Thursday, July 30, 2009

Close Call in Gary Indiania

Around the 4:30 mark a firefighter has to escape through the basement window. One of my readers picked up that he actually seems to enter the basement that way as well...

Firefighter Spot

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Primary Mission of the Fire Service

Strolling along the fire service blogosphere and industry websites this morning, I happened by the Fire Chief site. It had been a couple of weeks since I last visited and thought it was time I did so.

I am glad I did as I saw an article headline that caught my eye: Neighborhood Missionaries by Chief Jordan D. Pollack of the Breitenbush (Ore) Fire Department.

No it was not an article on for profit, private fire departments. It was an article on fire prevention and education and how we, as a fire service, are so focused on crisis management and not prevention. The article is short, to the point, and provides observations, suggestions, and some interesting statements related to the primary mission of the fire service.

It is not often that you hear (or in this case read) a Fire Chief state that the primary mission of the fire service is fire, injury, and illness prevention! Please take a moment to read this short piece: Neighborhood Missionaries.

I would be curious to hear your thoughts/comments on this topic!

A lesson in humility

I recently had the honor of presenting at the International Fire Service Training Association’s (IFSTA) Validation Conference in Oklahoma City. There, I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony where Dr. Robert England (Editor of the International Fire Service Journal of Leadership and Management (IFSJLM) presented the Dr. Granito Award of Excellence in Fire Leadership and Management. [For those who are not familiar with John Granito, his biography is at the end of this post.]

This year’s recipient was Dr. Denis Onieal, Superintendent of the National Fire Academy. Following the presentation of the award the recipient gives the keynote address to the conference attendees. Since Dr. Onieal’s accomplishments are extensive, surely he’d have no trouble filling his allotted time with a rousing speech about how he has achieved his many successes. For the young up-and-coming leaders in the room, there would be much to learn about his journey. But that would have to wait for another day.

Instead of talking about himself and this honorable award, Dr. Onieal turned the accolades to four people, all present in the room, that he classified as his heroes… people he has looked up to… people who had blazed new trails and achieved great successes in their own right. But this was Dr. Onieal’s time to shine… to bask in the moment of warm applause and smiling faces. Those in the room who were hoping to learn something about Denis Onieal from his keynote, surely did… not in the literal interpretation of his words, but in his choice to use his time to pay homage to others.

Here is a man who has been called upon numerous times to provide leadership and diplomacy during times of great crisis – on September 11, 2001... in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina… and in numerous other situations when our nation’s fire service needed his guidance. He has hosted diplomats and provided counsel to presidents. Yet, when given the opportunity to bask on the spotlight, Dr. Onieal took that very spotlight and turned on to four other people, lauding their successes… a powerful lesson on humility for everyone in the room. May we all strive to emulate Dr. Denis Onieal and remain humble in our successes.
Continue Reading A lesson in humility

Dr. John Granito biography

John is one of the premier fire and public safety consultants in the United States. Just a few of his many Fire, Rescue, and Emergency services research projects include: Oklahoma State University-Fire Protection Publications Line of Duty Death Reduction project (3 years); Centaur National Study (3 years); Research Triangle Institute/National Fire Protection Association/International City/County Management Association project (4 years); Fire Department Analysis Project (FireDAP) of the Urban Fire Forum (13 years); Combination Department Leadership project, University of Maryland, Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute (4 years); Wooster Polytechnic/International Association of Fire Fighters/International Association of Fire Chiefs/ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Fire Ground Performance Study (current). He has participated in more than 400 fire department studies. John also has strong ties to academia. For 27 years in served in a number of academic positions, the last 16 of which were at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He is Professor Emeritus and Retired Vice President for Public Service and External Affairs at SUNY Binghamton, which is consistently ranked in the top public universities by U.S. News and World Report. John has published numerous articles, chapters, and technical papers, served as co-editor of the 2002 book published by the International City/County Management Association entitled, Managing Fire and Rescue Service, and is a Section Editor of the NFPA 2008 Fire Protection Handbook. Dr. Granito was the first recipient of the award that honors him and his service to the fire service and to academia.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sixty Seconds for a Three Sixty

As I was contemplating the development of a posting for today, one that was intended to pose a few rhetorical questions on Leadership and Cultural Safety, I came across an email forward to me by a good friend Brian O’Malley a motivational speaker, with a proclamation that provided a three-sixty (360) review to a recent strategic alignment meeting I participated in.

As I looked at the words and phrased statements, it became obvious that these thirty-six words aligned compactly within twelve lines provide a distinct three hundred and sixty degree perspective on much of what each of us should strive for; each day, on each shift, and at every call. These are demanding times that accellerate a variety of emotions, uncertaintly and at times of personal discovery. Regardless of your rank or time in grade, the length of time in your organization, the size and structure of your department or the level of your daily demands and challenges; leadership, mentoring, contributing, setting the example, being at your very best individually or collectively as part of a team, a company or a department is essential and pivotal-Think about it…..

Find your Energy
Explore your Strengths
Discover you Passion
Expand your Perspective
Understand your Beliefs
Choose your Attitude
Align your Behaviors
Challenge your Perception
Define your Success
Live your Value
State your Mission
Proclaim your Purpose

Take the time to look at this video HERE, take the time to Celebrate What’s Right…..

Monday, July 20, 2009

The next U.S. Fire Administrator

It was recently announced that President Obama has nominated Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran to serve as the next United States Fire Administrator. You might be thinking... So what? Who cares? Doesn't mean anything to me. Well, it should. We live in a political world where decisions are often made based on agendas. I know... you're shocked. Get over it.

Within the beltway, the politics can be brutal. There are a plethora of politicians and special interest groups competing for your tax dollars. You may feel powerless to impact positive change for the fire service from where you sit in your town. That is understandable. That's why you need a voice... and advocate... someone representing you at the table where important decisions are made.

And there could be no better choice in the American fire service today than Chief Kelvin Cochran. I met Chief Cochran for the first time about six years ago when we both served on the program planning committee for Fire-Rescue International. He was the chair of a committee whose task was formidable. On the committee there were a dozen people who all had their ideas about how to develop a successful FRI program. Chief Cochran was able to swiftly and effectively get the group focused and moving forward in a positive way.

He has certainly seen his share of adversity while serving as the fire chief in Atlanta and I have never heard him say anything that was unprofessional or discourteous. That's not his nature. Calm... collected... poised... gentle. He has the right attitude to lead. He is the epitome of a southern gentleman. Don't read that to mean he's a pushover. Far from it. He can be veracious when it comes to leading change.

Just the kind of person the nation's fire service needs at the table in Washington. It's going to be a tough ride in the years to come, but there's no one I'd rather have driving the bus than Chief Kelvin Cochran.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blogger Profile

Send In the Clowns (Wearing Vests)

Well, it looks like the fire service objections to the high visibility vest rules will be sustained by the feds. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rule 634 notice of final rule published in June 2009 apparently will acquiese to fire service cries of foul, allowing exemption from the need to wear hi-vis vests when engaging in fire suppression activities on roadways where the requirement for hi-vis vests would potentially endanger firefighters. The final rule should be published before the end of calendar 2009. We hope. See the feds comments and proceedings here.

Now for my thoughts. Sure, a vest could melt or pyrolize, emitting cyanide and/or other toxic gases. And yes, in the case of a raging inferno, we might be compelled to close the roadway to civilian traffic, essentially eliminating the danger from some errant vehicle mowing down an innocent member. But let's be real. Real world, that is. I've carried my high-vis vest in the pocket of my bunker pants now for three years. When I'm in the road, I put it on. It's never melted at a vehicle fire yet and if it did, you bet your bipee I'd have my BA on. Maybe you close the roadway - I don't. Keeping traffic moving, in my mind, lowers risk. Less gawkers, less congestion, more opportunity for the public I serve to see me in action as they pass by, less time I spend restoring normalcy. And heck, read the NIOSH reports - fire apparatus mows down as many firefighters (maybe more) than crazed civilians do.

I'll wear the vest. And not the $80 special flame proof version some entrepreneur dreamed up to pad their wallet. The $15 one size fits all version works for me. Go figure. If your feet are on the street, the vest should be on your chest. Simple. Let move on.

Mike McEvoy

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Forward Progress on ‘Reverse’ Discrimination

First of all, I detest the use of the term ‘reverse discrimination’.

Why is it that, when a non-white, gay or female believes that they were treated unfairly, it is discrimination?

But, when a Caucasian male believes the same, it is reverse discrimination?

If we are all created equal and I believe that we are, then how can discrimination be ‘different’ for whites?

Where professional, performance-based standards are involved, then shouldn’t the playing field be level for everyone? That is to say that, in the fire service, the multiple tasks required to safely perform the job and their resulting consequences, good and bad are no different for ANYONE. You must force doors, carry hose, rescue people twice your size, scale ladders, wear 40 pounds of gear and an encyclopedia of other tasks; not to mention getting each other out of harm’s way.

I sit here befuddled that there hasn’t been more discussion and especially since it has been said the “historically, it has been the common practice of the fire service to discriminate”!

Ricci v Destefano was not going to derail Sotomayor’s confirmation for U.S. Supreme Court justice, but it should serve as a reminder to cities who still believe that hiring and promoting to achieve diversity goals by denying the rights of others is neither safe nor smart.

There should only be ONE pool of candidates, regardless of race, color, gender or religion. Hiring and promotions should go to the most qualified…period.

Before Firefighter Frank Ricci testified at Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing, efforts were made to discredit and lionize him, because this wasn’t Ricci’s first rodeo.

In 1995, Ricci sued the City of New Haven, CT for not hiring him, claiming that he wasn’t hired because he told them that he had dyslexia. The suit was settled in 1997 when he was hired by New Haven.

In 1998, Ricci filed an appeal to his firing from Middletown’s South Fire District, claiming that it was in retaliation for his investigation of a very controversial fire.

In some circles, Ricci was being accused of ‘faking’ his dyslexia to gain advantage.

So, why was Ricci being singled out and attacked when Michael Blatchley, Greg Boivin, Gary Carbone, Michael Christoforo, Ryan Divito, Steven Durand, William Gambardella, Brian Jooss, James Kottage, Matthew Marcarelli, Thomas J. Michaels, Sean Patton, Christopher Parker, Edward Riordan, Kevin Roxbee, Timothy Scanlon, Benjamin Vargas, John Vendetto and Mark Vendetto were all parties to the Destefano and City of New Haven lawsuit?

Because, if one didn’t take the time to read the record, you could erroneously conclude that he was an opportunist.

I think that his personal battles embody the temperament needed to be a firefighter.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that Frank Ricci is the “Everyman” of the fire service.

He didn’t use his disability (dyslexia) to create an advantage; he succeeded in spite of it.

And though much was made of it by those on the left (according to Ricci), I believe that Ricci was raised just like you and I were. I was taught to always fight for what I believed in and if I believed that I was right let nothing change my mind. That’s not to say that it didn’t get me into some trouble from time to time, but I still hold true to that belief to this day.

Frank Ricci prevailed each time someone challenged his rights and that is exactly how the justice system is supposed to work.

What is troublesome is that we have a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who holds that only minorities can be discriminated against and that somehow, it should provide for certain advantages.

I might be wrong, but I thought that the Civil Rights Act and especially Title VII was enacted to eliminate advantages and to allow the disadvantaged equal protection under the law.

Sotomayor’s stories of growing up in the Bronx are noteworthy, but far from extraordinary. It should be the center of her humility, but in no way should it serve as her perspective in matters that come before the court, because if she doesn’t know it by now, there are a lot of “Frank Riccis” out there!

I am not interested in her making history.

I am only interested in her making good decisions with regards to the law.

The fire service must continue to test to performance and resist grading “on the curve”.

Where lives depend upon having the most qualified firefighters, there is no room for social experiments.

And to those of you who are reading this and fail to see how Sotomayor may impact our fire service in the future?

Two things, in my opinion: 1) She didn’t appreciate the smack down from the Supreme Court on her decision to deny a rehearing in Ricci v Destefano and 2) She will rise up against the fire service that has “historically engaged in discrimination”.

Remember; you read it here first!

Here are some relevant links:


The article as submitted is published under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and is the intellectual property of Art Goodrich a.k.a. xchief22 and ChiefReason. It is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-printed in any form without expressed permission from the author. You may read other works by the author at

Firefighter Safety at Vacant Structures

I’ve published a couple of postings related to Vacant Building Fire Reports and Vacant or Unoccupied Fire issues over the past two months. The NFPA recently published their Vacant Buildings Fire Report that provided research insights on the increase in vacant building fires and the matter of increased concern as the economy continues to weaken. The fire analysis and research compiled is from the period of 2003-2006.

Although these are lagging indicators from that time period, it’s becoming increasing apparent through eMedia reporting, conference discussions and peer dialog that the combined economic hardships, current foreclosure rate on residential homes and the suggested increase in operations and incidents at vacant structures has an adverse impact on fire service operations and an increased risk to firefighter safety. These current impacts will become self evident when the incident date is analyzed and published next year. In terms of the immediate, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to conduct an online search and see the magnitude of the demands associated with fire operations in vacant structures. Take a look HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for some examples.

As the escalating adverse trend continues, and more and more buildings become vacant and unoccupied, now is the time to focus greater attention on adequate risk assessments and effective strategic size-up with firefighter safety considerations remaining clear and distinguished.There may be a lot of reasons why a vacant building turns into a structure fire, that ultimately involves our services; don’t let that contribute to an undesired injury or worst.

Here are some insights for considerations;

  • Implement and perform an effective dynamic risk assessment of the incident involving a vacant structure.
  • Consider an appropriate incident action plan and options for defensive operations, risk versus benefit considerations out weighing offensive interior operations. Refer to; Tactical Entertainment HERE
  • Maintain effective and heightened situational awareness at all times
  • Conduct or delegate a 360 reconn of the affected structure
  • Consider the factors related to presumed Vacant or Unoccupied; and the suggested demands associated with search team deployment, escalating and rapid fire spread, decreased time-to-collapse potential and RIT Team availability, be aware of potential squatters
  • Vacant residential occupancies constructed within the past ten years are very likely to have engineered structural systems (ESS) that will increase the potential early structural collapse and increase unacceptable risk to firefighter safety.
  • Resulting time delays in the discovery and reporting of fires in vacant structures increases fire severity and magnitude, increases the potential fire spread and communication to adjacent structures and requires adequate resources and fire flows to combat fire suppression activities.
  • Conduct pre-incident planning to identify the magnitude of the vacant structures within your jurisdiction and define operational expectations and deployment strategies. It shouldn’t be business as usual. Consider the safety risks to firefighters.
  • Assume potential for compromised interior conditions resulting from vandalism and intentional destruction of interior walls, floors, Compartmentation and structural system integrity.
  • Assume rapid fire extension and early structural collapse potential
    Identify and establish collapse zone perimeters and maintain them for firefighter safety.
  • Develop or enhance operating protocols for fire operations for both vacant residential AND commercial properties. Determine acceptable risk profiles and operational modes. Consider the Rules of Engagement.
  • Be consciously cautious with personnel safety foremost in your IAP and tactical operations; Remember this is vacant structure.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another perspective on firefighter fatalities

Let me start by saying... don't kill the messenger... I'm just putting something out there for thought and discussion. I am a huge proponent for firefighter safety. It is a topic I write and lecture about often.

I recently attended a seminar where the presenter was talking about the number of firefighters who die from heart attacks and vehicle accidents each year. In 2007, 52 firefighters died from heart attacks and 27 died in vehicle crashes. For comparison sake, there are an estimated 1,148,000 firefighters in America. This means the number of on-duty firefighter deaths per 100,000 population is 4.52 for heart attacks and 2.35 for vehicle accidents.

In the United States (2004) the average rate of death among the general population for vehicle accidents was 15.5 per 100,000 population.

If you applied the average vehicle accident death rate to the population of firefighters, that would equate to 177 deaths for a population of 1,148,000 firefighters.

In the United States (2005) the average rate of death among the general population for heart attacks was 222 per 100,000 population.

If you applied that average cardiac arrest death rate to the population of firefighters, that would equate to 2,548 deaths for a population of 1,148,000 firefighters.

If it were assumed that the population of firefighters were a mere snapshot of society, the statistics for vehicle deaths and cardiac arrest deaths are considerably lower.

To help normalize the data somewhat, you'd have to consider the firefighter deaths for vehicle accidents and cardiac arrest only count if the firefighter is on-duty. In other words, those firefighters who die from vehicle accidents and cardiac arrest off-duty are not part of the statistics listed above.

Assume for a moment (loosely, and without scientific basis) that the average firefighter is on-duty 500 hours per year (blending the on-duty time of career firefighters and volunteer firefighters). There are 9,125 hours in a year so the average firefighter (in this example) works 18.5% of the time and off-duty the rest.

If it were assumed that firefighters die at the same rate off-duty from vehicle accidents and heart attacks as they do when they are on-duty (and this is a big assumption, given the differences in stress levels on and off the job), the annual death rate from vehicle accidents would be 492 and 962 from cardiac arrests. Divide those numbers by the population of firefighters and you arrive at 43 vehicle accident deaths per 100,000 population of firefighters and 84 cardiac arrests per 100,000 population of firefighters.

Comparatively speaking to the general population (with deference to all of my assumptions), a firefighter is roughly 3 times more likely to die in a vehicle crash. However, the general population is more than 2.5 times as likely to die of a heart attack than a firefighter.

The Boss

No this isn't about Springsteen....

The Company Officer fulfills a mission critical role within the fire service that directly affects personnel and public safety and community accord. The title carries with it the opportunity to ride the “front seat” and be in charge of a company responsible for addressing incident operations and service demands dictated by the company’s function, responsibility and task assignment.

Recognizing the various avenues available that place a firefighter in transition from a individual contributor to that of a first-line supervisor; whether thru examination, assessment, appointment or popular vote, there are essential functions and elements that the title bestows. The title also carries with it an immense responsibility, obligation, duty and accountability. It’s much more than a set of collar brass and new front helmet shield.

Recently, having been engaged in conversation and dialog on a national level discussing firefighter safety initiatives and actions, the question that comes up frequently is; “Where can the fire service make the greatest impact on firefighter safety, in the least amount of time?” I strongly believed it’s with the “Boss”, the “Lieu” or the “Cap”- The Company Officer, that first-line supervisor who has command and control of their staff of personnel and can either permit or enforce a wide variety of administrative, managerial or operational essentials. They can have the greatest influence on firefighter safety, operational integrity and risk management.

Continue Reading The Boss

Following the initiation of the NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications in the early 1980’s, one of the first organizations that recognized the need to begin expanding the opportunities for educational, competencies and skills development was the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). The ISFSI’s Company Officer Development program (COD) was formulative in the identification of company officer developmental needs and providing the manner in which to achieve those needs through concentrated training program delivery.

Although many agencies and organizations align with the a number of professional qualifications paths and certification processes, with most departments having some form of qualification or prerequisites; many still do not for a number of reasons. Here’s a link HERE, to a hybrid voluntary process that was developed for county level implementation and aimed at a predominate volunteer fire service system to increase fire officer proficiencies, provide suggested consistency and bridge the gaps between local level training and “qualifications” and state or national level professional qualifications.

Here’s today’s Kitchen Table questions;

Give the specific narrowed band of choice, what is more important for a Company Officer to have attained: Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) in Suppression based Strategies and Tactics OR Leadership, management and Operations? What is the basis for your selected KSA and why?

What is the minimum time in grade a firefighter should attain before they consider a transition to a Company Officer?

Should professional qualifications, certification and advanced training be a prerequisite for the rank of a company officer?

What do you feel are the mission critical attributes or KSA that today’s Company Officer must have?

Can the Company Officer make the necessary impacts to improve the safety culture of the fire service?

Detroit Tanker Explodes Collapses Portion of Overpass

HAZEL PARK, Mich. - A two-mile stretch of Interstate 75 just north of Detroit remains closed as authorities investigate a fuel tanker explosion and overpass collapse.

Police say I-75 in both directions is indefinitely closed between Interstate 696 and 8 Mile Road. Drivers are being encouraged to use Woodward Avenue as an alternate route.

Michigan State Police Lt. Shannon Sims says three dr More..ivers suffered minor injuries in the explosion and fire Wednesday night.

The tanker was on I-75 about 10 miles north of downtown Detroit when it exploded beneath the 9 Mile Road overpass about 8 p.m.

Part of the overpass collapsed into the highway's northbound lanes and also remains impassable.

The investigation into why the tanker exploded continues.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ethical and Moral Fortitude or Unemployment

Recently a Fire Chief from the community of Shaker Heights, Ohio (metro Cleveland) took a position and stand on issues affecting the department and the community related to budget reductions demanded by the mayor’s office. Refer to the event postings HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, if you missed the details.

Photo From STATter911
The economic challenges and issues affecting all fire and emergency service agencies has become self evident in nearly all facets of operations, management, staffing and resources. The rolling brownouts, station closings, personnel layoffs and the reduction or elimination of resources for emergency responses is changing the profile, quality and safety of the fire and emergency services. Check these out, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE , HERE, and HERE.

The Fire Chief of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who was duly sworn to provide protection to the community, its citizens, the physical assets that comprised the community and to the fire service personnel under his watch, made it clear that as a professional, a manager and the qualified individual by virtue of his position as the Chief of Fire determined that additional budget reductions would jeopardize the community’s residents and his personnel. The Chief stated in his reply to the mayor; “I just can’t professionally or morally do what you have instructed without jeopardizing the health, safety and welfare of our residents and our firefighter.” He was summarily fired by the mayor for not following through on the directives and balking at the mayor’s orders.

There are a number of consensus standards, programs and policies that help define and establish a standard of service for fire protection that suggests a more robust level of community safety and protection while balancing the safety and well being of fire service personnel, providing adequacy of resources while managing community risk and defenses. Prominent in these attributes are the NFPA, 1710, 1720, 1500, the Center for Public Safety Excellence and the NFFF/EGH Initiatives.

Having intensely staying abreast and monitoring the various impacts the fire service has been forced to endure over the past eight months, through various media reports, direct discussions with fire chiefs and personnel around the country and first hand observations; I pose the following questions for you to think about.

· Do the politicians, elected officials and professional managers that run community governments truly understand the implications of reduced fire protection and emergency services to their communities?

· Does the public comprehend the impact and magnitude adequacy of services, resource and staffing capabilities and timeliness of response may have on their safety?

· Do you think more Fire Chief’s should take a position and stand as did the Chief from Ohio? Do you think it will make a difference or perpetuate further detriment to the fire department?

· Do you think community politicians, elected officials and professional managers are taking advantage of the present economic strife to institute sweeping changes to fire department organizations that would not have been feasible under different circumstances?

· Are there real moral and ethical issues when confronted with reductions in services that (we) can articulate and support with facts, data and research that will create increased risk to life and property if instituted, contrary to the demands of the politicians, elected officials and professional managers? Or are these just perceptions that the fire service selects to champion as our cause?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kitchen Table Debut

Thank you to for the opportunity to be a contributor on The Kitchen Table blog. I grew up in West Virginia with three brothers. When you have three brothers, being called to the kitchen table meant you dropped whatever you were doing and b-lined for the food. Those of us who arrived early got the best pickins, whether it was the biggest chicken leg or the juiciest steak.

When I was growing up my mom insisted that we sit down as a family and eat dinner together. There was no showing up an hour late or taking a plate into the living room to watch TV. She would not hear of it. Dinner was a family event... non-negotiable. Thankfully, my wife (who grew up with six brothers and sisters) was raised with the same principles.

Now we do the same thing in my house. We have four school-aged kids who are all very active in sports, scouts, church and, of course, their social lives. But we still find a way to stay true to this most treasured family tradition. We know that the kitchen table is the one place that we can all share what is going on in our lives, to discuss the family plans or to share the big news of the day.

I don't want you to think we're some kind of Ozzie and Harriett family... far from it. In many respects we're more like Ozzie and Sharon. But we do understand that communications is key to being an effective and cohesive family. And for us, the location where most of that dialog occurs... is the kitchen table.

I take the privilege and responsibility of being invited to The Kitchen Table seriously... but don't expect my postings to be the same. So pass that big plate of juicy topics and let's dig in!

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO

Opportunity in Adversity

I was just reading a very interesting article, by Mike Ward of the Blog Firegeezer, about a fire department that is located next to mine. This combination department has been in the news quite a bit lately due to a variety of issues connected with the economic downturn we are all facing. For back ground, local ace reporter Dave Statter has been on top of this story from the start. Go to his STATter911 Blog for more info.

I found Mike’s piece fascinating as he laid out the case that this department is much like General Motors and their dealers. The title of the piece is: PG, the GM of combination fire departments.

Everyone should take a moment to read this Blog posting. After doing so, you should then take an honest look at your own department (no matter if you are career, combo, or volunteer) and ask yourself if your department needs to perhaps undergo a reorganization of sorts.

Is there a better way you can do business and more efficiently? Perhaps, as we are doing here in my department, you can civilianize a few positions in both Code Enforcement and our 9-1-1 Center to create a workable hybrid type of system. By doing this, we will be keeping the same amount of staffing yet showing an overall cost reduction.

We all need to be looking at every option openly and honestly and try to determine our own fate rather than allowing the politicians to do so. I do not know about all of you, but our budget prognosticators are already predicting a budget deficit for next year of $370M for our jurisdiction!

Tough times still lay ahead but sometimes there is opportunity in adversity!

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Than Coffee To Start The Day!

Almost every morning, I step out of my office and walk several blocks to the local Starbucks to get my “fix” for the morning. Certainly a ritual performed by many each and every day across our country.

Perhaps it is a sad testament to my java dependence (sounds better than addiction) that several of the employees know me by name and have some understanding of what particular drink I will be ordering. Likewise, I actually know several of them by name!

There is one barista, in particular, who actually provides more than just that cup of grande skim latte each morning. Josh is that person in life who always has a smile on his face and radiates sheer joy each and every day. No day ever seems to be a bad day for this guy. He also knows the name of each and every customer that walks in and they him. Not only does he know the names, he actually seems to know everyone personally.

I also have noticed that people who walk in, including me, with a bit of a glum look tend to walk out smiling after interacting with Josh. While you are waiting for your drink, he always engages you and manages to recall little tid bits from previous conversations.

In the two years I have made my trek to this particular establishment, I honestly can not recall a single day that Josh has not had a smile on his face and a positive disposition. He works two jobs and long hours yet I have never heard him complain – not once. So I get a lesson each day I walk in there that you can make a positive difference in another person’s day just by being nice and in a positive mood. I think I have also learned, as Abe Lincoln once said, you can be as happy or sad as you make your mind up to be. I guess I get more than coffee to start my day!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

FIRE Act; Time to Cut and Run?

After reading Mike Ward’s latest blog and an article that he highlighted (, the little guy in my head got busy.

First of all, I am one of those who have felt strongly that fire departments should be a local issue. I have never held that local fire departments should be subsidized by the federal government because as we have seen with the “stimulus” money, the money comes with strings attached.

But, like so many others, I feel that, if my tax dollars are going to pay for someone else’s fire department, then I might as well be one of those other fire departments.

When FIRE Act first hit the scene in 2001, I honestly thought that our most destitute departments would be getting money.

Then, when I read down the names of successful fire departments, it read like a “who’s who”. Many names did not strike me as “destitute”.

I inquired and was told that it was a “competitive” grant. Oh, so if I can find the winning combination of data and blah-blah, I could ‘win’ a grant?

So far, we have only been successful in 2007. The funny thing is that we were awarded a grant for (12) SCBAs. Last year, we applied for the air compressor to fill them and were rejected. It doesn’t make any sense, but I digress.

Again, though I feel that funding should be a local issue, I have to take exception to Muhlhausen’s reasoning for discontinuing the program.

It is his contention that the program be ended because it has not reduced civilian and firefighter injuries or deaths. That isn’t exactly true and it would depend on whose data you use.
I found a study at the FEMA website that captures this information. NFPA and NIOSH are slightly different with their totals.

Muhlhausen might have a valid point were it not for the fact that heart attacks have been and continues to be the #1 killer of firefighters. From 2001 – 2007, heart attacks accounted for 48% of all firefighter fatalities.

Let’s compare 2001-the first year of the Act-to 2007.

In 2001, there were 1,734,500 fires; 3,745 civilian deaths; 20,300 civilian injuries; $10.5 billion in property losses; 105 firefighter deaths and 41,395 firefighter injuries. Note that 2001 doesn’t reflect the events of the 9/11 attacks.

In 2007, there were 1,557,500 fires; 3,430 civilian deaths; 17,675 civilian injuries; $14.6 billion in property losses; 118 firefighter deaths and 38,340 firefighter injuries.

If you average the years (2001 – 2006), you would see that: prior to 2007, we averaged 1,633,583 fires; 3,645 civilian deaths; 18,175 civilian injuries; $10.8 billion in property losses; 110 firefighter deaths and 40,057 firefighter injuries.

In 2007, by category, there was a 5% decrease in the number of fires; 6% decrease in civilian deaths; 3% decrease in civilian injuries; 26% increase in property losses; 7% increase in firefighter deaths and 4% decrease in firefighter injuries.

So, Muhlhausen’s conclusion that the FIRE Act program has not reduced fire casualties is not accurate and is not consistent with the program’s original, stated purpose.

In addition, Muhlhausen’s conclusion that the FIRE Act program is ineffective is flawed, because, clearly, he hasn’t spoken to the departments who have gotten the grant.

Though I don’t believe that the program is ineffective, it is certainly somewhat frustrating because you are not provided with an explanation as to why your grant application was denied. Were we to know that, it would enhance our chances of writing a more compelling grant and improve our chances of being successful.

What is clear after you read Muhlhausen’s article is that you cannot rest a decision to discontinue the program upon numbers alone.

How is it that you can look at FIRE Act and see the difference that it has made to local fire departments and believe that the money given to banks, insurance companies and car companies will make them more “effective”?

Don’t be ridiculous!



The article as submitted is published under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and is the intellectual property of Art Goodrich a.k.a. xchief22 and ChiefReason. It is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-printed in any form without expressed permission from the author. You may read other works by the author at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Close Call Caught on Video During Operations

Collapse caught on video during fire operations

Teen Hates Firemen and Cops Arrested

In the What the heck category...
A 16-year-old Garden City teen was arrested for obstructing a Garden City Fire rescue and police officers at an accident scene June 29.

According to a police report, the fire rescue was on route in response for a call for service at 28451 Ford to assist a 14-year-old bicyclist who was struck by a truck. While trying to enter the driveway near a Speedway station, with the 16-year-old boy deliberately walked slowly across the driveway with exaggerated slow movements in order to amuse a group of youths nearby who had stepped aside to allow the emergency vehicles to pass.

Once the teen passed, a firefighter asked him why he hadn't moved aside. The teen responded with a swear word which was heard by the police officer. The teen was arrested, processed and his mother was called.

He refused to give his full name and said that he hates firemen and cops, according to the report...READ ALL

Friday, July 3, 2009

Buildings under Construction: Risk and Operations

It’s been a busy week for a couple of departments nationally with major fires at buildings under construction. A multiple alarm fire struck a 5 –story Apartment Complex in Renton, Washington that occupies nearly a full city block on Tuesday June 30th, HERE and HERE for details.

On Monday June 29th, a spectacular multiple alarm fire destroyed approximately 55 townhouses that were under construction in Mississauga, Ontario Canada. HERE and HERE for details.

Buildings under construction and related construction sites pose unique strategic and tactical operational profiles and are considered high risk incidents to both manage and operate at. Firefighters are at a significant higher risk for injury or death while operating at incident scenes, as is the potential for rapidly escalating multiple alarm needs.

What were the operational and safety issues you may have encountered at similar events in your own jurisdiction? How effective were the operations? What could have been improved? Do your companies conduct periodic inspections and pre-fire planning of construction sites, complexes and developments? If not, Why? See these issues HERE and HERE

Check out the Ten Minutes in the Street: Buildings under Construction-Fire Scenario posted, HERE

More Detailed insights on; Operational Safety at Construction Sites, HERE

Remembrance Two LODD events and the Lessons Learned

As we approach the July 4th holiday period, two significant LODD incidents previously occurred during this time frame that hold a number of lessons learned related to command management, operations, building construction principles and building performance, fire behavior and the ever present dangers of the job.

Take the opportunity to learn more about these events, and expand your insights and knowledge base. Take a moment to reflect upon the supreme sacrifice made by these heroic firefighters and the messages that lay within the pages of the incident case studies, reports and summaries.

Check out these incident summaries HERE

There’s a lot of practical safety and operational information on these events along with a tremendous volume of information in the various text books on strategy and tactics, incident command and building construction. Learn from the past so we don’t repeat it. Remember- NO MORE HISTORY REPEATING EVENTS!

The Hackensack Ford Fire & Collapse occurred nearly ten years AFTER another tragic LODD event involving a bowstring truss roof collapse; the August 2nd, 1978 FDNY Waldbaum’s Fire, Brooklyn, New York that took the lives of six FDNY firefighters.

Street Smarts for Safety and Survival…………Stay safe.
Additional Relevant Safety considerations, HERE and HERE

New Haven/New Hope

I enjoy stories with a happy ending. I like it when the good guys win and send the bad guys into retreat, to jail or to their graves. It panders to our most basic, human emotions.

On the flip side, I like suspense. I am riveted to the screen to see if the killer is under the bed, behind the curtain, in the closet or in the next room. Will the killer get his chance or will the babysitter be distracted, slip from his grip or die at his hands?

In every movie as in our lives, we live out a certain “justice” every day. We may get what we deserve, we may get a second chance, we might be judged for what we did or spend our time building our case to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were righteous, honest and beyond reproach.

We will cultivate an existence with lessons learned, peer pressure, the rule of law and tempered with common sense and common decency; where hard work is rewarded and cheaters are caught and exposed.

Color will be discussed when selecting a sofa, car or paint for the house. It will have no basis for determining our place in Society. Color will not be used for inclusion or exclusion. It will be a de facto non-factor. It will not bring advantage or disadvantage. It will be somewhere in a broad spectrum of human kind that is populated by uniquely different cultures.

I followed the case of the New Haven, Connecticut firefighters who filed a lawsuit after the promotion test that they took was thrown out because the city feared lawsuits by African-American firefighters. Apparently, the city failed to gauge the repercussions from those who passed the exam.
Continue Reading New Haven/New Hope

To make matters worse, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the city’s right to throw out the test results because it did not meet certain diversity goals, so Frank Ricci and the other firefighters who passed filed an appeal. Based on the court’s reasoning, it was obvious even to novices that it stood a good chance of being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and it was.

It took five and a half years and who knows how much money for a reasonable decision to be made. Diversity should never be the sole reason to deny or to achieve promotion. If the playing field is level and the testing is non-biased, then the results should be used when deciding the best candidates for promotion. If it isn’t, then so many issues come to bear; most notably whether or not the person can lead. A written test by itself should not be the only factor, but a written test should set a base line and from there other testing tools should be used to complete the promotions process.

In Tuesday’s USA Today, there was an editorial that discussed the paper’s point of view ( and an opposing view offered by Michael Rosman ( .

I don’t have a particular problem with “assessment centers”, as long as everyone is given the same information and are required to do the same evolutions. I am for whatever places the best candidates at the top of the list and is not manipulated to give any, one group an advantage or disadvantage. I want the promotions process to discriminate, but only where it is between the qualified and the unqualified. I am for the candidate that can demonstrate solid leadership skills and has the loyalty and respect of their firefighters.

It is time that we stop considering the “what ifs” of equal opportunity and realize that fairness should be a part of that process. It is not fair to an ethnic group that they are denied equal opportunity because of skin color – whites included. It is unfair to the community to place men and women into positions where their skills were compromised to meet equal opportunity. It is unfair to the firefighters if their leaders are not the best and brightest because a certain percentage or ratios had to be met under “equal” opportunity language.

Bad things can happen when our people are not qualified; be it firefighter or officer. Lives are at stake and there is no room for mediocrity. If the fire service is indeed a “para-military” organization, then we must recognize that only the smartest and the strongest are going to lead.

I will close with Justice Potter Stewart’s views on race discrimination as he applied it to Minnick vs. California Department of Corrections (Bold for emphasis):

JUSTICE STEWART, dissenting.
I would not dismiss the writ of certiorari. I would, to the contrary, reverse the judgment before us because the California Court of Appeal has wrongly held that the State may consider a person's race in making promotion decisions. [
Footnote 2/1]
So far as the Constitution goes, a private person may engage in any racial discrimination he wants, cf. Steelworkers v. Weber,
443 U. S. 193, but, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a sovereign State may never do so. [Footnote 2/2] And it is wholly irrelevant whether the State gives a "plus" or "minus" value to a person's race, whether the discrimination occurs in a decision to hire or fire or promote, or whether the discrimination is called "affirmative action" or by some less euphemistic term. [Footnote 2/3]
A year ago, I stated my understanding of the Constitution in this respect, and I repeat now a little of what I said then:
"The equal protection standard of the Constitution has one clear and central meaning -- it absolutely prohibits invidious discrimination by government. That standard must be met by every State under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. . . ."
"* * * *"
"Under our Constitution, the government may never act to the detriment of a person solely because of that person's race. The color of a person's skin and the country
Page 452 U. S. 129
of his origin are immutable facts that bear no relation to ability, disadvantage, moral culpability, or any other characteristics of constitutionally permissible interest to government. . . . In short, racial discrimination is, by definition, invidious discrimination."
"The rule cannot be any different when the persons injured . . . are not members of a racial minority. . . ."
"* * * *"
". . . Most importantly, by making race a relevant criterion, . . . the Government implicitly teaches the public that the apportionment of rewards and penalties can legitimately be made according to race -- rather than according to merit or ability -- and that people can, and perhaps should, view themselves and others in terms of their racial characteristics. . . ."
"There are those who think that we need a new Constitution, and their views may someday prevail. But under the Constitution we have, one practice in which government may never engage is the practice of racism. . . ."
Fullilove v. Klutznick,
448 U. S. 448, 448 U. S. 523, 448 U. S. 525-526, 448 U. S. 532 (dissenting opinion) (footnote omitted) .
I respectfully dissent.


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Mutual Dependence on Independence Day

I got up early today thinking about Independence Day and what it means to Americans. I posted these thoughts at All Hazards Contemplations while the house was still quiet.

Independence Day - July 4 - is a uniquely American holiday. Many of us treat it like just another summer holiday - a barbecue, swimming or boating, relaxing with friends, and concluding with an evening of fireworks. This year, I ask you to take a few minutes to do something a little different. The American Revolution was the brain child of a few people who resolved to risk their businesses, their fortunes, and their very lives to gain independence from Great Britain. After a war that destroyed lives and property, they achieved their aim. How did they achieve independence? They achieved it by working and fighting - together - to overcome a common enemy. They were not willing to give up, to back down, or to compromise on the essentials of what they believed to be right.

When he said "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately", Benjamin Franklin understood the dichotomy that in order for America to become independent, the people fighting for that independence had to be mutually dependent by "hanging together". Benjamin Franklin was a firefighter, and he understood the community's mutual dependence upon the fire department as the protector of lives, property, and commerce, too.

Patrick Henry, another early American patriot, advised constant vigilance when being faced with the loss of freedom and mutual happiness and prosperity. He also understood the value of being able to jointly determine our common fate. His comment..."The battle, Sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, Sir, we have no election."

In 2009, the American Fire-Rescue and EMS services are under attack, in a different way from how our country was in 1776, but under attack no less. We are under attack from the global economy that steals revenue from our cities and counties. We are under attack from increasing call volumes while under pressure to reduce staffinug and to make that old apparatus last "just one more year". We are under attack from citizens that want us to be there in their hour of need, but who don't understand the realities of making the services available in a rapid and safe manner. Our funding is under attack from politicians and administrators that see the economic meltdown as a way to permenently reduce the costs of providing fire, rescue, and EMS services.
So, how do we "hang together" to overcome these problems?

An example is the Boston firefighters who - on their own time - staffed firehouses that would have otherwise been browned out. Columbia and Irmo, SC firefighters recently worked together to fight a house fire near both city's boundaries. Sylvania Township, OH firefighters set up a live burn for some of their elected officials - officials that had previously opposed a 1.5 mil fire tax increase. My department jointly operates three special teams (Hazmat, COBRA/WMD, and USAR) with our good friends from Bluffton Township Fire & Rescue. These are just a few examples of creative ways to work together to maintain and improve Fire/Rescue and EMS services when we can no longer just throw money at every problem.

Like it or not, we're mutually dependent on our neighboring Fire/Rescue and EMS departments, our elected officials, and our public administrators. We need to foster creative ways to use that mutual dependence to our mutual benefit. If you don't like running mutual aid or automatic aid with a neighboring department, get together, work out the problems, and start helping each other. If your services are being cut due to the economy, do your homework, get the facts, and enlist community support to help minimize the cuts. If you are at odds with your public administrators and/or elected officials, invite them to participate in a live burn, extrication demonstration, or a CPR class to find out just how physically demanding our jobs really are...and why it takes that expensive manpower to do the job safely.

Once you determine the best way to foster the mutual dependence with the other stakeholders, follow Benjamin Franklin's advice and "Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve."

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. Remember the people who fought to make it so, and in the words of our most famous early firefighter "Where liberty dwells, there is my country." Let's foster our mutual dependence to provide the people whom we serve Liberty - Liberty from fire, entrapment, and the loss of loved ones and livelihood. Pointing out our mutual dependence can go a long way toward improving bad relationships. Remember Great Britain, our enemy in 1776 and again in 1812? They're now our closest ally, sharing mutual dependence.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

As If Brown Outs Were Not Enough!

During one of the most difficult financial times in our countries history, our beloved fire service is potentially getting ready to take another financial hit. As many of you know by now, The Heritage Foundation has recently published an “opinion” that urges CONGRESS TO ELIMINATE THE FIRE ACT GRANT/SAFER PROGRAMS.

As Mike McEvoy of this Blog has previously stated, we better come together and give some quick thought as to how the grant outcomes should really be measured. Of course this is an old fire service, and especially prevention and public education, issue in that how do we substantiate and document outcomes as it relates to the fire that never happened? The lives saved because we corrected a code violation or someone went home and corrected some unsafe behavior that could have led to a fire or injury?

It is tough but we better figure this one out and quick!

I want to make all of you aware of two great thoughts on the topic by two really smart fire service leaders: Billy Goldfeder and Harry Carter.

Kill ALL Fire Grants, Assume The Position, Staffing/Layoffs (The Secret List)

The Missionary Position
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