Thursday, September 13, 2012

Busy Times

In case you were wondering where I have been for the past month or two, I have been slammed.  Between class submissions, IAFF events, the DNC, family, and everything else I have been busy during the past few weeks.  I hope everyone is still around that has been reading because there are only a few of you anyway.  On Tuesday morning, our 9-11 memorial stairclimb committee particpated in our committee climb on TV to promote our October 13 event.  As always, it was an incredible event, and the feel of it was great.  We had about 15 folks climbing and it went without a hitch.  Additionally, Wells Fargo presented us with a check for 20,000 dollars to act as the title sponsor for our event!!!!!

 70 Down a few more to go.....
Blurred faces shows who the focus of the day was really on......

Visit facebook for some more photos from yesterday if you wish but here a few I liked.  I will be submitting two more articles to FSW in the near future so be on the lookout over there for some more contributions from me over there.

Lastly, if you will be near Charlotte on October 10th, please come and join the Crowntown FOOLS for their first education event.  Jason Brezler of Leadership Under Fire will be making a stop in for a four hour seminar that promises to be a great event.  It is 15 for FOOLS members and 35 for non members.  Please visit their facebook page for further information.. Thanks for checking in everyone....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Asheville NIOSH Report

Below is the link to the NIOSH report out of Asheville, NC.  Please read it and learn, there are some great points made in the report.  It offers forth a question to me, how do you remove the nosecone in your mask quickly?  I think I have found a training evolution for the next shift.

Asheville, NC LODD

Monday, August 20, 2012

FDIC 2013/1st Birthday

I am humbled and proud to announce that my Emergency Communications class has been chosen as a classroom session for FDIC 2013.  I am so honored to be a part of such a great educational event in our trade.  Thanks to all of you for the support along the way.

Also, because I was so busy I forgot to make a post announcing the first birthday of this blog.  I can't believe where this blog has taken me in this year, again thank you.

I certainly hope to keep the momentum over the next year, so please keep reading......

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Training For the Fight

As firefighters, we all know the common apprehensions associated with in house or even academy sponsored training. Many firefighters fear they will fail, feel that they will learn nothing, or that it is only for people who haven't been there and done that. One problem I see is that many departments or companies decide to train only to "check the box". We all know ISO, NFPA or the CFAI require a certain commitment to company level or department sanctioned training in order to remain compliant, but many of us lose the opportunity to make these sessions meaningful.

Take for example SCBA proficiency drills. Most of us do them annually and generally we fail ourselves by making the evolution the same thing it has always been. So we crawl around make some EBSS and UAC connections and we get credit and head back to the station. We rarely realize that we could use some realism, some real fire ground functions to the training to reinforce other basic skills. Why not throw a radio in and call a mayday or four? Why not have a firefighter simulate a medical issue while wearing SCBA to practice quick doffing of gear? Why not practice masking up in a rapid manner as though we have encountered smoke during a fire alarm activation? These are just a few things I have seen practiced to help with SCBA and fire ground efficiency.

Another tried and true characteristic of firefighters is we like to have fun. However, this fun can spiral out of control during training creating an unproductive evolution. Idle firefighters are trouble as we all know. Therefore when designing or leading training we need to ensure that there is minimal downtime in between runs or stations. However, we also must ensure to properly allow participants to rest in order to remain functional and ready for the next part.

If you lead or design training for your department, ensure that you train for the fight and not to entertain your members. If you are just a firefighter that ones to up the training in your department, be the change, and start fixing it yourself. Training is used to increase ones proficiency in a given subject. Sure we must jump through a few hoops each year, but why not use them as opportunities to challenge our members to be their best. As one of my instructors at FDIC last year said: "Minimum is only one step above unacceptable". So how do you want your department/station/crew to be viewed? Do you want a a group who meets minimum standards or one who is proficient at the given skill?
An additional benefit of training for the fight is that firefighters will be much more receptive to training that they can relate to the real world. We all agree that things that can't be replicated in the field have no place in our trade or in the training we create. Therefore, I ask how come we continually place our people in positions where there only have fun training and gain nothing from it because of our fear of challenging our people to venture out of their comfort zone.
Training can be fun, but it should never be the central tenet of any evolution. The central part of the training should be to ensure each participant benefits from it by gaining knowledge, efficiency, and skill in the trade we all know and love.




Monday, July 23, 2012

FSW Article

Well, I have officially put out my first post on the Fire Service Warrior Website called "We Don't Stop". It is an article that really describes how I try to live life everyday. Please read it, and join in the FSW movement. Here is the article:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Passion for Excellence

Last shift, during my free time I decided to start a new book I had heard was excellent titled "Fearless" and is written by Eric Blehm.  This book chronicles the life of SEAL team six operator Adam Brown.  This book is good on many different levels, but it tells the story of a passionate man with a huge heart and the love for a career.

To summarize the book very briefly, Adam started out as the kid in school who was driven, passionate about success and a knack for being helpful and compassionate.  He slowly progressed into a very dark place and became dependent of alcohol and drugs to survive.  Adam slipped away from family and friends, went to jail, and then met a woman who changed his life.  She reignited the passion for success he had during grade school, and then there he was a Navy SEAL, a member of the most elite military unit in the world.  Throughout his career up until his death, Adam earned life, learning every day and soaking up all he could in all aspects of his life.  Adam learned to be a great father, husband, and warrior and carried out all three until his was killed in action.

This book brought forth some thought to me that directly relate to the fire service and how firefighters should be through their careers.  We all come in the door, ready to go to every fire in the world if they would let us.  Each of us wants to learn everything we can from everyone to make ourselves the go-to guy in our department, station, or company.  Passion is all over the place for most new firefighters, you can see it in their eyes when they are excited about running their 5th call after midnight.  These folks are loving life, so what happens a few years down the road, when these same energetic firefighters stop taking outside classes that are required but may offer knowledge that will make them better firefighters?  Why do they let passion disappear into the dark caverns of their mind possibly to never be seen again?

I offer forth an answer to those questions, it is because you let them bury the passion away.  Firefighters are great at pointing fingers and playing the blame game amongst other things.  Rarely, do you hear someone admit that the reason the rookie isn't doing well is because they as a mentor failed.  Passion breeds passion and it can spread like a wildfire or being extinguished like a cigarette in a bucket of water if you let it.  The new firefighter is as impressionable my 17 month son, they take in everything everyone around them does, both good and bad.  It is imperative that we as firefighters realize this is the time to keep the rookie momentum rolling on.  Firefighters come out with a minimum level of training, and many have that unmistakable passion for the job.  To me all that is missing is the experience, and mentoring of the senior members for this rookie to become the best firefighter your department has even seen.  We need to quit playing the blame game about the rookie who sleeps all day or is better at Xbox than he/she is at throwing a 24 foot ladder.  It all boils down to we can make a difference as long as that rookie has the passion to take it all in.

I'm sure if anyone could figure out to gauge passion in an applicant firefighter in a valid and reliable way, they would make improvements to our service that we can only dream of today.  It is hard to gauge the passion of an applicant, but I feel those who have found some sort of fire service role prior to the application to either a career or volunteer department are the most passionate.  Sure, someone had to give them their first chance, and some people wake up one day and decide the fire service is for them, but how did they approach it?  Each department looks for different styles of firefighters, but one common theme exists, the Chiefs everywhere want someone who they will be proud to pin with a badge, and someone who will exhibit a positive attitude of public service and caring

"Fearless" showed me that a passionate person will always have it somewhere inside of them, it may be active, or it may lay dormant.  Either way as I said before in my post "The Best Advice", passion isn't something that comes in the Sunday mail with the chief.  People have it or they don't, but our job is to bring out the passion that may lay dormant inside someone.  Adam Brown lost his way for ten years of his life (if not more), but he got into the Navy and did anything and everything he put his mind to against all odds, simply because of his passion for his career as a SEAL.  He learned everyday, and never took no for an answer.  He often struggled just as we all do in our own way, but his passion for life, not just his career carried him through it.

Passion can seemingly disappear from someone if they let it.  An individual may suffer a setback or a hardship in their career that may affect their passion for the fire service but a moments notice it can be reignited.  Additionally, it doesn't take a company officer to bring that passion out in someone.  It can just as easily be a new rookie to a department or station that brings the passion for the profession back into a station.  Passion is a fire never extinguished, it may smolder, but it will never go out unless you let it.

If you haven't already, go out an read "Fearless", it is a great story about a true American hero.  Adam Brown made mistakes in his life, but as one of my friends shot over in a text the other night, Adam earned life.  His story should teach that everyday may be your last to make that difference in the fire service so why wait to address something or to do that training you know you need?  Get out there and be the change today, its up to you and your passion for fire service excellence to make it happen. 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping Your Eyes Open

I apologize for my lack of posting over the past few weeks, but I have quite a few irons in the fire and this was last of the list of things to keep up.  I did complete and submit my FDIC class proposal, so I am proud of completing that and hopeful that I will be chosen.  The best part is, even if I'm not chosen, I'll be submitting again next year.

Well, onto the stuff you are here for.......

While carrying out perhaps my favorite fatherly duty of reading a bedtime story to my young son, I read a line that sparked a flurry of thoughts in my head.  The line came from Dr. Suess's book I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.  As with most Dr. Suess books, there isn't really a plot to follow just some good rhymes.  However, one line struck me that I related to the fire service, here it is: "There are so many things you can learn about, but you'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut."

There are no shortage of articles, posts, and rants about learning and training but here is another one to add to that list.  What the quote says to me is that we have to absorb all that is around us at all times.  If we keep blinders on, or ignore some great experiences, mistakes, or lessons we will miss all of the good stuff.  A few weeks ago, Chris over at Fire Service Warrior wrote a great article on entropy, or closed systems and how that relates to the fire service.  It brought forth the idea that we must reach outside of our own department at times to learn skills to use within.  His article discussed how closed systems move towards disorder without any outside intervention.  Think about some of the departments around you that "don't get out much" where are they headed?  I can name a few near me that are quite simply setting themselves up for disaster. 

To relate it to the Dr. Suess quote, we have to keep our eyes open to the big picture of the fire service as a whole, not just our little part or island.  Most of the excellent post-certification knowledge that I have gained have been from classes offered outside of my department.  The different perspective that is offered can be beneficial so we don't create a closed system within our department.  Too many firefighters fail to take advantage of free training that great fire service leaders post in various training communities throughout the internet. Some of these videos, posts, articles, or comments hav changed me as a firefighter. Take for instance Aaron Fields' hose videos, or various videos posted on Fire Service Warrior or Chris Huston's Stuff on Engine 22 . These are just a few examples of the fact that some of the best fire service minds are out there passing on their knowledge daily on websites everywhere. If you keep your eyes shut as Dr. Suess says, whether it be by sleeping all day at work, ignoring the knowledge around you, or failing to take advantage of some of the trade journals and publications that are out there, you are failing yourself, your organizations, and most of all the citizens that you serve.

So go out there with your eyes open and take it all in. There is knowledge everywhere around you so go out and take it in. Don't ignore what's around you and all the experiences that you could miss with your eyes shut. We have all told the new folks "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason", so lets not forget he gave us two eyes to take it all in around us too. Combine those two eyes with the two ears and an open mind, and you will soon find a knowledgeable and genuine firefighter. Ensure that you combine these elements to make your self the best you can be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Do You Communicate

This post came to me while continuing to design my class for the South Atlantic Fire Expo later this summer.   I have always been a huge proponent of calm radio traffic.  The calmer the traffic the better the incident generally goes.  Sure I have yelled on the radio, sure I have said some dumb stuff on the radio, but with experience comes a calm radio demeanor.  This expectation isn't just for the officer either, it should be for everyone who has a radio.  These days audio is broadcast and recorded all over the internet so the impression someone may get of your department may come from a 5 second audio clip.

Almost everyone fireman has heard the old quote from Andy Fredricks: "“The garbage man doesn’t get excited when he turns the corner and sees trash, because he’s expecting it. Likewise, you should be expecting fire on every run."  My colleague Pete over at ELAFFHQ even had a post on it a few weeks ago "Death, Perspective and the Garbageman".  Yet we continue to hear folks on the radio screaming as though they are seeing the apocalypse unfolding in front of them.  I can play you audio clip after audio clip of officers pulling up to the biggest fire they have ever scene and sounding like it just a fire alarm.  On the flip side of that, I can play you plenty of audio where officers pull up to a trash fire and make it sound like they are narrowly escaping the gates of hell.  When I address the topic during training, I always advocate for the use of the 3 C's of communication, Clear, concise, and calm. With these simple rules, communications on every emergency scene can be improved vastly.

Clear

 Everyone that as ever listened to the radio knows that quite often you can't understand a word someone is saying on the radio.  I know that some readers who "aren't from round here" would struggle to understand some of the southern dialects we (I) have on the radio here in the South.  This is frustrating for both the listener and the transmitter.  First, the transmitter is upset because no one is responding or comprehending what he is saying.  Secondly, the listener(s) are frustrated because they know information is being broadcast but they can't figure out what it is.  Much of this mistake can be attributed directly to training our members to talk on the radio.

To talk on the radio no matter what the manufacturer, you must place the microphone 1-2 inches from your mouth or voice port.  There are many SCBA accessories that assist with in mask communications, but if you don't have those, ensure you bring the mic up to the voice port at the distance mentioned above.  In addition, normal conversational voice should be used when communicating on the radio.  Some people do have a "radio voice" but we need to ensure that we are using a clear tone of voice and speech.  If we rush words, use improper slang or some code word no one knows it helps no one of the emergency scene. 

Speak clearly by using common department terminology, speak into the mic, and understand how it feels to be on the receiving end of the radio traffic.  When we are in an emergency situation on the fire ground, that is the critical time that we must transmit information clearly and quickly to all members there.   Yelling on the radio only makes your transmission less clear to others.  The loud voice on your end actually makes it more difficult for the users on the other end to understand what you are saying.  With all of that said, there are times where yelling is unavoidable such as fire licking on your rear end etc.

Concise

Being concise on the radio is definitely one of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to communications.  We all know the guy who talks the fire out, turns the two car MVA into a three alarm talk fest, or give a dissertation of conditions on a fire alarm.  We all have them in our department, and sometimes I have even been that guy.  We have to realize that only one person can talk at a time on the channel, and that someone else may have something more important to say than what we may be communicating.  In addition, firefighters are no different than children, we have a short attention span.  That fact alone should hit home because we all know we drown out some things after a certain timer goes off in our head.  Being concise should become a habit for all firefighters and officers when we talk on the radio.  never before have there ever been so many radios on the fire ground, so limiting radio traffic is more important than ever. 

Sometime we must understand that less is more.  If we limit the length and the detail of what we transmit, people may get more out of it than a 25 second transmission describing the thread count of the sheets inside the house.  Firefighters need simple information much of the time so our descriptions and transmissions must reflect that.  There are some situations where a long transmission is needed such as a haz-mat scene or even some technical rescue scenes, but not every scene needs to be a talk fest.  Be concise, get your point across and release the button and give up the air time.

Calm

As I mentioned above, being calm on the radio is of paramount importance especially when it comes to the first in officer.  The saying goes "How the first line goes indicates how the fire will go".  This holds true with communications as well.  If the first arriving officer screams, everyone will be that much more amp-ed up and excited.  However, if the officer exhibits a calm, no nonsense, and sensible approach to the fire the incoming units will be much more disciplined, calm, and deliberate with their actions after their arrival.  Also, as I mentioned above, a calm transmitter on the radio is much easier to understand.  The louder you speak into the radio, the harder it is for the radio to collect your voice, convert it, and transmit it to other users. 

Some would argue that if you are calm on the big fires people won't know they are big.  Don't believe me, I have heard it from command officers in two departments.  In response, I commented that if they want to know its big come on over to the party and they can find out.  I don't believe it is the IC job to make a fire sound big or small for anyone, it is their job to safely mitigate the incident.  If you have been in the fire service any time, the most successful and respected officers are those who are calm in the eyes of adversity.  Firefighters love to see a calm officer or Chief when the Feces hits the Oscillator. 

To understand how calm affects people in a group, we need to look no further than the military.  All great military leaders remained cool under fire.  You never hear of any that freaked out or locked up, so don't be that IC that does.  Being calm isn't something that just comes automatically to all firefighters.  It takes time, experience, and some mistakes.  I was a radio screamer on two incidents where I was in command that changed me.  I listened to the tapes and laughed at myself sounding like a scared little 10 year old.  Since the last one of those incidents, I have changed.  I'm sure many of you reading this had "those" incidents, the question is did you learn from them, or are you still a radio screamer?


Be The Change

Through some friendships I have forged in the past few months, I have taken a bit of a new philosophy than I once had regarding the fire service.  I have begun to realize that charge starts with me, or in the case of this article, it starts with you.  Practice with your crews some of the items I have discussed, implement a change in yourself, fix it in your station and then the others will follow suit.  If you set the good example, others will follow as they see the positive outcomes that come out of what you have done on scenes.


Communications is the most neglected subject in terms of training in the fire service.  Continuously, NIOSH cites communication as an issue during LODD's.  Make the change in your department and your self to fix some of the communication issues you may have within your jurisdiction.  In the meantime, stay disciplined out there.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

AZ LODD

Billy G is reporting a LODD in AZ resulting from an apparatus rollover while en-route to a call.  Two other firefighters were injured in the accident, so please pray for their recovery and for the family of the fallen brother.


Here is Billy G's Report:
AZ FIREFIGHTER KILLED-APP CRASH WHILE RESPONDING

"The Secret List www.FireFighterCloseCalls.com

We regret to advise you that a Firefighter was killed in the Line of Duty and two were injured in single-vehicle crash this morning while fighting the Montezuma Fire burning in the Baboquivari Mountain Range southwest of Tucson.

The 3 United States Bureau of Indian Affairs assigned Firefighters were responding to the fire in a brush fire truck on Federal Route 19, near mile post 22, when the vehicle rolled over. Two of the Firefighters were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, and the other died at the scene."



Stay Trained out there folks. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Helping Our Own

Nearly every post on this rag has had some sort of fire service or fire department theme.  While today's post relates to us, it could be written about the bank worker or the garbage man.  Please bear with me but take it to heart.  During the past month, our city has been offering supplemental accident and illness insurance to our people.  The emails were vague and it took some reading to find about it but it was a great benefit for the people that work for our fine city.  Many deleted the email, many said they didn't care, and many thought it was just another way to "cut" pay.  I saw it as an opportunity to help our own.

I knew I would sign up for it from the beginning, but many needed some convincing.  As a company officer it is my job to ensure that my folks (where I sub each day) know what ways the city offers to take care of them and their families.  Too many firefighters forget that insurance and benefits are just as important as the training we do to stay up on our skills.  If one doesn't stay up on these things, their families will suffer in the worst way possible.  We only discuss benefits when we get hired and when we retire, but what about the middle 25-30 years?  Sure, we might change a few things during open enrollment, but we fail to examine some of the other items that the city/county/department we work or volunteer for may offer to look out for their own.  Have you ever looked at our likelihood to have cancer, have a cardiac event, or have a traumatic accident?  Well if you haven't, at least one will occur to all of us, some will get to experience all three some only two, but no one will avoid all three.   We will all break a bone, roll an ankle, cut ourselves, or some how hurt ourselves on or off duty that will cause medical treatment.  Firefighters need to be taken care signing up for these programs that are offered by organizations.  If you are a member of a fire department especially if you are an officer, watch out for others, look at what benefits your organization offers and take advantage of them.

Please explore what your department offers you and sit down with your family and discuss them.  We need to do a better job of preparing for the times we need to use the benefits than we currently do.  We stick together in times of need, let's stick together before those times.  Make sure we look out for one another, and advocate for those who may not know whats out there to look at what's available to them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MAFFC Recap

During the past week I have been busy, if you couldn't tell.  I still wanted to get out some information on my trip to Atlanta and how great it was.  At FDIC this year, I was able to meet the leadership of the MAFFC conference.  After speaking to one of them for a few hours, I could tell they got "it".  This group wanted to bring an affordable, beneficial training conference south so that everyone could benefit.  Some conferences are quite expensive and MAFFC is not one of those.  MAFFC core principles are informative training, positive networking, and fellowship. 

The conference for me started off with a class on the "Coordinated Fireground" class.  This class was taught by numerous instructors from all over and they addressed many of the basics that we as firefighters fumble around with at too many fires.  The stations were ladder throws, VES, Hoseline advancement, and forcible entry.  These stations were quick, thought provoking, and informative. 

I took the afternoon off and spent time with family which, as always was great.  I began Saturday morning with the "Advanced Engine Company Operations" class which allowed me to learn some new techniques for advancing 2.5 as well as 1.75 inch hose.  I had seen many of them on you tube and other places but this class let me practice them.  The instructor utilized the two man, back to back techique as I would call it.   Here are some of the techniques we worked with.  The below video is from http://nozzleforward.blogspot.com/.


Saturday afternoon, I took "TIC Operations" which covered many great aspects of the TIC and its operations.  This class was incredible, and was very thought provoking.  It provided many training ideas, class ideas, and dispelled many of the things people or salesmen may tell you about a TIC.  TIC's often look great in a conference room, but only a few perfom well under live fire conditions.

Sunday, I finished up with a ventilation class given by PJ Norwood.  It was a very good class, and was kind of a flashback to FDIC since that is where I had met him.  Also, the program was of the same quality as any FDIC program I attended. 

In short, this conference was great.  It was just what we need in the Southeast; a simple yet informative and econmically feasible conference.  The lead group of MAFFC has big plans for it in the future, and they should.  I would like to thank the sponsors of the event including the IAFF for their generousity that allowed the conference to keep costs low, and quality of instruction high.  Also, I would like to thank the MAFFC board for what they did.  It is only three years old, but this conference is growing every year.  Lastly, I would like to thank Atlanta for the additional traffic that I got to encounter while roaming the 285 corridor.  Wow glad I don't live there.

Make plans to attend MAFFC next year May 17-19 2013.  You can visit the website www.maffc.org or follow them on facebook.

Until the next time......

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Best Advice

I am sure all of us could say we have worked for great officers and for bad officers.  I also believe one could advocate that the bad officers teach you more about being a quality officer than the good ones.  In my previous department, I had the fortune to work for an officer who was one of the best in the Department.  He treated me just like a rookie should be,  he gave me a hard time, pushed me to be better, mentored me, and most of all taught me about many parts of the service, especially tactically.  I was assigned to him straight out of rookie school, and rode the back with two of the best firefighters around.  When I left that department for my current one, he was mad that I left but had done everything in his power to help me get the job with the new department.  To me that showed me what kind of man he truly is.

When I was promoted to Company Officer a few years ago, I of course invited him so he had such a large influence on me over time.  He had some issues and was unable to attend but he did take the time to send me this email below. He gave me permission to put this out there, but he will remain nameless.

"You are about to venture on the most challenging yet rewarding job you have faced in the fire service.  There will be times when you will think why didn't I stay a firefighter but those days will soon disappear.  I have this quote, that I keep on my desk, and I look at it often, "a leader with great passion and few skills will always out perform a leader with great skills and no passion".  You are lucky, you have the passion for the fire service and the knowledge, skills and ability to be an outstanding Captain, not everyone has both.  Keep that passion and work to develop those skills, and you will rise to the top.


Remember this, "if everyone below you is successful then you are successful and if they fail it is because you failed them".  Keep a humble attitude towards you men make sure they know that when the team is successful they did it, and when the team fails you did it.  When they know you have their back and will take hits for them, they are more likely to have yours.


Always remember to hold the fire (where is it at and where is it going, cut it off) until the Calvary arrives and never forget the hook.


You are truly missed.  I hope you know that I think the world of you and desperately hate not being there."

Once I read this, I saw its true meaning.  He wanted me to be a true leader.  I didn't need to read an 800 page book to figure that out, it was all right there in this short email.  The key is passion, not the most degrees, not the most certifications, but passion.  Dictionary.com defines passion as "any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate."

Passion is something that can't be taught in a class, can't be found in the book, its in your heart.  It is easily identifiable in a group, it is found in many firehouses but unfortunately not all.  It is something that can be developed and can easily become contagious, but it doesn't just show up when the Battalion Chief brings the mail.

Also, as the definition points out, passion can be love or hate.  Passion is a powerful  emotion and can have some negative results if it is negative.  SO as you can see, we have to watch which way our emotions carry us.  Too often and too easily we (me included) are sucked into a negative conversation regarding our department, station, a call, etc.  We must step above these petty gripes and insist on excellence.  Taking the "high road" is harder, but that why it isn't just called "the road" it is a step above.  An emotion that we can channel into promoting excellence is one we need more of in today's fire service.  Our profession is under assault by politicians, manpower, benefits, and many other parts of the service are being attacked.  If there ever was a time where firefighters needed to channel passion in a positive direction, it is clearly today, right now.

Passion is also that thing that keeps you going when you are having an off day, its the thing that makes you get in the gym while everyone else naps, its the thing that makes you explore parts of the job you may not enjoy, but that you need to know.  A passion for the fire service is a great thing, the thirst that it brings inevitably forces more knowledge, proficiency, and skill on the individual who has it.  To see passion for the fire service, look for the firefighter studying NIOSH reports after morning clean up, look for the firefighter marking the balance points on the ladders, look for the firefighter who knows who John Norman, Frank Brannigan, and Andy Fredricks are, and what they accomplished for the fire service.  We all talk about how great the job we have is, but how many of us want to have the passion to make it great for the next generation?

Nick Martin had a quote during the recent "Combat Ready" class that I attended that really hit home with me.  He had a slide that said:

"Its not how you make the mistake, it's how you recover"

Having a passion for the job makes that recovery that much easier.  I make mistakes all the time, as do all of us, but passion feeds my recovery from those mistakes.  Passion leads me to a resolution, and to improve whatever process needs to be fixed to avoid the same mistake happening again.  Passionate firefighters don't let their ego get in the way of learning a new technique, trick, or a battle hardened skill that will help them be better at their job.  In fact, these firefighters seek out these tidbits, to make them more effective on the emergency scene.

It is our job as passionate firefighters to spread this "disease" as some people can call it to everyone we can.  Some see passion as a problem because you are "Eat up" or have no life, but the passionate folks know that more often than not, it isn't true.  If you have the "disease" of passion, don't treat it, spread it to everyone who wants to carry it.  The resources are out there to ignite the passion on your own.  As I posted a short time ago, use your network to keep the faith if you can't do it on your own. 

My former officer's email should bring up some points for you officers and aspiring officers to remember.  Please read it to ensure you didn't miss some of his lessons to live by.

Now get up, get out there and infect somebody with the passion for the job.   

Also, "Never forget the hook".

Sunday, May 20, 2012

MAFFC

I am finishing up a great weekend here in Atlanta at the Metro Atlanta Firefighters Conference.  The classes have been great and have refueled my passion for the job.  I will have the opportunity today to attend PJ Norwood's ventilation class and a few others before departing back to the homestead.  My wife has been a trooper through this and has had a great time as well with her friend here in ATL.  I am always humbled when taking classes, as I usually find out I don't know as much as I think I do on many subjects.  It is great to be in gear and sweat with other firefighters from all over who want to be here on their time.

I will have some sort of summary in the next week for you, in the meantime stay disciplined, stay safe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All My Rowdy Friends

While at the "Combat Ready" Class last week many of my fellow firefighters gave me a hard time about some things while we were there, including one of the instructors.  It was a great presentation that I took a lot away from including things that I can implement and live out at all of the fire departments I am associated with.  Many of the guys I knew asked if I was running for political office, but I told them, "I'm just making contacts".  As with any class I take, I met some great folks who I hope to stay in touch with over the years

I was fortunate enough to meet West from http://hpfirefighter.com/ and Pete from http://elaffhq.com/ and was happy to finally meet face to face since I felt like I had known them for a few years.  During my career, I have worked with and met some great firefighters and leaders, however in the past 12 months I have met so many smart people and great leaders in our fire service that I can hardly wrap my head around how they call me one of their peers.  I have been humbled by their words of encouragement and laughed at their joking jabs, and I still can't understand how I have been so blessed in such a short period to have met them.

I have met the authors of all but one Blog that I regularly read, I have met people whose articles I have read, and many other folks who are leaders in our profession.  The ability to talk to these folks on a regular basis is something I value and am thankful for everyday.  It is amazing how similar many of us are, despite our ranks, department size, or geographical location.  However, I am pretty sure that most people that have met me think I am a redneck just because I talk funny and live in SC.

However, while it is a blessing to have such a great network of Bloggers, writers, leaders, and firefighters (some are all of the above), the question should be asked: so what now?  So I met some great people, how do I help the fire service, especially my small piece of it by making these contacts?  I think we all know how...by keeping in touch, pushing each other and motivating one another when each of us has a rough patch, or a discouraging day at work or home.  Chris Huston from Engineco22 tweeted the other day, "People say there is no time, time hasn't changed priorities have".  I think that is so true especially in the fire service of today.  We have no time to train on hoselines because its Tuesday and that's tile day at the station etc, you know the story.  With that said this post is about a network I have developed, not training, I will save that for another day.

We must make it a priority to maintain those friendships we may have made a the local fire school etc. because an isolated fire department is one doomed for disaster.  Chris Brennan over at The Fire Service Warrior wrote about it here: I Have A Theory.  In this article he discusses entropy, where a closed system moves from a state of order to disorder.  A department whose members never go outside for any training, conferences, etc. may see themselves as the leaders in the fire service when they are truly not.  The development of some friends from other departments from all over will help avoid this closed system in your fire house.

Making a connection with people is so simple these days, but being "that guy who seemed nice" at the bar in Indy, vs. "my friend I talked to yesterday" is much more of a challenge.  The fire service really is a small world, whether we feel that way or not, its like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, some how within 6 people we are all acquainted with one another. 

Working the Job posted about it Here : The Network. Jason's post is very similar to this one in that it is amazing how many people you meet from writing a fire blog.  Just as I am, he is thankful for all that the blogo-sphere has given back to him.  If you don't have a network of your own, make one, in your county, state or region.  Go to a weekend conference, go to a state sponsored class...oh and by the way aside from meeting people you may actually learn something too.  In short, you don't have to go to FDIC or Firehouse to participate.  In addition to the learning, these people are  a group you can bounce ideas off of, get ideas from, and receive some career changing/saving advise at times.  This group can allow you to keep a pulse on the fire service and how your little island is doing compared to everyone else.  In addition,these folks you meet from all over can help keep your negativity down and help you show folks on your "Island" how good they have it (sometimes).

Most Importantly, this group to me has become a year long conference.  Every week, I have exchanged some sort of text, email, or phone call with someone I have met during the past year.  Some times these communications are just jokes that keep the day going, other times there are some serious questions posed regarding fire service ways, tactics, and leadership. 

This blog has been a major part of the development of my group of folks the I call "The Network" but my involvement in our department's Local, our department's Accreditation process and just being engaged in regional schools and classes have also assisted in it.  All of you reading are part of my group and I am proud to call you a friend, colleague, and a reader of this rag.  Get out and get involved in your department, your local, or just take a class or two outside of your department.  It will help you grow as a firefighter and a person.

Thank you to all the followers, readers, and haters of this blog whether you realize it or not you are helping me develop a great group of people to surround myself with.  Let me also close by saying that I want to thank you for reading this, there are no shortage of blogs out there for you to read and it is an honor for you to take the time to read mine.  I hope that in the words of Mark over at "Fully Involved"  that I give you some positive influence to help you do your job better. 

Until the next time.....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

South Atlantic Show Class

As many of you know, I am presenting "Emergency Communications: How we can control our own destiny" at the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo in Raleigh in August.  I got notification that my class will be on Friday August 10th from 1330-1645.  Please come join me as I share some essential information on fire ground and emergency communications.  I am finalizing the presentation now and I am already excited about it.  Hopefully, I will see you there.....I should have a new post up this week, I have just been slammed at home and at work. 
Here is a link to the South Atlantic Fire Expo: http://www.southatlanticfirerescueexpo.com/
Until the next time.....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Follow Up to the Computer Critic Post

I was looking through the posts on the fire that I posted about here :Behind the Computer Critic.  I found a few comments that are great including one from a firefighter who WAS there and knows all of the information.  It reads as Follows:  "I just want to say I stand by my decision to make a rescue. I pulled a line and had no thought other than to do that. The police officer did a great job allowing me the time to go back in and search for victims. But thank you for all the great Monday morning quarterbacking of a tough situation. When making all these comments please remind yourself that some who was there is reading."  This quote is in the facebook quote section on Statter's site.  Find it Here: CA Fire  Just goes to show you, someone reading was there and was doin' it and we don't know.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

SFFD Report and Combat Ready

Well, the NIOSH report came out from the San Francisco incident and has some good information in it for everyone to learn from.  You can find it Here

Also, tomorrow I'll be travelling the short distance to Salibury, NC to take Traditions Training's Combat Ready class.  I have always heard good things about it so I'm excited about it.  If you will be there shoot me a line and I'd love to meet you in person.  Thanks for reading......

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

San Diego RV Fire

Somehow this post got lost in the mix prior to FDIC, but it still needs to be put out there.  The video below comes from San Diego during a routine RV fire that they had on a normal day.  This video should show all of us why Full PPE is a must on vehicle fires.  These firemen were lucky that it seemed to just flash on them and they were able to retreat.  This video is probably repeated all over the US everyday, without incident because folks were ready.  RV's and large camper fires are a pain for us because of the construction and the construction materials of the vehicle.  These things burn like gasoline, yet too often you see firefighters standing around in no SCBA or PPE, this video should reaffirm the idea that PPE is a must on all fire calls.......


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Behind the Computer Critic

As a Blog follower, as many of you obviously are, we all see what I feel like is a paradigm shift in our fire service.  We all know that there are video cameras everywhere we go, and that almost no working fire goes untaped anymore.  Someone (Public or Fire Service) is taping what we are doing on almost any significant call that we run these days.  I check statter911.com virtually everyday to help me formulate daily training, keep up on the latest cool videos from all around, and inadvertently, I watch unqualified, under-experienced, and most of all ignorant firefighters post how much better they could have done things than the folks being taped.  Really....... you could have gotten water on the line quicker than 2 minutes, well you probably could if you had your department's staffing, no rescues in progress and who knows what other obstacles the brothers in the video had.

I watched a video today where the fire engine was overwhelmed with what they had going on as soon as they pulled the parking brake. Here is the link to it: Fire in Ca .  This video shows just how hectic and chaotic a fire scene can be, because last I checked A frame ladders weren't NFPA complaint but, they sure appear to rescue people just fine in this fire.  In reading the comments, there are some great ones describing how "they" would have done it better and faster and greater.....but really could they have?  Everytime one of these videos comes out, there are always a few who tell everyone they could have done it better.  My question is always: Did they invite you to the critique?  If the answer is no, then you must not be the expert you think you are Captain Anonymous.

My point is that most videos provide only a snapshot of the whole picture of what the brothers encountered.  We know only what side A looked like, or what the uneducated civilians are saying.  Sure, there are some videos that show some training needs in departments, but the last time I checked I wasn't the training officer in the XXXXX Fire Department, hell I'm not even the training officer in my department, so who am I to say what people need to train on in other departments.  But give me a keyboard and a screen name and man I'm John Norman, or Tom Brennan.

Folks, realize that we can critique one another constructively and quietly, not in a public forum.  We can always think we can do it better, prior to any idea what happened on scene or without even knowing what information the folks had prior to arrival.  We all know every department is different, so why do we as a service continue to critique in an open forum everyone's actions at fires of which we have no idea the events leading up to what we watch in our cozy homes.  Watch the videos, discuss them with your people, but don't criticize one another in a public forum.  Get the information and discuss it, but until you know the whole story, don't sharp shoot tactics and videos.

Until the next time, Stay Disciplined and Stay Trained.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My First Published Article

Well, I know its no fire engineering, but the Carolina Fire Rescue Journal is a journal that is distributed to every firehouse in North and South Carolina.  The spring edition came out today and I was fortunate enough for them to have published my article that I submitted.  This is the first article I have had published in my career so I'm very excited about it.  Hopefully, it isn't the last.

Please enjoy the article, it appears on page 60.  Visit it here.

As always thanks for the support.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

As I wrote the other day as I attempted to catch up on life, FDIC is an incredible experience.  If you haven't gone, save the money and go.  From the Hands on Training, to the classroom sessions, to the keynote speeches to just the bagpipes and people you'll meet, it is by far the most humbling, and beneficial experience I have had in the Fire Service. I must start by saying, thank you to the IAFF Local 660 for allowing me to attend.  The knowledge and connections made last week will benefit our members in everything we do.

Some of the people I met there write and instruct routinely for departments and journals nationwide, and seem to be larger than life.  These guys are the big leaguers , the Peyton Mannings, the superstars of our job.  We often say, man I'd love to meet that guy, or take a class from that guy.  Well I did both in some cases, and the guys I met and learned from were no doubt the best in the business.  The main difference between them and many of the local superstars I know was, all of them were normal down to earth firefighters.

The stair climb was another incredible part of the week.  Never have I ever felt such a brotherhood and honor as I did there.  Our own stair climb here at my department didn't have that same feel, but I plan on making it that way this year.   Every person wished each other well, every person offered to help, and every person was there to honor the fallen.  It was yet another humbling and incredible experience.  I climbed for Patrick Waters, Captain Haz-Mat 1, and every time it got hard for me, I would yell his name to remind everyone why we there and who I was climbing specifically for.

Yet another great part of the week, was helping one member of the Fire Service Warrior movement to finish his first 5K and watch him complete the 110 floor stairclimb within 24 hours.  This individual has made the decision to change his life because of the FSW movement and its Ethos.  He and I exchanged some messages back and forth and I told him he was inspiring.  I mean, I struggled with the climb and the 5K and I view myself as being in shape.  This guy did it, and I asked him what's next?, because now he knows the sky is the limit.  That summed up much of my experience for the week, I can change so much as one man, if I can infect others with some of the enthusiasm I have, it will spread through our department.  If you haven't seen the Fire Service Warrior check it out here.

The entire experience can't be summarized for someone who hasn't been, but if you have it is always the same amount of enjoyment, encouragement, and fun.

It was a humbling experience all in all.  I will attempt to summarize it more in the next few weeks, but I'm not sure that it is possible to put it into words.  It was great to meet the few of the readers I met in Indy, and I look forward to seeing you again.  In short, the experience re-energized me, and made my will stronger to affect positive (Key word) change in the departments I am a part of and to share the knowledge gained with those around me.

To see some pictures visit the Hosejockey Facebook Page
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Obviously, FDIC is an incredible experience for all of those who attend.  I enjoyed my time there, met many great minds of the fire service, and made new friends with some great people.  I have no idea how to put into words the things I learned, took home with me, or shared during this past week, so I won't at all once.  I want to get some of these videos from the week out for all of you to watch to at least share some of the joy of FDIC from the comfort of your home.  Please watch them and learn from them.


Bobby Halton's Opening Speech at FDIC.  Great Speech by a Great man.
Chief Steve Kraft's Keynote, another changing speech for me.  Look at yourself, not others.....





 And One I had to post to close it out.  This is from the Stairclimb at Lucas Oil.....Enough Said RFB

 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Deep Survival Part 1

As I have mentioned before, the IAFF has a great online survival program that is open to everyone, including non-union members.  While reading over the handbook from it, I located the inspiration for the post on  The Abilene Paradox.  That article seemed to resonate with many of you and made some pretty vast travels across the internet.  While its great to understand what that post mentioned, I think this one may be much more important when it comes to truly being safe at work or on calls.

The handbook also mentions a book titled "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales.  This book is a great book, and for me it has been a great read thus far.  the book discusses the stories of many mountain climbers, pilots, and other risky hobbies and jobs, and their stories of tragedy and survival.  Throughout the book, the author continues to address many of the same issues no matter what realm they are discussed in, be it in an avalanche, or on an aircraft carrier, many of the same root problems and solutions exist.

Of course, being an "Eat up" fireman I have attempted in every way to relate this book to the fire service and so far, nearly the entire book relates directly to what we do.  Within the first few pages, he struck me with the first of many points that will stick with me the remainder of my fire service career.  To paraphrase he says that you need to control all of the variables you are able to control all of the time, there are variables that you can't control, but you must have a plan on how to react to them.  Then he goes on to discuss emotions, and he isn't talking about you all crying during a Lifetime movie.  He is talking about emotional responses and the problems that they can bring.  Gonzales says emotions can cause stress and panic which in any of the environments he describes as well as the fire service can be deadly.

More profoundly to me, he says that emotions create "bookmarks" that we refer back to in split second to base our decisions on.  We as humans essentially flip through a Rolodex of these bookmarks and we react in whichever ways we find the happier ending in.  This sometimes can turn us into sitting ducks, firefighters in some deep s%^&, or genuinely lucky firefighters.  Basically, he is saying that if we "get away" with some stupid action, when faced with the same situation, we will react the same, but unknown to our emotions at the time, we may be failing. 

We may push ourselves that much deeper in the building because we've done it before, we may say ohhh we got this, we just had the same fire last week.  Meanwhile the new guy is thinking, WTF, I scared but this guy knows what the hell he is doing.  Then he forms that same bookmark in the same dumb ass spot as the senior man has.  I think you see where I'm going with this.  As a service we have to assert some leadership to realize the way we have always, isn't always the best.  Maybe our bookmarks are on the wrong page, maybe they are in the last chapter, as we all have seen 100's of times each year. 

He also presents an interesting point in his book.  he says that the more experience someone has, may be detrimental to their successful outcome in a panic or survival situation.  While this isn't entirely fool proof, stick with me for a second...You have a 20 year veteran who has been there done that.  Place him in a survival situation on the fireground, then he controls his emotions and his brain searches for that bookmark of a positive outcome for this same experience that I spoke of earlier.  Well that bookmark may have been from recruit school in 1990, long before much of the self survival info or RIT items that we have today.  Does this individual call the mayday or does he macho his way out, after all he has done it 10 times before?  I hope that he uses his background, skills and knowledge to do the right thing and survive.  Gonzales states that unfortunately the more experience one has, quite often it can be a factor working against their survival, not always but much of the time.  I hope you see what I mean here, there is a slow but steady shift for firefighters to call for help when they need it but many still fail to do it.  We are beginning to tone down the egos, and understand that some of the macho elements of the fire service should go by the wayside so that we can hug our kids the next day. 

We all need to start understanding the fires have changed, so we must.  We can't charge in the door like the senior guys did in the 80's and expect the same result.  They didn't have wooden laminated I-beams, gusset plates, and furniture made of gasoline.  Flashovers are happening earlier, houses are less ventilated, and houses are less well built, so we have to be smarter than we have ever been.  However, as Gonzales says, we can't reason ourselves into a safe spot.  We have to use our senses and control our emotions in order to remain safe.

Firefighting is scary at times, there I said it, sometimes its scary.  If it isn't then you are lying or you don't respect what we do.  The difference is a good firefighter doesn't get emotional and show it, we pin our ears back, calculate the risk, and put the fire out, save the people, etc.  This is the way it should be, calculated, not reckless. 

We need to ensure that individuals don't leave bookmarks for survival in bad spots.  Good training and education can eliminate this possibility.  Do some recognition primed decision making and see how that helps to keep you calm and develop a plan.  I am not saying that what Gonzales writes is the gospel, but it sure is some food for thought especially as an officer.

Well, that's my pre FDIC rant.  I hope to see some of you there.  Thanks for reading, and there will be more to this post when I get to read some more of the book.........

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Upcoming Events

As many of you may know I will be attending FDIC for the first time this year.  It is actually my first fire "show" that I have ever attended, so I'm sure it will be incredible.  I am attending with my IAFF Brother from Working the Job, Jason Jefferies.  If you are going, drop me a line so we can catch up for a beer or six.  We of course plan on attending all of the big events, but we have some meetups of our own to attend as well.  In addition, I'll be participating in both the stair climb and the 5K, so hopefully I will see some of you at those events. 

Only a few more days until FDIC, can't wait........See you there.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Philly Fire LODD

Another LODD with two brothers killed this morning while operating at a warehouse fire in Philadelphia.  The past few days have been rough for the Fire Service.  Early reports are the two were killed by a wall collapse.  The audio and pictures are all out on the internet so listen and look so we can honor the brothers.  Everyone be safe out there.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

TN LODD

I have added a link to www.firefighterclosecalls.com on the facebook page, but here is another one from a TN news station: LODD.   Please keep your thoughts and prayers with all of those involved.  Be safe out there everyone.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The below video was seen a few weeks ago on the King of all blogs Dave Statter's www.statter911.com.  I will stay away from a tactics discussion because we have no idea what kind of construction they encountered. But at the 6:18 mark when the helmet comes flying out the door, we all know what happened.  Someone forgot to buckle their chinstrap, oh wait two people did.

Things like this drive me insane on the fire ground.  Whether it be unbuckled waist straps, unbuckled chin straps, or hoods hanging out of gear too many people think wearing PPE properly is an option.  Some of this can be attributed to an honest mistake, while others are habitual offenders.  I think one reason I get so mad about these things is since I joined the Fire Service they have been drilled into my head.  Always buckle your belt, always tuck in your hood, always use your chin strap.  All of these items are not effective with all of the features not being used.   If you don't buckle your helmet it will get knocked off.  Ask the chief in the video if that's true.  It looks cool to wear your chinstrap over the back of your helmet, but that certainly won't hold it on your head.  I learned this as a hard and fast lesson during my tenure in my former career department.  50 pushups for each time you chinstrap, waist strap or any other part of your PPE that was not secured.  They made it habit to make sure everything was worn correctly.

This was done because of an incident that occurred there.  A captain was burned and injured during an apartment fire in the northeast area of town.  He survived because of the high quality gear and the fact he worn his PPE properly, with one exception, his helmet.  That mistake nearly killed him, but the collapse occurred just far enough away he wasn't hit directly in the head.  He suffered a glancing blow removing his helmet, but nothing else fell on him, so we all know he was lucky.  This is why it is a pet peeve, nothing like a personal plea by a person who had it happen to them to make you develop a pet peeve.

The one that gets me the most and by far is the most prevalent, is the unbuckled waist straps.  If you have an emergency in a fire and these aren't buckled, my job of getting you out and converting your SCBA into a drag harness is ten times more difficult.  If you don't know why it's more difficult email me and I'll show you.  Plus, the weight of the SCBA is meant to be supported by the waist straps not the shoulder straps, so you can wear it more comfortably for longer.

So please my plea to all of you fix these issues if you see them, because the last thing I want to see is someone get hurt because of something they could easily fix on their own.  Control all the things you can all of the time, and have a plan for those things you can't control.  Be safe out there.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Dearborn, Mi Close Call

As many of you have may seen on Statter 911, there was a close call for some firefighters in Dearborn, Michigan while operating at a fire in a cleaning facility.  The firefighters were ventilating the roof, when the roof collapsed, nearly taking two of them with it.  The roof covering appears to have help enough weight to prevent the guys from taking a fall and the Captain recognized what was happening just in time to make his way to safety to help his "guys".

This video shows me that as an officer, we need to stand back and not be involved in the cutting, not only because of safety in incidents like this, but also so that I can communicate with command and other units on the fireground.  An officer should be watching the big picture and it appears this one was.  Now, that same officer should go back to the firehouse and put on a helmet chinstrap training evolution since neither guy was wearing his chinstrap.  Wear your helmet, wear your hood, we never think it could happen to us, but it can.  I'm sure both of them would have needed that helmet and the one would have needed his hood had they actually fallen.





Be safe out there.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abilene Paradox

Most of you are thinking what the hell is his guy doing?  Why does he think I care about whatever the heck a paradox is?  For those still reading give about five minutes of your time and you will easily relate.  If you haven't figured out by now, I am a Union Fireman, a Union Officer, and a huge advocate of the IAFF.  I don't agree with everything that the organization does, but I know there is no other organization doing as much for the fire service as the IAFF.  I was reviewing the student handbook from the IAFF Fireground Safety and Survival class I took this past year and read an excerpt I had missed the first time around.  It discussed something called the abilene paradox and how it can affect your actions as a firefighter.

Since your attention is waning, I'll give you the cliff notes version........It is where everyone agrees to do something out of fear of being different even though no one in the group agrees with it.  To put it in firefighter terms, its where you assume everyone wants to do something, but in reality no one wants any part of it, but for whatever reason everyone agrees to do it.  When I read this, I thought about many times of being in fires where I was thinking "Why are we in here?" only to find out 5 minutes later my partner was thinking the same thing.  What does this say about us as a fire service?  We continuously tell recruits in the academy or in their basic training "If you ever see a safety issue, you can stop the dangerous action" but really how often does that happen?  I don't think too many of us say anything to draw attention to ourselves when we are new, so we learn a macho culture of type A personalities that sometimes does some really dumb stuff.  I am not saying we need to be a bunch of safety sally's but I think we are at a crossroads in the fire service.  My home state is currently designing/offering a pilot program for exterior firefighting.  this certification will be for those who operate outside the IDLH, and to offer some departments a guideline for those who don't want to be interior firefighters.  Well, I thought that was called being an explorer, or being in the ladies auxiliary, but I guess I'm wrong.  I personally feel if you don't want to be an interior firefighter, then you don't want to be a firefighter at all.  I realize there are some who have done their time and are too old to go inside, but they can pump a truck or fill air cylinders and still be a part, all the while they are still Firefighter I or II certified.  Also, more importantly they have pulled their time inside of fires. 

The old timers in the departments are telling us we are too scared now, but science and experience is telling us we aren't safe enough... So where should an aggressive fireman go then?  In my opinion, we stay aggressive, but begin to side on the safety of our members just a bit more.  I hate to be the one on the fireground who has to call out the punt team and go defensive, but sometimes there is no reason to risk our members lives.  But, our first instinct shouldn't be to stand outside and hit the fire from there.  We all took an oath when we go on the fire department whether formally or just by accepting that pager and gear, to serve and protect the public all the while knowing that what we will do is inherently dangerous.  We are fighting a force of nature after all, and sometimes we actually win. 

I have experienced this paradox many times, but I can remember one specific instance when I actually bucked it and threw in the towel.  I was operating on the second division of a working house fire with the Volly department I run with.  I was backing up a rookie on the nozzle and could feel we weren't making any headway, and in fact things were getting worse.  When we starting breathing hot air in our masks, I tapped him and said hey lets get out of here and make sure they are cutting the roof for us.  When I walked outside this is what I saw:



Obviously something bad is going to happen here unless we get that roof cut.  Soon after they cut the roof, the smoke lifted, and the attack team on the first floor got the fire knocked down and we saved most on the house.  It also helped that the downstairs hose team located the seat of the fire. I think we all know that this could have gone alot differently.  The reason why we were so hot on the 2nd floor was that the floor had burned out in the room we we attempting to enter (directly over the fire).  Then as you can see in the picture, the smoke was thick, turbulent, and hot inside especially on the second floor.  When the rookie and I got out, he told me he was miserable up there too and when we all saw the smoke outside we knew it was the right decision. (BTW I know there are too many folks on the ladder before anyone comments on that)  Call it what you will,I called it a good decision then and I continue to now.  I do want to admit also, that I am not perfect and I do make mistakes....Just ask anyone who knows me.

My point of this whole thing is, we need experiences like this to check us up, to realize we might be too aggressive sometimes.  Guys with experience and officers have to step up and say, wait a second folks this is not a place we need to be.  We need the older folks to speak up and say get in there or get out of there to the new recruits, so they can be leaders when there time comes.  We are not invincible so let's not act like we are.  I am not advocating living by the Garth Brooks creed and "Standing Outside the Fire" but we all need to make sensible decisions on where we position ourselves.  Be aggressive, be smart, and be safe, it is possible to do all three.  We will never eliminate LODD's unfortunately, but we can minimize our chances of having one in our department, company, and region by being sensible.

I know this Abilene paradox happens to us all everyday at work, whether it picking what we are eating and everyone says "I don't care" or at a working fire.  Remember someone has to lead and speak up, be that firefighter, be the leader and not only will you eat what you want, you will have a safer company.

If you're coming to FDIC drop me a line, so we can catch up.  Working the Job and I are traveling together, and arriving early in the week.


 Until the next time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garland Tx. Accident

As I'm sure many of you have seen if you follow FF Close Calls, there was an incident involving an SCBA cylinder (The Army has tanks, babies have bottles, FD has Cylinders)  while filling a raft for water rescue in Garland, Tx.  I think the incident should serve as a reminder to all of us that SCBA cylinders are high pressure and they are dangerous.  I know all the departments I have ever been associated with use the SCBA cylinders in similar applications.  I know I have never considered something like this happening to me, but obviously it can, so be safe.  Well wishes go out to the Garland FD in this hard time, hopefully the brother will recover quickly and be back out in the field soon.




Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NC BES

If you don't know what the title of this means, look it up on you tube Google or somewhere.......Ok now that we have that out of the way it stands for NC Breathing Equipment School.  This class is held twice annually at Gaston College located in Dallas, NC.  To many, this facility is the center of all that is firefighter training, and after seeing the facility I think everyone would agree.  The facility is huge and allows for multiple drills to be run simultaneously within the same building without ever causing issues with one another.  I have had the distinct honor to participate, become an alumni and assist in teaching this program.  I enjoy going over there for at least one day during the 5 day course, and not even getting paid for it.  But, I do learn something new everytime I'm there, and have a great time, so its worth it to me. 

I have quite a few friends who are paid instructors in the program including my old fatheaded buddy Jason Jefferies from Working the Job.  They are joined by some of the greatest instructors in our state, region, and the Country for a 5 day survival and firefighter safety class.  Now we have all taken a RIT, FART, RIC, or otherwise referred to as self survival class in our career (If you haven't go take one).  But this class is different, not everyone graduates, it is realistic, and it is all done in live smoke, not kiddy fog.  After all of the studies showing the Recognition primed decision making is the way to go, we continue to use blackout masks, and concert fog to train our firefighters how to react in an emergency situation.  How is this recognition primed?  But many places lose sight of that and say its too dangerous to do.  Well I agree for the FFI and FF II class it is, but not for experienced folks.  Which for BES, these are prerequisites.  This class puts you in the real heat, smoke, and misery that you may feel during the time when the feces hits the oscillator.  You will learn proper bailout techniques, flashover recognition, firefighter packaging, lifting and moving a downed firefighter, SCBA connections, RIT rope management, and many other skills that can and will save your life everyday at work.

This type of training is hard to do, but this class allows it to happen.  Hell, who wouldn't take a class where the waiting list is 75 people long (and each class only has 60 in it)?  However, to me the best part of the class now for me, is surrounding myself with people who think, act, and carry themselves like me in a lot of ways.  I'm not saying I have half the knowledge of those guys teaching, but man can you learn something from them.  I mean I love going over there just to work with real firemen, many who are twice the firemen I even hope of ever becoming.  I stood side by side inside a smoke filled environment with a man who had done everything in his power (nearly dying himself in the process) to save his Captain in a real fire.  This is a guy who talks the talk and walked the walk.  He did it....what we all say we will, never leave a brother behind.  What class in this country can offer an instructor like that?  Where can you go and feel really miserable in a drill because you are getting beat down by radiant heat, but know every moment that you are as safe as you are on the front porch of your house?

The instructors of the NCBES get it, and I love that I can be associated with it, even if it is a support role.  My wife hates that I go spend 8 hours with a bunch of firemen and come home worn out, but she nor anyone else outside the fire service will ever get it.  Those of us who truly care about this job, dream of being able to complete a class like this, let alone assist in putting it on.  better yet, we get to go be firemen for a day, and hang out with some of the best and LEARN.  This class is incredible, and anyone who has taken it would agree that the job shirt you get at graduation is a badge and a brotherhood in itself.   People travel from all over the world, to take this class.  I had a guy who wore one of those funny helmets and fly over some pond to get here in my class.  That's right someone came to the thriving metropolis of Dallas, NC to take a firefighter class.  I just hope he didn't think that Dallas, NC represented the whole US.......If you want some more information on this class please email me @ cffasecretary@cffa660.org and I will get it to you.  Check out Jason's blog as well for some great still pics of this past class.

In closing please support the Asheville Fire Department's effort to help out the family of Captain Jeffrey Bowen who perished on July 28, 2011 at 445 Biltmore Ave.    Visit Captain Jeffrey Bowen .com to find out how you can support them.  They are selling some great T-Shirts that are raising funds. 

Here's a video of a few of the drills (not too many of the smoky one's since for those everyone is working)


Until the next time, Stay Safe and Stay Trained.

Monday, March 19, 2012

LODD In Norfolk, Va

Details are scarce, but there has been an LODD at a station in Norfolk, Va.  Apparently, Jonathan Myers was found unconcious in the bunkroom of firehouse 13.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Tidewater area Brothers and Sisters.  God speed to you all.


Also, please visit Working the Job's post on Breathing Equipment School.  I was fortunate enough to assist in teaching this class on Thursday.  As many of you know Jason is an instructor over there so he has some great pictures of the class on his blog.  If you haven't attended, I will be blogging about it in the next few days.  I can't give you all of the secrets...but Jason's pictures show you some of the smoke conditions that you do drills in......enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

PBI Tour and a PR

This past week has been busy, but one of best of this year.  FDIC is just over a month away, so I psyched about that obviously.  I got to tour the plant where PBI material is manufactured, and I PR'ed my marathon with a time 20 minutes better than my last.

Starting with the PBI tour, it was incredible.  I know some of you fire service legends (probably not reading this) have seen the TPP test and THL test that our gear is put through.  I also felt more comfort in wearing PBI material when I watched just the outershell go through some tests side by side with a full Nomex blend.  I learned so much that day it is nearly impossible to put into one post, but needless to say it was informative.  I know now why our gear is 60% Kevlar, 40% PBI.  It is done this way because PBI is very succeptable to tearing when placed in a 100% blend.  Our outer shell would tear and not last without the Kevlar blend that the PBI is stitched together with.  

I also learned that there are many materials that are out there that claim to protect firefighters the best, but truly to me Nomex and PBI are the only ones I would trust.  There are even some materials on the market the conduct heat at such a high rate, they absorb heat better than steel.  Sounds like a great wearing coat huh?

This tour was a very informative event for me and the others who came with me.  I look forward to working with Bryan and all the folks at PBI in the future and of course talking up their product when someone asks.  The people at that plant and company care about us, and they all realize what the product they make does, take us home everyday.  All of their sales folks have put on gear and been in heat, in fact Bryan will be at Gaston College for Breathing equipment school later this week.

Now on to the Marathon......I know how is running 26 miles exciting?  I can't answer that run a marathon and you'll find out.  Running a marathon is a challenge like no other, a mixture of mind games and physical challenge.  This was my first marathon since the birth of my son, so training was harder to squeeze in, long runs were harder on my wife and life got in the way alot.  But after 3:54:20 it was all worth it to know I had broken 4 hours and that my son was proud of me, even though he is seemingly too young to understand.

I started out through Mile 20 with the 3:45 pace group, I had to fall back at this point to keep my goal in reach.  With 2 miles to go I had 29 minutes to beat 4 hours, so I knew I could do it.  Well, when I crossed the line, I knew that all of that training, time away, and sacrifice by both me and my family was worth it.  Even my wife seemed happy that I had done so well.  I then had the best celebration ever, taking my son to the Zoo for the first time.

I'm not saying everyone in the fire service should run a marathon, but everyone should be doing something to better themselves every shift.  Last week alone I did more to better myself as a firefighter than I have done in a while.  Its always good to get back in the game, so to speak, to do things that benefit you at work.  I know now I can do anything I put my mind to, and that the gear I wear has certain limitations.  What have you learned this week?  37 more days until FDIC (Thanks to AVG. Jake for the Countdown).  If you aren't going, what will you be doing to make yourself a better firefighter that week?


As always thanks for reading, and until the next time, stay safe and stay trained.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Busy Week

I have a busy week ahead of me.  I have some family activities this weekend, STICO class on Monday and Tuesday and finishing it all out with a tour of the PBI Plant on Thursday.  If I survive all of that, I'm running the Columbia, SC Marathon next Saturday, with the hopes of a PR on that one.  I'm not seeing any fresh posts being put out this week so bear with me.  I'm sure I'll have some great stuff after this week.  Have a safe Week.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CA LODD

A firefighter has been killed in California on the Interstate.  The Following is taken from  The Secret List of Billy G:

The Secret List www.FireFighterCloseCalls.com
We regret to advise you that a Cottonwood (Calif) Firefighter was struck and killed in the Line of Duty this morning. The incident occurred around 0600 on southbound Interstate 5 near the Shasta area. There were 3 separate crashes, originally, there was a solo spin out which both CHP and the Cottonwood Fire Protection District responded to. The weather was nasty, with hail and snow, although some lanes were plowed, the conditions made driving difficult and caused a second vehicle to lose control. After that second spin out, the driver of a black 2003 Chevy S10, Jered Shumaker, 31, tried to avoid running into yet another vehicle that had lost control. Shumaker rotated in a southwest direction and passed between (a parked CHP vehicle and the fire truck, 3 people were standing nearby, a CHP officer, a Firefighter and one of the passengers of an earlier wrecked vehicle, all were struck. All 3 victims were transported to Mercy Hospital where the Cottonwood firefighter was later pronounced dead. More to follow. RIP. Our condolences to all affected.
Take care-BE CAREFUL.
BillyG


Be Safe out there people.  Protect yourself out there..........