Saturday, July 31, 2010


BURN is a documentary about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are on the front lines charged with the thankless task of saving a city — and an American Dream — that many have written off as dead. Watch the attached 10-minute trailer. Please SHARE, ASK QUESTIONS, DONATE so they can start production on the film as soon as possible. Take the time to watch the video trailer… will speak for itself.

BURN Trailer from Tremolo Productions on Vimeo.

Check out the web site, HERE BURN Trailer from Tremolo Productions on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's Real Simple...BUCKLE UP

If you've been paying attention to the fire service news wires over the past few weeks you should have noticed an unsettling emerging trend materializing in the form of firefighter line of duty deaths related to apparatus and POV accidents and the lack of seat belt use. If you're in any position of authority it is YOUR responsibility to ensure all your personnel on an apparatus are belted in, including yourself; before you roll out of quarters. If you're operating a POV and responding to the station or scene or operating an authorized emergency response unit solo; it is YOUR responsibility to belt yourself in AND use prudent speed and operations of the vehicle in your response-Slow Down. It's a real simple issue; Buckle up and slow down; it's that simple its that direct- and it's in YOUR hands.....

Take a look at the most recent tragic events in the double Line of Duty Deaths (LODD) in Rocky Mount (Franklin County) Virginia. HERE

Some videos and reminders about the National Seat Belt Pledge on HERE

Paul Combs

Franklin News-Post photo

Kids Are Like Cats; Mayors Are Like Zombies!


What was that? Did anyone else hear that?


Hmmm. It sounds like it’s getting closer. It sounds like someone is saying ‘change’.


WOW; did you see that? They looked like…I thought…THEY ARE…THEY’RE…



They could be your mayor and city council.

More on that later, but first; a zombie, teachable moment!

It has been suggested that the zombie virus called “Zombititus” was unleashed upon the world when archeologists and/or thieves disturbed the mummies in the ancient tombs of Egypt.

In these first encounters with infected tombs, a long dormant disease was contracted by these early adventurers and passed on through the years from being bitten by someone with the virus or by getting zombie blood into the bloodstream, probably through an open wound or mucous membrane (let’s say ‘mouth’ to avoid any unpleasant, mental pictures).

Symptoms can be very obvious or very innocuous. For instance:

If you are bitten, the wound site will turn black. To avoid detection, I would recommend covering it with a really cool tattoo or wear clothing that will cover it up.

Many zombies may look “normal” and actually do uncomplicated tasks like running for public office as a mayor or city council member, as an example.

Once bitten, you will start feeling delusional and unaware of what is going on. That’s almost a pre-requisite for politics right there!

Then, you will have difficulty performing even the easiest tasks. Bodily functions will decelerate as the mind deteriorates. You will no longer feel pain. I think we’re on to something here.

You “die”, but come back to walk the Earth as the living dead or undead.

You have just entered the political arena where the zombies want to suck out your brains, in order to live and to give life to new zombies. Get ready for that very cool tattoo!

Unbeknownst to you, you are going to attend a city council meeting, which, in fact is a zombie, coming-out party. You are on the guest list. You also happen to be the fire chief awaiting your turn to discuss your budget.

As I sit there, I struggle to hear what is being said.

‘Perhaps you could move closer to the microphone?’

Wait; did that guy’s arm just fall off? I have to cut back on the caffeine.

Finally, the mayor is pointing at me and mumbling something that I can’t understand.

As I go to the podium with notes in hand, I notice that they are all looking at me, mumbling amongst themselves, looking at me, more mumbling-wait; did I just hear something about ‘brains’? Are they insulting me?

As I start my kick-ass, budget presentation, I can sense that the mayor and city council are distracted by what seems to be a smell/odor, because they are sniffing and mumbling.

This portion of the blog is brought to you by Vasoline Intensive Skin Care Lotion…

As I lay out my plans, which calls for closing one station and shifting manpower to the other stations; invoke pay freezes for non-union, administrative positions and an increase in contributions to the health insurance, it appears that I have upset them.

They move closer and closer.

Now; they are standing around me and I notice a dead, fleshy smell.

This portion of the blog is brought to you by Old Spice Body Splash…

They lean in and bite. They got me!

A couple of days pass, my transformation as a zombie is complete and I return home.

The wife immediately and incessantly starts in on me about the long, city council meeting, the drinking afterwards and the ‘you need to take better care of yourself’ crap. Interpretation: you’d better start paying more attention to her or you’re going to get a ball bat taken to your melon.

She couldn’t help but to notice my blank stare; the ‘dead’ eyes, disheveled hair and clothes; the pale, white skin and that almost black-looking wound on the back of my skull (Hit the shelf in the garage again, ya drunk bahstid?)

Well; I’ve had enough of her!

I growl, grab her and just when she thinks I’m about to get lusty and passionate, I bite her in the middle of the forehead.

‘I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Zombie!’

This portion of the blog is brought to you by Zale Jewelers and their ‘Zombies On Fire’ diamond collection…

Now, re-energized; I stagger to my chief’s car, fumble to start it, back out of the driveway and over the neighbor kids’ bicycle (‘It shouldn’t have been there!’)

Neighbor: ‘It was on the porch!’

Down the sidewalk I go on my way to the fire station.

This portion of the blog is brought to you by Hummer with the new, Zombie Deflecta-Shield…

I finally get my cell phone out of its holster to call the battalion chiefs. My hands-free, voice activation feature doesn’t recognize the name that I am mumbling. Frustrated, I use the key pad…1…1…1…1 as I drive through the plaza (literally), I fling the phone out the window, along with my left hand.

Well, I get to the station for the meeting with my top dogs about the budget cuts. Speaking of dogs; as I get out of the car, a dog scurries by with what appears to be a hand-shaped chew toy in its mouth.

I growl. A battalion chief hears me and comments that I haven’t had my usual gallon of coffee. I move towards him, but I’m too slow; he’s been drinking Starbucks with quad shots.

This portion of the blog is brought to you by Starbucks featuring the new low fat, skinny, gluten-free Zombie Combie. Order a Venti Black Eye and get a piece of goat cheese cake free…

As the other battalion chiefs come over to me, they are discussing my ‘appearance’.

‘There’s something different…’

‘You OK, Chief?’

I growl.

They call over the Paramedics. They chalk it up to the ‘hangover that always follows a city council meeting’.

An old jake sees the commotion, comes over and asks, ‘What’s the hub-bub?’

The assembled group says, ‘It’s the chief. He ain’t right!’

The old jake says, ‘That’s why he’s chief!’ (Rim shot)

A dog runs by the apparatus bay door and the jake exclaims, ‘Check his hands!’


‘Just do it. Is he missing a hand?’ asks the jake.


‘Chief’s a frickin’ Zombie’, says the jake.

‘How do you know that?’

‘Because, I’m a TRUCKIE!

So true!

‘And I’ll tell you this: his chosen profession isn’t going to sit well with his Zombititus, because Zombies are scared to death of fire. It’s pretty much a career killer. He’ll want to go defensive on every fire. Guys will think that he’s gone ‘safety soft’. Don’t be a Safety Zombie, blah, blah, blah…

But, how did this happen?

‘Simple; the mayor got to him. There is no cure and it’s irreversible. A Zombie lives, unless he loses his head or his brains are completely sucked out.’ (Insert own joke here)

‘Grab him and hold him down. I’ll go and get the ax’, says the truckie.

I am struggling and mumbling and growling and trying to get away from their tight grip.

“Chief; you must have dozed off. We are ready for your budget report. I hope that you have made the necessary cuts per our discussions”, says the mayor.

And Chief is thinking, “Bunch of brain-sucking zombies!”

Now; if you were keeping track at home, you will notice many similarities between zombies and city councils. Let’s re-cap.

Zombies and mayor/councils are similar because they: (1) Are numb to all pain; (2) Normally, zombies do not respond to people; (3) Have no memory; (4) Are delusional or are unaware of what goes on around them; (5) Cannot perform simple tasks; (6) The mind completely deteriorates; (7) Have zero intelligence; (8) Have no eye/hand coordination; (9) Have no emotion and (10) Have no reasoning skills whatsoever.

I think you get the picture, but before you turn out the lights and go to bed, remember; Zombititus is REAL!

Which reminds me; when is the next city council meeting?

Sleep tight; don’t let the zombies bite!


This article is protected by federal copyright laws under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It cannot be re-produced in any form without the expressed, written permission of the article’s author, ChiefReason; otherwise known as Art Goodrich.
Please visit and my blog at

Saturday, July 24, 2010

3*4*3 Reports; Are these on Your Radar Screen?

I recently posted an article on that addressed a series of Major Influencing Fire Service Reports, Issues and Focus areas that should be on your radar screen. This was also the theme at the premiere of Taking it to the Streets on Fire Fighter . As an emerging, practicing or upward mobile fire officer, commander or leader; those are but a few key ares that you must be knowledgeable in, have insights and proficiency based technical skills to function with a level of competencies demanded of, in today’s fire service.

After a recent training program, we discussed in a smaller group setting common, contributing and apparent casues related to three prominent fire incidents and reports that were shared both within the lecture program and also within the CS post. Based upon that dialog, the dynamic and passionate discussion and the frank, straight forward opinions I’m suggesting you take the time; three hours to read three reports and focus on the lesson learned, the gaps that were identified and the recommendations AND actions that were implemented to limit, if not eliminate the likley hood that a similar event could happen in that organization.

The continuing challenge is not allowing the circumstances and situations that were present at those events, cause you and your organization to have a History Repeating Event (HRE).

Set aside three hours for three reports (three for three); invest the time appropriately and focus your undivided attention. Think about those firefighters who answered that call, in the same manner and fashion as all of us do, when we board the apparatus and the company rolls out of quarters on the way to the alarm. The only difference…..they didn’t come home- you did. Learn, understand, comprehend, relate and apply.

Then take the time to share your insights with those within your inner circle and start recognizing that there’s likely something that you can go in your house or station, or organization that honors the sacarafices made by those LODD events your read about, so those lessons can be moved forward to make the job, a little bit safer.

For the complete listing of three report narratives, follow the link HERE
For the complete article; "What's on YOUR Radar Screen?", HERE

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Set the Cultural Tone

If you have been around the fire service any length of time I imagine you have heard that "culture starts at the top." I can imagine that you are tired of hearing that especially if you are at the top. However, creating or setting the tone for an organization's culture is the duty that comes with being in an influential position, not just at the top. As we are aware there are many people who are influential thought the organization and at all levels.

So why does culture matter anyway? To begin with, certain cultures attract certain types of people. We need to recruit and keep the people we want and need. Outstanding fire departments need to have outstanding personnel and the tone of an organization plays a significant role in who comes on board and who rises through the ranks. The cultural tone additionally contributes to how the organization functions and operations are handled. This tone influences individuals approach to problem solving, how they interact with others, the levels of motivation, innovation and creativity, loyalty, trust, risks, fun factors and the list goes on but I think you can see the big picture.

So let's take just a few moments and have you do an intra inspection of your organization starting first with you.
-Are you influencing the culture positively?
-Are influential people influencing positively?
-Do you have the right people on board?
-Is the organization's cultural positive or negative?

Cultural can be changed. It is much easier to become a negative culture than a positive one in a short period of time. Just a quick note here, the cultural of your organization will impact everything you do. So let's look at it this way, it may impact your life.

Duty and responsibility - Make EVERY DAY a TRAINING DAY… So that…

Monday, July 19, 2010

Belt It Out: WEAR IT!

Mourn the death of yet another young volunteer firefighter.

Extend your condolences to his family, friends and fire department.

Read the story about his last few minutes on this Earth (

Then read the rather spirited discussion surrounding the details of his death (

And when you are through with all of that, I want you to get upset and downright angry because; FIVE years after the nation’s fire departments were asked to take the seatbelt pledge by then Acting United States Fire Administrator Charlie Dickinson, firefighters are still dying from not wearing them.

From apparatus crashes to accidents in personally-owned vehicles (POVs) while enroot, the message is getting missed and it’s another missed opportunity to educate our firefighters on one of the most basic firefighter safety principles-the wearing of seat belts.

The National Seat Belt Pledge is very straight forward and states: “I pledge to wear my seat belt whenever I am riding in fire department vehicles or any moving vehicle. I further pledge to ensure that all firefighters riding with me wear their seat belts”.

How many times have we responded to a motor vehicle accident (MVA) and found life-less victims lying outside of the vehicle and on the ground, knowing full well that seat belts may have made a difference?

I responded to a call some years ago and found all FIVE family members ejected from their sport utility vehicle (SUV). Three of the five didn’t survive.

How can we stand in front of our citizens as public safety champions if we aren’t willing to practice what we preach?

We love going to school assemblies and “scaring” young adults into following safe practices; yet, we don’t do as we say? Hypocrisy comes to mind.

It’s not heroic to die imitating a human cannonball. It is senseless, because it is easily preventable.

There is no excuse-none, zip, nada; for not wearing your seat belt.

Don’t give me that crap about it won’t go around you with your gear on. They make seat belts to fit those of you who are “big boned”.

Dr. Burton Clark wrote a very good article after Firefighter Joe Torkos died from being ejected during an apparatus accident. He said: “…we cannot point a finger at anyone; we cannot put the blame on someone else or something else; so there are no headlines. Not using seat belts is our own fault; we have no excuses; we are the flaw”.

However; a quick Internet search on this subject will find a couple of interesting trends: (1) Families are suing fire departments for not enforcing their seat belt policy and (2) Officers are being criminally charged for not ensuring that their crew was seat belted at the time of their accident. Neither will bring back the deceased firefighter(s), but I think that it points to a growing frustration over not following a very basic safety principle.

So, what is your excuse?

Do you need to see a seat belt policy?

Here is one suggested by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). It reads: “All personnel must be seated and belted whenever the vehicle (either department or personal) is in motion for department business. The driver and/or officer shall ensure by voice and personnel reply that seat belts are properly fastened. The driver will only proceed when it can be confirmed that all members are seated and belted. The only exception to the use of seat belts while a vehicle is in motion is a situation where a person is providing direct patient care (EMS) and there is no reasonable restraint system available. Utilize a progressive disciplinary system holding the violator and the supervisor responsible to ensure compliance with the seat belt policy, reflecting the serious and potential life-threatening consequences of failure to comply”.

Now that you have a policy…



The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit: and my blog

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Why would any member of a fire department want to leave the department as other than a member in good standing?

Why would you want to leave all of your good work for a group that you once held so close to your heart to a letter from the department severing the relationship?

Do we stay on until we get upset enough and mad enough to quit?

Do we continue to believe that we are a teenager in the body of a 50-Something as we chalk up yet another injury?

Have we reached a juncture where we talk a litany of accomplishments over the years, but haven’t attended a training session in over a year?

Are we “turning it over to the young guys”, but not to the extent that they can tell you anything?

Are you less helpful, but more critical?

Do you find yourself talking about all the calls that you used to go on as you make fewer and fewer calls; the ones that you now cherry pick?

Do you think that you have earned special treatment, purchased with your years of service and are upset because you must follow the guidelines like everyone else?

Do you believe that your officer’s rank is a life-long appointment and that leadership is what the chief does?

Why does reality only set in after you have let your passion, skills, attendance and fire department relationships erode and then overshadows your time served?

What prevents us from planning our time with the department to the eventuality that we allow for participation through another avenue that is every bit as pivotal to the successes of the fire department?

Instead; we “force the hand” of our once-called/so-called “brothers” to push us over and then OUT. Where it could have been a happy and memorable moment, populated by platitudes, testimonials and well-deserved recognition, it has developed into a sour source of bitterness and bad feelings.

Could there be this confusion over the notion that to remain on a fire department, we must be a “member in good standing” and it has nothing to do with getting off of the department? In other words; the priority of membership and being in good standing does not apply to “non-members” or “former members” apparently.

Is it important that we cut the chord as a firefighter WITH firefighters to eliminate any lingering effects; sort of an “all or nothing” assault on our sensibilities?

Cut it clean/cut it quick; right?

We think that we don’t want to “just hang around” the fire station, even though that is exactly what we have been doing for the last ten years, along with missing meetings, training, fundraisers, open houses, equipment checks and parades.

When you belong to a fire department, you are part of a group that is driven by teamwork.

It is an organization that is structured.

It is a culture that breathes rarified air.

Unfortunately; you can only stay as long as you contribute. That doesn’t only mean the physical stuff. There is plenty of other work to do besides riding the truck.

You do it within a framework and under the terms of your by-laws and SOGs.

But, you can leave on your own terms and with your head held high.

It doesn’t have to be with middle finger extended!


This article is protected by federal copyright laws under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It cannot be re-produced in any form without the expressed and written permission of the author, Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason.

Please visit and my blog at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

From My Observation Point

He is the trusted partner in the enterprise.

He must gather the intel that will allow for the successful execution of the plan.

He is consulted in the selection, purchase and use of the right equipment.

He must develop; then refine the information that is inserted into the tactics used to dispatch the obstacles that lie before them.

He must diplomatically guide his enterprise to attain the goals that are set each year.

He must make sure that schedules are kept and milestones are achieved.

Every piece of equipment must be properly maintained, repaired or replaced. Each piece has a purpose and must work to plan every time that the plan is executed. Or you could simply be the “water boy” or “towel boy”. It doesn’t matter!

He must never violate the confidence and trust that has been put upon him.

He must work hard, but be transparent when the situation calls for it.

He must make certain that everyone gets to Point A; then Point B and so on.

And if he is asked for his honest opinion, he will give it, even if it isn’t what wants to be heard.

As a part of the team, he may have to do his share of “heavy lifting”.

He does it, knowing that his role is most important, but is the least recognized; at least to those outside of the team.

He lives for the moments when his advice is asked, is taken and the outcome is successful.

A “high five” is all he needs to continue on.

He feels the same pain when there is failure. The low is at the exact same, emotional level, but at the opposite end of the spectrum.

He watches from the side and out of the way.

He stands in awe as the crowd recognizes an extraordinary effort.

He must balance his consolation and adulation, so as not to confuse it with accepting failure and apply tough love on a case-by-case basis.

And though he runs in a circle populated by gifted people, he doesn’t think that of himself.

Yeah; as I watched the John Deere Golf Classic at Deere Run over the weekend, I thought a lot about the caddies and how similar they are to fire district trustees!


The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit: and my blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What are you going to do with the “Dash?”

Two dates and a dash in the middle…that equates to your day of birth, your life and your day of death. The middle component is symbolized by a dash (-). So what does that dash mean? Well let’s be honest it divides the dates on the grave stone and it is symbolic of your time alive. I heard this as the opening of a church service recently and it hit me like a ton of bricks of just how this symbolizes our time in the fire service especially the portion you are serving as a fire officer.

As a fire officer I am going to challenge each individual who reads this article to live and work the fire service as if you only had one month to live. Recently I was conversing with a good friend in the fire service, Deputy Chief Jeff Pindelski of Downers Grove, Illinois, and we both said it at the same time it is obvious that firefighters and fire officers have lost the passion for the fire service. This concerns me considerably as I have a good ways to go to retire and I am going to see the effects of what this loss will cause. In the 16 Life Safety Initiatives, the first initiative states that we need to define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety, incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility. I believe that this loss of passion is the root of the problem. Bottom line if you don’t really give a Damn then there is no passion and no passion leads to lack of leadership, management, supervision and responsibility as an officer. As we see this the way to make this change is that officers should live and perform each day passionately in an effort to change or make the fire service better. So why does this not happen? It is just too easy to sit back and ride the wave and keep the status quo. Well those folks will never leave a thumb print on the organization that way.
This lake of passion will not let you leave a positive mark on the fire service. We see each year over 100 line of duty deaths. We are presented the causes through, the Near Miss Reporting System and NIOSH reports. My question is why do we keep doing the same things over and over expecting to get different results? My answer is that firefighters and fire officers don’t have the passion to make change. Let’s face it; they obviously don’t love the fire service. I was sitting in a restaurant having lunch on day when an elderly couple comes in. It is obvious that the gentleman was in much better physical condition and health than his wife. But she was meticulously dressed and made up. As she shuffled along slowly the gentleman stood by her side and helped her. They finally made it to the counter, ordered their meal and he proceeded to help her to the table to sit down. All along she shuffled along slowly. This fine gentleman never got hurried or frustrated with her. As she sat down in a booth he had to gently push her over as she was not able to scoot herself. He went back to the counter got the food and brought it to the table. He sat down fixed her food for her, took her hands and prayed. After finishing the prayer the gentleman began to feed her. In seeing this was passion for his wife and true demonstration of love that he had for her. Ok my fellow officers just how many of you have that passionate level of love for the fire service. I would guess not many as I hear frequently what can the department do for me not what I can do for the department.
It is obvious that Ken Farmer in one of his recent Barnyard Management article series hit it on the head…we have got a lot of Kudzu. “For those of you not in the south Kudzu is a climbing, woody vine that is capable of reaching up to 100 feet in trees but scrambles over almost any lower vegetation. It has large green leaves. The scientists say it will grow up to 60 feet in a season and as much as 30 stems from a single root. It was originally brought from Japan to the US in 1876 to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition as a forage and ornamental plant. Somehow it escaped from a secure greenhouse in Philly and was spread throughout the south by several northern terrorists while on vacation in the south. (Well, if you believe that story…..)
It was actually promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service 1935 to the 1950’s to reduce soil erosion in the South. It worked to hold the soil in gullies and in areas where land was clear cut. Farmers were even paid $8.00 an acre to grow it and more than 1.2 million acres were planted with funds from the government.
After it became difficult to clear and stop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared it a weed in early 1953. To even further soil (or sully) its reputation, in 1998 it was declared by Congress as a Federal Noxious Weed. The good news is that no one in the South heard about that law being passed!
So, with such a rich history and so much a part of southern tradition and lore, why do we still make fun of kudzu? Well, that is very easy to answer. Kudzu is a sneaky pest that will cover everything before you can turn around and stop it! On a farm its one of those things that happens before your eyes and you just don’t see it coming. It is almost impossible to kill. Scientists say it takes 20 years to kill it off! We would try almost anything from pesticides to trying to make the cows eat it (the cows graciously refused!) to burning it off. Of course, none of this was successful. So you always kept a sharp eye on it all the time and tried to cut it back every chance you got.
So do you have any kudzu vines in your department or business? You know the type I am speaking about! They sit over there in their office or maybe they work at another station or work site. You never think about them until you realize they have snuck over and covered everyone else with their negative thoughts and leaves. Then you have to get in there and hack away at the plant to try to stop its spread. The first thing you must do it get to the root, just like with kudzu. If you don’t take out the root, the pain (and the weed) will just start growing back the very next day.” Bottom line is we cannot let the poison in. It will spread like Kudzu.
Because we live in a "Me" first world – “I want it and I want it now” We as officers must make some BIG cultural changes. We must be patient and loving like the gentleman was to his wife. Showing passion about the people and the communities we serve. We have to make that dash between the two numbers truly mean something and leave a positive thumb print on the fire service. Officers should perform each day passionately in an effort to change the fire service for the better. Working tirelessly to make the fire service safer, firefighters better educated and our service delivery the best it can be since we have a monopoly on the business in our communities. Bottom line officers need to be just that officers, not coat tail riders.

I want to leave you with a few final thoughts…Who or what are you working for?
1. Other people’s approval?
2. For more toys?
3. For someone else?

Are you focusing on and working for the right reasons. Hey folks as firefighters and especially fire officers you have only one option if you are going to do it with passion…LEAD BODLY FROM THE FRONT. Because, you have two dates and a dash in the middle what are you going to do with the dash? What will folks say your dash means when you are gone?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taken Down By Traditional Media

Use of social media is at its saturation point.

From the tech-savvy teenager to the blue-haired baby boomers; texting, tweeting, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, Google, Ask, Mozilla, etc. have come to deliver our information with the velocity and power of a lightning bolt.

In the recent past, we have seen the so-called, social media experts expounding upon their hypotheses for communications of the future.

They are preparing the arrangements for the death of the print media-the “traditional” media, in my opinion.

No more newspaper or news magazines. If you want it in print, you will have to go to a website and print it off, but really; will it be the same? Hardly!

It used to be that, if there was important, breaking news, TV programming was interrupted with a news bulletin or a special edition of the newspaper would be printed and delivered.

And if you were reading it in print, it was already HOURS old.

But today; you can get it as it is happening-streaming, live video shot from helicopters and drones. Media people are imbedded with police, fire, EMS, military, politicians, religious cults, drug cartels, despot governments, porno industry, human traffickers-you name it!

All that you need is a camera phone and presto; you just went “viral” on YouTube. Hollywood, here I come!

There are endless websites with a full menu for whatever titillates you.

I grew up on Rolling Stone, National Lampoon and Mad magazines.

They were as far from “mainstream” as you could get. They were both counter-culture and pop culture.

In its early years, Rolling Stone was heavy on music and music personalities, mixed with some political activism that wasn’t so much anti-war as it was pro-peace.

National Lampoon magazine was a favorite of mine for its political satire which was simply outstanding.

Mad magazine was pure escapism and hilarious; pure nonsense, yet relevant.

From Hunter S. Thompson to Dotson Rader, Rolling Stone pioneered a more liberal interpretation of freedom of speech for us. They pushed the bounds, used expletives unabashedly but not obscenely and widened the scope through which many of us view our own activism to this day.

Rolling Stone was everything that Look, Life and the Saturday Evening Post magazines weren’t. It was like James Dean vs. Beaver Cleaver!

You could not view Rolling Stone in the same way as any other magazine. It was, in a word, “cool”…and relevant. If you weren’t reading it, you weren’t keeping up with what was happening, cool and hip. From shaping your musical tastes to the clothes that you wore to your political views, Rolling Stone was immensely influential.

When they changed their focus sometime in the 1990s to broaden their appeal to younger readers, I stopped reading it. I felt that they had deserted our cause. It was like losing an old friend. They just weren’t relevant to me anymore and the death of Hunter S. Thompson took part of its soul and killed any desire by me to return.

Then BAM! They brought down a four star general (

I mean; maybe they didn’t blow the lid off of Watergate or the Iran Contra affair, but their brutally honest and candid article on our top general in Afghanistan cost him his job!

But, when I say that the article that appeared in the Rolling Stone ( cost General McChrystal his job; that is not to blame the magazine…for the most part.

I want to believe that it wasn’t Jann Wenner’s (THE man at Rolling Stone) or Michael Hastings’ (the writer of the article) intent to take General McChrystal down, but when you have been around as long as Wenner and his Rolling Stone (1967), I have to think that Wenner had a smirk on his face as the July 8-22, 2010 issue went to press.

The July 8-22, 2010 edition wasn’t suppose to hit newsstands until Friday, June 25th, but the McChrystal article was already viral by Tuesday, June 22nd and by Wednesday, June 23rd, McChrystal was called to the White House, called on the carpet and stripped of his true calling for calling his boss, the President of the United States-and I am paraphrasing; uncomfortable, intimidated, uninformed, disengaged and a disappointment. Again, I am paraphrasing from a lengthy article that must be read in its entirety to get a real sense of it.

So, when I say that traditional media took down General McChrystal, you have to consider this:

In my opinion, the traditional relationship between the subject of the news story and news reporter builds from a synergy of comfort and confidence-of speaking freely; confident that the common sense of the interviewee will guide dialogue and the common sense of the interviewer will determine what goes or doesn’t go into the published article.

An added common sense safety valve is the editor-in-chief, whose very name and reputation rides on articles such as “The Runaway General”.

I have no doubt that McChrystal’s firing and subsequent retirement was yet another unintended consequence of our social media (See:, triggered by a traditional media interview.

Think about this: McChrystal was fired two days BEFORE the interview hit the newsstands!

Rolling Stone had already posted the story on the home page of their website by 10:00 am on Tuesday, June 22nd (

I believe that when we are in the public’s eye, we must assume that NOTHING is “off the record”.

The tape is always rolling-be it audio or video. What we say or do will be sliced and diced, re-configured and publicized as a re-invented and re-incarnated skeleton of the factual body.

The McChrystal firing should serve as that reminder once again.

The story has re-ignited the debate over whether access by the press should be limited.

Naturally, the Media is opposed to ANY access limitations, but where they haven’t exercised good judgment in what appears in the finished product; why should they be rewarded with a front row seat to our news events?

Do you realize that, by today’s standards, very little live audio and video exists from World War II and even the Vietnam War and yet; VOLUMES have been written on both wars?

Our society has become so impetuous and impatient that we must have immediate gratification from our day’s events.

Is restricting free access restricting free speech? That’s open to debate.

Think for a minute of how damning and damaging a perceived inappropriate comment by a firefighter could be to your fire department if it were to be made public.

Do you think that there would be the added footnote that this is how some in our profession “process” bad stuff? Probably not.

Do you think that YOUR boss will react in a similar manner to General McChrystal’s boss? Probably so.

We want to watch “Rescue Me” with a wink-wink, but we want a public view of what we are to be akin to walking among the lepers, cursing those who sully our reputations with their bad behavior.

We want to project traditional values through non-traditional means. If we cannot pick and choose our media moments, then we at least have to stay true to our mission and if we must engage in the “off color or off handed”, then do so when no one else is around, take an oath to silence and a pinky swear, because if we don’t, we will be misinterpreted, misrepresented and misunderstood by a public who wants to believe that we are better than that.

And let’s face it; we exist in a culture populated by the weak and the strong, the passionate and the dispassionate and the sinners and the saints.

So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you want to be remembered for one blog, one Facebook comment, one YouTube video or one news article, because in today’s world, it won’t matter if you have four stars or four bugles…

It may be just enough to bring a career crashing down in the traditional sense!


The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Charleston 9 - A Different Perspective, Part 2

On our way from the staging area to the Coliseum, one person in particular stood out from the crowd of people lining the streets. Once we exited I-526 and turned onto the city streets, I noticed a woman kneeling on the sidewalk. Her right hand was held over her heart and her left hand was held aloft giving the AMESLANI Love You” sign.

This woman was weeping – the tears were literally soaking her face. As each vehicle with the family members of the 9 passed, she bowed so low that her forehead pressed into the sidewalk. As far as I know, she was not a relative of any of the firefighters – she seemed to just be an average Charlestonian overcome by grief who had found a very personal way to show her support for the families of the 9 and for the firefighters of the CFD.

Once we reached the Coliseum, the family vehicles pulled up in the circle and stopped. The sidewalk into the Coliseum was lined with Honor Guard members from all over the U.S. and Canada. It was a hot day and quite humid. Most of the Honor Guard members were standing in the hot sun. It took quite a while for the long procession to pass. During this entire time, the Honor Guard members held a rigid salute. They were taking a serous beating from the heat and humidity, and I saw one of them get so shaky that he almost passed out. Members of the EMS standby crews quickly pulled him out of line, got him into the shade, and began rehydrating him. The other Honor Guard members closed ranks quickly and smoothly. I don’t think any of the families noticed that moment. The rest of the Honor Guard members didn’t twitch, despite the streams of sweat running down their faces and dripping onto the sidewalk.

The EMS standby crews were awesome on that day. I particularly noticed several of the Dorchester County, (SC) EMS crews in action giving out cold bottled water and assisting several people who were overcome by heat.

An arena-style Jumbotron was set up near the entrance to the Honor Guard walk. It showed the interior of the Coliseum and broadcast the sounds of the orchestral music from the interior for those who were unable to go inside.

As each family assembled for the walk into the Coliseum, they were led by a Charleston firefighter. These firefighters carried shiny new replacement helmets for the ones worn by the 9 at the Sofa Super Store fire. It was difficult to avoid thinking about the contrast between the likely condition of those helmets and the new red and black ones carried in the procession.

As we entered the blissful cool and dim Coliseum, it was obvious that the seats were filled nearly to the rafters with firefighters from almost anywhere you can imagine.

The lead escort for each family conducted the family members up front, and the rest of us stood beside the tunnel entrance to the Coliseum floor.
I remember the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band playing. I’m of Scottish descent, so the pipes are doubly meaningful for me at any time, but never more so than during this service. The pipes and drums were shockingly loud after the earlier orchestral music, and I remember thinking “Just like every other firefighter – even our funerals are noisy.”

The service itself was a blur. I vaguely remember music, speeches, music, speeches, and more music.

A video of the June 22 memorial service can be found here.

Chief Thomas elicited some laughter when he told a personal story about each of the 9. It was obvious that their loss had shocked him very deeply. At that moment, I had very ambivalent feelings. On one hand, Chief Thomas was obviously crushed by what had happened. On the other hand, he bore the ultimate responsibility for what happened and it didn’t seem as if he was past the denial stage of what had occurred, despite the presence of the nine flag-draped coffins and the large portrait-type photos of the 9 at the foot of the podium.

I remember seeing several obviously-retired firefighters in their dress uniforms, sitting in wheelchairs on the first level of the stands. Many were from hundreds or thousands of miles away. I remember thinking “WOW. Despite their obvious physical handicaps, these disabled firefighters made a long trip to honor the 9.”

I remember seeing one of the Baltimore City firefighters dissolving into tears and being assisted out of the Coliseum by another Baltimore firefighter. I remember thinking about the two recent LODDs that Baltimore had experienced and wondering if this firefighter was a friend of one of their LODDs. I was also impressed that on this day, no firefighter was alone.

Most of all, I remember the overwhelming silence between the speakers and the musical presentation. I’m used to noise like the Tower of Babel if three or more firefighters are present. To see thousands upon thousands of firefighters in one building and being able to hear a pin drop was impressive. I remember thinking that I had never seen such respect earned or given.

I remember the recessional, with some of the Charleston firefighters so overcome with emotion that they were literally being carried by their brother firefighters.

Our family escort duties were complete, so we exited with the other firefighters. Rank upon rank of firefighters lined the sidewalk where the nine hearses were lined up.

Nine times a flag-draped coffin was loaded into a hearse. Nine times, the FDNY pipes skirled. Nine times we held a silent salute.

We remained until the hearses pulled away, destined for the individual funerals to be held later in the week. We then returned to our vehicles. Traffic wasn’t moving, so we took the time to remove the Kleenex from our vehicles. It took a few minutes.

As we were cleaning out our vehicles, I noticed an adult woman who was very pale and sweaty, and who had a very unsteady gait. She complained of dizziness. One of the other Hilton Head firefighters assisted me in moving her back inside and sitting her in a chair in the cool Coliseum interior. One of the other firefighters found one of the Dorchester County EMS crews. They rapidly responded and took over patient care. I remember thinking “Even at a memorial service, we’re still here taking care of people.” It was a small consolation that we had been able to do a small service to help someone in need even after our family escort duties were complete.

As we were finally able to mount up and leave. Traffic was still heavy and it was difficult to exit onto the street. A New Orleans ladder company saw what was happening. They dismounted their rig, blocked traffic, pulled their rig across the street and made sure that all of the family escorts could leave without a further wait. It was much appreciated.

It was midafternoon, and we were all getting hungry. We agreed to meet at a restaurant we all liked in the St. John’s area south of downtown. When we pulled into the restaurant, we noticed fire apparatus from Georgia and Florida in the parking lot. We greeted the firefighters from those rigs, and had a tasty but unmemorable meal.

After eating, we finished the two-hour drive back to Hilton Head in silence.
I had a lot of competing thoughts running through my head the entire time. In the emotions of the moment was difficult to avoid bitterness at the CFD chiefs who were at the fire, even though I didn't know any of them. I had to tell myself to overcome that emotion and to think rationally about it. I realized that they sincerely thought that the way they did things at the time was what they thought was the best way to do business. I also realized that none of them responded to the Sofa Super Store fire with any idea that they’d lose a single firefighter, let alone the 9. I had to remind myself that their department culture had as much to do with what happened as did any individual decision made at the scene.

In the intervening three years, I’ve had several of our firefighters ask me “Chief, could it happen here?” At first, my instinct was to say “Of course not.”, but then I realized that even though we did things much differently than Charleston did at the time, that there was no way that I could honestly make that kind of promise. I finally was able to answer that we are looking at everything we do to ensure that our firefighters stay safe.

We are not a large department, and we generally have at least two or three staff chiefs respond to every working incident.

Typically, the staff chiefs take the Safety, Division C, and any other assignment that Command needs, but in the past I’d heard a lot of “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” comments from the troops after a fire.

The first time I actually felt that my department had benefitted from the painful lessons from the Sofa Super Store fire was at the first working commercial fire to which I responded a few months after the memorial service. This fire resulted in a quick knock, but a prolonged salvage and overhaul operation – the kind that we all hate. We had a few moments of confusion due to some unusual building features and a few communications problems, and I don’t think any of us was feeling particularly great, despite the nice stop. That changed for me as we were picking up and one of our firefighters approached me. This firefighter had been one of those who had attended the Charleston 9 memorial service. He had not exactly been the biggest fan of the staff chief responses to previous fires. When he approached me, I remember thinking “Great, here it comes.”

To my surprise, he quietly said “I owe you an apology.” I told him that I didn’t know of anything he should apologize for. He replied “I used to complain all the time about too many Chiefs and not enough Indians at our fires. Now, I know why you do it. Thank you for looking out for me at our fires.” I told him that he really didn’t need to apologize, but that I appreciated the apology.

I left the fire scene thinking that finally some good had come from the horrible tragedy that put the term "The Charleston 9" in our vernacular. It’s a shame that this incident ever occured, but I can't change that, so I have accepted it. It would be an even greater shame if that tragedy passed without the rest of us learning everything we can and doing everything within our power to ensure that it NEVER happens again.

In the past three years, I've also been fortunate to meet several Charleston firefighters that I did not previously know. I've met them in some of the South Carolina Fire Academy classes I've taught in my role as an adjunct faculty member, in Charleston firehouses, and socially. They are universally professional, friendly, and when in class, eager to learn. I am honored to be able to call them "brother". I'm also honored that a few of them spent an afternoon in my home, and that we were able to talk about the future and not the past.

Rest in Peace my nine brave brothers. Your sacrifice has indeed not been in vain.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No More History Repeating Events-Remembrance

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. Those events being the 1988 Hackensack (NJ) Ford Fire which resulted in five (5) firefighter LODD and the 2002 Gloucester City (NJ) Fire that resulted in three (3) firefighter LODD along with three children.

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. Take some time to visit for a comprehensive overview of both events with report links and a must see video on the Gloucester City (NJ) 2002 LODD event.  This video is a must see for all Company and Command Officers. Take the time to read through the lessons learned and recommendations- all of which are still relevant today.

For Remembering Hackensack and Gloucester follow the link HERE

Remembrance (1988)
Hackensack (NJ) Fire Department

• CAPT. RICHARD L. WILLIAMS, Engine Co. No. 304
• F/F WILLIAM KREJSA, Engine Co. No. 301
• F/F LEONARD RADUMSKI, Engine Co. No. 302
• F/F STEPHEN ENNIS, Rescue Co. No. 308

Remember (2002)
Gloucester City (NJ) Fire

• James Sylvester Fire Chief, Mount Ephraim Fire Department
• John West Deputy Chief, Mount Ephraim Fire Department
• Thomas G. Stewart III Paid Firefighter, Gloucester City Fire Department
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