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The Dozen That Make a Difference

Courtesy of Dennis Rubin
Editor of FireRube.com and Former Fire Chief

Being chosen fire chief is an emotional thing. You feel tremendous pride for the achievement, but that slowly fades into an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The City of Dothan, Alabama announced me as its fire chief Jan. 2, 1996. I was tasked with overseeing the departments 144 members. Later in my career, I was named Chief in Washington D.C. where I commanded a staff of more than 2,000 employees and managed an annual budget of more than $180 million.

This article takes a quick look at 12 key traits needed as a commanding officer. These rules can be studied in greater detail in my new book, Rubes Rules for Leadership. Those preparing for higher levels within the fire service despite rank or position can benefit from these recommendations:

Be Nosy: Upon arrival, develop a list of critical items and issues that must be addressed to improve efficiency and success. It is essential to continuously follow up on the various system checks and confirmations to help ensure nothing goes wrong.

Be A Good Communicator: Good communication during situations, emergencies or non- emergencies, is vital as a commanding officer. An introductory presentation should be conducted to state organizational goals, objectives, personal philosophy and rules on how the department will be run.

Be Patient: Its valuable to understand that not everyone within the department mirrors the pace of a proven fire chief. Everyone within the system is willing to make contributions to the overall goals of the department in their own way and at their own pace, no drastic change happens overnight.

Be Prepared: Since 1971, education requirements as a career firefighter have shifted, from possible completion of high school to a top job requiring a bachelors degree or higher. Through continuing training and education, a fire chief must always be prepared for whatever comes their way.

Be Honest, Direct and Clear: Maintaining public trust is the most critical and crucial task as a government official. The truth is not always pleasant but its a chiefs duty to be honest.

Learn New Systems: Immerse yourself in new systems to help improve your departments work agency. There are few members who just know how to make most systems work properly; quickly learn who these people are and distribute information and tasks accordingly.

Role-Model Behaviors: As a commanding officer, every muscle moved and action taken is being observed by your department. The best test to apply to your every day actions is the Momma Test. Ask yourself, what would your mother say about your behavior?

Be A Lifelong Learner: The firefighting career requires a brief period of intensive training that only begins the need for continuous education. There is an ongoing need to stay current with the changing environment that exists all around us; therefore, we must continue our learning and growth within the community.

Community Involvement: Fire chiefs are greatly appreciated within any community and therefore should involve themselves. Many opportunities can be found among various groups seeking information about fire and accident prevention.

Departmental Involvement: It is critically important that you are involved in all aspects of your departments activities. Maintaining involvement with stations through informational visits will help to improve overall department success.

Develop Members: Fire-rescue officers have a huge responsibility to develop their members abilities and maintain compliance. A lot of departments are choosing to decrease costs and use online and other computer-based training programs, which is smart. In order to build the most successful training system, consider all delivery methods.

Network: In order to have the best input on planning and decision making a chief should be effective at networking. A chief that stays connected within the department, community, region and industry so they are well equipped with the widest network to attain the best insight possible.

For more on Rubes Rules for Leadership, please check online at www.firerube.com.

About the Author
Dennis Rubin is the former chief of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Chief Rubin graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fire Administration from the University of Maryland. He is the author of a book entitled “Rube’s Rules for Leadership” and is a long-standing contributing editor for FIREHOUSE magazine. Rubin can be followed on twitter @chiefrubin.

Credentials Manager Tool Considered TargetSolutions’ Most Powerful Application

The TargetSolutions platform is loaded with powerful applications created specifically for helping fire departments thrive. The Credentials manager tool is where many of those tools come together, giving department administrators the ability to effectively and efficiently manage their training and compliance requirements.

“Credentials enables department administrators to easily track and maintain an unlimited number of credentials, certifications, qualifications and any other type of information necessary,” said TargetSolutions’ Director of Client Services Jenny Fergason. “Whether they are courses or activities, Credentials allocates them into a credential that is well organized so that when a user sees it, they know exactly what they have to do. This gives them the personal responsibility to complete the requirements within the designated time frame set by the administrator.”

Our Credentials application has rapidly become our most powerful application because it can be used in so many different ways. Whether its new hire training, organized task books, ISO records, or whatever else you can think of, the Credentials manager tool gives our clients the flexibility to track whatever they want.

With Credentials, administrators can rest easily knowing credentials are pinned, so they appear at the top of the Schedule on users home page and are tagged with alert notifications, ensuring members will receive reminders via e-mail about important deadlines. Each alert can notify any combination of users, supervisors and administrators.

“Before TargetSolutions, we had no checks and balances, we had no alerts,” said Dan Collins, who is a training captain with Cal Fire San Diego. “With 347 employees, no one training officer has the ability to check EMT certifications, for example. There is just no better system for that without a tool like TargetSolutions.”

Is your department benefitting from this powerful application? If you’d like to learn more about how the Credentials application can help your department, please check the Help section inside the platform (search Credentials) or contact your account manager today.

About TargetSolutions
Founded in 1999, TargetSolutions is the leader in online training and records management for public entities. More than 2,000 organizations across the country use our technology to solve their training needs. We work hard every day to understand our clients’ challenges and deliver powerful tools that save time and money.

Survey Shows Need for Powerful Record Keeping Tools in Fire Service

TargetSolutions is the leading provider for online training and records management in the fire service. With more than 250 hours of Fire and EMS recertification courses in our library and powerful, easy-to-use applications and reporting tools, it’s easy to see why.

Miller Pierce, a marketing agency based in Indianapolis, recently conducted a survey to determine which aspects of web-based record keeping benefit users the most. Here are some of the top features reported in the survey (in no particular order):

>> Notification system
>> Progress tracker
>> Top level reports/monthly reports
>> Ability to share information with other departments
>> Easy to use and accessible
>> Can be customized
>> Capacity to access historical data

The TargetSolutions platform delivers all of these benefits — and more. Whether it’s an online training course, a regular inspection, a mandatory SOP, or a particular job-specific duty, you can assign it to employees, track their progress and generate comprehensive reports with TargetSolutions’ powerful record keeping tools.

“Tracking and standardizing training, whether for renewing a certification, a qualification, or ISO, has never been easier or more efficient than with our TargetSolutions system,” said Tim Riley, who is the chief for Dunedin Fire Department in Florida.

Here’s a quick overview of what TargetSolutions’ cutting-edge records management system provides:

ISO and ARFF Tracking
With TargetSolutions, tracking and reporting training for important audits like ISO and ARFF is simplified. TargetSolutions provides access to ready-made and customizable training templates created just for ISO. You can also deliver the FAA’s ARFF Training DVD through TargetSolutions. After delivering these activities, TargetSolutions will electronically track records so you can generate comprehensive training reports when necessary.

Training Documentation
With TargetSolutions you have the ability to create any type of training documentation you want and attach it to any activity or course. Require employees to use an e-signature to verify they’ve received instructions. Keep electronic files on hand. You can also generate reports on online training assignments to know where employees stand toward achieving compliance.

Department Records
Assign activities that mandate routine analysis of self-contained breathing apparatus, personal protective gear, fire truck equipment, and everything else under the firehouses roof. Or create activities for employees to complete pertaining to incidents. Keep historical records of incidents and utilize them for future training opportunities.

Alert Notifications
It’s not easy managing the renewable licenses and certifications that expire on an ongoing basis. TargetSolutions can help. Whether it’s a driver’s license, an EMT credential, or anything else, TargetSolutions tracks it and alerts you when expiration approach.

TargetSolutions’ flexible record keepong tools help departments stay compliant and reduce liability by providing the visibility they need. If you’re ready to step into the future, TargetSolutions is here to meet your record keeping needs.

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.

Hospital Tells EMS Remove Your Gloves Before Entering

Blog by Katherine West
Infection Control Consultant

This may just be the beginning of medical facilities observing EMS practices. Recently, a hospital in Colorado notified the EMS system that they were not to wear their gloves into the medical facility. The rationale for this request was that EMS might be bringing organisms into the hospital. Is this a real issue? Or, is the medical facility off-base?

Think about it. Most services are putting on gloves when tones go off and do not change or remove them after patient care. That means that they are contaminated. An EMS crew could be bringing C-diff or MRSA into the medical facility. If the patient is diagnosed with the infection after admission it could be deemed a Hospital Associated Infection (HAI). This would have a monetary effect on the medical facility as well as a being a medical care issue for the patient. There was never a need to wear gloves for all patient contact. Not from OSHA and not from the CDC. OSHA states that glove use was to be practical and feasible. There is no need to live in your gloves! Remember, your skin and basic hand washing are your major protection.

About two years ago, the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) sent out letters to all the medical facilities in the country advising them that they would not be receiving government reimbursement for some HAIs. So, it is easy to see why medical facilities are looking closely at sources for infection and ways to reduce in incident rate for HAIs. They will be looking closely at how EMS is performing in the areas of proper use of personal protective equipment and cleaning of vehicles and equipment. EMS participation in vaccine/immunization programs will also be an area of review.

Many facilities will not allow EMS personnel in training to do clinical rotations if they have signed declination forms. Others have required EMS personnel to wear surgical masks if they declined influenza vaccine. Times they are changing!

About the Author
Katherine West is an expert in the field of infection control. Shes worked in the industry since 1975 and has served as a consultant to the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. She authored Infectious Disease Handbook for Emergency Care Personnel and is a well-traveled lecturer and author.

You Don’t Have Just One Situational Awareness, You Have Three

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway

Situational awareness is developed from capturing clues and cues in your environment — perception. Then you strive to understand what those clues and cues mean — comprehension. Once you have done that, the highest level of situational awareness is developed from making predictions of future events — projection. Perception, comprehension and projection are the foundation of situational awareness.

Responders seeking to develop and maintain situational awareness will benefit from understanding there are three distinctly different, yet equally important situational awarenesses: Personal, Team and Incident.

Personal
Personal situational awareness achieved by developing and maintaining an awareness of your personal abilities and inabilities, your strengths and weaknesses, your knowledge and deficiencies, your motivators, fears and phobias. In other words, making an honest assessment of yourself. This allows you to predict the future of your success and the areas where your success may be challenged.

Team
Team (or Company if you prefer) situational awareness is achieved by developing and maintaining and awareness of the same criteria listed above for personal awareness, just applied to all members of your team. This allows you improve your understanding and expectation of success and challenges that your team may experiences.

Incident
The final awareness is incident-wide awareness. This awareness comes from understanding you, and your team, are only one component of a larger system working in unison to accomplish a common goal. This awareness helps ensure all individuals and teams are operating in a coordinated way.

Firefighters should discuss, in advance, how to develop and maintain situational awareness. These discussions should address how situational awarenesses are lost and how they are regained if they are lost.

About the Author
Dr. Gasaway is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and decision making processes used by first responders. In addition to his 30+ year career in the fire service (including 22 years as a fire chief), Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in brain science for the benefit of first responders. He can be reached at Support@RichGasaway.com.

Incident Commanders: Getting Eyes on the Problem

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

Incident Commanders are often tasked with taking command of an active incident that has developed prior to their arrival. I’m sure all of us have been exposed to those that have called a second alarm from the bunk room based upon reports from dispatch only to discover it was a dumpster fire behind an industrial building, not actually a working fire in an industrial building.

We use this as an analogy to shed light on actions based upon perception, not actions based upon reality.

Individuals who lack the basic understanding of fire ground functions will often base their decisions on a limited view of the situation, rather than a comprehensive view. This is why the old “capture a 360-degree of the structure philosophy” becomes an important ingredient to our success model.

It’s important for all officers in command to capture a complete “360″or delegate to another qualified officer to acquire accurate feedback on the conditions of the structure and the growth of the incident during the first few minutes while establishing an action plan.

This continuous analysis of the situation must become a component of the overall action plan. Adjustments may need to be made based upon feedback received or the evidence visualized. Remember, the building has seven sides, the four exterior walls, the roof, the basement (if applicable) and the interior.

This information will allow you and others the basis to establish a comprehensive and plan for the incident. Equally important is structure identification and understanding building and rescue profiles, as part of the foundation of effective operations on the fire ground.

Given the dynamics of today’s fires and the events of extreme fire behavior in which we operate, the understanding of Hostile Event Recognition, and the understanding of pressure as it relates to rapid fire progression, is important information to be relayed to the incident commander. Particularly in high-volume, big box and wide-rise type structures where hostile events occur in the overhead at explosive levels that can create structural failure in the roof assembly.

As mentioned, the fire ground functions on seven sides. One critical area that is often overlooked is the placement of personnel on the roof of the structure to give the Incident Commander a realistic look from above. Placing personnel on the roof of a structure will provide information to the Incident Commander in order to determine the ability to remain in the offensive position, or take a defensive posture on the fire.

Remember, “If it’s unsafe to be on the roof, it’s unsafe to be under the same roof. This is not to say all occupancies will receive the vertical ventilation treatment. However, Incident Commanders will do themselves a great service by getting a good read on the structure and eyes on the fire by going top-side.

About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com.

 

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Dazzles TargetSolutions Users with Training Resources

The nice comments and high ratings just keep pouring in for San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s training resources on ventilation skills. The department posted a training video and PowerPoint presentation into TargetSolutions’ Community Resources in August of 2009 and three years later both of the items are still popular with the online platforms network of users.

The PowerPoint presentation, titled SDFD Ventilation Training, is the most viewed resource in the history of Community Resources. The presentation narrated by SDFDs Curtis Bennett, has been viewed more than 7,000 times, is being utilized by 86 different organizations and has an outstanding 4star rating (out of five). The video, titled Ventilation Skills, a companion video created by SDFD, has more than 4,000 views and the same 4star rating. There are 81 different organizations using this particular video resource.

Jeff Clyons, who worked as the department’s assistant training officer when the videos were created and was interviewed about them soon after their creation, said his department’s firefighters were having issues with ventilation during several fires, so it attacked the issue with a multi-pronged training approach. The department spent three months focusing on ventilation by incorporating the PowerPoint and video with in-station drills and an in-service training session where crews had the chance to work with chainsaws during a manipulative drill.

“We realized our recruits had learned one way to cut a hole in a roof and we realized when they got out in operations, that one way was restricting their ability to do other things,” said Clyons. “It was limiting what our personnel were doing when it came to ventilating a roof. So we wanted to teach our existing personnel multiple ways to do this. We wanted to raise the bar on our ability to use a saw and raise the bar on cutting holes. Ventilation is an extremely risky and dangerous proposition so it was definitely something we were concerned with. I think we were lucky we didn’t have more incidents in the past. But to avoid those in the future, we wanted to make sure everyone was very well trained.”

Clyons reported considerable improvement in the quality of operations after the fire department training. He believed the high-quality resources SDFD has generously shared with TargetSolutions’ community are a major factor for the significant strides in performance.

Our message was well received, he said. I think it assisted people who were tactile learners, people who were visual learners, and people who were a
uditory learners. They all had a chance and it hit all the senses, so we definitely felt retention was better.

Clearly, SDFD isn’t the only department that benefited from the online fire training. TargetSolutions has received numerous complimentary comments from other clients about the quality of SDFDs presentations. Here’s a sample:

>> Great video! Was a great refresher, said Tom Fritz of Palm Harbor Fire Rescue.

>> This is a good video for new and veteran firefighter to refresh on the basics, said David Ramirez of the Fresno Fire Department.

>> I learned some new cut techniques that I will put to use on future incidents, said Jordan Motta of Cal Fire Riverside County.

Clyons said his department will look to continue doing that type of multi-pronged approach with quality video presentations in the future.

“I think it’s important to try and make the videos entertaining,” Clyons said. “I think the narration of the PowerPoints provides visualization, so tslogo_symbol-color-smallyou’re not just seeing a slide, but you have the audio explaining it. That helps. And the beauty is that because it’s online, any company officer can pull it up at any time and drill on it again.”

TargetSolutions’ Community Resources application gives departments the ability to easily download, modify and assign shared resources like SDFD’s ventilation submissions with just a few clicks of the mouse. Organizations can import any of the files, videos or other documents from Community Resources into their organizations File Center and then modify and assign to employees through TargetSolutions’ Activities Builder.

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.

Is it Time to Look Under Your Organization’s Hood

By Doug Cline
Vice President of ISFSI

An ill-maintained vehicle is an accident waiting to happen, right? We all know it takes more than just satisfactory driving skills to keep drivers from having accidents on our roadways. For drivers to be safe, vehicles need to be in excellent working condition. The tires need tread, the engine needs oil and the brakes need pads for everything to run smoothly.

It makes sense, then, that if you want your organization to run like a well-oiled automobile, it needs to be treated like one. And now may be the time to look under your organization’s hood to make sure there is no damage to your hoses and belts or in this case, personnel, policies, equipment, operating guidelines, etc.

If it’s your first time to check under your organization’s hood, you’ll probably be unfamiliar with all the numerous parts inside your organization. But if you make it a frequent practice to check on how everything is working, you’ll be able to instantly identify all the different issues and problems. It’s a good idea to procure a model and use it to evaluate any loose connections that might have occurred in your organization.

One common model that is recognized throughout the fire service is the Center for Public Safety Excellences Commission on Fire Accreditation International. Even if you are not looking to become an accredited organization, the self-assessment approach has proven solid.

There are numerous practical benefits your agency will see in utilizing a self-assessment program. The hardest component is to be honest in your assessment. If done properly, the self-conducted performance evaluation will result in increased efficiency for your organization, provided the findings are applied to the planning and implementation of activities.

Here are some of the benefits to conducting a self-assessment for fire departments:

>> Quality improvement through a continuous self-assessment process

>> Providing a detailed evaluation of the services it provides to the community

>> Identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the organization

>> A methodology for building on strong points and addressing deficiencies

>> Providing for department growth for programs, services and member capabilities

>> Fostering pride in an organization, from department members, community leaders and citizens

Through self-assessment, a systematic evaluation can be completed to determine what is currently happening in the organization. From there, you can determine whether or not the organization is meeting its goals, commensurate with its responsibilities.

The assessment process is astounding in the clarity it brings an organizations leaders and members not only regarding how the organization currently works, but how the various parts are interrelated and its overall state of health. The most important thing to come out of a self-assessment for fire departments, however, is discovering what needs to be done to make improvements. With this information in hand, you will be able to target and prioritize opportunities for change.

About the Author
Douglas Cline, a 32-year veteran and student of the Fire Service, serves as assistant chief of operations with Horry County Fire Recue (S.C.). Cline, a former fire chief, is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Chief Cline is the President of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs (SEAFC), a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire and Rescue Instructors and the1st Vice President International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Cline serves on the FEMA grant criteria development committee, Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI) National Advisory Committee and peer reviewer for the Fire Act Grants.

 

TargetSolutions’ Generate Reports Application Now Features Enhanced Searching Capabilities

With more than 250 hours of accredited Fire and EMS recertification courses in our web-based library, it’s easy to understand how TargetSolutions became the industry’s leading online training provider.

Innovative technology applications also help TargetSolutions stand high above the competition and one of the most useful tools, Generate Reports, recently underwent significant changes that site administrators will be excited to hear.

Generate Reports, which is accessible to users from the Administration tab inside the platform, has enabled administrators and supervisors to run a suite of reports that gather various types of user data, including Completions, Incomplete Assignments, Credentials and much more. Now, administrators and supervisors will have unprecedented control over searching to easily command the information they desire.

TargetSolutions’ team of engineers have made several interface upgrades, making the Generate Reports application more intuitive. They’ve also created the ability for administrators and supervisors to run reports on individual users, search more thoroughly with additional filters and utilize components more effectively.

“These changes have definitely improved the Generate Reports application,” said Product Manager Misty Pratt. “It’s now easier than ever for administrators to capture the exact type of information they need. It’s going to be a huge time saver for everyone. The new search and filter capabilities are really impressive.”

In addition to the upgrades made on the Generate Reports application, TargetSolutions has advanced the File Centers wherewithal, modernizing the speed of the upload process. It’s also now possible to upload multiple files at the same time.

Site administrators will also no longer receive duplicated e-mail notification alerts on the same credential for different users. When multiple users need to take action on the same credential they will now be combined into one e-mail to administrators.

Also, TargetSolutions has discontinued the monthly summary report for users. They will now periodic inactivity reminders instead.

And lastly, administrators now have the ability to notify users of a new assignment directly from the Create New Assignment application. They can also choose to send a notification when that assignment becomes overdue.

If you’d like more information on these upgrades or applications, please feel free to contact your TargetSolutions account manager or view the Help section located on the top navigation bar inside the platform.

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.

Duties of a Training Officer: Never Stop Experimenting

Blog by Brian Ward
Chief of Emergency Operations, Training Director for Georgia Pacific, Madison, Ga.

I recently had the opportunity to manage the Training Officers Desk Reference for a Jones and Bartlett publication. Despite having been a training officer for a few years, I had never really considered all the various areas a training officer must be versed. As I reviewed this process and determined the critical areas to focus on, it was amazing to recollect the amount of knowledge and aptitude that accompany this role.

As a training officer, you have a responsibility to exhibit solid interpersonal skills, computer skills, knowledge of performance metrics, generational issues, alternative-learning methods, strategic planning, investigations and budgets, just to name a few.

How can one person be proficient in all of these areas? The answer is continuous education and experimentation. Continuous education is easy. We have to constantly be willing to learn new methods and research technological advancements. However, the experimenting aspect can be much more difficult.

We should never experiment during investigations and budgets; however we can experiment with alternative learning methods such as computer-based learning, tactical decisions games, conferences and more. We can also experiment with altering classes based on the generations served inside and outside of the classroom.

As a training officer, we have to be willing to try these new methods. Some will work, some will not, but you will learn from your experiences. This, in conjunction with your continuous education will prove to be extremely valuable with your influence inside your department and within your region.

It will also lend credibility and respect for your programs and classes as your students will respect your efforts to provide information in new and enlightening ways.

As always, train hard, take care and be safe.

About the Author
Brian Ward is the chief of emergency operations and training director for Georgia Pacific, Madison, Ga. He is a past training officer for Gwinnett County, Ga., 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 ISFSI Board of Directors Director At Large and Lead Live Fire Credentialing Instructor. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH. He has an associate’s degree in fire science and a Fire Safety and Technology Engineering Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is the founder of FireServiceSLT.com and Georgia Smoke Diver #741.