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!
Remembrance, One of Many Stories: One of the 343…
On September 11, 2001, Captain Patrick Brown and eleven men from FDNY Ladder 3 responded to the attacks at the World Trade Center. His firehouse, Ladder 3, is located in very close proximity to the Twin Towers so his was one of the first fire companies on the scene. Along with so many other rescue workers, the men of Ladder 3 participated in perhaps the most successful rescue effort in U.S. history. These rescue workers, at their own peril, managed to safely evacuate over 25,000 people from those burning towers. It is believed that Paddy and his men were on the 40th floor of the North Tower with 30 or 40 severely burned people when that tower fell.
He was an extraordinary officer and firefighter; Captain Patrick Brown was passionate, intense, complicated, humble, and an inspiration to both those who knew him and those who are just now finding out about this incredible man. He’ll be remembered as a devoted friend, a dedicated firefighter, a warrior, and someone who made a difference.
One of the many stories of extraordinary Company Officers, Firefighters, Commanders and Chief Officers… of the FDNY 343….
Ladder 3 Last Dispatch 1 Hour Before The North Tower Collapse HERE
Following an unplanned hiatus; TheCompanyOfficer.com is back, reloaded, revitalized and inspired with innovative visions and refreshing perspectives to support the daily mission of the company and command officer with leadership, knowledge and training for the first-due.
Expect some exciting things to come your way in the weeks and months ahead this fall with some reformatted programs such as Ten Minutes in the Street Scenarios and training aids as well as more interactive resources, downloads and timely postings, links and reference support.
Strive to achieve personal and operational excellence
Regardless of your rank, or time in grade, the length of time in your organization, the size and structure of your department or your daily demands and challenges; leadership, mentoring, contributing, setting the example, being at your very best individually or collectively as part of a team, a company or a department is essential and pivotal-
Think about it…..
- Find your Energy
- Explore your Strengths
- Discover you Passion
- Expand your Perspective
- Understand your Beliefs
- Choose your Attitude
- Align your Behaviors
- Challenge your Perception
- Define your Success
- Live your Value
- State your Mission
- Proclaim your Purpose
LEADING YOUR LIFE WITH MORE PURPOSE AND INTENTION
Take some time to review this exceptional video lecture from TEDxDirigo – and present byDavid McLain. Think about it and apply the insights….
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.
How much thought and efforts do you place on looking beyond the suggested “routiness” of your response operations? You know, the redundancy, routiness and frequency of typical calls you run, the types of fire you engage in and the manner in which your company interfaces with the balance of the alarm response when working a job or multiple alarm operation. We talk about nothing being routine, yet we have a pace, a rhythm and regularity, a consistency that is predicatable yet, uncertain; expected but when presented; off-guard.
When things go wrong, they can go wrong at an escalating rate that may at times not be apparent. Think about the issues that affect Errors, Omissions, Unknown or Unrecognized Building Profile or Construction, Wrong Tactics, Lack of Resources, Dysfunctional Command, Inadequate skills, High Risk-No Value, Situational Awareness failure, Command Compression, Tactical Entertainment…
From a company level, what are your concerns related to the routiness or regularity of your operations?
How would you relate to the fact that: “It’s NOT always business as usual”.
The complexities of the modern and evolving fireground demand an understanding of the building-occupancy relationships and the integral functionals related to;
- construction and systems,
- predictive occupacny performance
- occupancy profile risk
- fire dynamics and fire behavior,
- risk respect
- firefighting capabilities
- safety consciousness
- situational awareness
- tactical patience
- fluid and adaptive incident command management,
- diligent company level supervision and
- task level company competencies,
- exceptional individual skills
Without the sum of these; You are derelict and negligent and “not “everyone may be going home”.
How much knowledge and formal training have you had as a Commanding Officer or Company Officer on Building Construction?
Have any clue on the performance of Engineered Structural Systems….?
Are your strategic plans and tactics aligned with Occupancy Risk and projected Building Performance, company capabilities and the fire dynamics?
There’s a lot that can be gleaned from your surroundings on any given day. We sometimes take for granted the subtle changes that are happening all around us as we take care of business on our rounds, runs and calls. We tend to focus in on the immediacy of the events that are happening in front of us that demand our attention but fail to take a look around to pick up on information, data and insights that can help us on that next run or down the road in the future.
Take a look at the construction that might be going up in your areas. I’m certain you’re paying close attention to what’s happening in your first-due, but what about that third-due area, that neighboring jurisdiction or the mutual-aid area that you occasionally run in to? When you’re on that next EMS run or an investigation of an odor or alarm bells service call, take a few extra minutes to walk through the occupancy. Conduct your own mini company level pre-plan.
Look at the layout, features, access and construction features. If you have a chance, verify the structural support systems employed by the building for the floor and roof systems. If you have time, take the company on a quick site visit to that building that’s under construction or the renovations that are again underway in that commercial or business occupancy around the corner from quarters.
These continuing challenging economic times places a great deal of influence on what’s being built, how it might be constructed, the manner in which a building may be operational one day, vacant the other and under renovation the next. Sometimes these transformations occur literally overnight.
Take a good look around, this is your town…your district, your response area. Know your buildings, understand their performance profiles, and assess the predictability of performance. Remember; Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.
If you think these factors are not important OR you dismiss them as being non-material-think again;
Do you know where you’re going? Have you checked your compass lately to see if you are still on the right track?
They are Mission Critical for firefighter safety and incident mitigation
A recently published article in Fire Engineering Magazine By BC Daniel P. Sheridan, FDNY titled; First-Due Battalion Chief: Playing in Your Own Sandbox is a great article that discussed the transition from company level responsibilities and daily duties to those of a commanding officer. The transition to many is seamless, to others painful and slow.
The article focused on the qualities of a good incident commander (IC) has. One of the qualities that Chief Sheridan speaks about in the article is that of not micromanaging. He goes on to state as we move up the ranks in the fire service, it usually takes time to adjust to the new rank.
The following is an excerpt; “Speaking from experience, it took me a while to be comfortable being a lieutenant. I realize that the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) is unique in the sense that our officers are there strictly to supervise and don’t get involved in the actual physical work of stretching hose, forcing doors, cutting roofs, or any other task assigned to the firefighters. FDNY officers’ only responsibility is to oversee their unit and report to the next level of command”.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005
The passing of Steve Jobs on October 4th, 2011 has brought forward a level of attention that for many is the first true glimpse at the man who is credited with influencing so many levels of our lives and that was ubiquitous with the iconic products he envisioned, developed and marketed.
There’s a tremendous amount of writings being posted in the past 24 hours and certainly a considerable amount more to come in the days ahead, so it would better served for you to take some time to surf, goggle and research out your own paths through the internet to find some exceptional perspectives of the man, his legacy and his view on life.
There comes a time when there are some very prophetic and visionary insights in the world that although aren’t directly associated with the fire service, but that resonant with the some of the core values, ideals and principles that we so many times try to strive to achieve or emulate as fire service leaders, officers or just plain contributing members of our respective organizations.
Whether you’re a practicing or emerging fire officer or commander, a designated leader or the unofficial leader, a seasoned veteran or a newly appointed probationary firefighter, there are some very important insights and values that can be identified in the words of Steve Jobs, especially in the context of his 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University. The video clip is posted as is a link to the transcript. I’m certain you’ll see the value in these perspectives and their relationship on what we work to acheive each day in our richly rewarding profession.
Simply stated, think about connecting the dots and finding your destiny while doing what you love.
Think about the possibilites that can be achieved, and the contributions that can materialize….think about your potential
- Take the time to READ the text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005. HERE
- A Collection of Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes, HERE
Think about it:
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.” – Fortune
“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Think Different, narrated by Steve Jobs
Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, New York City Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer saw the first aircraft hit the North Tower and radioed the alarm, the first FDNY fire chief to take command.
Today, Pfeifer is the New York City Fire Department’s Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness and a Citywide Command Chief. Wharton management professor Michael Useem talked with Pfeifer recently about his leadership during the 9/11 rescue efforts and what the New York City Fire Department and other cities are doing to prepare for the unexpected. This was originally posted on Firefighternation.com, HERE. For a Complete overview and remembrance on this tenth anniversary of 9|11, go HERE at FFN
- WORLD TRADE CENTER TASK FORCE INTERVIEW CHIEF JOSEPH PFEIFER Interview Date: October 23, 2001 PDF HERE
Captain Araguz, a 30 year old, 11-year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department made Captain in 2009. He lost his life while battling a multiple alarm fire a the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas on July 3, 2010. The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office issued the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report, SFMO Case Number FY10-01 that provides a detailed examination of the incident, operations and yeilds findings and recommendations. A full version of the report is available at the Texas SFMO web site HERE.
On July 3, 2010, Wharton Volunteer Fire Department Captain Thomas Araguz III was fatally injured during firefighting operations at an egg production and processing facility. At 9:41 PM, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas. Boling Volunteer Fire Department and the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department responded first, arriving approximately 12 minutes after dispatch. Eventually, more than 30 departments with 100 apparatus and more than 150 personnel responded. Some departments came as far as 60 miles to assist in fighting the fire.
The fire involved the egg processing building, including the storage areas holding stacked pallets of foam, plastic, and cardboard egg cartons and boxes. It was a large windowless, limited access structure with large open areas totaling over 58,000 square feet. A mixed construction, it included a two-story business office, the egg processing plant, storage areas, coolers, and shipping docks. It was primarily metal frame construction with metal siding and roofing on a concrete slab foundation with some areas using wood framing for the roof structure.
Captain Araguz responded to the scene from the Wharton Fire Station, approximately 20 miles from the fire scene, arriving to the front, south side main entrance 20 minutes after dispatch. Captain Araguz, Captain Juan Cano, and Firefighter Paul Maldonado advanced a line through the main entrance and along the south, interior wall to doors leading to a storage area at the Southeast corner.
Maldonado fed hose at the entry door as Captains Araguz and Cano advanced through the processing room. Araguz and Cano became separated from the hose line and then each other. Captain Cano found an exterior wall and began kicking and hitting the wall as his air supply ran out. Firefighters cut through the exterior metal wall at the location of the knocking and pulled him out. Several attempts were made to locate Captain Araguz including entering the building through the hole and cutting an additional hole in the exterior wall where Cano believed Araguz was located. Fire conditions eventually drove the rescuers back and defensive firefighting operations were initiated.
Captain Cano was transported to the Gulf Coast Medical Center where he was treated and released. Captain Araguz was recovered at 7:40 AM, the following morning. Initially transported by ambulance to the Wharton Funeral Home then taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office in Austin, Texas for a post-mortem examination.
Building Structure and Systems
The fire incident building was located on the property of Maxim Egg Farm, located within an unincorporated area of Wharton County. The 911 address is 580 Maxim Drive, Boling, Texas 77420.
Wharton County has no adopted fire codes, or model construction codes, and no designated Fire Marshal on staff that conducts fire safety inspections within their jurisdiction.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition, is adopted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and is the applicable standard for fire and life safety inspections in the absence of an adopted fire code within unincorporated areas of a county by an applicable authority. All references regarding evaluation of the incident building in relation to minimum life safety requirements are based on NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition.
Maxim Farm property includes 23 chicken coops known as layer barns that average 300 feet long and 50 feet wide holding between 15,000 to 25,000 chickens each. These layer barns inter-connect to a central processing building by a series of enclosed conveyor belts transporting over one million eggs daily.
- The property includes integrated feed silos, water tanks, and waste management facilities. Additional areas on the property include equipment barns, shipping offices, loading docks, coolers, storage areas, and business offices.
Overall Building Description
The main processing structure was an irregularly shaped mixed construction of metal, concrete block, and wood framing on a concrete slab foundation with approximately 58,000 square feet of space. Three dry-storage rooms connected by a wide hallway lined the east side of the plant. A concrete block (CMU) wall separated the egg processing area from the East Hallway and storage rooms. Coolers were located north of the processing room with the loading docks along the west side of the structure. The loading docks were accessible from the processing room, Cooler 3, and Cooler 2. Cooler 1 was located at the north end of Dry Storage 2. A two-story building housing the business office was attached to the main processing plant at the southwest corner.
The building construction was classified as an NFPA 220, Type II-000 construction with an occupancy classification by the Life Safety Code as Industrial with sub-classification as special-purpose use. The Life Safety Code imposes no minimum construction requirements for this type of occupancy.
The predominant use of the building was to process and package fresh eggs for shipment after arriving by automated conveyor directly from a laying house adjacent to the building. The general floor plan of the building consisted of a large egg processing room, with surrounding areas used for storage of packing materials and two large drive-in coolers for holding packaged eggs prior to shipping.
Building construction consisted of a combination of steel and wood framing with a sheet metal exterior siding and roofing over a low-pitch roof on a concrete slab foundation. Structural elements within the interior of the building were exposed and unprotected with no fire-resistance rated materials applied. The load bearing structural elements consisted of steel beams, and steel pipe columns, with steel open web trusses supporting the roof structure.
- Wood components were also used as part of the load bearing elements and wall framing.
- Perimeter walls of the cooler compartments were constructed of concrete masonry units (CMU).
- The building was not separated between other areas of use by fire-resistance rated assemblies.
- Ancillary facilities located within the building used for administrative offices and other incidental spaces were constructed of wood framing with a gypsum wallboard finish.
Detailed Construction Features
The front of the structure faced to the south where the main entrance to the processing room and business offices was located approximately 4 feet above the parking lot grade level and accessed by a series of steps. The business office was a two-story wood frame construction with a vinyl exterior siding under a metal roof on a concrete slab foundation. Additional separate, single-story, wood frame structures with offices located to the west of the main business office connected by covered walkways.
The egg processing room was 141 feet along the east and west walls and approximately 100 feet along the north and south walls. The processing room received the eggs transported from the layer barns on the conveyer belt system. The room contained the processing equipment and conveyor systems where eggs were cleaned, graded, packaged and moved to large coolers to await shipment. The construction of the processing room was sheet metal panels embedded into the concrete slab foundation supported by 8-inch wide metal studs. Sheet metal panels lined the exterior and interior sides of the south and west walls with fiberglass insulation sandwiched between.
The north wall separated the processing room from Cooler 3 and consisted mainly of interlocking insulated metal panels embedded into the slab locked at the top in metal channels. Their interior surface was polyurethane laminate.
The east wall was mainly of concrete block (CMU) construction. A USDA office and a mechanics room were accessed through doors in the east wall of the processing room. The northeast corner of the processing room extended into the north end of the east hallway, forming an 18 feet by 18 feet area with wood frame construction on a concrete stem wall with fiber cement board (Hardy board) and metal panel siding. A 6-feet wide opening between the processing and dry-storage areas with a vinyl strip door allowed unrestricted access.
Along the south wall of the processing room, a walkway between the processing equipment and exterior wall led to swinging double doors at the southeast corner to enter into Dry Storage 3. Conveyors carried the eggs from the north and south layer barns through openings in the walls of the extension of the processing room. The conveyors from the north and south layer barns entered the building suspended overhead. As the conveyors approached the entrance to the main processing room, they gradually descended to 3.5 feet above floor level and were supported by metal brackets attached to the floor. Electric drive motors attached to the conveyors at several points along their lengths to power their movement.
The roof consisted of steel columns and girders with metal panel roofing attached to metal purlins supported by steel rafters. Wire mesh supported fiberglass insulation under the roof deck. The roof gable was oriented north to south.
The plant included three dry-storage rooms along the eastern side of the building connected by an east hallway. Dry Storage 1 and Dry Storage 2 were located in the northeast corner of the plant under a common sloping metal roof. The dry-storage rooms held pallets of containers including polystyrene egg crates, foam egg cartons, pulp egg cartons, and cardboard boxes.
Dry Storage 1 was approximately 123 feet long and 50 feet wide and was 4 feet below the grade of the rest of the plant. It was added to the east side of Dry Storage 2 in 2008. Dry Storage 1 was a concrete slab and 4-feet high concrete half wall topped with wood framing and metal siding. The metal roof sloped from 11 feet high above the west side to 10 feet high above the east wall. The roof attached to 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists supported by two rows of steel support columns and steel girders. The two rows of seven columns were oriented in a north-south direction.
A concrete ramp at the south end facilitated access to the East Hallway and Dry Storage 2 and the main level of the processing room. A concrete ramp at the northeast corner of Dry Storage 1 provided access to the rear loading dock. The rear dock was secured on the interior at the top of the ramp by a wood frame and metal double door with a wooden cross member and a chain and padlock. An additional wood frame and screened double door secured on the interior.
The conveyor belt from the north layer barns ran the length of the west side of Dry Storage 1 where it turned to the west, crossing Dry Storage 2 and the East Hallway into the main processing room.
Dry Storage 1 contained 29 rows of pallets, seven to eight pallets deep, of mainly Styrofoam egg crates stacked between 7 and 10 feet high, depending on their location. Corridors between the rows were maintained to provide access to the pallets with an electric forklift. Fluorescent light fixtures attached to the wood rafters in rows north to south with their conductors in PVC conduit. Skylights spaced evenly above the west side allowed for natural light. Pallets of stock material were single stacked below the locations of the light fixtures to keep clearance and prevent damage.
Dry Storage 2, located west of and 4 feet above Dry Storage 1, stored pallets of flattened cardboard box stock. The room was approximately 81 feet long and 40 feet wide. The south wall was the processing room extension and was approximately 25 feet long. The east side of the room was open to Dry Storage 1 with 4 inch x 4 inch unprotected wood studs spaced unevenly from 4 feet to 9 feet, supporting the metal roof. The west wall was CMU construction and was the exterior wall of Cooler 3. The metal roof sloped from the top of the west wall approximately 12 feet high to approximately 11 feet above the east side.
The room was accessed from the south end at the top of the ramp leading down into Dry Storage 1. Pallets of folded cardboard boxes were stacked along the entire length of the west wall extending 16 to 20 feet to the east. The rows of pallets were without spacing for corridors. One row of six fluorescent light fixtures attached to wood rafters near the north-south centerline.
The East Hallway was approximately 118 feet long and 37 feet wide running along the length of the east side of the processing room. The East Hallway connected Dry Storages 1 and 2 with Dry Storage 3 by a corridor at the south end. The East Hallway allowed access between the storage room areas and into utility rooms including the Boiler Room at the north end and a mechanics room and small utility closet. Pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the east wall in rows of three pallets each. Seven pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the conveyors.
The west wall was concrete block construction (CMU) until it connected to the extension of the processing area constructed of wood frame covered by Hardy board and sheet metal. The east wall was sheet metal embedded in the concrete slab supported by 2 inch x 4 inch wood studs with Hardy board interior. The metal roof sloped from a height at 12 feet at the west wall to 10 feet high at the east wall, supported by 4 inch x 6 inch wood columns and 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists.
Two conveyors entered the south end of the east hallway from Dry Storage 3. The conveyors ran parallel for approximately 80 feet along the west wall and entered the processing room through openings in the extension at the north end of the east hallway. They were 6 feet from the west wall and gradually descended from a height of 9 feet at the south end to 3.5 feet at the north. Each conveyor was 31 inches wide and combined was approximately 7 feet wide. Two compressor machines and a pressure washer were located along the west wall near the south end.
The Boiler Room, located at the northeast corner of the East Hall, housed two propane fired boilers, a water treatment system and two vacuum pumps. It was wood frame construction with metal siding under a metal roof on a combination concrete slab and concrete pier and wood beam foundation. A small utility room with service panels was constructed of concrete block on a concrete slab under a metal roof and was also located along the west wall of the East Hallway. An approximately 10 feet wide corridor connected the East Hallway to Dry Storage 3.
Dry Storage 3 extended south from the main processing room and East Hallway to the south dock area where tractor-trailers parked to unload the pallets of supplies. Two parallel conveyors suspended 9 feet overhead from the roof extended along the length of the east wall where it passed through the south wall toward the south layer houses.
The plant’s main power conductors entered the west wall of Dry Storage 3 from load centers and transformers mounted to the slab outside approximately 15 feet south of the main processing room exterior wall. Stacks of wood pallets were stored in Dry Storage 3. Corridors wide enough for forklifts provided access to the south cargo dock area.
Fire Ground Operations and Tactics
Note: The following sequence of events was developed from radio transmissions and firefighter witness statements. Those events with known times are identified. Events without known times are approximated in the sequence of the events based on firefighter statements regarding their actions and/or observations. A detailed timeline of radio transmissions is included in the appendix.
On July 3, 2010, at 21:41:10, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located on County Road 442, south of the city of Boling, Texas. The caller, immediately transferred to the Wharton Police Department Dispatch, advised there was a “big fire” in the warehouse where egg cartons were stored. Boling Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched and immediately requested aid from the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department. Wharton VFD became Command as is the usual practice for this county.
Wharton Assistant Chief Stewart (1102) was returning to the station having been out on a response to a vehicle accident assisting the Boling Volunteer Fire Department when the call came in for the fire. He responded immediately and at 21:50 reported seeing “heavy fire” coming from the roof at the northeast corner of the building as he approached the plant from the east on County Road 442. When he arrived he was eventually directed to the east side of the building (D side) to the rear loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
An employee directed him on the narrow caliche drive behind the layer barns and between the waste ponds to the loading dock. Wharton Engine 1134 followed 1102 to the east side and backed into the drive leading to the loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart’s immediate actions included assessing the extent of the fire on the interior of the building by looking through the doors at the loading dock to Dry Storage 1. Unable to see the fire through the smoke at the doors of the loading dock, an attack was eventually accomplished by removing a metal panel from the east exterior wall of Dry Storage 1 and using one 1¾”-inch cross lay. After a few minutes, the deck gun on Engine 1134 was utilized, directing water to the roof above the seat of the fire near the south end of Dry Storage 1.
Water supply became an immediate concern and 1102 made efforts to get resources for resupply. Requests for mutual aid to provide water tankers were made to area communities. During the incident, re-supplying tankers included a gravity re-fill from the on-site water supply storage tanks and from fire hydrants in the City of Boling, 3 miles from the scene and the City of Wharton, nearly 11 miles. The City of Boling water tower was nearly emptied during the incident.
The radio recording indicates there were difficulties accessing the location of the fire as apparatus were led around the complex by multiple employees. Heavy rains during the previous week left many roadways muddy and partially covered with water, which added to problems with apparatus access. In addition, fire crews were not familiar with the layout of the facility and there are no records of pre-fire plans. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
Wharton Fire Chief Bobby Barnett (1101) arrived on scene at 21:56:14, and ordered incoming apparatus to stage until he could establish an area of operations at the front, south side of the plant (A side). Chief Barnett directed Engine 1130 to position approximately 50 feet from the front main entrance of the plant. At 22:09:16, Chief Barnett (1101) established a command post on A side and became the Incident Commander; 1101 directed radio communications for the fireground to be TAC 2 and called for mutual aid from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. Chief Barnett described the conditions on side A as smoky with no fire showing. Light winds were from the east, side D, pushing the smoke toward the area of the processing room, and the front, side A, of the building.
Maxim Egg Farm Manager David Copeland, a former Wharton VFD Chief, advised Command and firefighters that the fire was in the area of the Boiler Room and should be accessed by breaching an exterior wall in the employee break area. Chief Barnett ordered Wharton crews to the breach attempt. Captain Thomas Araguz III, Captain John Cano and Firefighter Paul Maldonado were involved with this operation. The crews working in this area were in full structural personnel protective clothing and SCBA.
At 22:10, Command ordered Engine 1130 and Tanker 1160 to set up at the front entrance using Tanker 1160 for portable dump tank operations for water re-supply.
On D side, difficulty accessing the fire from the exterior of the building was reported by Asst. Chief Stewart and the crews. Heavy doors, locked loading dock doors and steel exterior paneling, required the crews to spend extra time forcing entry.
At 22:17:23, Wharton County Chief Deputy Bill Copeland (3122), once a Wharton FD volunteer firefighter, notified Command that the fire was now through the roof over Dry Storage 1.
Chief Barnett noticed smoke conditions improving at the main plant doorway and ordered crews to advance lines into the processor room. Chief Barnett stated he assigned Captain Araguz, Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado because they were the most experienced and senior crews available.
Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) was in place at the main entry door when Captain Cano, Captain Araguz and Firefighter Maldonado entered the structure into the processing room. There are no radio transmissions to verify exact entry times.
Captain Cano stated that an employee had to assist fire crews with entry into the main plant through a door with keypad access. Captain Cano reported the door to processing was held open by a three-ring binder that he jammed under the door after entry. Cano stated there was low visibility and moderate heat overhead. Captain Cano and Captain Araguz made entry on a right-hand wall working their way around numerous obstacles. The line was not yet charged and they returned to the doorway and waited for water. Wharton Engine 1130’s driver reported in his interview that he had difficulty establishing a draft from the portable tank later determined to be a linkage failure on the priming pump. 1160 connected directly to 1130 and drafted from the folding tank.
As the crew entered into the structure through the main entry door, several plant employees began entering into the administration offices through the area of the main entry door to remove files and records. This was reported to Command at 22:23 and after several minutes Chief Barnett ordered employees to stay out of the building and requested assistance from the Sheriff’s Office to maintain scene security.
At 22:31, once the line was charged, the two captains continued into the processor on the right wall leaving Maldonado at the doorway to feed hose. Captain Cano was first with the nozzle and described making it 20 feet into the building.
Cano states in his interview that he advised Command over the radio that there was high heat and low visibility, although the transmission is not recorded. Cano also reported in his interview, he could not walk through the area and had to use a modified duck walk. Cano projected short streams of water towards the ceiling in a “penciling” motion and noted no change in heat or smoke conditions. They advanced until the heat became too great and they retreated towards the center of the processor. Cano stated that they discussed their next tactic and decided to try a left-handed advance.
At 22:33, Chief Barnett advised, “advancing hose streams in main building to try to block it.”
Captain Araguz took the nozzle and Captain Cano advanced with him holding onto Araguz’ bunker gear. The crew advanced along the south wall of the processing room toward the double doors to Dry Storage 3 and lost contact with the hose line.
The investigation found the couplings between the first and second sections of the hose lodged against a threaded floor anchor (see photo) preventing further advancement of the line. How the team lost the hose line remains uncertain.
Captain Cano stated in his interview that Captain Araguz told him to call a Mayday. Captain Cano stated that he was at first confused by the request, but after some time it became apparent they lost the hose line. Captain Cano reported calling Mayday on the radio but never received a reply. Captain Cano now believes he may have inadvertently switched channels at his previous transmission reporting interior conditions. Captain Araguz had a radio but it was too damaged to determine operability. There are no recorded transmissions from Captain Araguz.
At 22:37, Deputy Chief Copeland advised Command that the fire had breached a brick wall and was entering the main packing plant. Command responded that there was a hose team inside.
At 22:42:50, Command radioed “Command to hose team 1, Cano.” This was the first of several attempts to contact Captain Cano and Captain Araguz. At 22:47:17, Command ordered Engine 1130 to sound the evacuation horn. At 22:50:44, Command announced Mayday over the radio, stating “unlocated fireman in the building.”
- Captain Cano stated in his interview that they made several large circles in an attempt to locate the fire hose.
- Cano became entangled in wiring, requiring him to doff his SCBA.
- After re-donning his SCBA, Captain Cano noted he lost his radio, but found a flash light. He remembered that his low air warning was sounding as he and Araguz searched for the hose. Cano stated that they made it to an exterior wall and decided to attempt to breach the wall. Working in near zero visibility,
- Captain Cano reported losing contact with Captain Araguz while working on breaching the wall.
- Shortly after he lost contact, Captain Cano ran out of air and removed his mask. Captain Cano continued working to breach the exterior wall until he was exhausted.
At 22:54, crews working on the exterior of the building near the employee break area reported hearing tapping on the wall in the area of the employee break room.
- Crews mustered tools and began to cut additional holes through the building exterior.
- After making two openings, Captain Cano was located and removed from the building.
- Captain Cano reported that Captain Araguz was approximately 15 feet inside of the building ahead of him.
- Firefighters made entry through the exterior hole but were unsuccessful in locating Captain Araguz. Cano was escorted to the folding water tank and got into the tank to cool down.
Rapid Intervention Crews (RIC) were established using mutual aid members from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. The first entry made was at the main entry door where Firefighter Maldonado was located. Maldonado was relieved and escorted to the ambulance for rehab. An evacuation horn sounded and the first RIC abandoned the interior search and exited the building.
A rescue entry by a second RIC was through the breached wall of Dry Storage 3. After several minutes inside, the evacuation signal sounded due to the rapidly spreading fire and deteriorating conditions. Two additional RICs entered the structure through the loading dock doors of Dry Storage 3. Chief Barnett states that there were a total of four RICs that made entry after the Mayday. After approximately 45 minutes, all rescue attempts ceased.
As the fire extended south toward Dry Storage 3, smoke conditions became so debilitating that Chief Barnett ordered all crews staged near the front of the building on side A to move back and apparatus to relocate. Command assigned Chief Hafer of the Richmond Fire Department to “A” side operations and defensive operations were established. Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado were transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire ground operations continued through the night. Captain Araguz was recovered at approximately
07:40 AM. Command transferred to the Richmond Fire Department Chief Hafer at approximately
07:56 AM as 1101 and the Wharton units escorted Captain Araguz from the scene. All Wharton units cleared the scene at 08:02 AM.
Captain Araguz was transported to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office performed post mortem examinations on July 4, 2010. Captain Araguz died from thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.
Findings and Recommendations
- Recommendations are based upon nationally recognized consensus standards and safety practices for the fire service.
- All fire department personnel should know and understand nationally recognized consensus standards, and all fire departments should create and maintain SOGs and SOPs to ensure effective, efficient, and safe firefighting operations.
There were several factors that, when combined, may have contributed to the death of Captain Araguz. It is important that we honor him by learning from the incident.
- Water supply became an immediate concern.
- Although there are two water storage tanks on the facility with the combined capacity of nearly 44,000 gallons, refilling operations to tankers were slow, accomplished by gravity fill through a 5-inch connection.
- A fire department connection attached to the plant’s main water supply pump and plant personnel familiar with the system could have sped up the refilling process at the plant.
- Most tankers were sent to hydrants in the City of Boling 3 miles away, which in turn quickly depleted the city water supply.
- Other tanker refilling was accomplished at hydrants on the City of Wharton water system, as far as 15 miles away.
Fire protection systems are not required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition for this classification of facility. Fire sprinkler and smoke control systems may have contained the fire to one area, preventing the spread of fire throughout the plant.
Findings and recommendations from this investigation include:
There were no lives to save in the building. An inadequate water supply, lack of fire protection systems in the structure to assist in controlling the spread of the smoke and fire, and the heavy fire near the windward side facilitated smoke and fire spread further into the interior and toward “A” side operations. Along with the size of the building, the large fuel load, and the time period from fire discovery, interior firefighters were at increased risk.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines and conduct training involving risk management and risk benefit analysis during an incident according to Incident Management principles required by NFPA 1500 and 1561.
The concept of risk management shall be utilized on the basis of the following principles:
(a) Activities that present a significant risk to the safety of personnel shall be limited to situations where there is a potential to save endangered lives
(b) Activities that are routinely employed to protect property shall be recognized as inherent risks to the safety of personnel, and actions shall be taken to reduce or avoid these risks.
(c) No risk to the safety of personnel shall be acceptable where there is no possibility to save lives or property.
(d) In situations where the risk to fire department members is excessive, activities shall be limited to defensive operations. NFPA 1500 Chapter 8, 8.3.2
NFPA 1500 ‘Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program’, 2007 ed., and NFPA 1561’Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System’, 2008 ed. Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards Manual, Chapter 435, Section 435.15
(b) The Standard operating procedure shall:
(1) Specify an adequate number of personnel to safely conduct emergency scene operations;
(2) limit operations to those that can be safely performed by personnel at the scene;
Initial crews failed to perform a 360-degree scene size-up and did not secure the utilities before operations began.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines that require crews to perform a complete scene size-up before beginning operations. A thorough size up will provide a good base for deciding tactics and operations. It provides the IC and on-scene personnel with a general understanding of fire conditions, building construction, and other special considerations such as weather, utilities, and exposures. Without a complete and accurate scene size-up, departments will have difficulty coordinating firefighting efforts.
Fireground Support Operations 1st Edition, IFSTA, Chapter 10 Fundamentals of Firefighting Skills,
NFPA/IAFC, 2004, Chapter 2
The Incident Commander failed to maintain an adequate span of control for the type of incident. Safety, personnel accountability, staging of resources, and firefighting operations require additional supervision for the scope of incident. Radio recordings and interview statements indicate the IC performing several functions including: Command, Safety, Staging, Division A Operations, Interior Operations and Scene Security.
Recommendation: Incident Commanders should maintain an appropriate span of control and assign additional personnel to the command structure as needed. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision. In ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from three to seven subordinates, with five being optimal. The type of incident, nature of the tasks, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources all influence span-of-control considerations.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency Incident Command Systems http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/ICSpopup.htm#item5 NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior fire team advanced into the building prior to the establishment of a rapid intervention crew (RIC).
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written procedures that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Final Rule, 29 CFR Section 1910.134 (g) (4) requiring at least two fire protection personnel to remain located outside the IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life or Health) atmosphere to perform rescue of the fire protection personnel inside the IDLH atmosphere. One of the outside fire protection personnel must actively monitor the status of the inside fire protection personnel and not be assigned other duties. NFPA 1500 8.8.7 At least one dedicated RIC shall be standing by with equipment to provide for the rescue of members that are performing special operations or for members that are in positions that present an immediate danger of injury in the event of equipment failure or collapse.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134 (g) (4); Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards §435.17 – Procedures for Interior Structure Fire Fighting (2-in/2-out rule) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed. NFPA 1720 Standard on Organization and Deployment Fire Suppression Operations by Volunteer Fire Departments, 2004 ed.
The interior team and Incident Commander did not verify the correct operation of communications equipment before entering the IDLH atmosphere and subsequently did not maintain communications between the interior crew and Command. Although Chief Barnett stated he communicated with Captain Cano, there was no contact with Captain Araguz.
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written policies requiring the verification of the correct operations of communications equipment of each firefighter before crews enter an IDLH atmosphere. Fire Departments should also include training for their members on the operation of communications equipment in zero visibility conditions.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134(g)(3)(ii) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior operating crew did not practice effective air management techniques for the size and complexity of the structure. Interviews indicate the crew expended breathing air while attempting to breach an exterior wall for approximately 10 minutes, then advanced a hose line into a 15,000 square feet room without monitoring their air supply. During interviews Captain Cano estimated his consumption limit at 15 – 20 minutes on a 45 minute SCBA.
Recommendation: Crews operating in IDLH atmospheres must monitor their air consumption rates and allot for sufficient evacuation time. Known as the point of no return, it is that time at which the remaining operation time of the SCBA is equal to the time necessary to return safely to a non-hazardous atmosphere. The three basic elements to effective air management are:
- Know your point of no return (beyond 50 percent of the air supply of the team member with the lowest gauge reading).
- Know how much air you have at all times.
- Make a conscious decision to stay or leave when your air is down to 50 percent.
IFSTA . Essentials of Fire Fighting and Fire Department Operations, 5th ed., Chapter 5, Air Management, page 189 Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Captains Araguz and Cano became separated from their hoseline. While it is unclear as to the reason they became separated from the hose line, interviews with Captain Cano indicate that while he was finding an exterior wall and took actions to alert the exterior by banging and kicking the wall, he lost contact with Captain Araguz.
**Captain Cano credits his survival to the actions he learned from recent Mayday, Firefighter Safety training.
Recommendation: Maintaining contact with the hose line is critical. Losing contact with the hose line meant leaving the only lifeline and pathway to safety. Team integrity provides an increased chance for survival. All firefighters should become familiar with and receive training on techniques for survival and self-rescue.
United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy training course “Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday” Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Additional References Related to Surviving the Mayday and RIT operations from 2011 Safety Week at CommandSafety.com;
Day Eight Plus One: Mayday and Rapid Intervention Realities: The Phoenix Perspective
- Fire marshal finds mistakes made in fatal Wharton County egg farm fire
- Raw: Aerials over egg farm fire
- Raw: Fire captain killed battling 4-alarm blaze
- Egg farm fire that killed firefighter ruled accidental
- Video: KHOU: Wharton County fire captain killed battling 4-alarm blaze at …
- Wharton, Texas Fire Department
- Chronicle: Wharton firefighter killed in massive egg plant blaze
- ABC: Firefighter dies in four-alarm farm blaze
A Company Officer is responsible for accomplishing many things. There are two critical skills that help with completion of tasks: knowing how to allocate the proper resources to solve needs and to determine if you alone, or others, are needed to solve a problem.
As a Company Officer, you have many opportunities to learn about leadership and management. Electing to take courses or workshops helps to build your skills and knowledge. Research using the Internet also provides a no-cost alternative for updating your knowledge.
When faced with the need to solve a problem, you have choices, as to who can best handle the situation.
It is the Company Officer’s responsibility to identify and solve problems that can be taken care of at the company level and to inform management about other critical problems that require upper level attention.
The CO must make judgments/decisions about whether existing processes are adequately meeting individual and group needs of the company. Problems generally arise when existing processes fail to meet existing needs.
The CO then must establish problem-solving priorities and/or seek guidance from upper management.
- The following was courtesy of the USFA Coffee Break Training Series and Downloads, Check them out HERE (Great resources)
- For a PDF download HERE
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.”
What it means to be a Fire Figher. It’s not just a job; responsiblilty , privilege- its the service, committment and the calling.
Take a minute to listen to the Training Officer’s words to the recruits at the start of the training session….Where do you fall in?
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
As a Company Officer, at some point in your career, you will come to that one pivotal point, when the clarity of a situation becomes all so apparent and clear.
Sometime you just have to believe and have the resilience, fortitude and that deep in the gut feeling that you know what and how something needs to be addressed; you just “gotta go for it and knock it on and let it rip”.
Sometimes, all it takes is believing in that one last push, that one last effort, when you know there’s nothing left to fall back on, because there’s nothing left in the bag….
It’s that one belief, that singular drive, its knowing; that you can make it across the hazards and drop it in, regardless of how many times you’ve tried before.
It’s that hole in one (hundred….) that you’ll find.
It’s also about coming out of the shadows and playing your game…and being yourself.
Manage-Time & Elements
Assessment & Fluid Analysis
Fire Behavior & Effects
Evaluate & Execute
There is an acute corollary of technical knowledge and inter reliance on occupancies, construction, strategy, tactics, risk, safety, physics, engineering and fire suppression theory…FACT!
There are Fundamental Domains that can be applied.
It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations.
- Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by
- risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments,
- while maintaining the values and tradition that defines the fire service.
- Tactical Fire Ground Patience
- Responsive Tactical Deployment Modeling-RTD
- Predictive Strategic Process-PSP
- Command Resiliency
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.
Dick Winters, the former World War II commander whose war story was told in the book and miniseries “Band of Brothers,” died on January 2, 2011 at the age of 92. Dick Winters led a quiet life on his Fredericksburg farm and in his Hershey (PA) home until the book and miniseries “Band of Brothers” threw him into the international spotlight. Since then, the former World War II commander of Easy Company had received hundreds of requests for interviews and appearances all over the world.
Winters was always gracious about his new-found celebrity, but never really comfortable with it. He never claimed to be a hero and said that he had nothing to do with the national effort to get him the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.
When people asked him if he was a hero, he liked to answer the way his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney, did.
“No,” Ranney said. “But I served in a company of heroes.” That became the tag line for the miniseries.
In an interview shortly before the miniseries debuted, Winters said the war wasn’t about individual heroics. The men were able to do what they did because they became closer than brothers when faced with overwhelming hardships. They weren’t out to save the world. They hated the blood, carnage, exhaustion and filth of war. But they were horrified at the thought of letting down their buddies.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Winters and his troops from Easy Company, 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, parachuted behind enemy lines to take on a German artillery nest on Utah Beach. Winters made himself a promise then that if he lived through the war, all he wanted was peace and quiet. His company fought through the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of a death camp at Dachau and to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.
The war described in “Band of Brothers” is ugly, but the young men developed character under fire, Winters said. He was glad the miniseries showed war realistically, not either glorified or demonized as in so many movies. He wanted people to understand that success in war depends not on heroics but on bonding, character, getting the job done and “hanging tough,” his lifelong motto. In combat, he wrote 50 years after the war, “your reward for a good job done is that you get the next tough mission.”
When the war ended, Winters kept his promise to himself. He married Ethel, bought a bucolic farm in Fredericksburg, raised two children and worked in the agricultural feed business. He didn’t talk about the war until the late historian Stephen Ambrose wanted to put Easy Company’s exploits on paper.
Following the miniseries, Winters turned down most requests for interviews because he said he didn’t want to appear like he was bragging. But he did feel the story of Easy Company was an important one, especially for young people. He was more likely to accept invitations by local school groups and spent time with students at local High School, among others.
People who knew Winters during and after the war said he is exactly what he appears to be.
He could lead without ever raising his voice or swearing.
His friend Bob Hoffman, a Lebanon architect, said Winters’ eyes could “burn a hole right through you.”
The men who served under him and people who only met him later in life call him a hero, no matter what he says.
According to the book, one wounded member of Easy Company wrote Winters from a hospital bed in 1945, “I would follow you into hell.”
He received a standing ovation from 500 veterans when he spoke at the dedication of the Army’s Military History Institute in Middlesex Township in September. When President Bush was in Hershey, PA in April, he called Winters “a fine example … for those brave souls who now wear our nation’s uniform.”
Tom Hanks, who co-produced the HBO series, and from the actor who played Winters in “Band of Brothers.” “When our days run their course and a man like Dick Winters leaves us, time and providence remind us that human beings can do giant things,” Hanks said in a statement. “Dick Winters volunteered to go to war, leading paratroopers into unknown, yet certain, dangers. He led by both command and example; his wartime philosophy was simple — ‘Follow me.” He died quietly, in private, without fanfare and with the same modesty that he lived his life as one of the true heroes of his generation,” Lewis added.
Ambrose, the author of “Band of Brothers,” said in a 2001 BBC interview that he hopes young people say. “I want to be like Dick Winters.”
“Not necessarily as soldiers, but as that kind of leader, that kind of man, with basic honesty and virtue and an understanding of the difference between right and wrong,” Ambrose said.
Gen. David Petraeus, who has commanded the 101st Airborne Division during his career, said in a statement on this week that “Major Winters embodied the very best of what a leader and soldier should be. He and the men of Easy Company lived the “brotherhood of the close fight.”
The Company Officer fulfills a mission critical role within the fire service that directly affects personnel and public safety and community accord. The title carries with it the opportunity to ride the “front seat” and be in charge of a company responsible for addressing incident operations and service demands dictated by the company’s function, responsibility and task assignment. (These paragraphs have been assembled from a variety of recent articles celebrating the life of Dick Winters and best conveyed the essence of who that man was. All rights reserved)
As a practicing, aspiring, or emerging Company or Command Officer, there is much written and much said about Leadership. There are numerous books written on the suject, but sometimes it’s the simple virtues, values and morals that define and exemplify leadership. We have all served or continue to serve in [a] company of heroes. Quietly serving our citizens and the public at large. Think about what defines you and how you are defined within your company, the station, within the department or within your private life. Stop and reflect….
- Recognizing the various avenues available that place a firefighter in transition from a individual contributor to that of a first-line supervisor; whether thru examination, assessment, appointment or popular vote, there are essential functions and elements that the title bestows.
- The title also carries with it an immense responsibility, obligation, duty and accountability. It’s much more than a set of collar brass and new front helmet shield.
- Understand what the true meaning of leadership is; and how it conveys to the fireground and within our company missions and task assignments during structural combat fire engagement.
- If you haven’t taken the time to read two insightful books, I would encourage you to read up;
- Dick Winters Remembered as an American Hero gallery (12 photos)
- Dick Winters: Reflections on the Band of Brothers, D-Day and Leadership; HERE
- Dick Winters dies; WWII hero commanded ‘Band of Brothers’; The Washington Post, HERE
- HBO; Band of Brothers, HERE
As I was preparing my New Year’s message for 2011 I ran across my posting from Commandsafety.com that I had posted at the start of 2010. After looking it over, I got to thinking about what I had set out to accomplish this past year; what did I intend to do; what did I accomplish, what difference did I make-if any in what I worked at in 2010; did I give back to the fire service, did I support, promote and advocate, did I learn, grow and better myself, did the year have meaning?
I wondered how many line items from this 2010 list did any of my readers hit the mark on, or was this list laidd by the way side, forgotten; but certainly attempted-with good faith. I started putting another list of what needed to be addressed in 2011, but I kept coming back to common themes and similar important issues affecting the fire service as reflected in the previous list. It became readily apparent that this is THE list, with some minor additions and updates. So instead of developing a “new” list, here is the “new” list of “old” issues-that are just as important in twenty eleven.
Take a minute to look it over, think about whateach of these line items can do for you, your organization and the fire service in 2011. Don’t sacrifice or forego on these mission critical areas when so much is at stake in the domain of combat structural fire suppression. Understand the predictability of performance in the buildings and occupancies not only in your jurisdiction, first or second-due areas, but also in those areas that you may be called upon to respond to for greater alarms or mutual aid. Remember Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.
Twenty Eleven (2011)
Here are twenty-one (21) Suggested activities or initiatives for you to consider in 2011….
Above all, be safe in all your endeavors, assignments and incident tasks.
- Regardless of my years of experience, I will increase my understanding of the basic principles of Building Construction, because; Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
- Identify eleven (11) buildings within your first-due or response district and complete a pre-fire plan and present this to my company of organization.
- Identify an area where new residential construction is underway and follow the construction process from foundation through completion to gain an understanding of operational issues.
- I will complete the UL Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions online course AND the new UL Fire Behavior course and implement the lessons learned in my strategic and tactical operations.
- I will not take any building or occupancy for granted, and shall take all precautions to ensure crew integrity and safety during my task assignments.
- Complete a 360 assessment of all buildings upon arrival (or delegate), when ever feasible to gain reconnaissance information on the building and incident risks and implement this info into my strategic, tactical plans or company task assignments.
- Research the issues affecting; Engineered Structural Systems (ESS), Fire Behavior/Fire Dynamics or Fire Suppression Management/Fire Loading and develop a training drill to share the lessons learned.
- Select a new or previous published fire service text book and read up on a subject area that I may have neglected or ignored to increase my skill set.
- Implement an objective approach towards effective risk assessment and profiling of all buildings and occupancies during incident operations and implement balanced tactical deployment with aggressive/measured assignments; recognizing that my company and I are not invincible.
- During demanding Combat Structural Fire Engagements, I will; Do the Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reasons and will not practice Tactical Entertainment.
- Read the Report of the Week (ROTW) on the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System web site and share the operating experience (OE) lessons with my company or department, to reduce the likelihood of a similar or more serious event.
- I will read Eleven (11) NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports and present the lessons learned in a discussion, table top, drill or training program.
- I will attend a regional or national training conference to increase my perspective and awareness of other firefighting, safety or operational methodologies, process or practices to increase firefighter safety in my home organization.
- I will increase my understanding of the NFFF Everyone Goes Home Program initiatives, including the Sixteen Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, Safety Thru Leadership and the Courage to Be Safe Programs and other new program initiatives and advocate and promote enhanced safety measures in my organization.
- I will advocate and promote safe and defensive apparatus operations during emergency responses and will always buckle-up my seat belt and ensure my crew is always belted-in, not placing my company at risk and obeying traffic signals and postings.
- I will implement the New Rules of Engagement during combat structural fire operations; while monitoring and reacting to on-going building performance and fire behavior.
- I will increase my understanding of the Predictability of Building Performance and base my operational deployments on Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type.
- I will become a mentor to a new or less experienced firefighter and promote the traditions, honor and duty of our fire service profession, tempered with an emphasis on firefighter safety, survival and wellness.
- I will take NO emergency incident responses as being routine in nature, due to frequency , regularity or past performance, demands or outcomes, nor will I take any building for granted; Company, Team and personal safety and integrity is paramount and I will not be complacent, but remain vigilant based upon my training, skills and experience.
- I will be an aggressive firefighter; operating smarter, working within the parameters of my Department’s protocols, regulations and expectations while employing Tactical Patience and NOT underestimate the fireground
- I will not settle for status quo; but strive to achieve my highest potential as a firefighter, company officer or commander; and remember I am a brother/sister (firefighter) to everyone in this great profession
Ensure you’re glancing occasionally in your rear view mirror to monitor where you’ve been, while driving your initiatives, programs, processes and actions forward. Above all, maintain the courage to be safe.
Keep an eye in the rear view mirror; learning from the wisdom and knowledge from where you’ve been, what you’ve done and all your past experiences and practice; but at the same time focusing on the road before you with keen attentiveness on situational awareness, anticipating error-likely conditions and balanced risk assessment and operational management in both your strategic and tactical deployments.
Download and Listen in on an insightful look back at 2010 and forward into 2011 with a stellar line-up of fire service leaders. The lineup of scheduled guests on the program included, Deputy Coordinator Tiger Schmittendorf (NY), Chief Glenn Usdin (PA), Captain Willie Wines (VA), Bill Carey (MD), Chief Doug Cline (NC), Lt. Rhett Fleitz (VA), Lt. John Mitchell (IL), and a few others on the invite list who just drop in on us.
Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for this special two part, two hour program with Taking it to the Streets on Firefighernetcast.com where we were Looking Forward Through the Rear View Mirror with Christopher Naum and this outstanding group of fire officers, fire service leaders and visionaries.
- Looking Forward Through the Rear View Mirror: A review back into the year 2010 Part I Download the program HERE
- Looking Forward Through the Rear View Mirror: A discusison of what we might look forward to in 2011 Part II Download the program HERE
Join in on the live open discussion with fire service personnel from around the country. Check out the latest downloads of recent programs in the archives by visiting Taking it to the Street’s webpage on Firefighternetcast.com or for program insights at CommandSafety.com.
- Tune in to the Program, HERE
- Firefighternetcast.com HERE
- Taking it to the Streets Radio Programs, HERE and HERE
- Look back at Twenty Ten, for 2010, HERE
Taking it to the StreetsTM is a monthly radio show featured on BlogTalk Radio and is hosted by Christopher Naum and is a Buildingsonfire.com Series and FireFighternetcast.com Production, © 2010 All Rights Reserved
Taking it to the Streets: Looking Forward Through the Rear View Mirror
On Your Street, In Your City, Across the Country, Around the WorldTM
Join us on Wednesday night December 15th at 9:00 pm EST for an insightful look back at 2010 and forward into 2011 and beyond with a stellar line-up of fire service leaders.
The lineup of Scheduled guests include, Deputy Coordinator Tiger Schmittendorf (NY), Chief Glenn Usdin (PA), Captain Willie Wines (VA), Bill Carey (MD), Chief Doug Cline (NC), Lt. Rhett Fleitz (VA), Lt. John Mitchell (IL), and a few others on the invite list who might just drop in on us.
Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a special two part, two hour program with Taking it to the Streets on Firefighernetcast.com where we’ll be Looking Forward Through the Rear View Mirror with Christopher Naum and this outstanding group of fire officers, fire service leaders and visionaries.
Join in on the live open discussion with fire service personnel from around the country. Check out the latest downloads of recent programs in the archives by visiting Taking it to the Street’s webpage on Firefighternetcast.com or for program insights at CommandSafety.com.
- Tune in to the Program Wednesday evening December 15th at 9:00 pm EST, HERE
- Firefighternetcast.com HERE
- Taking it to the Streets Radio Programs, HERE and HERE
- Look back at Twenty Ten, for 2010, HERE
Taking it to the StreetsTM is a monthly radio show featured on BlogTalk Radio and is hosted by Christopher Naum and is a Buildingsonfire.com Series and FireFighternetcast.com Production, © 2010 All Rights Reserved QNBA6H4AS9BB
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?