workers.

Hazardous fuels reduction is vital. Dead or dying pine trees in Georgia, The Rockies and California present a clear and present danger to forests, communities and firefighters. Beetle abatement programs are severely underfunded and as a result many of our forests are sick.

The forests need to be cleared of diseased stands. Money would be well spent on this. Downed material as biomass fuel? Better than being consumed in a conflagration.

It sounds like the Bill is light on money for fire suppression. With that amount of money I could see funding the 747 supertanker and a few more Tanker 910 clones.

Money for hazardous fuel abatement is long overdue. For me it comes down to firefighter safety issue.

It’s more than just Size-Up; Situational Awareness and Dynamic Risk Assessment

Dynamic Risk Assessment is commonly used to describe a process of risk assessment being carried out in a changing or evolving environment, where what is being assessed is developing as the process itself is being undertaken. This is further problematical for the Incident Commander when confronted with competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission critical or essential information and data has been obtained. The dynamic management of risk is all about effective, informed and decisive decision making during all phases of an incident.

Situation Awareness, [SA], is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic situations and incidents. Both the 2006 and 2007 Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System Annual Reports identified a lack of situational awareness as the highest contributing factor to near misses reported.

Situation Awareness (SA) involves being aware of what is happening around you at an incident to understand how information, events, and your own actions will impact operational goals and incident objectives, both now and in the near future. Lacking SA or having inadequate SA has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error (Hartel, Smith, & Prince, 1991) (Nullmeyer, Stella, Montijo, & Harden, 2005). Situation Awareness becomes especially important in work related domains where the information flow can be quite high and poor decisions can lead to serious consequences.

To the Incident commander, Fire Officer or firefighter, knowing what’s going on around you, and understanding the consequences is mission critical to incident stabilization and mitigation and profoundly crucial in terms of personnel safety. The integration of Situational Awareness and Dynamic Risk Assessment is a mission critical element in strategic incident command management and company level tactical operations as we go forward into the next decade. Traditional incident scene size-up is antiquated and no longer appropriate or applicable to modern fire service operations.

Situational awareness is a combination of attitudes, previously learned knowledge and new information gained from the incident scene and environment that enables the strategic commanders, decision-makers and tactical companies to gather the information they need to make effective decisions that will keep their firefighters and resources out of harm's way, reducing the likelihood of adverse or detrimental effects.

According to a 1998 published Tri Data study report, "Situational Awareness is one of the most difficult skills to master and is a weakness in the fire community. The report goes on to state that "The culture must change so that [personnel] are observing, thinking, and discussing the situation constantly.” It’s all about implementing effective human performance tools; perceptions versus reality, expectations versus realization, comprehension and forecasting, informed decision-making and calculated and formulated risk.
It’s a whole lot more than just “Size-Up”. What do you think?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blogger Profile

A New York Oops

Go figure. At some point in 2005, the New York Legislature aligned a series of Vehicle and Traffic Laws with federal specifications to assure continuance of federal highway and traffic safety monies. Somehow, somewhere, things went awry. Curiously, the faux paux went pretty much unnoticed by the group most affected: the Fire Service. Until several weeks ago. That was when the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs pointed out that it became illegal in 2006 to drive most fire apparatus under non-emergency conditions without a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). And oooh, the hoopala, the finger pointing, the indignation.

No doubt the "error" will be remedied. Legislatively, most certainly. Put things back the way they were. Whose crazy misinterpretation was this anyway? Obviously moronic. But is it? Some might say no.

What truly is ludicrous is that a state government, arguably one of the most top heavy in the nation, could somehow overlook a detail like consulting with the Fire Service before they changed a law with such significant impact. Even more amazing is that not one fire service organization, union, association, department, or local noticed. Out of touch? Seems like it. But then, Congress wiped out fire and EMS protections in the Ryan White Law a couple years ago without telling anyone. And no one noticed that until that deed was done, either.

Back to the CDL thing. Bad idea? Maybe not. I took a little inventory of my small upstate New York volunteer fire department. Most of our members actually have a CDL. And if you ask any of them if a CDL helps make you a safer chauffeur, they'll think for a minute and say it probably does. For my part, having learned all about air brakes, truck transmissions, diesel engines, and everything else that came with my CDL some thirty years ago seems to give me better command of any fire apparatus I operate. Now of course, ask any member without a CDL whether having one would make them a better chauffeur, and they'll typically think not.

In most states, you can drive a 48 foot motor home with nothing more than a regular drivers license. So why not a fire truck? Indeed. That's the way it's always been.

Mike McEvoy

Engineered Systems; It's the Little Things that'll hurt you

During some recent travels while teaching, I normally go poking around construction sites when time permits to observe regional construction techniques, methods and features and to photograph these buildings to add to my building construction media library to support my training programs on building construction & firefighter safety. While looking over a number of large scale homes in the 4500-5000 square foot range at one area developmet, I observed some very common workmanship issues in nearly all of the homes that were under construction. Take a look at these series of images and discuss the operational impacts of these features, if you were to respond and deploy at a residential fire....

Take the time to get out into the street and into the construction sites around your district, you'll be surprised at what you'll find.

Have a safe tour...

 what are you going to do about it?

What sounds like a simple taunt from a bully was only to get your attention. But I guess it was a taunt nonetheless.

There are a couple of new NIOSH reports out this week. As I reviewed them, once again I got a little bit angry because quite frankly I am getting tired of reading the same stuff all of the time.

This is a horribly dangerous job and bad stuff will happen, but I can't help but think that some stuff we can fix.

Go take a look at these two new reports. read them through. Put them aside and then come back to them later and as you read them, identify conditions within your own department that are similar.
Use the list you made to work on things and try to prevent a LODD within your own department.

It's not enough to read and review, you have to do something about it. If you don't do it, who will?

The reports can be found here at the NIOSH site. If you have not already done so, make it a bookmark.

The next time somebody asks you "what are you going to do about it", smile and tell them what you have already done!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Three Cuts Approach to Managing During the Economic Downturn

There are three "cuts" that can be used to help fire-rescue services survive the current economic downturn.

Cut Back

You may have to cut back on your use of metered services, fuel for non-essential apparatus movement, and out-of-town training. This includes keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees F, turning off the lights when everyone leaves the room, using energy-efficient light bulbs, bringing the meals to work instead of going shopping in the engine, and training locally as much as possible.

Caution - Look at the economic downturn as a chance to do more back-to-basics training at the firehouse, in your 1st-due area, and at your department’s training center if you’re lucky enough to have one.

Cut Down

If your department does a lot of extras, you may have to reduce the number of extras you provide. If you spend a lot of overtime to provide public education classes, Risk Watch training, CERT training, and the like, you may have to reduce the overtime and use on-duty personnel to teach these classes. You may need to reduce the time spent in fuel-intensive training and increase the amount of time spent in sweat-intensive training. You may need to reduce the number of firefighter uniform choices from seven to two or three.

Caution - Don’t use the economy as an excuse to skimp on the essentials – good response times, adequate manning, and good PPE.

Cut Up

Have some fun. It’s easy to subscribe to doom and gloom and to join the Morale Busters when your department can’t just throw money at problems. Taking the time to have some fun can lighten the mood, increase company bonding, and keep work fun during an uncertain time.

Caution – Don’t have so much fun that you embarrass yourself, your department, or our profession. We don’t really need to see you on YouTube with fireworks shooting out of the lower end of your digestive tract.

Use the three knives to help your department through the economic downturn, but be careful how you use them. We don't want to cut so deeply that we leave ourselves bleeding.
Blogger Profile

Australia's CFA, Citizens Battle Deadly Bushfires

South Australia bushfires have killed 14 people so far in what Victoria Premiere John Brumby describes as "Our worst day in history".

Video from Victoria State visually describes the destruction as record temperatures combined with strong dry winds fan flames.

The CFA has issued severe alerts for no less that a dozen towns in the path of approaching fires. Interestingly their warnings advise citizens to patrol their properties for "ember attacks", something you never hear in the States.

This fire assault is reminding Australians of Ash Wednesday, February 13, 1983 when 75 people were killed by wildfires.

Uncomfirmed reports indicate more than one town burned to the ground yesterday.

Follow the news and individual accounts here and news here.

Posted originally on Firefighter Blog.


Chief Alan Brunacini (1985, 2002) wrote;
• We will risk our lives a lot, in a highly calculated and controlled manner, to protect a savable human life;
• We will risk our lives a little, in a highly calculated and controlled manner, to protect savable property.
• We will not risk our lives at all to protect lives or property that is already lost.”Of the 16

Firefighter Life Safety initiatives, initiative #3 provides dominant importance related to combat firefighting and command management and risk;
#3. Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities

IAFC'S 10 RULES OF ENGAGEMENT The International Association of Fire Chief's (IAFC), in (2001) developed and published its "10 Rules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting" that apply to all fires:

Acceptability of Risk

1. No building or property is worth the life of a firefighter.
2. All interior fire fighting involves an inherent risk.
3. Some risk is acceptable, in a measured and controlled manner.
4. No level of risk is acceptable where there is no potential to save lives or savable property.
5. Firefighters shall not be committed to interior offensive fire fighting operations in abandoned or derelict buildings.

Risk Assessment
1. All feasible measures shall be taken to limit or avoid risks through risk assessment by a qualified officer.
2. It is the responsibility of the Incident Commander to evaluate the level of risk in every situation.
3. Risk assessment is a continuous process for the entire duration of each incident.
4. If conditions change, and risk increases, change strategy and tactics.
5. No building or property is worth the life of a firefighter.

(Note; The IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section is presently working to update the Rules of Engagement in 2009)

Since there is a lot of discussion being directed within the Fire Service at Risk Assessment, Risk Profiling, Risk Size-Up, Risk versus Benefit (or Gain)….and there appears to me more talk than action on this subject related to the “real demands of firefighting”, that risk is part of the job, that “this whole thing on risk is a lot of nothing” etc… (I’m being very general here for the sake of getting this discussion going, there is a lot of great things going on in a lot of departments in terms of risk) to many others, RISK is just another four letter word that has no direct meaning to the firefighter.

With the continuing adverse trend in LODD; The operative question around the table today for discussion is this:
  • How do you define RISK; to yourself, your company and/or to the operating companies on a fire scene?
  • How do you assess risk from the perspective of an Incident Commander, Company Officer or Firefighter?
  • What is your measurement of risk and how do you monitor it throughout the course of an incident?
  • What arethe basis that you utilize to assess risk and develop your IAP or task assignments from?
  • What does risk mean to you, personally?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a (high risk) situation, and realized that the gain didn’t balance with the risk?

The Difference Between Fact and Fiction

From my blog at Firehouse Zen: has an article on the NIST study being conducted in Maryland and Virginia regarding fire company staffing and I am excited to see what the eventual findings are. Why am I “excited”? It seems like a pretty interesting feeling to have about a study that deals with something we already know to be true. I mean, isn’t having four people on an engine always better than three?

What do you think? Shouldn't we rely a little bit more on scientific analysis than on anecdotal evidence?

2009 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week Theme Announced

Protect Yourself: Your Safety, Health and Survival Are Your Responsibility June 14-20, 2009

Protect Yourself: Your Safety, Health and Survival Are Your Responsibility encourages chiefs and fire/EMS personnel to focus on what they personally can do to manage risk and enhance their health and safety. This year’s theme reflects the need for personal responsibility and accountability within a strong safety culture.

Recommended activities and materials will incorporate four key areas where standard operating procedures, policies and initiatives—along with the training and enforcement that support them—can limit fire/EMS personnel’s risk of injury or death:

Safety: Emergency Driving (enough is enough—end senseless deaths)

  • Lower speeds—stop racing to the scene. Drive safely and arrive alive to help others.
  • Utilize seat belts—never drive or ride without them.
  • Stop at every intersection—look in all directions and then proceed in a safe manner.

Health: Fire Fighter Heart Disease and Cancer Education and Prevention

  • Don't smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Get active.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular health screenings.

Survival: Structural Size-Up and Situational Awareness

  • Keep apprised of different types of building materials and construction used in your community.
  • Develop a comprehensive size-up checklist.
  • Always complete a 360° walk of the structure to collect valuable, operational decision-making information.
  • Learn the practice of reading smoke.
  • Be familiar with the accepted rules of engagement.
  • Learn your accountability system and use it.
  • Master your tools and equipment.
  • Remain calm and concentrate.

Chiefs: Be the Leader in Safety

  • Become personally engaged in safety and make it part of your strategic vision for the department.
  • Be willing to make the tough decisions regarding safety policies and practices and their implementation.
  • Hold members of the organization accountable for their safety and the safety of those with whom they work.
  • Ensure that resources are available to accomplish activities safely and effectively.

All fire/EMS departments areencourage to devote this week to reviewing safety policies, evaluating the progress of existing initiatives and discussing health and fitness. Fire/EMS departments should make a concerted effort during the week to correct safety deficiencies and to provide training as needed. An entire week is provided to ensure that each shift and duty crew can spend one day focusing on fire fighter safety, health and survival.

Here's the question to ask around the table today...What are YOU personnally doing to ensure YOUR safety during combat fire engagement and the safety of your COMPANY?

Remember this; Everyone thinks that "bad" things happen to someone else, that they won't happend to YOU, because of what you do, what you know.......However, to everyone else YOU are that "someone else"....think about it...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Power Saw Safety On Fireground

Power Saw Safety on the Fireground

The proper use, care and maintenance of power saws are critical to the success of safe forcible entry operations. Power saws are our "go to" tools in many operations on the fireground. From venting to forcible entry, these tools get the job done fast. They are rapid and efficient and have the ability to cut through various different types of materials at once. They also afford firefighters the energy saved by not having to manually smash or cut through a building's exterior or interior finishes.

There are several key dangers relating to their use:

Do not push a saw beyond the limits of its design or purpose. Never use a saw in a flammable atmosphere. The saw's motor or operation may ignite flammable liquids or gases.
Always operate with full protection and protect your eyes.
Never carry a power tool, raise, or lower a tool that is running...READ ALL

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Wide-Open (brand) I-Beams

Coming Soon, to your First-Due Area; Wide-Open (brand) Wood I-Beams. Have you seen the latest....Where designs call for premium floor or roof construction, heavy loads, or extended spans, Georgia-Pacific Wood I Beam™ joists are the answer. Lighter and easier to handle than ordinary lumber, Wood I Beam joists offer high strength and stiffness in lengths up to 60'.The 16"-deep Wide Open series joists, intended for uniformly loaded residential floors, also feature pre-cut web openings for easier, faster installation of most mechanical services.

Look at the manner in which these engineered floor joists now make use of large (wide-open) cut outs to accomodate equipment runs, and also present further operational and safety challenges during fire operations. Do you know what's going up in your first or second due response areas? Time to get out onto the streets and check out those construction sites and see what's getting built and how it may affect your future operations...

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