It is great to be back after a fairly lengthy hiatus due to the need to focus on the organization I serve Horry County Fire Rescue. Since coming to Horry County Fire Rescue I have had the opportunity to serve with a very dedicated caring group of people who have to overcome a lot of adversity everyday. These great men and women who serve tirelessly everyday serving the over 300,000 citizens and 15million visitors to the Grand Strand each year. With adversities like understaffing, aging apparatus, increased response volume and no pay increase comes the opportunity for individuals to become very negative and even disgruntled. I am sure this was the case with some but the majority always kept that competing edge of a positive attitude even when they were faced with issues. The Attitude is Everything series will embark on a journey looking into the components of just how Attitude impacts organizations and especially leaders. TheCompanyOfficer.com will explore further the concept of Attitude is Everything especially in servant leadership. Stay tuned to as we embark on a journey at one of the paramount times in the year for the fire service as we come together next week in Indianapolis for the 2013 FDIC Conference. I would like to invite you to come to my program Training Today’s Fire Service Wednesday afternoon April 24, 2013 at 3:30 in the Walbash 2 Room at the convention center. I hope to see you there!
Across the world I bet if you sat around the table on the tailboard of an apparatus or at any conference you would hear some folks that are talking about how “Boogered up” their department is. So what do you do when your department is “Boogered up”? The important component is to look in the mirror first and see if you are part of the problem. That’s right; I put the blame on you. Why? Well you are part of the department and most often we have a contribution to everything that occurs in the department at some level. So are you contributing to the “Boogering up” of the department? Well let’s look and see if you are part of the problem or part of the solution.
Let the Department Clarify Our Motive
Let each individual in the department examine themselves thoroughly and know their hearts. With that we mean are we following the mission of the department or are we working to meet your personal mission. Remember there is no “I” in team, so if you are more focused on your own mission than the department’s, then you are making a major contribution to the “Boogering up” of the department. With this we also need to look at this from both sides especially if you are an officer. I question you folks to look and see if you are servicing both customers; the public and the troops. Often you will see individuals who make the officer level forget where they came from. It is important that you serve both sets of customers. So bottom line is if we get in tune with what the mission of the department and the strategic plan of the Fire Chief then everyone will have ample opportunity to most often meet both the mission of the department and their own mission. This is possible because most times these have many similar aspirations if you just really look at them.
Purify Our Thinking
In getting focused on the mission of the department you will see that the “Boogering” will just blow away. To do this the department needs to have pure thinking for the department and not the individuals in the department. By focusing on the good of the community we will again go back to focus on the mission. This is something that leaders must do every day. As we talk the talk we must also walk the walk. The troops can see past the transparent membranes we try to hide behind as officers. If we focus on being pure of heart we will see the focus from the troops will come in line. Community relations are a big job, too big for a single person to handle. It will require the efforts of every member of your team to make this a successful venture. Of course it starts with you as the leader. As the leader you must sell this concept to the group of people who deal with the community on a daily basis, the emergency responders. During their work delivering emergency services they must execute the plan. I know you are asking what plan. The plan is what you want to accomplish in gaining community support. One of the more common theories that I heard recently at a conference made perfect sense. As an emergency services department you must make yourself so desirable that it would be political suicide for the governing agency not to give you what you want because the community would be upset. For this concept to work each individual of the department must buy into this concept of community support.
To think correctly as an officer you have to have to be honest with yourself and everyone else involved.
Reveal the Department’s Problems
I have always heard that everything in the department is g-14 classified and if administration told you they would have to kill you. Well where that anomaly came from…I don’t know. I have been in administration for several years now and it seem to me that if you want to know something you need to go to the troops as they seem to have some major inside connection that tells them everything…even some things that really never could be possible or true. As a leader you need to be open and up front with your folks. I have a hard time seeing where anything we do other than personnel issues and business deals is such a big secret. Here are some ideas:
1. Make your budget proposal available for your personnel to see.
2. Have input from others on the budget.
3. Have a web site section or a book for department communications.
4. Strategic plans should be shared and reviewed by others.
5. Conduct a Post Incident Analysis on responses
6. Have personnel situations where there is tension have to address the issue head to head.
These are just a few ideas that can open up the department’s ability to identify issues and make improvements with buy in from all levels.
Replace Old Thoughts with Modern Truths
I know everyone has heard or said the following statement, “That is the way we have always done it.” If you are not in one of these categories you have either just got into the fire service about 10 minutes ago of you are in complete denial. These words have been spoken more times than we care to think. The problem is we never seem to move on from what we have always done.
As times change so do the situations that we are confronted with. Responses are much different than they were 20 years ago. Firefighters whom have entered the fire service over the last 7-10 years have strong computer and technology skills. Fires are fueled with different materials. Building construction has drastically changed. However we are still in some cases deploying the same old tactics that were taught 20+ years ago. The two do not match up. The contents of our homes and businesses emit gases more quickly during fires and laden the smoke with more volatility than did the smoke witnessed by experienced fire officers from previous decades. To make matters worse, we are responding to fewer fires which significantly decreases our experience. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the number of firefighter injuries and deaths from flashover and other hostile fire events. It is time to take the no changes mentality off the back-burner and update it to the challenges of today.
We are finding that current research shows what we have done for years is not the best tactics. If you are not reviewing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwrites Laboratories (UL) research you need to begin. The information presented is astounding and will make you begin really analyzing what you do every day on the job.
Help Each Individuals Identify Their Own Short Comings
A skills gap analysis is undertaken to identify the skills that an employee needs, but may not have, to carry out his or her job or to perform certain tasks effectively. The skills gap concept is used in areas such as businesses and educational institutes. The fire service falls under both of these areas. The first step in performing an analysis is to identify all the skills required by an individual to carry out his or her work. It should then be possible to identify the critical and noncritical skills that are needed to carry out a role effectively.
A critical skill is one that is required to complete a task successfully. Noncritical skills enable a task to be completed more quickly or efficiently, or at less cost than would otherwise be the case. There is a relatively simple method for determining whether a skill is critical or noncritical. Quite simply, if an employee lacks a skill but completes a task satisfactorily, the skill is noncritical. Conversely, if a person completes a task but the outcome is unsatisfactory, the missing skill is critical.
By applying skills gap analysis across fire companies it is possible to find out which skill and knowledge shortfalls there are in an organization. It is then possible to target training resources on those necessary skills that require the most attention. This should result in the optimal use of resources in terms of improving the overall performance of the individuals thus impacting the organizational performance. For individuals, skills gap analysis can be used to produce personal development and training plans. It can also be used to bolster morale by showing how they have progressed over time.
For a department, skills gap analysis can be used to identify which staff members have most knowledge of particular aspects of the profession as well as those with skill gaps. Furthermore, it can aid recruitment by identifying the candidate whose skills best match those needed to function effectively in leadership roles. For example, in an application of skills gap analysis to the role of a firefighter, the essential skills considered were: critical thinking, oral communication, and the ability to work with others. Analysis also allows benchmarking and encourages tutoring and mentoring within teams.
Skills gap analysis can be undertaken using paper-based assessments, evaluations, assessments and supporting interviews. However, if an analysis is to be performed across a large number of employees, it can create a huge management and administrative burden. Many departments therefore use skill management software.
Analysis can be applied on a continuing basis or as a one-off exercise. Specialized software can generate a skills gap analysis report with a few clicks of the mouse. Paper-based reports take somewhat longer, depending on how many questions there are to answer.
• A skills gap analysis can provide a critical overview of a company, allowing management to determine if staff has the necessary skills to meet department objectives or achieve a change in strategy.
• It provides an analysis of skill gaps in an organization, department, or individual role.
• Analysis helps departments to prioritize their training plans and resources.
• Analysis can help with recruitment and training, and it gives management a basis for deciding which staff should be retained and which are expendable.
• Conducting a skills gap analysis can be costly in terms of the required investment in paper-based assessments or software, as well as the time required from staff to participate and for management to evaluate the results.
• It may be simpler and more cost-effective to ask company officers to identify skill gaps in their fire companies, or simply to ask staff in which areas they need additional training.
• The assessment can be subjective and open to distortion if staff do not answer questions correctly or do true assessments.
Dos and Don’ts
• Consider the potential impact of a skills gap analysis on morale. Assessing an employee’s capabilities can create fear and suspicion unless the reason for the analysis is understood and communicated effectively or done without the employee knowing it.
• Don’t assume that you need to create a bespoke (in-house) framework to perform a skills gap analysis. Off-the-shelf frameworks can be suitable when adapted to your department’s needs.
• Don’t focus only on training needs. Skills gap analysis can be used to plan recruitment and redundancy programs, support organizational restructures, build effective teams, and manage business change.
Don’t go around saying something is OK when it isn’t.
I am sure you have been around people who like to bury their heads in the sand. You know the ones who avoid confrontation and have rose colored glasses. It is important to recognize and identify when situations are not OK.
Now that we know that it is not healthy for any organization, group or individual to go around saying it is OK when it isn’t, how do we fix the problem?
• Admit there is /are issue(s).
• Identify what the issue(s) is /are.
• Search for solutions to correct the issue(s).
• Develop a strategy of solution implementation and evaluation.
• Follow through with your efforts.
The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them. Don’t let leadership get “Boogered Up” in your organization.
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway!
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway!
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway!
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway!
5. Honesty and frankness makes you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway!
6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!
7. People favor underdogs, but follow top dogs. Fight for the underdogs anyway!
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!
9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway!
10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway!
It is always good to be reminded of what we were given as students and mentee’s. This comes at an opportune time in my life to clarify focus, create drive and provide sound direction to my future. I was raised on these commandments of leadership by my mentors, some of the greatest fire service individuals to ever exist. Ironically, I was searching for something else in the office when I ran across an old text book that I utilized when going through the International Society of Fire Service Instructors’ (ISFSI) Company of Development (CODe) Series many years ago. One of the authors of the book ended up being my Fire Chief and Mentor, Dan Jones. The book “Managing People” happened to fall to the floor in my search and opened up to page 32 where the Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership was located.
Over the past year I have been in many discussions with friends and colleagues across North America about issues that we face daily in the fire service and the many frustrations leaders are having. It often times gets to the point of being somewhat depressing as the future holds so many uncertainties. I know I have had friends with 25 plus years experience layoffs, we see stations closing, training centers shut down and good leaders cut off at the knees by ram-rod political events.
I believe the book falling open to the page with Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership is one of those events that occur that makes you say…Ok I get it! My frustration with the fire service is like riding a roller coaster. Many issues affect my emotions as I often am finding myself disheartened with the events that have reoccurrence in our business.
The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent Keith in 1968, when he was 19, a sophomore at Harvard College. They were part of The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, his first booklet for high school student leaders. Here is how it all came about.
As a senior at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, Kent was heavily involved in student government. He was student body president and also president of the Honolulu High School Association. He was excited about the challenges of leadership and good leadership techniques.
Because Hawaii did not have a student council leadership workshop to train student council leaders, Kent founded the Hawaii Student Leadership Institute, which held its first session in the summer of 1966. This was the first leadership workshop for high school student leaders that was founded and run entirely by high school students.
Kent went on to attend Harvard. During his four years as an undergraduate there, he gave more than 150 speeches at high schools, student leadership workshops, and state student council conventions in eight states. These were the turbulent sixties, when student activists were seizing buildings, throwing rocks at police, and shouting down opponents. Kent provided an alternative voice. In his public speaking, Kent encouraged students to care about others, and to work through the system to achieve change. One thing he learned was students didn’t know how to work through the system to bring about change. Some of them also tended to give up quickly when they faced difficulties or failures. They needed deeper, longer-lasting reasons to keep trying.
“I saw a lot of idealistic young people go out into the world to do what they thought was right, and good, and true, only to come back a short time later, discouraged, or embittered, because they got negative feedback, or nobody appreciated them, or they failed to get the results they had hoped for.” recalls Keith. “I told them that if they were going to change the world, they had to really love people, and if they did, that love would sustain them. I also told them that they couldn’t be in it for fame or glory. I said that if they did what was right and good and true, they would find meaning and satisfaction, and that meaning and satisfaction would be enough. If they had the meaning, they didn’t need the glory.”
In his sophomore year at Harvard, Kent began writing a booklet for high school student leaders that addressed both the how and the why of leading change. The booklet was titled The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, and it was published by Harvard Student Agencies in 1968. The Paradoxical Commandments were part of Chapter Two, entitled “Brotherly What?”
“I laid down the Paradoxical Commandments as a challenge,” Keith said. “The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.”
As one walks up to the door of the Concord High School Fire Academy, you can tell that this is going to be a mind opening experience. The sign on the door speaks volumes; “Through these Doors Walks the Future of the American Fire Service”. Upon your knock, the Watch Commander rises to answer the door. The command “Attention on Deck” is given and the recruits all rise to stand at attention to welcome their visitor. The watch Commander asks for your name and announces your arrival. This is a courtesy extended to all adults that visit this classroom. The Chief walks over and welcomes you to the Concord High School Fire Academy which is one of only three such programs in the state of North Carolina. Turning to the recruits, the Chief says “As you Were” and the recruits default to the parade rest position and remain standing. This program is set up as a direct delivery program through the OSFM that does not involve the NC Community College system. There are two other two programs, one at E. E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, NC and Dixon High School in Onslow County NC. These three programs are part of a three year pilot program. The Concord High School Fire Academy is the youngest of the three.
The idea for high school students to be able to take Firefighter I,II certification classes through the community college system has been around for many years through the dual enrollment process. The idea for High Schools to offer Firefighter Certification classes as part of the Career and Technical Education program however, is a much newer idea. Mr. Jay Brooks, the Assistant Fire Marshal of Rockingham County near Eden, NC proposed the idea to Mr. David Barbour, a Trade and Industrial Consultant for the NC Department of Public Instruction. His idea was based on the fact that many high school students across the state were responding to fire calls and they did not have the necessary training to answer these calls safely. His proposal was to have the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the NC Department of Public Instruction join forces to offer Career and Technical Education classes that would provide these students with the Firefighter I,II certification classes as well as provide them with CTE class credits.
These two organizations collaborated and the first three pilot programs were selected. The 2010-2011 school year marks the second year of the 3 year pilot program. If all goes well and the pilot program is deemed successful, the concept of High School Fire Academies will become part of the NC Standard Course of Study. All that will be needed is to have a strong partner agency for the high school to work with to assist with providing the tools of the trade and additional instructors to assist with the practical skills. The Instructors must be NC Certified Teachers as well as Level II Instructors with the Office of the State Fire Marshal qualified to instruct Firefighter I,II classes.
Welcome to the Concord High School Fire Academy! As the recruits enter the classroom, they pick up their ID tag from a ring on the back of the door and walk across the room and tag in on the Accountability Board. Students must tag in and out each class period. If a student is called to the office or needs to leave the class for any reason, the CHSFA has a “2-In – 2-Out” policy and another recruit must accompany them as their “Battle Buddy”. This is Reality Based Instruction. The class is considered a Battalion and each neat row of 4 desks is a Company. The class has a Battalion Chief and each Company has a company officer who holds the rank of Captain. The officers all sit in the rear seats of the class so they can watch over their companies. When the class attendance is taken it is done so as a PAR by company.
Each class period there are the announcements which are performed much like a face to face shift change with the recruits standing at either attention or at parade rest. Once seated, there is the “Morning Minute” and a Fire service quote or a one-liner from Fire Nuggets.com. Then there is the trademark CHSFA Cheer. Chief “Whooo?” Battalion Drill Commander “Who Are WE?” All Recruits shout “CHS Fire Academy CTE – Sir!”. The CTE has two meanings – Career and Technical Education, and the Fire Academy motto which is “Committed To Excellence”. Posted on the wall next to the accountability tags is a sign that says Don’t Train To Get It Right… Train So That You Can’t Get It Wrong. The Academy Motto is “Honor, Service, Pride, Tradition”.
The classroom has a Memorial Wall with the American Flag and State Flag flanking it. It is a black bulletin board with a red stripe. The NCFFF T-shirt is in a shadow box on the wall along with Stickers from 9-11-01, W6, and the C9. At the top of the wall there is a sign that says… WE WILL NEVER FORGET. There is also a plaque with the names of the Cabarrus County LODD’s and a current count of the LODD’s for the US that is kept updated.
As you entered the CHSFA classroom one cannot help but see the 20 sets of used Turnout Gear hanging at the rear of the room on the gear rack that were donated by local fire departments along with 12 brand new fire helmets and CHS Fire Academy helmet shields. MSA Cairns Helmet division was very good to provide these for the academy as was Shelby Specialty Gloves and Majestic Fire Hoods. One also sees the mats used for PT for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award Program. The academy classroom also has several different brands of SCBA for the recruits to become familiar with.
Wednesday is uniform day. The recruits are required to wear the Fire Academy T-shirt and navy blue BDU’s with a plain black belt and black duty boots or shoes. The Introduction to Public Safety class has a red T-shirt and the Fire Science level I, II, III recruits wear a navy blue T-shirt. The Fire Science students actually wear the Class B uniform (T-shirts) every Monday and the Class A navy blue dress uniform shirt with the CHSFA patches on Wednesday. The Battalion Chiefs and Captains wear white dress uniform shirts. All of these are used shirts that have been donated by the partner agency – Concord Department of Fire and Life Safety. The partner agency has also made Photo ID cards for all of the Fire Academy recruits as well.
Whenever a Battalion goes outside of the classroom to participate in Drill, PT, or to train with the CHSFA Fire Apparatus “The Black Widow”, the Recruit Class Guidon must lead. One recruit is designated to guard the Guidon and a relief is appointed at approximately 5 minute intervals. This is another way that accountability is taught and learned through reality based instruction.
The Concord High School Fire Academy has an Honor Guard that presents the colors for many different events including Home Football games, Honor Society Inductions, Graduation, and this fall the Honor Guard was called upon to serve at a military funeral procession. The Honor Guard teamed up with the Police Explorers Honor Guard to begin the Holiday season this year by Presenting the Colors at the Concord Tree Lighting ceremony the night before the CHSFA marched in the Concord Christmas Parade. Early in December the CHSFA also participated in the Kannapolis, NC “Christmas Parade of Lights” night parade.
At this time, the Fire Science – Level I recruits are taking the Fire Prevention Education and Cause class and are working on Fire Safety messages as well as acting out a number of children’s fire safety story books with homemade and commercially available Puppets. Hopefully these will be successful and deliver the messages needed to make many young persons of all ages more fire safe.
The CHS Fire Academy has grown from 20 students in late January of 2010 to the current roster of 110 students during the 2010-2011 school year. Performance has been very satisfactory with the administration of 295 Certification Exams during the first semester along with the completion of the Practical Skills assessments. The pass rate during the first semester was 98 percent. To date, during the second semester the rate has been only slightly lower.
The Firefighter I,II certification classes are instructed over 3 semesters.
Semester I topics include: Orientation and Safety, PPE, Fire Behavior, Portable Fire Extinguishers, Alarms and Communications, Fire Prevention, Education, and Fire Cause Determination, and Fire Hose, Streams, and Appliances.
Semester II topics include: Ropes, Ladders, Forcible Entry, Ventilation, The Art of Reading Smoke, Water Supply, Sprinklers, and Foam Fire Streams.
Semester III topics include: Salvage, Overhaul, Emergency Medical Care, Rescue, Building Construction, and Fire Control – Except for the Live Burn. The Live Burn can be completed after age 18 and after graduation.
The only other class for Firefighter I,II that is not completed in the Fire Academy is Haz Mat Awareness, Operations, and Terrorism. The number of hours required for this class keeps it from being completed along with the rest of the Semester III topics. Recruits can take and complete this class with Dual Enrollment or at another time.
There has been a strong interest in the Skills USA Firefighter Competition Team that has been started this year. Currently there are 14 students that hold practice every Wednesday afternoon. Events that are practiced include: Turnout Gear Racing, Ladder Raise, Forcible Entry, Advancing charged and uncharged Hose Lines, Knots, Obstacle courses with backboards and Stokes Baskets and more… Each Competition Team member has a Resume, practices Interview Skills, and studies extra topics and detail in Fire Science. Two officers from the academy attended the Camp Dixie Fall Leadership Conference at the beginning of the school year so that they could lead and train the Skills USA Firefighter Competition Team. The State competition this year was held in late March and three of our recruits competed and did well. Captain Brandon Blackwelder placed 2nd, Battalion Chief Taylor Beverly placed 6th, and Captain Kyle Franklin placed 7th. Just recently we have learned that Captain Blackwelder will be representing North Carolina at the National Skills USA competition in Kansas City, Kansas in mid June.
The CHS Fire Academy Honor Guard and Officers attended the NC Association of Fire Chief’s Midwinter Conference February 2-6, 2011 that was held at the Embassy Suites Conference Center and Hotel in Concord, NC. The recruits were present as Chief Barlow presented a workshop about the program. The recruits manned a table display showcasing the High School Fire Academy Concept. The workshop was well attended. Mr. Steve Sloan of the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Office announced to the workshop participants that this program is now being recognized as the model program in the state.
On April 12, 2011, Chief Barlow presented an overview of the CHS Fire Academy to the North Carolina Fire and Rescue Commission at their spring meeting. The Fire and Rescue Commission meets quarterly. The reason for the overview and update was to let the Commission know first hand what is happening with the program since there is so much interest statewide and beyond.
Other major events that the CHS Fire Academy has participated in this year include: Cabarrus County Fire and Life Safety Bowl and the Liberty Mutual Drunk Driving Awareness Crash Car event.
Upcoming events include: The 1st Annual CHS Fire Academy Awards Night, The 1st Annual Firemen’s Day & Muster, Honor Guard performances at the National Technical Honor Society Induction, Two different High School Graduation ceremonies, and the presentation of the colors at the International Association of Fire Chief’s Southeastern Conference in Montgomery, Alabama in mid June, and then the Skills USA National Competition. It has been a busy year so far.
As you prepare to leave the Fire Academy, the Battalion Chief asks if you have time to look over their pride and joy – “The Black Widow”? This is their 1973 American LaFrance Fire Apparatus that is named for the school mascot – The Spiders. The truck is on lease from the Concord Department of Fire and Life Safety for the recruits to use and maintain as their Training Truck and is their source of much pride. Since you do not have time to check it out on this visit, maybe you can return soon and really get a more detailed overview of how this equipment fits in to our overall Fire Academy experience.
Chief – Can I get a Hoorah? Recruits – “HooRah!”
Chief “Whooo?” Battalion Drill Commander “Who Are WE?”
Recruits shout “CHS Fire Academy CTE – Sir!”.
Chief David Barlow was hired as the Chief Instructor for this program after a 33 year career as a High School Science Teacher. His last 20 years of teaching was at Mooresville High School where he retired in June of 2008. After retirement, starting inside of Shenandoah National Park he backpacked the entire length of the Original Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has come out of retirement to serve as the Chief of the Concord High School Fire Academy. Chief Barlow is an OSFM Level II Instructor, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Officer Level III, Technical Rescue Specialist, Haz Mat Technician, and a graduate of the NC Association of Fire Chief’s Executive Development Program. He has also attended the NASA DART Advanced Structural Collapse USAR School at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. His current and active career as a volunteer firefighter spans more than 32 years.
History’s greatest achievements have been made by individuals who excelled only slightly over the masses of other individuals in their respective fields. I am reminded of this when you look at athletes. Most have significant levels of talent. The same is true for the fire service. Most of our personnel have strong predicated skills, abilities and knowledge. So what puts the people excelling in front of the others? Most times that small difference is attitude. Over the years I have had the opportunity to spend time with many different fire departments. The difference was captured by the late Ralph Jackman, Fire Chief in Vergennes, Vermont. In a conversation standing in the apparatus bay of the Vergennes Fire Department he commented that his department did not have the greatest equipment or the fanciest of fire apparatus. In fact he stated the sometimes struggle with the financial end of keeping up. He did quickly point out that that his personnel had passion, desire and the right attitude to serve, which was the critical factor in the success of the organization. He went on to further reiterate the importance of having a positive attitude and what that brings to the formula of success. He stated, “Give me someone who has a good attitude and I can work with them on the other things.”
Certainly aptitude is important to our success in life or the success of an organization. Yet anyone who has been around the fire service for more than a few days knows success or failure is precipitated more by mental attitude than by mere mental capacities. WE have to recognize the true importance of the total equation I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) + A.Q. (Attitude Quotient) = Success or Failure. We have all witnessed individuals whose I.Q. was extremely high and their performance was low and the opposite of low I.Q and high performance. The difference in each of these formulas is the attitude quotient. There is very little difference in people, but that little difference, attitude, makes a big difference.
So how do we become successful organizations excelling in all aspects? First we must have talented personnel in place. We must foster positive attitudes. This fostering is critical and it is not just the responsibility of the Fire Chief. Sure it may begin there but the critical dimension is within the officers, especially company officers. It is paramount that officers maintain a strong -positive attitude. The true leaders and trainers of today’s fire service are the company officers. In many organizations it is glaringly apparent that the company officers don’t possess the correct attitudes. This is a serious issue because they begin to affect the troops as their leadership is mostly what these individuals see. Just like cancer growing, attitudes spreads very quickly whether it is positive or negative.
Some Individuals would look at a pile of rubble and say “what a mess” while others will look at the same pile and say “what an opportunity”. Which one of these individuals would you want leading the fire department in your community? Most would say the one who has a vision of what that “mess” could be. This is an excellent example of a positive attitude.
With all this said…how is your attitude? Before you answer, what would others say if they had this opportunity to answer? I encourage you to take a true examination here. As an officer, I hope my personnel have excellent minds and outstanding attitudes. But if I have to choose an “either-or” situation, without hesitation I would want their A.Q. (attitude) to be high!
Training & Tactics Talk: Company Officers and Their Role as a Training Officer
Douglas Cline talks with several fire officers about the role of officers as trainers at the company level.
Chief Cline is joined by Lt. Michael Daley of Monroe Township, NJ, Deputy Chief Spencer Lee of Jacksonville, NC and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Pinelski of Downers Grove, IL.
The group of seasoned veterans, and long-time fire service instructors, share stories that illustrate the important role of a company officer in keeping firefighters trained.
They talk about building a foundation for training with each crew and share tips to keep training exciting and fresh.
For a direct link to the podcast, HERE
Spending time with colleagues is an awesome experience when the conversation focuses on change in the culture of the fire service. I recently had the privilege to spend several days with great fire service servants at the 2011 Emergency Service Conference at Pipestem (ESCAPe) in West Virginia. The dialog and conversations about the need for culture change was plentiful especially after delivering a program on the 16 life safety initiative. We took the opportunity to sit down and talk about some fire service issue and I got their view as well. Just listen to what the conversation turned to after the class.
Whether you are a career firefighter, volunteer firefighter, company officer, instructor, training officer, chief officer, or whatever your title or role may be; if you have been tasked or assigned to be an instructor in a training exercise that will involve live fire, you have a responsibility to the people you will train, lead, or supervise to have the proper knowledge, skills and abilities. These responsibilities come from a number of sources. First and foremost, there is the moral obligation that comes with putting people in danger. There are also legislative responsibilities, which could be national industrial standards, state laws, local codes, and even the possibility of criminal charges for acts that could be considered malicious or negligent, not to mention specter of a civil law threat.
You know that history shows that firefighters and students learning to become firefighters, have died or been severely injured during these live fire training exercises. However, you also know that firefighters who don’t possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the job effectively are a danger to their fellow comrades. You also have your peer pressure and superiors’ pushing you to make sure that the drill is “real”. They want to make it worth their time so the rookies can “learn something from it”.
So you have to achieve a balance of risk in training versus the risk of not having that training. NFPA 1403 was designed to set standards on what should be done to mitigate those dangers and that risk. The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) has designed a Live Fire Instructor credentialed training program designed to teach you how to meet the standards while preparing firefighters through the experiences of live fire training, in permanent live fire training props. For more information contact ISFSI.
Authority is the right to command and expend resources.
A leader is one who can generate effective individual and group action to accomplish agency goals.
The fire service is a dynamic profession that is richly steeped in tradition, noble in deeds and calling. We know the fire service to be constant – yet ever changing in today’s society. We have built this profession upon man and machinery in opposition with an uncontrolled force known as fire. The last fifteen years has shown a shift from traditional fire service missions to encompass a wide scope of service deliveries that is ever expanding. We are challenged daily on the way we do business.
These changes have affected not only the fire service as a whole but also each level
within. The importance of competencies for fire officers in skills, knowledge and training is of the essence in today’s fire service. Fire officer cultural and attitudinal changes are the crucial links that will ultimately determine the future of our business.
Each year the American fire service experiences an average of over 100 line of duty deaths each year. Further we know that the amount of working fires are down approximately 66% of what they were in the mid 1970’s. So what is the score card saying? Why do we continue to know the causes of line of duty deaths and do nothing to change? Summed up it is nothing more than attitudes. We need to change our attitudes. There is no where in the corporate world that you could come in and give an annual report that stated we had a good year, we only lost 100 employees that you would not be escorted out the door before you could get your personal items in a box. Ron Siarnicki of the national Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation (NFFF) made this statement in one of there program. Guess what…HE IS CORRECT! Why do we as leaders in this business continue to allow these issues to occur? Why do we continue to deem it an honor to die in the line of duty? Why are we so resistant to change? We call it tradition! Well as a fire chief and a fire service member I have to say, “GET OVER OLD and BAD TRADITIONS, START A SAFE NEW ONE!” Ok, if I stepped on some toes here, GOOD, they probably needed it. We cannot afford to continue allowing the same mistakes over and over again to occur. At some point we have to start saying it is not acceptable to have injuries and Line of Duty Deaths (LODD). We must change this culture and the time is now and it starts with YOU!
I recently was shuttled to the airport following a conference. I was able to spend that time talking with a young foriegn exchange fire science student who was asking many questions about the culture of the fire service. I asked me how many people get hurt or are killed doing this job as he had seen T-Shirts this week about this. I was ashamed to say we usually have an average of more than 100 firefighters a year. He then asked why. Boy did this hit home! We know why and how firefighters die in the line of duty but what are we doing to prevent them? In 2010 we had eighty five(85) line of duty deaths. My question is just how many of these could have been prevented? One area that we know we can control the environment and have good chances of not having a line of duty death is training. But in 2010 we had 7 line of duty deaths in training. This equates to 8.2% of the total line of duty deaths for that year. Secondly responding to and returning from alarms accounted for 16 line of duty deaths or 18.8%. Deaths in crashes continue to account for a significant portion of the annual fatalities. How many of these could have been prevented? How many were not wearing their seat belts? How many was speed a contributing factor? To answer the last two questions is far too many. This can be corrected with an attitude adjustment.
Let’s look at how we can reduce these numbers. We need to first address our culture and make attitude changes. These changes need to be at all levels. We can begin this change today without problems by changing the thought process as new firefighters enter the academies across the United States. We can further push with the existing firefighters. We have to hit the dinosaurs hard because they take the new recruits freshly in the field and create dinosaur eggs that then develop into dinosaurs themselves. The year 2009 we saw a reduction in the line of duty deaths to below 100 again. Are we lucky or are we truly focusing on what the issues are. Thus the culture revolves in a vicious cycle. Ok there is the start but what do we do to impact the fire service?
We need to develop and require Comprehensive Health and Wellness Programs. These programs need to include physical conditioning, medical evaluations, and mental conditioning. With more and more firefighters perishing due to heart attacks and strokes ( 56.4%) we need to make sure that we are in the physical condition to do this job. I further think that the statistics are some what skewed. When we see LODDs of fire service personnel 65 years old or older who die after responses who did not engage in suppression activities it is being question as to where or not these individuals would have had a heart attack even if they were not on scene within that 24 hours. How many departments are providing and requiring comprehensive medical evaluations (NFPA 1582) for all of their members? If you are not, you need to look for a way to make this happen. So many times I hear of how certain medical evaluations have found members of the fire service with health issues they never knew existed. These physicals need to be annually. I recently was running a portion of a department’s physical conditioning program which was a job performance physical agility test. I found one of our more experience personnel to be hypertensive (elevated blood pressure). I refused to let him test and the department sent him for medical evaluation. Guess what…he is alive today and has begun taking on life style changes and has medication to assist in controlling this issue. He had no symptoms of this condition and was at the potential levels for major problems. Simply as your grandmother would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Further we need to evaluate and support physical conditioning (NFPA 1583). These need to set personal goals as each individual is different, department goals and standards as to show everyone who performs must be able to perform at a set level. Lastly, we must have qualitative and quantitative testing of physical conditioning. Not as punishment but as a teaching tool. How many of your members can tell you exactly how long an SCBA will last when they are working at full capacity. As command officers this is important information as we work on scenes and strive to complete accountability of our personnel. More importantly it will keep our personnel safer.
We know this is one of the most stressful jobs anywhere you could travel. So just how well do we condition our folks mentally. Have you ever heard “suck it up it’s your job?” Sitting and talking with some professionals from an FDNY Engine Company they talked about and exhibited significant signs of Critical Incident Stress. This, I am sure, is compounded several times over from the events that affect the lives of these firefighters, but hey lets face facts here. These brothers are hurting and hurting bad. But have we addressed any of this, how about there families? I bet they are hurting too! So what do we do to help this problem? We must provide good Critical Incident Stress (CIS) education and coping techniques not only to the firefighters but also for their families. I know that I have done multiple programs on the east coast about this same issue, addressing firefighters and families together both the firehouse family and our true families all at the table together. This program is titled “Hearts and Sirens” and it explores CIS as it affects both the emergency services working and the family we leave at home when duty calls. My wife tells here heart felt stories of the situations she has had to live through and what helped. Basically we provide education, coping techniques and skills to deal with CIS for families. Let’s face it tough guys, even the hard core folks, struggle with all we face in this job at some point. As they face repetitive issues it becomes cumulative and eventually the levels will build up to the eruption point. This can be prevented and enhance our quality of life with just a little education and swallowing of pride on our part. Face it we are not super human, as much as we wish we were.
Training is the paramount. We must continue to enhance our training in every aspect. This includes going back to the basics. We often see in NIOSH reports where basic and routine components of our job are not performed or are contributing factors to LODD and injuries. So why can’t we do the basics? We have the mentality of hey I been there done that, I don’t need to do that anymore, I have got that down. Ok are you sure? If so show me! If you got it should not be hard or lengthy. Next we need to focus on realism. What are we truly going to face. I deal with the mentality of that wouldn’t happen to us or that’s the big city stuff it’s not going to happen here. Well, last time I checked fire did not discriminate. It does matter who you are or where you are from. Reality check… who would have thought that an aircraft with terrorists on board would crash in rural Pennsylvania. That should prove this point with enough said. We must train hard, train realistically and train often. By doing this we stoke our tool boxes with the right tools for the job.
As we train, we as leaders and trainers must make every effort to pull out the stops. We must not accept or condone any type of training environment or attitude that compromises the safety of any firefighter. We must cease pushing the envelope with cowboy tactics that only prove that you can show boat. If this is you I have a message…Your Dangerous and you need to change. We do not need to hurt or kill firefighters to have good quality training. In fact good quality training starts with no injuries and especially no deaths. In research of training line of duty deaths almost every incident could have been prevented.
In closing we must have to courage to say NO and the courage to be safe. It often is not a popular personality folks want to see, but again is it worth dieing for…Most times not! Come on folks, let’s face it, we are not doing everything correct here. We need to change and we need to change NOW!!! Do your self, your firefighters and their families a favor. Help prevent a line of duty death, change the attitudes and culture in your departments and have the courage to be safe! The families at home depend on you to be a leader and an officer. If you are not willing to do as much as possible to help with the change of the culture, do the fire service a favor, RETIRE or QUIT or RESIGN BEING AN OFFICER because you are part of the problem not part of the solution. Help us support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the fire service quest of “EVERYONE GOES HOME”.
It is perceived by fire service leaders that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus. This statement is becoming more and more common as you sit and talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National fire Academy Executive Fire Officer (EFO) research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) strategic planning meeting. So why do we need to change directions?
The fire service already responds and reactively handles the majority of emergencies and crisis within the community. We need to begin focusing on a proactive approach. With this being said, this would allow for not only a safer community but help focus on the quality of life of our citizens. If we are able to prevent most incidents from occurring the costs of those incidents will be significantly reduced, the quality of life will be improved and the potential for economic sustainability is increased. As government budgets continue to shrink, the impact of budget cuts to departments continue. The impact of these cuts is witnessed almost daily in the fire service with browning out of stations, closing of companies, staff reduction through attrition and yes even critical staffing reductions by employees being laid off. The fire service has reached a new fold in its history. With this new fold occurring we must adapt our philosophies, strategies and even our beloved tactics. When corporations and builders engineer and construct disposable buildings then we need to tactically focus our efforts on engineering and code requirements of automatic fire suppression systems and early detection systems. When the owners and builders ignore this option and a fire catastrophe strikes, we need to utilize the new rules of tactical engagement.
Fire departments will need to shift from traditional emergency responses services and transition into a combination of emergency responses services with a primary focus on being a community reduction team focusing on public safety in a multidimensional approach of safe buildings through code enforcement, building requirements, environmental impact, community safety, responder safety, community health and wellness and community risk reduction through research and education. We will become the mother ship that guides critical thinking in all aspects of safety throughout our community.
The fire service will need to focus on assembling a set of best practices in risk reduction and work diligently to manage risk via educating our communities, proactive engineering practices and code enforcement. However, the fire service does not collect data well at all. We have to transition to being very analytical of collecting certain complete and accurate quantifiable data based upon a standard data model for comparative benchmarking studies.
The battle is won however on the proactive side through risk reduction and risk management. The long term impacts will benefit everyone. Our success will be determined by not solely the retrospective data but community and family buy in. This relates to the true potential risk that exists, verses how it has been reduced.
Podcasts and Internet Broadcasts for Fire and Emergency Service Professionals: Real Issues. Real Answers. Real Firefighters.
Training & Tactics Talk Hosted by Chief Doug Cline
Training & Tactics Talk: Emerging Dynamics in the Modern Fire Environment
Joining Training and Tactics Talk host Douglas Cline as he talks with his guests from across the United States about the emerging dynamics of the modern fire service environment.
Guests this month include retired Battalion Chief Dave Dodson from Denver, CO; Lt. Rick Mosher from Merriam, KS; Christopher Naum, Chief of Training of the Command Institute; and Assistant Chief Deron Wilson of Johns Creek, GA.
The group examines several dimensions of the modern fire service as it relates to tomorrow’s fire service. The explore the art of reading smoke, the new rules of tactical combat fire engagement, multi-dimensional aspects of training and how to develop the true understanding of situational awareness.
We invite you to grab a cup of coffee or a cold drink, pull up a chair or take a seat on the tailboard and enjoy the program. Sit back, relax and let’s talk Training and Tactics.
- Link to the Program HERE
- Response Solutions
- Fire Department Incident Safety Officer 2nd Edition
- The Company Officer Blog
- International Society of Fire Service Instructors
Just like any relationship it has to be worked at. Often when we analyze where we are in a relationship we find you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; regroup and start doing the works you did at first. Another words, refuel the passion for the job! To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are, to stop developing, progressing or advancing; become sluggish or dull; become stale, foul or dead. So what causes firefighters to go into Status Quo?
- Unmet Needs- Often times the nurturing of our organization does not occur. We have individuals or groups who are often neglected or are never addressed due to the system trying to help others who are not at the same level.
- Unfulfilled Expectations- Many times we find individuals in the fire service who have expectations. Often these expectations are never meet for whatever reason. One of the most common causes is that the expectations are not realistic ones or ones that the organization cannot support for any member.
- Under Developed Self Esteem- In most cases self esteem is not a major issue; however with some individuals the environments they are placed in are negative, hostile and/or demeaning. When this occurs it is not hard for them to have a low self esteem. We often see this with many of the harassment cases.
- Unresolved Conflicts- many times individuals will have unresolved issue. Why is this? Well most times they never have the fortitude to address them professionally. They get mad or sulk when they don’t get exactly what they want. There is no conflict resolution or closure in an issue. Other times they never choose to address the problem at all.
- Uncontrolled Thoughts- We recognize that many individuals will have these thoughts that are not controlled. That is they don’t have a full knowledge of all information and they are thinking one dimensional.
- Unprotected Lifestyles- Who is influencing you and your thoughts? Who are your so called friends and colleagues? What are they feeding you? Often times we find that individuals find themselves in a status quo mode due to being frustrated. The first area you should look at is who you are hanging with. In most cases it has been shown that who you are hanging with influences you tremendously whether it is positive or negatively. In short what junk are they feeding you?
- Unreliable Commitment- Commitment takes work and if in the relationship one side is not committed then it becomes unreliable. Often times the organization is not the problem but officers who don’t do their jobs. This influences the entire organization.
Keep It “FRESH”?
We have to invite today’s fire service in. We cannot be living in the past or on fantasies. Today’s fire service is a lot different than when I started back in 1980. The key is adapting and embracing changes. We the Fire Service have a burden of responsibility…a responsibility to leave the service better than we inherited it. This means we have to learn from our own and other’s mistakes. We must set a course of direction that has safety as the focus. This will mean that many cultures, values, opinions and beliefs will have to be changed or better yet educated. Leaders must be diligent in their efforts working tirelessly to accomplish the vision exhausting all means for a successful journey. Never lose faith or lower the vision. Falling short of the vision is better than setting one low and making it. If leaders will follow the vision with heart-felt desire you will win! To sum it all up you must keep the vision and keep from getting distracted.
Remember to make it your priority. To keep the vision you must understand that it will require personal sacrifices and risks to be taken. In making sacrifices and taking risks we often feel like we are out on a limb. Well guess what, you are! But if we don’t take chances you most likely will not keep focused on what is important, the vision you have set as a leader. These distractions that come up often pull even the best leaders off of the vision. When we keep our vision, we often receive harsh criticism. But remember, DO NOT compromise for what seems easier nor be discouraged by the criticism.
We have to be focused on nurturing our relationship with the fire service. With that said we need to have true diverse communications that are open and engage active listening. When I focus on active listening, I challenge you to hear what has happened in other organizations and responses. Embrace vicarious learning as we cannot create training for every scenario possible. There just isn’t enough time. But we can learn about situations, conditions, events and types of responses from others who have experienced them, plus benefit from their lessons learned. By doing this we spend the required time live and learn. With all of this being said there has to be a degree of pleasure that comes with anything. Remember that we need to keep it fun. However, fun is dictated by attitudes. So before you tell me that all the fun is gone check your attitude and the people that are influencing you. Maybe the reason it isn’t fun is who you are surrounded by which most often is a choice. I challenge you to look at the big picture.
For officers you have to keep the romance and passion for the fire service going for your crews. Don’t fall victim yourself. Here are a few tips on how to keep the fire service passion going:
- Pay Attention- It is important to be following closely what your personnel are doing. You should spend quality time engaged with these individuals to truly understand them as individuals. You should focus on their needs more than your own.
- Give Affirmation- To the fire service and the people who affect and work with you. Positive affirmations and positive thinking techniques can help develop a powerful and positive attitude to life; which is an essential element in life success and good health. With this power you can turn failure around into success and take success and drive it to a whole new level. Your positive attitude is the fuel for your success.
- Show Affection- Speak well of the organization and the people in it. Negative comments drag everyone down. The negativity you show in these conversations depicts your level of thinking.
- Create Adventure- We need to create in our realms an exciting or very unusual experience and the ability to participate in exciting undertakings. This needs to be on going and challenging.
As you strive to keep it fresh remember …you are a part of this great profession we call the fire service. What are you going to do to make a difference?
Excellent driving skills are not the only factors that could prevent a driver from encountering a possibly fatal accident. Your vehicle must always be in tiptop condition for you to prevent any traffic or driving mishaps. Consider this: an ill-maintained vehicle is an accident waiting to happen. Keep yourself and your passengers safe by making sure your vehicle is in excellent condition.
That being said, let’s discuss how your organization is much like an automobile. Keep in mind that any time you are looking under your vehicle’s hood is always the perfect time to examine the different connections, hoses and belts i.e. personnel, policies, equipment, operating guidelines, etc. to make sure that they are damage, wear and leak-free.
If it’s your first time to check under your organization’s hood, then you’ll probably be unfamiliar with all the numerous parts in and around the organization. However, if you make it a frequent practice to check your organization and make sure that everything works, you’ll be able to identify all the different issues and problems in a jiffy. I suggest you procure a model and use it to evaluate any loose connections or changes that might have occurred in your organization.
One common model that is recognized Fire Service wide is the Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Commission on Fire Accreditation International model. Even if you are not looking to become an accredited organization, the self assessment approach has proven to be a sound performance criteria model industry wide.
There are a number of benefits in conducting a self assessment program for your agency. These benefits provide for practical, day-to-day organizational improvements. The hardest component is to be honest in your assessment. If conducted correctly the self-conducted performance evaluation will result in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your organization provided that the findings are applied to the planning and implementation activities.
Below are some benefits to conducting the self assessment:
• Quality improvement through a continuous self assessment process.
• Providing a detailed evaluation of the services it provides to the community.
• Identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the organization.
• A methodology for building on strong points and addressing deficiencies.
• Providing for department growth for programs, services and member capabilities.
• Fostering pride in an organization, from department members, community leaders and citizens.
Through self assessment, a systematic evaluation can be accomplished to determine what is currently going on in the organization, focusing on whether or not the organization is meeting the goals commensurate with its responsibilities. The assessment process is astounding in the clarity it brings an organization’s leaders and members, not only regarding how the organization currently works but how the various parts are interrelated, its overall state of health and, most importantly, what needs to be done to make improvements. You will target and prioritize top opportunities for change and develop detailed improvement plans.
Tactical Renaissance and the New Rules of Combat Fire Engagement Seminar
Saturday November 13, 2010
8:00am – 4:00pm
Sponsored by Haywood Community College and Waynesville (NC) Fire Department
Located in Waynesville /Haywood County, North Carolina
- Building Construction & Engineered Systems
- Going Beyond the Status Quo
- Extreme Fire Behavior
- The Company & Command Officer in 2010 & Beyond
- Training Today’s Fire Service for Tomorrow’s Challenges
- The New Rules of Engagement
- Redefining Tactical Operations
- Tactical Entertainment & Firefighter Safety
- Tactical Patience & Operational Excellence
- Command Risk Management
- And more
Contact Dee Massey for Registration 828-565-4247
Wednesday Night’s Program has been postponed due to Emergent Server issues at BlogTalkRadio.
The Program has been rescheduled for Thursday November 4th at 9:00pm EDT
Turn Out to FireFighter NetCast.com and Taking it to the Streets for; “Redefining the Fire Ground”
If you missed last month’s program on the Tactical Renaissance of Combat Fire Suppression Operations and the new Rules of Engagement, with Chief Gary Morris (ret) Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department and Dr. Burt Clark from the NFA, then you missed out a some great insights and discussion. This month Taking it to the Streets is looking to further the dialog and look at “Redefining the Fire Ground”. Many would argue that the fire ground doesn’t need to be “redefined”; that the way we do business in the Streets is just fine and that the American Fire Service knows how to get the job done, at any cost.
The recent release of the NIST Technical Study of the Sofa Super Store Fire – South Carolina, June 18, 2007 has presented compelling data and information that provides further discernments of how our buildings react under fire conditions and how our tactical assumptions and deployments continue to be willfully miscued. Joining Chris will be Chief Douglas Cline, from the City of High Point FD, North Carolina, a highly regarded national instructor, author, advocate, tactician and incident command.
Don’t miss out on debating and dialoging the transitional fire ground. It is here and it’s here to stay; you just didn’t know that it was changing. But then again, was anyone paying attention? Join the live broadcast on Thursday night November 4th at 9:00pm ET, or download the post production podcast from Firefighter NetCast.com.
- For additional Taking it to the Streets programming, HERE
- Firefighter NetCast.com HERE
- Taking it to the Streets for; “Tactical Renaissance and the Rules of Engagement” Show Link, HERE
Taking it to the StreetsTM On Your Street, In Your City, Across the County, Around the WorldTM ©2010
Taking it to the Streets is hosted by Christopher Naum and is a Buildingsonfire.com Series and Fire Fighter NetCast.com Production.
NIOSH: Uncoordinated ventilation caused flashover killing Ill. firefighterInvestigators say crews failed to recognize signs of an imminent flashover; firefighters were between the fire and ventilation points
By Ken Robinson
FireRescue1 Associate Editor
HOMEWOOD, Ill. — Uncoordinated ventilation caused a flashover that killed one firefighter and injured another when both failed to recognize signs of rapidly deteriorating conditions, investigators found.
Insufficient staffing was also cited as a key contributing factor in the incident, as crews on scene were stretched thin according to a NIOSH report released Tuesday.
Rookie Homewood Fire Department Firefighter-Paramedic Brian Carey was killed of smoke inhalation on March 30 while assisting in search and rescue of a reported victim trapped in a house fire, the report said.
Responding to reports of a downed brother, firefighters conducting a search discovered Firefighter-Paramedic Carey entangled in a hoseline and not wearing his helmet or facepiece, and without a hood.
Firefighter-Paramedic Karra Kopas, who had entered the structure along with him, was injured in the fire and had to be rescued four feet from the front door where she said her gear melted to the living room carpet.
At the time of the flashover, firefighters performing ventilation were not coordinating with hoseline and search and rescue crews inside the house, according to the investigation.
Both Firefighters Carey and Kopas were between the fire and the ventilation source.
“One firefighter accounts heavy, turbulent, black smoke pushing from a window on the B-side after it was broken,” the report said.
“Shortly after, the house sustained an apparent ventilation-induced flashover.”
NISOH says the thick, black and heavily pressurized smoke that exited through ventilation should have been acted upon as a warning sign.
“The IC, and individuals working on the exterior, need to recognize this as a potential for extreme fire behavior and evacuate interior crews,” the report said.
In addition, investigators recommend training firefighters under realistic conditions to indentify the signs of an imminent flashover.
“Obtaining proper training and hands-on experience through the use of a flashover simulator may assist interior firefighters in making sound decisions on when to evacuate a structure fire,” the report said.
The inability to appropriately coordinate fireground operations may have been directly tied to inadequate staffing.
“Due to short staffing, the ambulance personnel were tasked with fire suppression activities, thus taking them out-of-service as a medical unit,” the report said.
The incident commander, a Lieutenant, was also required to ride and operate as the officer of an Engine Crew due to short staffing.
“This removed him from his command response vehicle which would have allowed him to command at a tactical level versus having to potentially perform tasks,” the report said.
Investigators also found an accountability system was never put in place and a personnel accountability report was never conducted following the incident.
As a result of the incident, NIOSH made the following key recommendations for fire departments to follow:
- Ensure that a complete 360-degree situational size-up is conducted on dwelling fires and others where it is physically possible and ensure that a risk-versus-gain analysis and a survivability profile for trapped occupants is conducted prior to committing to interior firefighting operations.
- Ensure that interior fire suppression crews attack the fire effectively to include appropriate fire flow for the given fire load and structure, use of fire streams, appropriate hose and nozzle selection, and adequate personnel to operate the hose line.
- Ensure that firefighters maintain crew integrity when operating on the fireground, especially when performing interior fire suppression activities.
- Ensure that firefighters and officers have a sound understanding of fire behavior and the ability to recognize indicators of fire development and the potential for extreme fire behavior
Ensure that incident commanders and firefighters understand the influence of ventilation on fire behavior and effectively coordinate ventilation with suppression techniques to release smoke and heat.
- Ensure that firefighters use their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and are trained in SCBA emergency procedures.
From playing many years of sports on both winning and loosing teams I have learned talent is not enough to bring about success to the team. I played on teams that had plenty of talent. We didn’t win a lot though. That used to always bother me and I would say we have all the talent in the world why aren’t we winning. It was not until my senior year when I realized that talent was not enough. There was another component that had to be added in. That component was ATTITUDE. It wasn’t the other teams didn’t have attitude. We had plenty of it…but it was the bad kind. It wasn’t until the positive attitude mixed with talent that we started winning.
Over the years the fire service organizations that I have had the opportunity to be involved with showed me that this concept applied to any organization or team. Various attitudes have the potential to impact a team made up of talented members.
Abilities + Attitudes = Results
Good Talent + Rotten Attitudes = Really Bad Team
Good talent + Bad Attitudes = Bad Team
Good Talent + Average Attitude = Average Team
Good talent + Good Attitude = Good team
Great talent + Great Attitude = Great team
If you are looking for a winning team that performs at an outstanding level you need minimally good talent with good attitudes, preferably great attitudes and great talent!
Most people possess good talent it is usually the attitude that either draws them do to the next level with great/positive attitudes or their demise with a rotten attitude. So knowing this, it is important to choose the right attitude.
Have you ever recognized what a difference a single minute in your life can make? Most of us only count down the minutes at the end of the day near quitting time, or when we are waiting for a big event. We never really recognize just how important every minute is because every minute makes a real difference. It is important to remember that for everything there is a season, a time for every activity.
Be Aware of Critical Moments
A critical moment is when you make a decision that has a critical impact on your life. These can include fire ground decisions, career decisions, attitude decisions or decisions on choice of words. These may last only a few minutes, hours or days. Sometimes these decisions may have impacts that last a life time. Most of our decisions are made in a rapid fire mode and are impacted by attitude. It is important to remember that attitudes are choices or decisions we make.
Some Individuals would look at a pile of rubble and say “what a mess” while others will look at the same pile and say “what an opportunity”. At this moment there is a critical decision going on. Which one of these individuals would you want leading the fire department in your community? Most would say the one who has a vision of what that “mess” could be. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in the great State of Vermont training with a group of outstanding emergency services professionals in Addison County. What a breath of fresh air. The amount of energy that was delivered to my starving body was incredible from spending just 48 hours with such great fire service leaders. I was able to reflect upon 50+ years of leadership legacy that was still going strong. That’s right; the fire chief of Vergennes Fire Department the late Ralph Jackman had been the Chief for 50+ years. The best part was he looked at everything in a progressive, proactive philosophy of saying “look at that opportunity”. He understood that every minute made a difference and he understood these critical moments and the importance of a positive attitude even when the chips were down and things were not going as he may have hoped or wanted.
As individuals and leaders of the fire service we must look at opportunities with vision. We must be able to decode the “mess” into “opportunity”. It is paramount that we focus on the concepts that it shouldn’t be this way, but we can make it something else. These are truly hectic times we live in, times that can challenge even strongest of seasoned leaders or firefighters.
Regularly ask yourself three (3) questions…
1. Who and what is influencing me?
There are many individuals and things that can influence you. Subsequently you must ask yourself if these influences are positive or negative. Many times your influences can be strong positive ones while other times they can be the negative ones that you fall victim too. It is important to have strong positive influences in our lives. Remember ever time you choose to follow an influence it is a critical decision and becomes a critical moment in your live. “
“Choose wisely Grasshopper”
2. Where does my mind naturally go?
What are you thinking about when you have free time or where does your mind drift off too frequently. Where your mind goes will have a big influence on critical moments in your life. Make sure that the place your mind is visiting is worth being there!
3. What am I passionate about?
What do I really like in life is another way to say this. Well often times when we get to this level of soul searching we can see that we have things a lot better than others. Often times it is a big reality check that we realize we are not following or doing our passions. It is important to make sure that your passion is not a negatively impacting one as well. Remember everything is influenced by our attitudes; you should always be reminding yourself that your attitude is like a disease and is yours truly worth catching.
Don’t Miss Opportune Moments
We should all be reminded just how brief our time being alive really is. None of us will live forever. We are merely moving shadows and all our busy rushing ends in often times nothing. Opportune moments don’t have to be big successes, but can be as simple as learning how to do something new. We are all busy and miss the opportunity to celebrate great moments. So with all this rushing around and what we are missing let’s look at what happens when you get in a real hurry or act in haste…
• You feel stressed.
• You lose your joy…simplified your laughter, special times and moments of impact.
• You are less productive.
• You can’t hear or see anyone.
So if you don’t want to miss opportune moments or act in haste you need to slow done. You may ask, “how do I slow down”? Remember it is important that you work hard but take time to rest as well. I recently was out to eat lunch. A group of pastors were at this restaurant as well. I heard one of the pastors state I always remind my congregation that the Devil never rests, another pastor asked since when did we start following his lead. Silence fell on that group for a moment and the first pastor replies wow I never looked at it like that! So what are some helpful hints to get you to slow down?
• Participate – Go and do more with family friends, colleagues.
• Delegate – Don’t put that big Superman “S” symbol on your chest. It usually doesn’t signify you are “Superman” but more like “Stupid man”
• Procrastinate – Stop and think before you act or speak, often times take more than just a second in this case. I see great leaders take days, weeks and months to act on items to keep from making poor decisions.
• Eliminate – Eliminate all the bad influences, attitudes and passions
Please don’t waste your minutes…they may be running low and you don’t even know it!
Today’s leaders are utilizing contemporary leadership styles. The officer needs to know when to use each of these styles for optimum outcomes within the organization. The four (4) contemporary styles include charismatic, transformational, transactional and symbolic.
Charismatic – Inspires follower loyalty and creates an enthusiastic vision that others work to attain.
Transformational – This style depends on the continuous learning, innovation and change within the organization. True transformational leadership is a rare quality.
Transactional – Involves an exchange between the leader and the followers in which the followers perform tasks effectively in exchange for rewards provided by the leader.
Symbolic – Bases theory on a strong organizational culture that holds common values and beliefs. Leadership starts are the top of the organization and extends downward. Subordinates must have full faith and trust in the leadership of the organization.
To be able to lead a fire department or a company it is paramount that the leader of the group be able to match and effectively utilize any of the various leadership styles based upon the individuals they are leading.
This focuses on truly understanding the organizational theories, interpersonal dynamics and group dynamics of the individuals and groups which make up the organization. We will find that more often than not the leader will be utilizing multiple leadership styles on individuals of the group simultaneously to effectively achieve the desired outcomes. Each of these leadership styles will be a result of the presence of the various leadership traits. It is important for the officer to know the strengths and weaknesses of each theory and style along with being capable of applying the principles that are most appropriate in any given situation.
As we quickly approach a time when much of the fire service leadership will be retiring we are destine to face the loss of great leadership in the fire service. This could prove to be a tragedy for our profession or we can make it a positive bench mark. A lot is going to depend upon several generations working closely together. That is the baby boomers and the generation Y and X coming together and realizing that the future belongs to those who prepare.
For years I would see the slogan, “The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare For It”, posted on the training class room wall of the Henderson North Carolina Fire Department. Chief Danny Wilkerson several times over used to say these same words to many of the young firefighters and officers that walked into that setting. As an instructor and a part-time member of that department it always struck me as an encouragement to continue to push to make a difference. Often times I personally struggled with just what that slogan really was saying. Well, for the first time as I write this article it has become crystal clear. The entire slogan was driven home with just one email blast from a great fire service colleague…Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder with a recent secret list publication. Below is a small component of what was contained in that blast I would like to share:
“Sometimes….not everyone goes home.
In the discussions, one of the young firefighters who was involved with the rescue told me that he now HATED the term “everyone goes home” because, obviously, Kevin did not. It made me start to think. Was the slogan a problem?
It has nothing to do with a slogan. The slogan “Everyone Goes Home” is an attitude…an attitude within a fire department that we’ll do all we can to try and bring all of our firefighters home. It was and still is an attitude. Some of the younger firefighters understandably, just didn’t get it at the time.
-It means that if we don’t drive like idiots, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we follow standards such as NFPA 1403, firefighter trainees will probably make it home.
-It means if we put our seat belts on and we collide on the way to a fire, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we weigh 100 lbs too much, and we eat more salads, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means that if it is obvious the building will collapse and we stay out of the way, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we have the right amount of trained staffing and good bosses at a fire, we’ll probably make it home.
…..and it means that if we drill and train on the stuff we need to do regularly, such as the ability to quickly get water on the fire, we’ll probably make it home.”
The above excerpt really drives me to focus on this blog’s topic “Shaping the Future”. We as leaders today will face the end of our careers. Many of my mentors are at that point currently. However, the leadership lessons they can still share are countless. Thank God, that these folks took an interest in us the leaders of the current fire service when we were youthful firefighters. As I look over the fire service today and especially after spending time at the Congressional Fire Service Institute recently, I can see that our fields are full of ripe future leaders just waiting to be harvested. Consequently we often scorn at the work ethic or analytical decision making that these individuals use as they make critical decisions. I can see clearly where my first mentors Jerry Green and Rick Rice, both officers with the department I began my fire service career with in Mullens, West Virginia, could see a ripening prospect as they made extra efforts to shape the future through shaping me for the future. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyo-Qo2Z-mY
As I see it, the old practice of using our youth to accomplish our work is the base preparation needed to make them tomorrow’s leader. So officer’s are you Shaping the Fire Service’s Future?
I recently posted an article on CommandSafety.com 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 Netcast.com . 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 causes 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 likely 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; 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 sacrifices made by those LODD events your read about, so those lessons can be moved forward to make the job, a little bit safer.
Three for Three (343)
Prince William County (VA) Fire Rescue Kyle Wilson LODD Report
- The Prince William County (VA) Department of Fire and Rescue published a comprehensive line of duty death report for Technician I Kyle R. Wilson on Saturday, January 26, 2008. Technician I Wilson was the first line of duty death in the Department’s 41-year history. The Department is sharing the LODD Investigative Report to honor Kyle, and in an effort to reduce and prevent firefighter line of duty deaths at the local, region, state, and national levels.
- Technician Kyle Robert Wilson was 24-years old and was born in Olney, Maryland. He grew up in Prince William County and graduated from Hylton High School and George Mason University. He was an avid baseball and softball player. Technician Wilson joined the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue on January 23, 2006. Technician Kyle Wilson died in the line of duty on April 16, 2007 while performing search and rescue operations at a house fire on Marsh Overlook Drive, located in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County. On that day, Technician Wilson was part of the firefighter staffing on Tower 512 which responded to the house fire that was dispatched at 0603 hours. The Prince William County area was under a high wind advisory as a nor’eastern storm moved through the area. Sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts up to 48 mph were prevalent in the area at the time of the fire dispatch to Marsh Overlook Drive.
- Initial arriving units reported heavy fire on the exterior of two sides of the single family house and crews suspected that the occupants were still inside the house sleeping because of the early morning hour. A search of the upstairs bedroom commenced for the possible victims. A rapid and catastrophic change of fire and smoke conditions occurred in the interior of the house within minutes of Tower 512’s crew entering the structure.
- Technician Wilson became trapped and was unable to locate an immediate exit out of the hostile environment. Mayday radio transmissions were made by crews and by Technician Kyle Wilson of the life-threatening situation. Valiant and repeated rescue attempts to locate and remove Technician Wilson were made by the firefighting crews during extreme fire, heat and smoke conditions. Firefighters were forced from the structure as the house began to collapse on them and intense fire, heat and smoke conditions developed. Technician Wilson succumbed to the fire and the cause of death was reported by the medical examiner to be thermal and inhalation injuries.
- The Department of Fire and Rescue immediately formed a multi-dimensional investigation team following the incident. The investigation team was comprised of five Department of Fire and Rescue uniform personnel and two external members from area fire departments. For eight months, the team thoroughly examined the events that occurred at the Marsh Overlook fire incident and identify the factors involved with the line of duty death of Technician I Kyle Wilson. The resulting report represents thousands of hours of effort to analyze fire and rescue operations and is a factual representation of the events that occurred. The report also provides a frame work for organizational level improvements.
- The major factors in the line of duty death of Technician I Wilson were determined to be:
- The initial arriving fire suppression force size.
- The size up of fire development and spread.
- The impact of high winds on fire development and spread.
- The large structure size and lightweight construction and materials.
- The rapid intervention and firefighter rescue efforts.
- The incident control and management.
- The Marsh Overlook fire incident was an immense fire fueled by extremely flammable building material products and a vicious wind. It was an environment where information gathering and decision making had to be performed in the time measurement of seconds. During the chain of events that occurred and under severe circumstances, fire and rescue personnel performed at exceptional levels.
- During the repeated attempts to reach and rescue Technician I Wilson, personnel displayed heroic efforts and jeopardized their own safety. The Department will never forget the sacrifice that Technician Wilson made in an attempt to ensure others were safe. By sharing the knowledge gained from this very tragic and painful incident, the Department will ensure his sacrifice was not in vain and hope that other fire and rescue departments can avoid another similar occurrence.
- Resources and Report
Loudoun County (VA) Fire Rescue Significant Near Miss Event Report
- On May 25, 2008, fire and rescue personnel from Loudoun County responded to a structure fire at 43238 Meadowood Court in Leesburg, Virginia. During the course of the incident, seven responders were injured. Of those injured, four firefighters received significant burn injuries, two firefighters sustained orthopedic injuries, and one EMS provider was treated for minor respiratory distress. To date, five of the injured personnel have returned to duty. Two firefighters continue to recover from their injuries, including one who was severely burned.
- Given the severity of the injuries and magnitude of the event, an independent Investigative Team was assembled to review the incident. The Team was comprised of four Loudoun County personnel, three external members from area fire departments, and two resource/support personnel. The Team was tasked with reviewing “the events leading up to the incident, the incident operation(s), the firefighter MAYDAY(s), and incident mitigation.”
- For three months, the Team thoroughly examined the events surrounding the Meadowood Court fire incident and identified the factors associated with the injury of personnel.
- The Report contains the results of the Investigative Team’s comprehensive review and analysis.
- Fact Sheet, HERE
- SIGNIFICANT INJURY INVESTIGATIVE REPORT 43238 MEADOWOOD COURT MAY 25, 2008 Report HERE
Colerain Township (OH) Fire and EMS Department Final Report Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels Nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths
- The Colerain Township (OH) Fire and EMS Department under the leadership of Director and Chief G. Bruce Smith recently released its final report Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths related to the April 4, 2008 Double Line of Duty Death of a Captain and Firefighter. This investigative analysis and report, although specific to the events and conditions encountered during the conduct of operation at the residential occupancy at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane has pertinent and relevant insights, recommendations and factors that all Fire Service personnel, regardless of rank should read.
- Incident Overview, HERE
- NIOSH Report, HERE
- Investigative Report, HERE
Taking it to the Streets had its premier July 21st on Firefighter Netcast.com with a lively and provoking discussion on “What’s on YOUR Radar Screen?” The program theme aligned with a recent posting on the same topic. Join me on the program were two prominent and nationally recognized fire service leaders, who I’m honored to have known for many years, Chief Billy Hayes and Chief Doug Cline; the program explored leading fire service issues affecting firefighter safety, training, credentialing and education; fireground operational variables related to the continuing changes in building construction, engineered systems and extreme fire behavior, and the emerging need for “Tactical Patience” as I’ve been exploring the relationships towards the need for tactical enhancements to our current fire suppression theory and firefighting models.
Conversations expanded on the NFFF/Everyone Goes Home Campaign and programs, the newest EGH initiatives on Behavioral Health and the successes achieved through the Courage to be Safe Programs and the Advocacy Program.
Both our guests provided cutting edge perspectives and commentary on the key issues that the fire service needs to have on their radar screen and the need for emerging and practicing fire officers and commanders to continually strive to increase skill sets and maintain a pulse on the leading issues affecting the fire service and apply emerging research and studies to increase operational capabilities, improve performance and enhance and promote firefighter safety and survival and operational integrity.
Although technical difficulties from the live feed coming from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore at the Firehouse Expo, precluded the ability to have the call-in segments of the program to work, the 120 minute program gave the listeners a wealth of information to talk over in the firehouse, at the kitchen table or in the apparatus bays.
The program is a Buildingsonfire.com Series and a Fire Fighter Netcast.com production, produced by John Mitchell and Rhett Fleitz. The live program segment will be edited and available for iTunes download soon. You can check out the other programming and shows produced by Fire Fighter Netcast.com HERE. Stay tuned for announcements on the next program date for Taking it to the Streets coming to you live from the IAFC Fire Rescue International Conference in Chicago in August.
Taking it to the Streets; Advancing Fire Fighter Safety and Operational Integrity for the Fire Service through provocative insights and dynamic discussions dedicated to the Art and Science of Firefighting and the Traditions of the Fire Service.
- Firefighter Netcast.com HERE
- Taking it to the Streets, HERE, HERE
- “What’s on your Radar Screen?” July 21, 2010 Program, HERE
- “What’s on your Radar Screen?” post on Commandsafety.com, HERE
Over the years I have sat in many of classroom, participated in countless hands on training drills and evolutions, but I have found that the education that was gained from talking and listening to people who have been in the business for many years has proven to be one of the best learning experiences ever. It has often been said that after the class or sitting at the bar after a conference program is when the real education begins. Some would argue, but I have found it to be true. This is when you can get one-on- one with the instructor or other mentors and hear information “uncensored”. You get to hear the war stories often not told, the times when things didn’t go as planned and even some really good advice.
As I begin to share this information with you, I want you to know what inspired this blog. On January 2, 2010 I was enjoying time with my family when the wonderful world of blackberry communications provided me with a truly saddening email. It was one from a good friend in Vermont informing me that Chief Ralph Jackman had passed away earlier that morning. Now as you scratch your head and wonder where I am going with this, I want to share the significance of the first paragraph with you. Chief Jackman was a unique fire chief. First of all he served the Citizens and firefighters of Vergennes, Vermont and Addison County for over 50 years as fire chief. He was unique in that he continued to keep himself progressing, constantly learn yet ever sharing his experiences and knowledge with anyone who wanted to learn. He was a progressive minded person who served everyone tirelessly. So what has this got to do with training?
Let’s explore many of the items that truly relate to training. Chief Jackman was always searching for knowledge. I was witnessed this as he graced my classroom as an evaluator at the Addison County Fire School several years ago. He stayed an excessive time and seemed to not stop writing, which made me think initially that I had done a poor job and had fallen short of his expectations. Later that night, I was able to spend some quality one-on-one time with him over one of his famous three figure drinks. With an inquiring mind I had to ask how I did. His reply was, “well I took about 3 pages of notes from your class today.” My heart sunk at this point thinking I really messed this one up and here it comes. He continued, “I knew several of my people had gone to another class and I wanted to be able to share what you were talking about with them, it will help them.” At this point I was feeling better about the program and the door opened. We began sharing and learning together in a conversation that lasted throughout the evening. As I boarded the aircraft the next day to return home I was so inspired and excited I could have exploded. What I shared with Chief Jackman was really insignificant as compared to what he taught and shared with me.
Moral to this story is that training is available in a lot of ways. Classroom and hands on are super important. But even more important is learning from each other’s experiences.
• We rarely take time to truly find the lessons in war stories.
• We often time continue to do the same things over and over again expecting different results. We must learn from others experiences and we must share our experiences with others.
• We can’t just write off the old guys, they are a wealth of knowledge waiting to share it with you.
• This nontraditional classroom and dynamic of learning is not traditional by any means. However, it provides a tremendous amount of real world knowledge that just may hold the answers too many of your questions. Chief Ralph Jackman, thank you for the education of a life time. Rest in Peace Brother!
Often in my travels and teaching I am asked by you officers and aspiring officers what it takes to be a good leader or how to become a good leader. I usually respond to that question with a question “What do you think it takes to become a good leader?”
Most respond with the typical answers; knowledgeable, fair, hardworking, etc. Well those are good traits, but let’s dig a little deeper into the meat of leadership and where it begins. Let’s start by replacing leadership confusion with leadership courage. This piece of advice was given to me a long time ago by Chief John R. Leahy Jr. (retired). It took me many years and a few more good mentors to figure out exactly what this truly meant. But I finally got it and it wasn’t all that hard. So let’s focus on replacing leadership confusion with leadership courage.
Don’t’ let your fear confuse the Department’s plan
I can remember a time when my efforts were focused on myself and trying to be the best I could be. Many young officers or aspiring officers get caught up in this drama. They believe that the better they become the better they will be as a leader. There is some truth in this statement, but the meat of being a good officer is much more than having numerous certifications and qualities. You must balance these good components with the courage to believe and support the department and its mission. Finding out the hard way that I could possess many good traits and qualities was not the total answer. In fact it was the smallest portion of the equation. After several years of floundering I finally learned that the most important component in being a leader at any level is being on board and supporting the efforts of the organization. So often I see departments with individuals who are constantly rowing against the Fire Chief, trying to go in other directions rather than the pathway set out by this individual as they try to fulfill the mission. Our fear creates conflict in our lives. The fear is of many things, mostly of change.
The business world is a place of constant change. The fire service is part of the business world whether individuals want to believe it or not. I will guarantee that if you look at any department across the world it is run some what like a business. There are budgets, personnel issues, accounts payable and accounts receivable. If that is not a business I am not real sure what else it could be. So with a fire department being a “business” we should expect constant change. If you look across the United States fire departments are faced with stories of mergers, layoffs and restructuring every day. No matter the scale, when these kinds of changes hit the work place, the literal, situational shifts are often not as difficult for individuals to work through as the psychological transitions that accompany the change. As organizational transitions occur they affect people. These are the individuals who have to embrace a new situation and carry out corresponding change. Leaders find themselves in roles of having to sell these changes.
Don’t let Your Confusion Cause You to Miss the Department’s Goals and the Mission
Fire Departments across the United States have Mission Statements and leader philosophies posted throughout the fire stations. But walk in and ask a firefighter, or even better a fire officer, what their mission statement says and I will bet that they can’t tell you, much less live it. As a leader you must follow suit with the philosophies set forth by the fire chief. Generally these goals and philosophies have an end result in mind. However, with our disciplined attention to detail to focus on the mission, the end results all too often fall short of the goals. As a young leader, have the courage to embrace the leadership philosophies. For a while you are guaranteed to receive ridicule and be called a few choice names. However in the long run you will find that you will become well respected for your consistency and diligence by most.
In my last article Dedication and Commitment “The Guts to Do More” I focused on much of this same material as it pertains to training.
Don’t Let Your Confusion Influence Your Obedience
With any successful department comes a strong vision. This vision is generally set forth by the fire chief. As a young or aspiring officer you must embrace that vision. Think about it: if the leader has no idea what the organization is to become, he or she cannot expect the people to know. No vision causes misalignment and confusion among the members of the organization. Not supporting that vision is just as detrimental to the organization and your leadership ability.
Vision is in direct proportion to accomplishment. The more you envision, the more that can be accomplished. I know by now you are saying this is not how it works! Well, I used to think that as well. I used to see my vision instead of the department’s vision. End result was a catastrophic failure personally and a drag line slowing the organization down.
Have the courage to obey leadership and the mission. These folks are probably not as stupid as you want to believe. There are many factors that play into the formula that you may not be privileged to know or even understand. Again fighting, questioning or rowing against the forward progression can result in a delayed or failed mission.
If you are beginning to see the light as a young or aspiring officer or you are an officer who is trying desperately to mentor a young counterpart, you may be asking your- self , “What do I do now?” Well it is as simple as 1, 2, 3.
1. Refocus on the department and the mission – Begin by putting the department first. As you do this and the success of the department occurs you will see that your success increases proportionally. By being diligently focused on being a team player in leadership you will see that you will develop good qualities and traits. Most of all you will gain respect as you have the whole at heart rather than you as an individual.
2. Release a Gift – Each individual has a gift to give. It is the desire to share that gift that doesn’t always exist. Start thinking of the department more than yourself. By devoting your talents to the department and others you will reap the rewards. Ask not what the department can do for you, but what you can do for the department is a good philosophy to follow.
3. Reach out to everyone – Your ability to help others supports the true mission of the fire service To Protect and Serve.
By taking responsibility for your actions and taking some of the heat off of the team, the department will be able to excel to great level. Most important you are part of the solution, not part of the problem that leads to failure.
The 82nd Leadership Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs is this week in Louisville, Kentucky. What an outstanding opportunity for fire service leaders to gather and network. The company Officer’s own Christopher Naum is one of the presenters at this conference. I know budgets have everyone pinned down and travel for conferences have been reduced significantly. That leads me to the focus of this piece…”Bridging the gap to Tomorrows Fire Service”. The SEAFC will be streaming several programs live from the conference as we believe that education is paramount in the development of future leaders and our fire service nation.
Many people view training from a traditional style of delivery, well those times have changed and our culture demands we find new ways of educating our personnel. Often time’s organizations and individuals are criticized when they try to stand up and do something different or new, often times getting slapped right back down. In outstanding organizations, people try things that have never been tried or done before. These actions are often uncomfortable, may not work or may be the wave of the future. It is important that they engage in these behaviors and do so in an environment that supports their efforts. The organization encourages risk and allows for failure. Conceive, believe, Achieve is the message here.
So SEAFC is no different than any other organization. They are making their first attempt at changing the way we serve the fire service educationally with live feeds for several of the programs at the conference. Below is the schedule and description for use:
Opening ceremonies: Thursday June 24, 2010 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Key Note: Transforming the Culture of Fire Department Organizations
Kelvin Cochran, Fire Chief City of Atlanta, Former United States Fire Administrator
Shreveport, Louisiana native Kelvin J. Cochran, as a five-year-old boy, was spellbound by Shreveport Firefighters fighting a fire across the street from his house and dreamed that one day he would be a firefighter.
A proud student of Caddo Parish Schools, he graduated from Woodlawn High School (1978). Other education includes: the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Academy, Wiley College, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management (1999). He holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University (2004).
His employment with the Shreveport Fire Department began in 1981 as a firefighter. He was then promoted to Fire Training Officer and served in this capacity from 1985 – 1990, when he gained promotion to Assistant Chief Training Officer. His service in this position concluded when he was appointed Fire Chief of the Shreveport Fire Department on August 26, 1999. On January 2, 2008 he was appointed fire chief of the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. On August 17, 2009 he was appointed as the United States Fire Administrator. Effective June 19, 2010 he has been re-appointed as fire chief of the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
International Association of Fire Chiefs: Former First Vice President-IAFC 2007, Second Vice President-IAFC 2006; Past Chairman of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Section; Southeastern Division IAFC; Safety, Health and Survival Section; Georgia Fire Chiefs Association, Metro Atlanta Fire Chiefs Association; Member of the Board of Visitors, National Fire Academy. Authored two chapters for Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Chief Fire Officers Desk Reference: Chapter 1-Leadership and Management and Chapter 25-The Fire Chief of the Future
Jeff Lindsey: Friday June 25, 2010 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Bridging the Gap: Leading the Generations
The Baby Boomers, Generation X, and now Generation Y. Who are those people? What values do they have? Join Dr. Lindsey as he discusses what makes each generation different. Learn the various values of each of the different generations. Identify what we, as leaders in the safety world have to do to make our work environment adaptable for each of the generations. Before you leave this session see why being a cusp may not be all that bad.
Bio for Jeffrey Lindsey, Ph.D., EMT-P, CHS IV, EFO, CFO
Dr. Lindsey is the Chief Learning Officer for Health Safety Institute. He is also an adjunct Assistant Professor in Emergency Health Services at The George Washington University and St Petersburg College. He retired from the fire service as the Fire Chief for Estero Fire Rescue in Estero, Florida. Additionally, he is an author for Brady Publishing.
He is an experienced leader, educator, lecturer, author, and consultant in emergency services. Dr. Lindsey earned his doctorate and master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from USF. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire and Safety Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an associate in paramedic from Harrisburg Area Community College. He also has earned his Chief Fire Officer and Executive Fire Officer designation.
Dr. Lindsey has over twenty-nine years of diverse experience in the emergency services industry. He is an associate member of the Prehospital Research Forum. He serves as an Advisory Council member for the National EMS Advisory Council and the past member of the State of Florida EMS Advisory Council, and a representative to the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education EMS degree committee
Richard Gassaway: June 26, 2010 8:00am – 9:30 am
Emergency Scene Situation Awareness and Decision Making
Firefighters can live or die based on the decisions made on emergency scenes. One of the key components of effective decision making is developing and maintaining strong situation awareness in environments that are high-stress, high-risk and high-consequence. The focus of this program is to improve your situation awareness and decision making.
In 2007 and 2008, the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System annual report identified situation awareness as the leading factor contributing to firefighter near-miss events. Supporting this finding was a study completed by the International Association of Firefighters on firefighter injuries and fatalities that cited issues with situation awareness is a leading cause. Firefighter fatality reports issued by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health frequently implicate issues with situation awareness to the casualty incident. Ok… we get it! Situation awareness is a big deal. Now that you know it, what can you do to improve it? The focus of this program is to help you become a better decision maker. We will explore and discuss:
This program is based on scientific research conducted by the presenter over a five-year period in the process of completing his doctoral dissertation on the topic of “Fireground Command Decision Making: Understanding the Barriers that Challenge a Commander’s Situation Awareness.” This is not a strategy and tactics class. The findings presented in this program are based on the presenter’s 30 years experience in emergency services, supported by his research involving expert-level incident commanders.
Because this program is the presentation of the findings of original research, the participants are going to receive information they’ve never previously been exposed to about the challenges faced by decision makers at emergency scenes.
Richard B. Gasaway has served as a fire chief for 22 years. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Leadership and has authored more than 80 journal articles, books and book chapters on leadership and command topics.