Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slowing Down

There was yet another news report yesterday of a collision between two responding fire apparatus; an aerial ladder and an engine that violently collided and resulted in serious personal injuries to eleven people, nine of which were firefighters. The resulting collision caused significant property damage to the six month old aerial ladder and the year old engine. Reports and video HERE and HERE

According to published provisional reports from the USFA, of the 114 LODD in 2008, there were nineteen (19) LODD of firefighters responding to incidents (16.6%). The provisional report of On-Duty Firefighter fatalities in the United States for the period of 01/01/2009 to 02/28/2009 indicates there were three (3) LODD of firefighters responding to incidents (18.7%).

The job of firefighting has enough numerous challenges related to on-scene operations at structural fires and other incidents. Why is it we can’t seem to understand that at least we have the opportunity to control to some degree our safety while responding to a call?

Although there are numerous safety variables and risk in emergency response mode; effective situational awareness, attentive, defensive and focused driving, expanded peripheral vision and just plain and simple-slowing down, would go a long way at incident reduction. Pay particular attention when approaching intersections, and right of ways. STOP, then proceed. Look HERE and the St.Louis Engine Crash HERE

While you’re waiting for that bell to hit today and you get ready to board the apparatus and hit the streets on the way to the next alarm; stop and think. Think about Buckling up, Slowing Down and Arriving Alive. As an apparatus operator- think about your crew, your driving and the public....Slow down. More safety stuff HERE, HERE and HERE

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chief? You're Fired!

PO: Hello; ChiefReason?

CR: Yes; this is ChiefReason. Who’s this?

PO: This is President Obama.

CR: Mr. President; how are you?

PO: Not so good. I only have one (1) team left in the Final Four. And you?

CR: I have two (2) teams left, but it’s been a bad year for me.

PO: And it’s about to get worse.

CR: How is that?

PO: I want you to resign from the fire department. It’s just not working out. I was hoping to see more progress in your department during my mercurial first ninety days in office.

CR: I’m a little confused. I report to a board of trustees and I am elected by township residents; my shareholders, if you will. I am honored that you would think that I work for you, but I don’t believe that I do.

PO: Didn’t you ask your federal government, over which I am the boss, for money to buy equipment? I mean; you asked for a bailout because you needed money, right?

CR: Well, “need” isn’t exactly it. You offered us the program, so we took advantage of it.

PO: That’s right. You stuck your hand out and we put some money in it. I’m not happy with the results, so, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, I am firing you. I asked for and received from Congress-your representatives-more powers in matters of money.

CR: But I didn’t agree to being fired by the government. I signed a grant application, agreed to spend the money as stated and agreed to an audit if requested.

PO: And do you still owe money after receiving the grant?

CR: Yeah; but you said that we couldn’t use the grant to retire debt.

PO: Pish-posh. I owe it to my fellow Dem-I mean; my constituents-to protect their best interests and their investment in America’s future by relieving you as chief. Hey; did you see that putt Tiger made on the last hole of the Palmer tournament?

CR: Uh, yes I did, but I-

PO: Whoa; look at the time. I gotta get to the gym for some basketball. Look at the bright side: you got more time for golf. Read my book!

Now, at first blush, you might think that my imagination is working overtime again.

But, if you haven’t heard by now, Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, was told by the Obama Administration to step down as head of GM if they were to receive any more bailout money. The reason cited was that there just wasn’t enough being done to re-structure the company.

So, for the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government has fired an employee of a publicly traded, privately held company!

Doesn’t that send chills down your spine; that the federal government is running private business in this country? Does Amtrak, U.S. Postal Service, Katrina, Rita, No Child Left Behind, Enron, World Com, Bernie Madoff, AIG, Lehman Bros, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bernie Mac, Goldman Sachs and anywhere else the government was directly involved or should have been involved with oversight ring a bell?

Where stricter oversight should have been exerted, they turned a blind eye. They gave billions with no plan to monitor the program to banks and AIG, but yet, want to run an auto company right down to choosing who should be the CEO. Hmmm. Will they also consider the same demise for the International President of the UAW? Not likely, but I would listen if someone wants to explain the difference to me.

This could be the start of a journey down a road that I don’t think America wants to go down. It is so close to one of those “ism” words that we fight so desperately to deny. Our government needs to get out of the business of Business. Even if they would get their own house in order, there is no room in a free democracy for government intervention into private business beyond offering low interest assistance with a schedule for repayment.

I applaud states like Alaska and companies like Ford Motor Company for refusing to reach out to the long tentacle of this administration, knowing that the strings attached could wrap them in a debt beyond anything that money could repay.

We have to stop government sponsored attacks on our system of free enterprise NOW!

Or ChiefReason might be looking for another job in the REAL world.


The article submitted is protected by federal copyright under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. The article cannot be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission of Art Goodrich aka xchief22 and ChiefReason. You may view other articles at www.chiefreasonart.com.

Backdrafts Threaten Firefighters at Woods Run

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March 25, 2009 [Date of Story]

Pittsburgh firefighters experienced backdraft explosions while fighting an apartment building fire in Woods Run early Wednesday morning.

Fire officials believe the failure of an oxygen tank belonging to someone living in the building may have caused the explosion. However, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. READ ALL

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Organizational Schizophrenia

Does your fire department or EMS system suffer from Organizational Schizophrenia?

Most career departments have at least three shifts or platoons. A 24-on/48-off shift schedule is fairly common. In this type of department, different shifts often do things in very different ways, based on the personalities of the firefighters, paramedics, and officers that gravitate to that shift. In departments with a Shift Commander position, each shift often mimics the shift commander's personality and ways of doing things.

DANGER, Will Robinson, DANGER!

If your department does things three different ways, you might not have three different sets of outcomes on a routine basis, but you'll have different outcomes when something doesn't go exactly as planned. We are supposed to have standard outcomes - rescue the civilians, extinguish the fire, stop the bleeding, and EVERYONE GOES HOME! Standardized methods are important in achieving standardized outcomes.

When you work another shift that uses different methods or that has different expectations, then it places you in a conflict with that "other" fire department or EMS that uses your vehicle and station when your shift is off duty. Alan Brunacini once said that "The worst possible firefighting strategy is having no plan. The second-worst strategy is having two plans." If you use the methods common to Shift A on a Shift B or C fire, then there will be two conflicting plans in use at the same time. That, my friends, is a recipe for a disaster. If you're the shift commander, using C-Shift expectations when supervising A Shift firefighters is going to cause lots of unnecessary heartburn and probably get someone hurt.

If you all work for the same fire department or EMS, then you all need to do things the same way.

Develop methods that work for everyone, write them down, and enforce them. Doing otherwise ensures Organizational Schizophrenia. Be an Organizational Psychiatrist and cure the disease before it becomes fatal.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Runnin' Against the Wind

It seems like yesterday..But it was long ago. Against the wind, We were running against the wind. We were young and strong, we were running
Against the wind..

And the years rolled slowly past. And I found myself alone.. Surrounded bv strangers I thought were my friends, I found myself further and further from my home.. And I guess I lost my way There were oh so many roads I was living to run and running to live...

There’s something familiar and haunting about Bob Seger’s song, “Against the Wind”.

I was working late the other night on a series of training programs specific to command decision-making and risk management and safety. With the radio on in the back ground, I found myself stopping for a moment while Seger’s song played on. Ok, I know what some of you are thinking. Here we go again; Firefighter Safety! Safety Culture! change what we’re doing… But you know, it certainly seems like the years have rolled slowly past and yes with so, so many roads, paths and directions that time has taken us from and to.

I think back and we all were living to run [calls] and running to live. I remember when we were running calls and working jobs at a far greater pace and frequency than anything of recent. And with those call, the risks we would take and the places we would find ourselves,many without goor reason, other than for the love of fighting fire and doing what we did best. But it does seem like we were running against the wind in so many ways.

Here we find the fire service looking at our culture, attitudes and statistics in the escalating firefighter LODD and firefighter injury rates. There’s an awful lot of time, energy and resources being committed and directed towards fire service safety. Is anyone really listening? Does anyone really care? Is the fact that it happens-Somewhere else; not here, not to me, not my department! Are You and your company paying attention? are you doing something to correct the trend?

With all my travels and lectures across the country, hearing the conflicting dialog amoungst us; it sometimes feels like I’m against the wind . I'm still runnin' against the wind . I'm older now but still running…..Against the wind.

Friday, March 27, 2009

March DC Fire Department Rescue Raw Video

DC Firefighters were faced with a civilian in a window during an apartment fire on March 2009. I found raw video of the dramatic rescue HERE

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who Are We Trying To Recruit Anyway?

We've seen coverage by Dave Statter over at the STAT911 blog on arsonist firefighters, and discussion on Firefighter Nation in light of a post by Tim Sendelbach about the type of people that firefighting draws in.

Do we want the adrenaline junkie or do we want to find a mature individual who takes the oath to “prevent and protect” against fire to heart? Who among us doesn’t have at least one story about a member who was just a little too zealous for his/her own good? Wouldn’t you rather enter a building with a firefighter whose nickname was “Crusty” rather than the one whose nickname is “Whacker”? Talking about it over at Firehouse Zen.
Blogger Profile

Back to the (BLS) Past?

If the events in Columbus, Ohio recently foreshadow typical economic adjustments, we've got problems. Reverting Columbus Fire Department back to an all BLS agency circa 1968 is expected to save the City big money, according to a committee assigned to find cost savings. Conceptually, the idea is not a big surprise given our continual conversations on evidence (or lack thereof) for improved outcomes from what we do.

Columbus, for those who may not be old enough to recall, helped birth ALS along with Seattle, Miami, LA, and Pittsburgh. That means the concept is not new for that metro area. Their annual call volume runs about 98,000. They're not small, they're not new, and they're not entrenched in any big controversies.

I take this recommendation as a call to action for the Fire service. Decisions on cost savings need to be made by inside Fire and EMS experts, not by an outside committee. If we allow the health of our communities and viability of our fire service to be manipulated without our input, the results will not be pretty.

Mike McEvoy

Friday, March 20, 2009

Breaking - Firefighters Injured In Philadelphia When Fire Trucks Collide

Two firetrucks collided in Center City, Philadelphia. Engine 43 and Ladder 9 where involved in a collision while responding to a fire. The accident left up to 10 injured.

I just put up video, photos, and news stories from the Philly Fire Truck accident - HERE

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mayday Operations & RIT; The Real Stuff

In case some of you missed the excellent video that depicts the operations of the Houston FD at a Four Alarm Fire in an high-rise office building on March 28, 2007 HERE is some information. The fire resulted in three civilian fatalities with three firefigher injuries. There was a significant mayday and RIT operation that evolved during the incident that was produced into a DVD with scene video and radio communications.

The DVD was produced by the bravestonline.com This is a must see video. The FD After Action report of the fire at 9343 North Loop East, which makes understanding the scope and magnitude of the event clearer provides a wealth of useful information. While battling the high-rise fire, Capt. Joel Eric Abbt, assigned to Station 8, was on the fifth floor of the building searching for victims when he ran into trouble. His first mayday call was all but drowned out by the chatter of other firefighters engaged in rescues. The DVD of the 27-minute search and the captain's frantic calls for help is now available though a website, The Bravest Online as tagged above. The image above is the office building before the fire. More HERE and HERE.

There's alot of discussion and dialog spent on RIT and FAST operations, training, methodologies, tactics, staffing etc. It all comes down to some very simple elements; having the availability of dedicated resources consisting of experienced, trained and equipment personnel, who can operate under the most difficult of circumstances, without jeopardizing themselves to undertake a mission involving a firefighter in distress. It's not a game, its not about some miss guided thoughts of glory, or the self absorbing need to be in the middle of it all; its about undertaking a mission critical assignment that has a tremendous variable for the outcome. It comes down to you being able to perform with the necessary skills, knowledge and fortitude, as part of a team to complete the RIT assignment. Where do you fall into the equation?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

2009 Safety, Health & Survival Week; June 14-20

2009 Safety, Health & Survival Week: June 14 - 20

This year's theme - Protect Yourself: Your Safety, Health & 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.

Visit: 2009 Safety, Health & Survival Week Website

Start thinking about what YOU can personnally do to support the continuing efforts towards enhanced firefighter safety. It's not ONLY about you; its about your family and taking care of those around you, in the station, in your organization and at home. If you don't think its import go HERE.

Take another minute to read Chief Lamb's posting on "frustration" and Chief Waller's recent posts...are you starting to see some common threads....remember it all has to start somewhere, it can start with you.... Start Planning NOW....

Other resources:
IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section
Take Five for Safety Drills
Everyone Goes Home
The National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System

A bit of frustration...

As most of you who read this (which is probably why you read this) I am a student of the fire service trade.

I read a ton of stuff daily to try to stay current and read all of the various trade journals. I also have a passion for this job and I remain truly convinced that there is nothing a group of firefighters cannot do.

We do great things at every alarm. We can handle high angle, trench rescue, haz mat, para medicine and all of the crazy runs we go on that do not fit into any category. Our creativity, ingenuity and work ethic rivals any other profession on the planet.

So tell me..........why cannot we reduce the number of line of duty injuries and deaths.
I really just don't get it.

A number of years ago I delivered a series of lectures on a program I developed called Firefighter's Anonymous. I am almost thinking it is time to dust it off and begin again. We have the technology, we have better equipment, we have model procedures and standards and nothing seems to be changing. Maybe it really is just us and our culture and beliefs?

I will keep my nose to the grindstone and keep trying. I am smart enough to know we will have injuries and deaths because we do dangerous stuff and show up at dangerous scenes. I am also convinced that we should not just stand outside like flamingos on the lawn, but there needs to be somewhere in the middle.

National initiatives and organizations are doing what they can, but we need to take these concepts and deliver them and practice them in firehouses everywhere
We have the answers. We need implementation and action.

What better group to make something that seems so impossible a task, but America;'s firefighters!

Let's give it a try......who wants to help?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Injuries on the Job

Are we surprised we are getting injured? We are training to get injured.

Second Due Syndrome

From my blog on FirefighterNation.com

There is a classic attitude that I've seen in quite a few places throughout my career. It is a side effect from the fact that all of us want to be members of the first company to a fire, but another unit gets to the fire first.The result is what I call "Second Due Syndrome". If you're not there first, there's a subconscious pressure to drive a little faster, mask up a little quicker, and rush to get into the building before someone else gets all of "our" action.

Second Due Syndrome is dangerous, because it turns on knee-jerk reactions and turns off our brains. When the driver pushes the rig a little harder, bad things tend to happen. Apparatus accidents kill and injure all too many firefighters, to say nothing of taking expensive, critical community resources out of service, sometimes permenantly. If you have a company T-shirt that says "We beat you in your First Due", then you're advertising that you're afflicted with Second Due Syndrome. Responding to a fire isn't a race, it's a competition with all of the sloppy, stupid, and dangerous drivers on the road. The apparatus operator shouldn't be one of them.

Second Due Syndrome can make he officer miss important information. The second due officer should be looking for things that the first due officer may have missed. If you're running past your best sources of information outside the building in your hurry to get inside, you're likely to miss critical visual cues that can mean the difference between a relatively safe fireground operation and a completely suidical one.

Rushing to don the SCBA mask, hood, helmet, and gloves shortcuts the real reason we're wearing it in the first place - to make sure that we're not breathing smoke or superheated air, char-grilling our ears, or using a body part as a meat thermometer. Shortcuts tend to elimate safety procedures when we need them the most.

Rushing to get into action is a great way to leave essential tools on the rig. When you're inside and you need that tool, it wastes time and air to have the entire company exit to go get it. Worse, there's the temptation to have only one firefighter leave to get the tool. Seperating from your company in the IDLH atmosphere has contributed to many firefighter deaths. We don't need to intentionally do this when the need would have been eliminated by taking the right tools in the first place.

Second Due Syndrome can also rear its ugly head during after-action reviews. The first-due officer is probably going to be second-guessed enough without hearing members of the second-due engine tell him "We would have done it differently."

When you weren't first due, you had several advantages over the company that was. You had the advantage of their size-up report, so you havd better information. You had the advantage of knowing exactly where the fire was if the location was initially unclear. You had the advantage of knowing that there was at least one other company present to help you if you get into trouble. You had more time to get ready. You didn't have to rush quite as much, because someone else was already tackling the problem when you got there.

When you're at the critique, remember that the first due company alwayshas the least time, the least information, the least manpower, and generally the biggest problem. Keep that in mind - you'll eventually be first due and you'll then get to experience Second Due Syndrome from the first-due perspective. I hope it's painless for you and yours.

Value Added Service?

I sit here saddened as I look around at the local and national fire and rescue budget landscape and see that many of my public education peers have their positions up on the budget chopping block. Yes, times are very tough and unprecedented in many ways. Sadly, one fire service tradition remains: cut prevention programs.

So much for the Everyone Goes Home Initiative #14: Provide public education more resources & champion it as a critical fire & life safety program.

This issue is about value, or lack thereof, and the perceived value of preventing fires and injuries to both the general public and within each fire department. Why do citizens generally stand up and yell when budget issues have departments talking fire station closures or staffing reductions? Because they perceive that having plenty of fire fighters and fire stations is a value added service and in many case communities have voted for, in effect, tax increases to keep levels where they perceive they need to be.

Not too many folks perceive the value of preventing the fire instead of having to respond to it – especially within our own fire service family. Do not get me wrong, as a former line fire fighter, I am all for four person minimum staffing and keeping crews safe.

I just find it a shame that fire fighters and citizens alike will march on City Hall and provide over flow crowds at Council meetings when closing stations or cutting line positions are the cause. It has struck me that I have never seen the same scene when fire and injury prevention programs and positions are on the chopping block.

Why? Because the vast majority of the fire service still views fire and injury prevention as a very low priority and not really a part of the mission. The public listens to what our fire officials and fire fighters are saying and none too often do you hear any of them preaching the importance of these programs and the people who run them. Of course, many of us in the prevention field probably have to shoulder some of the blame for not tooting our own horns!

Until prevention is truly ingrained as a critical component in the overall fire service mission, the history of cutting prevention programs will continue to repeat itself.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blogger Profile

When Things Come Together

Fire Department installation banquets are an East Coast tradition: an annual gathering to celebrate accomplishments and seat incoming chiefs and officers. Last night, I was a guest helping honor 90 years of Jonesville Fire Department service to their community in Saratoga County, New York. Early in the program, the Jonesville Chief called several members to the podium and then invited a member of the community to speak. The gentleman proceeded to describe, not from recollection but from his wife's accounting, how he collapsed in cardiac arrest several months ago in his home. His wife dialed 911 and was unable by herself to extricate her husband from the spot he'd become wedged in the bathroom (sound familiar?). The fire department arrived moments later and started resuscitation. With CPR and multiple defibrillations, they were able to restore circulation and breathing. The local ALS ambulance service arrived and transported the speaker to a cardiac center. Obviously, he made a full recovery, returned to his work as a teacher, and wanted to take time last evening to thank his rescuers.

What struck me as the presentation unfolded was the effort that went into this event. Each one of the firefighters present attended a county run EMT program. The 911 center provides a sophisticated level of call screening and emergency medical dispatch. The response system is tiered according to caller needs. ALS is readily available. The list goes on...

While it may appear that a handful of individuals came together to conduct a very successful rescue, the real reason those firefighters were in the right place at the right time has more to do with the system behind them then chance alone. Events such as this are brilliant illustrations of when things come together for all the right reasons. We should celebrate loudly such successes!

Mike McEvoy

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cops & Firefighters in New Hampshire

I was just wondering how everyone else at the kitchen table felt about the police in New Hampshire using firefighter gear as a ruse to make an arrest.
This has been done here in Massachusetts a few years ago.
I am not sure I personally think it is a good idea. I can see cooperating with the police in lots of ways and whenever you can because I believe public safety needs to work hand in hand with each other.....but.....
I think people (the public) look at our two professions differently and I am not sure we want the public to ever doubt if we are really who we say we are. I think this especially true if your department operates and EMS system with transporting ambulance. Our paramedics must have the public trust.
I certainly do not have all the facts and circumstances involved here but it certainly seems to be a bad idea in hindsight.
What do you think?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Interpretation – Of Standards and Symphonies

A symphony orchestra spends a lot of practice time on their musical pieces before they perform in concert.

There is a lesson in that for fire-rescue departments. The time that we - the “orchestra” - spends with our “instruments” and in practicing with each other, the better the "concert" will sound to our audience. Most of us realize how important training on both individual and team skills, knowledge, and abilities can be to all of us…and to the audience.

Orchestras have a musical score that guides their performance. The musical score is the written standard that tells each individual and group when to play, how to play, and what to play. The score includes the notes, the time scale, and terms that helps the musicians interpret how the music is to be played.

Some common terms used to interpret how music is played include;

Adagio – slow, relaxed
Allegro – lively, fast
Crescendo – progressively louder
Dimenuendo – progressively softer
Dolce – sweetly
Forte – loudly
Legato – smoothly
Subito – suddenly
Tacet – silently, do not play

Fire-rescue departments need a “musical score” to direct how we play. We need to know what to play, when to play, and when, what, and how the other instruments will play. These can be SOGs, administrative directives, EMS protocols, or national standards. Things tend to work very well as long as everyone is literally on the same page. Problems tend to arise when the instruments don’t play the correct notes or don’t play at the right time.

A more subtle problem is that there are differences in how standards are interpreted…and there can be as many interpretations as there are musicians. Typical fires don’t tell you that they’ll hit you with Subito problems or that the chief will be able to move the orchestra from one note to another in a most Legato way.

We can have some pretty diverse interpretations of the same standard. An example is the two-in, two out rule. Some firefighters and chiefs will argue loud and long that two-in, two-out applies to everything we do – firefighting, hazmat, rescue…everything. Others may point out that the two-in, two-out rule is actually limited to standards with very narrow interpretations, specifically hazmat hot zone operations and interior structural firefighting. I’ve had firefighters tell me that two-in, two-out is required at confined space rescues…only to be baffled when we had a confined space rescue in a space so small that only one very small rescuer at a time could physically fit into the space.

Fire-rescue standards don’t always come with the “How to Play” directions above each clef. We often have to apply our own interpretations. If we don’t practice together often enough and well enough, the concert won’t go so well when the interpretation is Accesio – ignited/on fire.

Enjoy orchestra practice.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Standard Operating Retirement

Looks like another Chief became the casualty of a consultant's report. This time it occurred in Gloucester, Mass. On December 14, 2007, Gloucester witnessed their fire department's first 8 alarm fire. As you can infer from the title of this post, it did not go well for the Gloucester Fire Department's Chief.

I'm not writing this post to discuss the Chief, and his department's 'analyzed' faux pas' and misfortunes, respectively; I'm here to 'analyze' the consultant's methodology that led the eventual fir..retirement of a Chief of 26 years.

I am always suspect when I see a typical verb followed by such ambiguous words as 'leadership,' 'unsafe,' etc. Never do the consultant's, and or our 'subject matter experts' (who were in the room or at the steak dinner at a trade show when the call came in for reviewers) leave their clients objective, evaluative competencies to ensure the undesirable actions or decisions never happen again. What do they EXACTLY mean by 'lack of leadership?' If the Chiefs put the costume on with a white helmet, he is the de facto leader of the show in most towns. It's the experience, training and decisions that are made by this individual (Before the fire too) that are never quantified and are the fundamentals of true leadership. Does their fire department ALWAYS stretch the correct size line? Do the companies ALWAYS have to ask where they are supposed to go in the fire building (What? No written SOPs?!)? Do the individuals in these companies ALWAYS take the appropriate tools? There are a million objective competencies that are easily evaluated and measured, however, you won't see them in consultant reports; Because they probably don't know them either. Rather, you see them hide their own flawed methodology and lack of 'best practices' in ambiguous, encompassing words in the report(s).

Like the departments that see people lose jobs, credibility, and occupational dignity, we seem to be always left wanting when we read these reports. Rather than copying, pasting, and correlating the beloved 16 life-safety initiatives to a department's actions, let's get down and dirty and start to critically think and analyze WHY we need a change in Chiefs, policies, etc. I'll bet you'll unearth a few more intiatives too.

However, I think I'm going to be waiting for that report for a quite a while...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Current Events....Making the best choice in the worst of situations

As a student of the business, I try to stay current on the impact of the current economic situation on various departments across the country.
As a chief of department I am keenly aware of what situations face me within my own department. I cannot remember facing a budget preparation period like the one we are currently all facing. Many cities and towns in years past dealing with fire departments have often said "this is a bad year', it is not quite right to give any raises or add manpower. Now in these most difficult times, many of our members do not believe how bad it really is because of the old story about crying wolf.
Chiefs across the country are being forced to lay off personnel, close companies and close stations in some cases. The tension in firehouses begins to grow as firefighters who may be laid off, have also had a spouse laid off and are in real trouble. Morale struggles and suffers.
In the face of all of this is a fire chief who has a responsibility to answer the alarm in the new fiscal year with less troops and companies out of position and with longer response times. Fire chiefs in most if not all cases did not create the conditions that are currently affecting this nation. They do have the responsibility to deal with those same conditions.
Losing personnel and closing companies is horrible. Some communities have it much worse than others.
Chiefs of departments are now faced with trying to make the best choices in the worst of conditions.
It is truly the lesser of all evils.
The nations fire chiefs and firefighters are facing horrible difficult times.
I could not find a better group of people (The nations firefighters and chiefs) who will be prepared to face this challenge as they have all others.
The nations firefighters have taken an oath to serve and we will continue to persevere no matter how bad things get. We all must work together more than ever. As the times get tougher we must avoid the temptation to play the blame game and divide labor and management. It is what the politicians want us to do.
Chime in leave your thoughts. I am not sure anyone has the magic answer but today I think we need to share constructive ideas as a nation.
My answer would be that public safety should never be cut or reduced. While I believe this with all my heart as a fire chief and as a taxpayer in the community that I protect, I have now come to realize that the money is just not there. We (public safety) will have to face some cut or reduction. as a group we just need to figure out how to minimize that.
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