Technology with a Purpose

Archive for October, 2011

Great Attitudes Lead to Great Things

Blog by Tim Holman
Chief, German Township Fire & EMS

There are many books and studies that say attitude is the most important element of an individuals success. This is especially true for those of us in the emergency medical services. It doesn’t matter how skilled an EMS provider might be, if they have a bad attitude, the care they deliver will suffer.

Ask yourself a question, would you want to be treated by a surgeon that has a bad attitude? Of course not.

Some may argue it doesn’t matter what type of attitude a person has, as long as they are skilled nothing else matters. But consider the fact that negative feelings determine our outlook on situations.

If a surgeon responds to a severe trauma victim with a negative attitude, should they be looking at the victim with an optimistic or a pessimistic view? Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. It does matter and it matters a great deal.

Negative thinking, spawned by negative attitudes, leads to negative behaviors. The EMS providers’ behavior at an emergency scene is first impacted by the attitude, then the behavior. The behavior is the type of care he/she delivers to the patient.

Have you ever heard someone say, “he is a great paramedic, but he has a bad attitude?” The truth is there is no way a paramedic can be great if they have a bad attitude. The bad attitude cancels out the skills the individual may possess.

Great paramedics have great attitudes to go along with great skill. Most EMS systems will tell you the majority of complaints from patients have to do with the EMS providers’ attitude and seldom with patient care.

Every day EMS providers have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. No, it is not pleasant to be called out at 2 a.m. for a patient who has been sick for three days. Drunks, overdoses and uncooperative patients are difficult. But if they are approached with a positive attitude, the interaction will go much smoother for both the patient and the EMT.

Remember in EMT class when they told all of us we would have these types of patients? Well, we chose to be EMTs anyway. Now we have a responsibility to be the best EMTs we can. The only way to do that is to perfect our skills and our attitudes.

Don’t let negative people around you determine your attitude. Attitude is a choice. Choose a good one. It means you look at each patient and ask yourself, how can I make things better for this person? Do I really care? Great EMTs care. They care about the patient, the community in which they serve, their co-workers and the organization in which they work, and their attitude reflects it.

As an EMT you are a role model. You are there to serve your community, provide the best care possible for the sick and injured, and meet adversity with a positive outlook. You have a responsibility to reflect confidence and compassion. You are a problem solver and people listen to you because you have a positive attitude.

Recently an EMT transported an elderly patient to the hospital. He said the patient appeared frightened and lonely. She had no family and was being admitted for treatment and tests. The EMT went down to the gift shop, purchased some flowers and took them back to the patient. The woman smiled for the first time during the transport and thanked the EMT repeatedly. His attitude made a difference for this patient. Sometimes the best treatment doesnt come from needles and medication. Sometimes the best treatment comes from a caring attitude. Great attitudes always lead to great things!

Train for Adaptation It Will Pay Off

Blog by Brian Ward
Officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia

One of the most essential things we do as firefighters is Train for Adaptation. This helps us be ready for any situation.

Keep in mind, firefighters never really encounter identical incidents. Its true some have similarities, but each has its own unique twist. Thats why its critical we are capable of adapting spontaneously when a new challenge presents itself.

I recently spent several days with Chief David Rhodes of the Atlanta Fire Department during the Georgia Smoke Divers Course, which is based on a few items I believe are pertinent to any firefighter wishing to survive. The first item is paying attention to details. If we neglect the details, we can find ourselves in serious trouble.

As the accident triangle shows, small acts of omission today turn into major injuries and fatalities tomorrow. Examples of these small things include inspecting your turnout gear and SCBA and ensuring your tools are safe. As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Once on scene, paying attention to details will give you clues where the fire is or may be going. In addition, looking for details should be applied to all incidents regardless of nature.

The second item heavily covered was the topic of knowing your own limitations and your equipments limitations. Do you know the length of time you can perform a strenuous level of work in gear and breathing air? Could this dictate your decisions on scene? Absolutely.

Ask yourself, if I was trapped inside a structure, would I give up because I am tired or would I dig as deep as I could to self extricate? One might argue they’d never give up when it’s concerning life or death, but how many people die 5 feet from the door trying to get out?

So, how do you truly know what you are capable of? Have you ever prepared for this type of mental and physical test? The greatness of this type of training is testing your limitations and not just hoping you can rise to the occasion.

All of the training that took place during the courses six days was based on the concept of Training for Adaptation. The first two items discussed, were meant to build a foundation. The third item was making decisions in different training scenarios. Hands on training with heat, fire, smoke and chaos impacting decisions.

The major factor for me was answering the question, can I do it when I’m mentally and physically exhausted? The training scenarios were beyond any training program I’d ever attended.

It’s important to remember when training, you need to train for what you are going to face. Do not allow yourself to become complacent with your skills. Practice picking out details by conducting simulations and pay attention to the minute nuances of a building. Inspect your gear, tools, and equipment on a daily basis. Discuss this with your crew. Once your gear is inspected, drill wearing all of your gear. And know your limitations.

One of the training items at my station is based around gear acclimation and simply developing a tolerance for the change in temperature from winter to summer. There is an absolute noticeable difference when a firefighter is acclimated to an environment. It’s important to know how your body works.

Try to practice drills that require you to think about how you would mitigate a situation. If you practice extricating a down firefighter, change the location and situation each time. It will require you to think. As with any training, critique afterward on how to perform more efficiently next time.

About the Author
Brian Ward is an engineer/acting officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia. He is a past training officer, chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and currently serves on the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia Advocate for “Everyone Goes Home” and the Membership Task Force Co-Chair and Live Fire Instructor for ISFSI. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH.

Ward has an associates degree in fire science and a Fire Safety and Technology Engineering Bachelors Degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is the founder of the website, FireServiceSLT.com and Georgia Smoke Diver #741.

TargetSafety is Now TargetSolutions

TargetSafety, the U.S. leader in online training and records management solutions for municipalities including fire, EMS, and other public entities, is pleased to announce its name change to TargetSolutions effective immediately.

Since our inception in 1999, we have strived to make life easier for those professionals who serve us all. Over that time, municipalities and public entities have increasingly been forced to do more with less. As a result, we have worked hard to find new solutions that can help our clients run their departments and organizations more efficiently.

First started as an online safety training company, then expanding over the years to support the first responder community, TargetSolutions offers a wide variety of web-based solutions that provide our partners the means to reduce costs, streamline operations, and improve productivity. We believe the name change to TargetSolutions more clearly articulates that message and resonates better with our clients.

“The name TargetSolutions reflects who we are and what we do more effectively,” said Vice President Thomas Woodward. “Our technology platform is very flexible and solves problems beyond safety training. We’re dedicated to serving our clients and helping them save time and money.

“The exercise of changing our name has helped to reaffirm our commitment to helping fire, EMS, police and other municipalities and public entities control their budgets and increase productivity. As part of our core philosophy, we promise that will never change. We are the same technology solutions provider you’ve come to know and trust, with a name and logo that better reflects our commitments and range of services in all the markets we serve.”

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

Building a Culture of Safety

Blog by Tim Holman
Chief, German Township Fire & EMS, Clark County, Ohio

The fire service continues to lose approximately 100 firefighters each year. Many steps have been suggested to reduce the number of fatalities. Things such as Rapid Intervention Teams, Emergency Driving Courses, Reading Smoke and other valuable classes have been developed. Unfortunately, until fire departments make safety part of the everyday culture, the firefighter death rate is unlikely to change.

Every organization has a culture. The culture of an organization is related to the environment of the department. Some environments are positive and some are negative. The culture defines how the firefighter operates on a daily basis. The culture is established by the chief officers. Developing a culture of safety requires several steps:

Step 1: Leadership
The leaders of the organization must promote safety from the top down. The leaders walk their talk. They set the example. The chief officers talk about safety and the follow the rules that have been established. I recently witnessed an assistant chief at the scene of a working house fire on the roof operating a ventilation saw wearing no turnout gear. In addition, he had not deployed a roof ladder. What message did he send to his firefighters? It should be no surprise that many of the firefighters at this scene were not wearing gloves, helmets and eye protection. This is a prime example of a poor safety culture and it started with the leadership.

Step 2: Training
The old saying, Train like your life depends on it is exactly what every fighter should do. Do you cut corners during training? Are safety rules followed and enforced during training? Are the leaders participating in training evolutions?

Training is what prepares the firefighter for battle. It should be taken seriously and it should represent real-life situations as much as possible. Training evolutions should be well thought out and planned in advance. During the training session and following training, everyone should come together and safety concerns should be reviewed.

Step 3: Accountability
True accountability is not punishment. True accountability is a mindset of I can’t do my job if you fail to do your job. Everyone must be accountable to each other. This concept is even more important when it comes to safety. Firefighters must watch out for each other. They must correct unsafe actions when they occur. This is not just the officers job this is every firefighters responsibility.

If a firefighter is injured on the fire grounds a minimum of three firefighters are taken out of service, the injured firefighter plus two firefighters to care for him. In addition, the mental and emotional element of fellow firefighters is impacted and they become less effective.

So when does accountability become punitive? When a firefighter repeatedly drops the ball and fails to do what they are supposed to do. In the past it has always been the officers responsibility to hold firefighters accountable. Today, if we are to change the death and injury rate, everyone should be responsible for holding each other accountable.

Step 4: Attitude
Once again the leaders set the tone for the attitude in the organization. If the leaders have an apathetic attitude toward safety they cannot expect the firefighter to have a positive attitude. Negative attitudes need to be addressed quickly and effectively. If the leadership allows negativity, it will spread like a cancer throughout the organization.

Bad attitudes lead to poor morale. Organizations with poor morale tend to have a higher probability of firefighter injury. This is due to the fact that if morale is low, the firefighter is not focused on the right things. Firefighters become depressed and stress levels increase, which is a true formula for careless behavior that can lead to tragedy.

Step 5: Expectations
Every firefighter should understand what is expected of them both on and off the emergency scene. What behavior is tolerated and is not acceptable? Clear expectations allow firefighters to function more effectively.

Step 6: Integrated Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedure must support the previous five steps. When developing policies it is important to make sure the policy can be policed. Many policies look good on paper but may not be practical in implementing or enforcing. Policies must set firm standards and be fair to the firefighter.

A culture of safety starts with an organization’s leadership. Once this culture is established, safety becomes a way of life because it is being lived out by the firefighters each and every day.

About the Author
Tim Holman is a seminar speaker who has conducted programs throughout the United States. Holman speaks and trains on a variety of business, fire and EMS management and leadership issues. Holman specializes in providing fire and EMS officer development programs. Holman was the Fire Chief magazine “Fire Chief of the Year” for 2002. He has also been appointed to the commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. For more information on Holman, please check online at www.holmantraining.com.