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Media and the Fire Service: What You Need to Know

Blog by Stuart Sprung
Training Specialist, Oceanside Fire Department

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never been able to make one of those PIO (Public Information Officer) training classes or seminars. As a result, your training on how to handle the media during incidents is limited to those fleeting moments when a reporter’s microphone is in your face.

If you’re in the fire department, and this hasn’t happened to you yet, rest assured, it will one day. Here are a few things to keep in mind when that day comes:

Just about every department has its own policy for handling media requests. Its important to know your policy and understand the ramifications of straying from it.

Each department should have a point person, or a public information officer (PIO), who is trained and experienced with interacting with the media. If you’re working at a fire or other major incident, stopping to interact with the press is not your priority, and could even be unsafe for you, your co-workers and even the media. So whenever you are asked to stop and comment, its best to politely direct them toward the PIO, battalion chief or whoever it is that is responsible for this duty.

PIOs know what to say, they understand the bigger picture, and they have all the facts. It’s key to keep the information being distributed consistent and accurate. There have been incidents in the past where an organization didn’t have the proper structure for dealing with the press and the wrong message was disseminated. That can turn into a political nightmare, so be careful.

That being said, it’s also very important to understand that a good rapport with the media is crucial. Although it’s the PIOs job to nurture their relationship with the media, we have to remember that we are all public representatives for our agencies.

For most incidents, a fire department PIO will use a press release, with specific details about an emergency, to distribute information. This helps keep the media from digging around and funnels questions back to one person, the PIO.

One thing for the fire department PIO to remember is that accuracy is his main priority with any and all information released. Small details, like the exact spelling of a name, are vitally important for reporters. The information reporters need to do their job is rather simple — who, when, where, what, why and how — but it has to be accurate. PIOs will feel pressure to get information out quickly, because time is crucial for reporters, but accuracy must come first.

If someone in the press approaches you after a serious accident, where there may have been a fatality or a serious injury, its absolutely paramount you don’t offer up any opinions. Saying the wrong thing can be used against you and your department. Again, by far your best move is to tell the reporter to speak with the PIO.

Another important consideration is the safety of the media themselves during potentially dangerous incidents. Although reporters and camera operators are for the most part professional and maintain a safe, respectful distance, there are times when they are unaware of hazards. While the police are very knowledgeable and effective at maintaining crowd control, sometimes they are overwhelmed or otherwise occupied.

So it becomes everybody’s job to maintain a safe scene. If you happen to notice a media member too close to a potentially hazardous scene, don’t be afraid to make contact with them, and courteously inform them of the hazard. Also, do not hesitate to inform your company officer or IC. Keep in mind that the media have rights to a presence in the public domain. In fact, unless its a crime scene, there are virtually no limitations to how close they can come. The most we can do is to inform them why its unsafe, and in my experience, they respond favorably to direction.

Lastly, don’t forget that your fire department can use the media for your own purposes as well. In a recent twin-engine plane crash in Oceanside, Calif., it only took one hour to recreate the events that led to the crash through eyewitness accounts that were given through the media and discussion boards attached to the story’s articles.

The day of real-time information is here, and we can use it to better understand why certain emergencies happen.

About the Author
After graduating from the University of California, San Diego Stuart Sprung completed his paramedic training and joined the San Francisco fire department as a firefighter/paramedic. He also worked as a flight medic for FEMA. The next 16 years gave him experience responding to thousands of federal, state, and local emergencies. Stu currently functions as a commercial pilot for a financial institution. He is now a fire training specialist for the Oceanside Fire Department.

The Life and Times of the ‘Inside Man’

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

As a member assigned to a truck or engine you will be tasked with a variety of objectives. Many require operating somewhat independently. Case in point, the duties of being the Inside Man, or as I like to call it, the Interior Situational Awareness Officer.

Now I understand this is a mouthful, but the concept is more important than the name. Generally, the Inside Man is responsible for bringing a blower to the door, pulling ceilings in the immediate overhead, coordinating the use of PPV with vertical ventilation and working with the fire attack team to do search duties. This job is very important in the overall success of an operation.

This assignment, however, should have a direct link to the Incident Commander, providing him with accurate data to understand the situation from within, rather than from the exterior of the structure a block away.

This person would be responsible for conducting an outside exterior scan of the structure. Any identifiable structural collapse considerations, hostile-event recognition factors or roof assembly exposures would be immediately communicated to the Incident Commander and the companies operating in the interior.

Additionally, building profile identification is key and would include the age and type of the structure. This determines the fires strengths and weaknesses based upon the building profile and construction components.

In addition, the conditions at the point of egress must be taken into consideration. Reading the rapid development of pressurization should be communicated if it is a threat to the safety of personnel on the interior.

The use of a TIC should also be considered as a tool to determine fire in the overhead and potential collapse in the area of main egress from the structure. While making that determination it is important to identify the proper use of PPV.

Remember there are five recognizable elements in determining if PPV is appropriate or not. If any of these five exists, PPV should not be considered as the primary source of ventilation.

1) Working an attic fire or a fire in an overhead concealed space that would impinge upon roof features while personnel are inside the interior of the structure.

2) Unknown location of the fire or an inability to locate the fire by interior crews.

3) Inability or lack of an adequate-sized exhaust portal for PPV usage.

4) Imminent or confirmed rescue of a civilian or down firefighter.

5) Structure that is over-pressurized for the use of PPV or rapid fire development.

All of the considerations above are generally recognized by the Inside Man while performing exterior job assignments. This helps them make adjustments to their plan and provide a higher degree of safety for interior personnel with concise communications to the Incident Commander.

Once the Inside Man transitions to the interior of the structure, their threat analysis increases. First, their understanding of the roof assembly and the destructive effects of fire and exposure to fire on these features need to be forefront. In addition to pulling ceilings in the immediate overhead of the main access point with a scan of the assembly, both visually and TIC assisted, it’s important to identify the number of hoselines through the access point and the number of personnel assigned to the hoselines.

NIOSH Firefighter Data and Injury Report Data has shown that two or more hoselines through an access portal create a spaghetti-like impact that increases the odds of personnel failing to egress out of a structure on their hoselines in the event of a hostile event or collapse situation.

Recognizing this, corrective action may be taken to minimize this potential. Keeping hoselines pulled straight and tight, while providing ample egress portals will reduce the risk of injury and entrapment of interior personnel.

The Inside Man’s ability to identify rapid fire development within the structure, based upon changing interior conditions, reports from the roof division as to progress and conditions of ventilation heat holes and firefighter access holes in common corridors or center hallways, along with the exterior size-up communications from the I-RIC companies, determine the next course of action.

One simple task is to first determine the location of interior crews and identify both accountability and air management of those personnel while sizing up the area they are actively involved in firefighting activity, search procedures or fire extension activities.

Along with the normal assigned task, the Inside Man becomes the interior eyes and ears of the Incident Commander. Historically this has been tasked to a senior Company Officer assigned on a hoseline or an interior position. However, with split-company operations in limited to zero visibility environments, the Inside Man can double the effective safety envelope by following those above actions for the Incident Commander.

As well as the possibility of those assigned interior crews being limited in their ability to identify critical safety factors previously discussed due to task overload.

It may seem like an impossible situation for the Inside Man to accomplish all these objective, bear in mind, it’s a simple algorithm to follow based upon facts, presentations, input, information and task expectations and outcomes.

As always, Sit back and enjoy the Cuppa!

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.

Showing Leadership and Influencing Others

Blog by Doug Cline
International Society of Fire Service Instructors, Vice President

An officer best exemplifies leadership by devoting a major portion of his/her time to help stimulate improvement in both subordinates and the organization.

Today’s leaders are utilizing contemporary leadership styles: charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership and symbolic leadership. Officers need to know when to use each of these styles for optimum outcomes within the organization.

Charismatic: Inspires followers to be loyal and creates an enthusiastic vision that others work to attain.

Transformational: This style depends on the continuous learning, innovation and change within the organization. True transformational leadership is a rare quality.

Transactional: Involves an exchange between the leader and the followers in which the followers perform tasks effectively in exchange for rewards provided by the leader.

Symbolic: Bases theory on a strong organizational culture that holds common values and beliefs. Leadership starts are the top of the organization and extends downward. Subordinates must have full faith and trust in the leadership of the organization.

It is important that leaders be able to match and effectively utilize any of these various leadership styles, based on the types of individuals they are leading, to effectively lead their fire department or company.

This focuses on truly understanding the organizational theories, interpersonal dynamics and group dynamics of the individuals and groups that make up the organization. If you look at it closely, you will find most leaders utilize multiple leadership styles on individuals of the group simultaneously to effectively achieve desired outcomes.

Each of these leadership styles are a result of the various traits of an organization’s leaders. It’s important for officers to know the strengths and weaknesses of each theory and style, along with being capable of applying the principles that are most appropriate in any given situation.

About the Author
Douglas Cline is a student of the fire service serving as training commander with the City of High Point (N.C.) Fire Department and assistant chief of administration with the Ruffin Volunteer Fire Department. Cline is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor/coordinator for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Cline is a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire Service Instructors and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors where he serves on the Board of Directors as The First Vice President.

Training When New Equipment is Put into Service

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Web Master for Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAmatters.com)

I recently had an opportunity to talk with a frustrated firefighter. He described a situation where he came to work for his shift and, as he always does, started his day by performing a safety check of his personal gear and his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). When he opened the cabinet door on the apparatus he could hardly believe his eyes.

There, staring back at him was a new SCBA, a brand different than before with functionality completely different than the SCBA he was familiar with. Neither he, nor anyone on his shift, had received notification, let alone any training on how to use this new piece of critical equipment. It was left for him and his coworkers to figure out on their own.

Such an act of incompetence in the part of this department’s senior management, command staff and training staff seems incomprehensible but it happened. The firefighters on this department were left to fend for themselves and to teach themselves how to use their new SCBA.

The liability the fire department assumed for this egregious act is enormous. All it is going to take is for a firefighter to be injured or killed and a savvy investigator to start asking the right questions about the department’s SCBA training, along with a request to see the training documentation that each firefighter was properly trained. As much as it pains me to think taxpayer dollars are going to be used to settle that suit, it causes much more angst to know whatever the consequences for the firefighter(s) it could have been avoided with proper leadership and training.

Situational awareness requires a conscious effort to capture clues and cues in an often hectic and hostile environment. This required a lot of brain power. If responders need to use some of their precious cognitive energy to figure out how to use their equipment on the fly, their situational awareness is going to suffer and that is going to put them at risk.

Any time new equipment is put into service it should be done so with thoughtful planning and consideration for the safety of the end user. This includes informing personnel the equipment is coming and providing opportunities for training and practice with the new equipment before it must be used on an actual emergency scene.

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-plus 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. Dr. Gasaway’s website named Situational Awareness Matters can be found online at www.SAMatters.com. He can be reached at Support@RichGasaway.com.

Fundamentals Will Always Be Vital During Fireground Operations

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

Its a simple word, fundamentals, and an even simpler idea. As we continue to perfect our methodology in the science of firefighting, we are moving further away from the fundamentals associated with the craft of firefighting.

Bold as that statement might be, we find the reliance on technology — or maybe I should say the crutch of using technology — in a vain attempt to make up for our lack of basic strategies during fireground operations.

This has created a theoretical approach to tactical considerations on the fireground; and in my opinion, the demise of an educational approach to the craft of fireground operations.

Take a look at the basic understanding (or misunderstandings) of fire behavior and the dangers associated with fireground operations. First, we recognize todays occupancies are larger than those built in the 1970s when the western United States experienced exponential growth. The average residential housing unit has increased 75 percent in overall square footage since the boom of the 70s and the thermal insulation values have tripled. This might not seem important, but when you calculate the required fire-flow ratio, based on average square footage, we see required fire-flow factor increases beyond what was previously used by firefighters.

Fire, as we know it and through scientific study, burns at an increased rate creating hostile events, while extreme interior fire behavior and rapid fire progression is being witnessed on what used to be ordinary structure fires.

This change in fire behavior and the increase in rapid fire progression within the enclosure of the occupancy is a direct result of three key factors:

>> Fuel loading within occupancies has doubled since the 1980s.

>> Fuel modeling of these elements has dramatically changed. Fire gases are producing highly volatile, explosive fuels carrying a high density of unburned fuel particles that are suspended within the atmosphere of the enclosure.

>> Going green and the need for higher thermal insulation values in today’s occupancies create a tighter enclosure. This lends itself to the likelihood of rapid fire progression within the enclosure.

Take this all into account and we quickly recognize the need to understand the importance of knowing the basic fundamentals of building profiling, rescue profiling and a comprehensive analysis of fireground operations based upon mission of purpose.

Mission of purpose is a simple concept, but some in the fire service have lost sight of the mission of purpose and have used the we’re killing firefighters card to push an agenda. While it is fact firefighters lose their lives and are injured while performing interior fire operations, many of those deaths are not attributed to a single event. More so, they are a result of a series of events that go unrecognized and unmitigated on the fireground.

These series of breakdowns include a chain of events, often based solely upon human error and failed tactical functions. Simply stated, in some cases its not the big event that killed or injured a firefighter; it was a series of mistakes that lead to the subsequent catastrophic ending.

So with that said, how do we fundamentally address the need to change and create a more efficient working platform so we can carry out our mission of purpose. First, we need to look at a few key items.

Building profile is a fireground concept used by all responding personnel. The concept establishes fireground operations keyed off building profiles by the incident commander. Most occupancies are broken into five categories (Type 1 through Type 5). This is a common understanding in the fire service, but what does it mean to the fireground commander?

Well, it clearly identifies potential fireground setbacks and primary needs of the first alarm resources. Take for instance a Type 1 structure, the obvious hazard is the potential for rapid fire progression within the enclosure due to the limited ability to rapidly ventilate the structure during a coordinated fire attack.

On the flip side, the limited likelihood of the fire transitioning from a compartment or content driven fire to a structural fire and creating a hazardous environment as a result of structural collapse is limited due to the construction features and building components of the occupancy.

The next aspect is vital to understanding the primary functions of fireground decision making. Fireground decision making must be based upon the mission of purpose. The mission of purpose is the basis of your strategic process, which includes Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, and Property Conservation.

Ask any citizen why fire departments exist and the most common answer will be, to save my family from a burning building. This will quickly be followed by, and to keep my home or business from burning down.

This is our mission.

Sure we are all risk agencies, and EMS encompasses a large function of our service to the community. But nothing speaks of mission of purpose like saving lives at the scene of structure fires.

The reason this is so important is simple, it’s because nobody else can do it. When you look at all other activities we are involved with, one could find another entity to function in that capacity should the need arrive. But firefighters hold sole ownership for firefighting and the task of saving lives, homes and businesses.

As previously mentioned, rescue profiling is based upon a few defining factors. First, look at the residential structure. The obsolete concept of assuming no one is home during daytime hours of a residential structure fire, or even worse, assuming no one is inside a burning structure unless there is a person telling you otherwise, is theory that should be struck from fire service text.

All residential structures must be considered occupied until someone clearly confirms the occupancy is non-occupied. This comes in the form of a resident informing the first arriving officer or the primary search group issuing and all clear to the incident commander. Until then, we must operate under the assumption the residential structure is occupied.

While doing so a constant evaluation of changing conditions must be considered by the I/C. A complete Dynamic Risk Assessment is critical within the first five minutes of arrival. The information gathered is critical to the success of the mission.

Items to identify include the following:

Height, Width and Depth of the Structure: Gauging length, width, height or setback will determine line length.

Size and Volume of Structure: Determine the overall size and volume of structure, then the amount of fire involvement. Calculate the area of involvement based upon the time first water will be applied. Remember, 100 square feet of involvement typically requires 30 to 50 GPM of flow. Also note, the average track home in Southern California is 2,200 square feet.

Ventilation Profile: If occupancy is pressurized at the door upon entry, with dense/dark smoke at or below mid-door level, consider vertical ventilation prior to any positive pressure ventilation use. Never utilize positive pressure ventilation prior to the initial attack line and before you have identified the area of involvement.

Softening the Structure: Softening techniques include identification of any fireground setbacks, including bars on windows, gates, metal security screen doors, etc.

When we consider the basic fundamentals of what has been discussed, we can clearly identify the foundation or the bed rock of a successful operation on the fireground. Obviously there are many, many more key ingredients to the success of any operation, but starting with a strong foundation and fundamental approach is just the beginning.

Until next time, stay safe.

About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience, 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.

How to Tell Someone “I Think You Are Messing Up” with the Five Step Assertive Statement Process

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Web Master for Situational Awareness Matters (SAmatters.com)

It’s not something any of us want to hear. But it’s something that may need to be said to an incident commander at an emergency scene when things are not going well. But how do you tell someone with power and authority they may be making decisions that are putting responders in harm’s way? It can be a very touchy situation.

In fact, some responders see too much risk to even speak up. As a result, no one tells the commander that things are going bad. This makes a terrible assumption that the commander can see the things going bad and knows what he or she is doing. The fact is the commander may not be able to comprehend what is happening. There are more than 100 barriers to situational awareness and commanders are as susceptible to them as any of us. Being experienced helps, but it does not create complete immunity.

Some responders will speak up, but they do so in such a confrontational and abrasive way that it may cause the commander to go on the defensive. This happens because instead of feeling the advice is helpful, the commander feels under attack.

The solution comes with having an established procedure or protocol for how a commander is to be addressed when bearing a concern. Fortunately for us such a process exists in aviation. It’s called the Five Step Assertive Statement Process. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Acknowledge the person in authority with reverence.

Step 2: Use a trigger phrase to alert them. In aviation, its I have a concern.

Step 3: State the concern or issue.

Step 4: Offer a resolution to the problem.

Step 5: See their concurrence to the resolution.

Before you use this process it is very important that all responders are trained on what it is, how it works and how to use it. Otherwise, if a firefighter approaches a command officer and says I have a concern, the response may not be what the firefighter is hoping for. But if the department adopts I have a concern as a trigger phrase, much like mayday, that single statement can put an entire process into motion that requires the commander to reassess the situation.

If you’d like to learn more about the Five Step Assertive Statement Process or more about the barriers to situational awareness for first responders, please consider visiting Situational Awareness Matters! (www.SAMatters.com).

About the Author
Dr. Richard 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-plus year career in the fire service, including 22 years as a fire chief, Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in cognitive neuroscience for the benefit of the first responder community. To learn more about Dr. Gasaway or situational awareness, please check his website at www.SAmatters.com.

Read the Tea Leaves Situational Awareness at the Leadership Level

Blog by Todd LeDuc
Deputy Chief, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue (Fla.)

Numerous tragic line-of-duty deaths and close calls have taught us that firefighter safety and survival are linked to situational awareness of current and changing conditions on the fireground and the emergency operations scene. But what about situational awareness at the leadership level in the office?

As firefighters progress through the ranks and become chief officers, we sometimes lose focus on the skills and instincts we relied upon as firefighters. Chief Officers must navigate complex interactions with a wide array of stakeholders (e.g., elected officials, labor unions, employees, city or county administrators and taxpayers) who often hold competing interests. In such interactions, our situational awareness at the leadership level is even more important.

Good Advice
Chief Fire officers are responsible for communicating to their members the expectations of a culture of firefighter safety and survival. To do this, fire service officers at all ranks must know best how to reach their members. In these days of texting, Facebook, Twitter and related electronic “stuff,” that isn’t always easy.

Many departments today are going through an interesting generational turnover as Baby Boomers retire. New recruits learn and adapt in vastly different mediums than their mentors. As a chief officer, you can’t just issue hierarchical policy directives and establish written policy, sit back and assume everything’s good because odds are, it ain’t!

You have a responsibility to protect your members, and that includes actually making an effort to embrace them and their culture. That requires you to exercise your situational awareness skills and monitor your environment — what we like to call “reading the tea leaves” — to ensure the message is heard. Unfortunately, in what has been described as the “ostrich syndrome” or “ivory tower leadership,” leaders often surround themselves with people who isolate them from reality, telling them what they want to hear: Yes, boss, everyone is following your directive without exception to come to a full and complete stop at intersections and wear seatbelts.” When you hear that, pay attention!

Successful chief officers, on the other hand, monitor their environment by surrounding themselves with proven, trustworthy advisors who are secure enough to give open, candid and often differing guidance, as uncomfortable as that can be sometimes. It’s been written that a wise man seeks wise counsel, when more so honest and candid counsel! Successful chief officers also genuinely solicit input. And it’s important that if you ask for it, you’re able to “take it.”

How do you identify the people who will give you straightforward advice? It often falls back on gut feeling and history. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Another method is to choose members within your ranks who represent certain stake-holder groups and are looked upon as informal leaders. These people usually become infectious, gung-ho champions of change if they understand the change if they understand the change and buy into it, which will make your job a lot easier.

The informal leaders may also carry the message to your rank and file, making the culture of firefighter safety and survival come from within rather than top down. Look, the goal is for no one to get hurt unnecessarily. Although the job is risky and sometimes we have no choice but to take a risk in which we may ultimately get hurt — in those rare situations where we must put our lives on the line or our troops in harm’s way to potentially save a life — we can take steps to eliminate unnecessary risks.

An Eye on the Dashboard
In addition to monitoring systems that provide information about you as a leader, you must also establish systems to monitor the progress of your department, the office-based equivalent of monitoring fireground progress. Typically, this includes community risk analysis and system performance analysis — whether your system and its members provide timely and adequate resources to achieve department objectives safely and efficiently.

Department monitoring can often be accomplished by a master or strategic planning process that analyzes genuine, objective and measurable performance relevant to current and future system demands and community risk and workload. If your department hasn’t done this, it’s well worth your time to start such a process for the good of your members and your community. It’s also unacceptable for needless tragedy to strike because your department isn’t planning ahead and isn’t monitoring the department’s and the community’s “instrument panel” when it comes to risk. In other words, reading the tea leaves can be a tool in predicting the predictable.

A Challenge
Fire service leaders at the chief or company officer level must be tea leaf readers who monitor their environment regularly for signs of danger, best practices and innovation to provide their members better tools and resources. As such, they must have multiple information monitoring and gathering systems in place to effectively listen to and learn from information around them. Do you scour LODD reports, remain vigilant of industry safety and performance improvement trends and follow trends outside the fire service that may be adapted to improve your members’ safety? If the answer is no, or “I have other people in my department do that,” we challenge you to rethink what being an effective fire officer means and what it takes to live up to that tremendous responsibility. Don’t count on someone else to read the close-call articles or near-miss reports, you must do it too. After all, as an officer or a chief, the buck stops with you when something goes wrong. And it will be a real tragedy if the incident was clearly predictable and therefore, preventable.

Reading the tea leaves means predicting what may go wrong. The easy path is to sit back in your chair, ignore the obvious and hope nothing goes wrong. And honestly in most cases, nothing does. That’s the easy way to handle it, chief. However, the right way to handle firefighter survival-related issues is to look into your department, determine the issues — fitness, apparatus driving, supervision, size-up, staging — that typically have been the most common contributors to firefighter injury and death, and do something about it. If you don’t have systems in place to minimize the risk, the tea leaves have spoken! Develop new policies to address the gaps, conduct hands-on or classroom training to ensure understanding at all ranks, and then enforce the policies, fairly, across the board, without exception.

Remember: The same ability you developed as a firefighter to monitor your environment, seek out necessary information and make critical decisions is just as important in your job as a chief officer. In fact, as chief, it’s even more important, because you’re not just protecting your own safety; you’re protecting the safety of all your members.

About the Author
Todd J. LeDuc is the deputy chief of department for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue in Florida. With more than 25 years in the service, he lecturers and publishes frequently on fire service leadership, safety and wellness topics. He has worked extensively with fire departments in more than a dozen states with master and strategic plans, accreditation, department evaluations and consolidation studies. William Goldfeder contributed to this report.

No Shortcuts When It Comes to Hose Loading

Blog by Jason Hoevelmann
Deputy Chief with Sullivan Fire Protection District

How many times have you heard the question: “Why do we need to load the hose this way?”

Granted, it might be a mundane task, but it’s a task that can make all the difference in the world. Just like putting on turn-out gear or personal protective equipment, hose loads need to be done right every single time to ensure we are protected from the environment we are about to operate in. Just as we risk being burned or not breathing clean air if we fail to button up properly, we are at risk without a properly loaded hose bed.

It’s often said that as the first line goes, so goes the fire. But it all starts with a properly loaded hose bed. The type of hose load should be dictated by how your organization and company operates. It may be different for each separate company and it may change as needs and resources change. The main point is to train and understand “why” the load is being used.

When loading your hose beds, they should be clean and neat. Don’t put moldy and musty hose back on the bed or the hose will deteriorate. It can also cause holes and weak points in the jacket. The truth is a poorly loaded hose bed is a good indication of how that company operates. In my mind, if the hose beds are sloppy, it is likely the rest of the equipment on that rig is in the same shape.

You may hear a senior guy ask why a hose load is done a certain way and a more junior guy will answer, “That is just how we do it.” This is a problem. We need to understand why we use the loads and we must pass that knowledge down. If we don’t understand the purpose of the load, we will not deploy it correctly, and that is the real concern.

Make sure we are training and explaining the purpose for our hose loads and that it is imperative to load and deploy them correctly. An incorrectly loaded hose will result in an incorrectly deployed hose line that will increase the time it takes to put water on the fire or protect crews operating inside.

Some might say it all starts and ends with a properly loaded hose bed. They would be right.

Train hard and stay safe.

About the Author
Jason Hoevelmann is a deputy chief/fire marshall with Sullivan Fire Protection District in Missouri. Hoevelmann is also a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County. Hoevelmann’s experience spans more than 20 years and he has been an instructor for more than 15 years. He is currently a state advocate for the “Everyone Goes Home” initiative, a board member of the Fire and Life Safety Section of the IAFC and on the technical committee for professional Fire Officer Qualifications for the NFPA.

Profiling Today’s Fire Service Shiners, Whiners, and Recliners

Blog by Doug Cline
Chief of Operations with Horry County Fire Rescue (S.C.)

Some think you can just peal one firefighters name off the wall and replace it with another. Some have used the analogy that it will be the same circus but with different clowns.

This generalization couldn’t be more inaccurate. What we really have in today’s fire service are three types of folks: Shiners, Whiners and Recliners. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of these three types of individuals who make up todays fire service.

Shiners: This group is the backbone of the fire service. It keeps us moving. These individuals work tirelessly to make the fire service more professional, safer and better educated. They are focused on working to improve the safety of the community.

Shiners are self-motivated and always looking to make the system better. They are team players who truly care about the fire service. They are driven to find better ways to do their jobs.

Success is very important to a Shiner. They are never content with the status quo and are highly organized. In fact, a Shiner’s desire to keep things in order might be considered obsessive-compulsive.

Shiners don’t care, they’re about being the very best firefighter they can be, and helping others do the same.

Whiners and Recliners: They both do exactly that, Whiners whine and Recliners recline!

Whiners have a tendency to always be complaining and not working. But they like being bored; it gives them something to whine about. They dismiss new ideas and believe the status quo is good.

“It has worked for the last 20 years so why do we need to go changing?” they say.

For Recliners, success is measured by how much time they spend doing nothing. Their mindset is that the more they do, the more will be expected. Some have the mentality that all they were hired to do was run calls and fight fires.

Maybe with their feet propped up and head laid back that is all they see. Unfortunately, they never make it out of the station to see that the job demands more and the public deserves more.

Firefighters work and live in group environments. From their very first day walking into a fire station, recruits learn that the fire service functions in a team environment. Firefighters train in groups, work in groups, live in groups and eat in groups. This close interaction favors people who are trusting, cooperative, dependable and determined.

Because firefighters share so much of their lives with each other, they generally build team values, foster increased team cohesion and identify each member’s strengths and weaknesses.

However, some firefighter personality traits conflict with the team environment. In an interesting look at how firefighters work together, a study on work-injury frequency and duration found that when firefighters cooperated in groups, injury rates were lower than when firefighters didn’t interact with each other.

Firefighters who are reluctant to interact with other firefighters may in fact be reluctant to ask for help when they’re in trouble, possibly leaving them at risk of injury. So we can see that the Shiners, who are always training and learning, are our lowest risk to injuries.

The Recliners are most prone to injury since they have not trained or worked much with the other groups. Heck, it is tough getting up out of the recliner and doing something!

During my 28 years in the fire service, I’ve rarely witnessed a Shiner give up on a task. Shiners work at all cost to complete an assignment; sometimes even placing them at risk for the betterment of the task. Failure isn’t in the Shiners vocabulary. When they are faced with a failed mission, they take it personally.

On the other hand, Whiners are usually far too quick to embrace failure. They will just blame it on someone else and say they knew it would not work from the start.

The Recliners view on this is well, if we sit around long enough, someone else will do it or it will go away and we won’t have to deal with it. And they are absolutely right, a Shiner will probably come along and get it done.

Firefighters are people who will place their own lives in jeopardy in order to save a life. They enter the fire service knowing this is a high-risk occupation. But there’s no denying there are three distinct types of firefighters in our ranks. These are the types of people we need to manage and find ways to motivate. My advice for Shiners, Whiners and Recliners is: keep the Shiners motivated, give the Whiners plenty to whine about and get rid of the Recliners. They are dead weight.

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 is the President of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs (SEAFC), a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire and Rescue Instructors and the 1st Vice President International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).

Training for Failure

Story by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Web master for Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAMatters.com)

Is it possible to train a firefighter to fail? You bet it is! I see it all the time. I should clarify that previous statement a little: I see it NOW all the time.

There was a time when I didn’t see it. In fact, I was one of those instructors who were training firefighters to fail. I didn’t realize I was doing it. No instructor would train a firefighter to fail on purpose. But, accidentally, it’s happening all the time and the consequences can be catastrophic.

In my Mental Management of Emergencies program I share with firefighters how easy it is to be trained to fail. Experienced officers and trainers alike have called this program a wake-up call and I could not agree more. As I was conducting my research about how the brain functions under stress I had an epiphany. We are training first responders to fail! It was a punch in the gut for me because I knew how many times I had provided flawed training to firefighters and EMS providers throughout my 30 years.

Let me share just one of many examples of how this can happen. But before I do, I have to offer you some B.S. (Brain Science). This will help in your understanding of how firefighters are being trained for failure.

B.S. Law No. 1: The stressed brain does not make decisions the same way as the non-stressed brain.
The lesson here is the non-stressed brain is a calm, rational thinking brain. It’s not under a lot of pressure so it can readily process information and figure out solutions to problems rather readily. The stressed brain; not so rational. In fact, just watching the apparent dumb things firefighters do when they are under stress would lead some people to surmise the stressed brain is irrational. The stressed brain isn’t irrational in its decision making. It is intuitive.

B.S. Law No. 2: Under stress, the brain runs automatic scripts.
The lesson here is the stressed brain compels the body to become a creature of habit. The brain will instruct the body to perform exactly how it was programmed to perform based mostly on memorization and repetition. This is true when recalling cognitive information (like people’s names and e-mail addresses). It is also the case with muscle memory (the physical movements tied to performing a task). Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

B.S. Law No. 3: Muscle memory results from muscle movement.
The lesson here is muscles-memory is formed from actual physical movement, not from the storage of information about how to move. Talking about how to perform a demanding physical task is not the same as doing it. You can tell a firefighter all day long how to throw a ladder. But the brain does not store the memory of the actual movements until the muscles move and raise the ladder.

A Practical Application of the Brain Laws
Those are but three of dozens of lessons that are important for instructors to understand but let’s see how just those three can result in a firefighter being trained for failure.

Here’s the scenario. The instructor is going to conduct a live burn training evolution at the burn building. The crews arrive and everything is set up and the instructor conducts a pre-incident briefing of the day’s activities and objectives. Hose lines and water supplies are secured. The burn team is in place and fire in the hole! Send the first team in!

The first team advances with a 1inch line and they locate the fire and knock it down. They back out and the instructor team critiques their behavior. Each consecutive team does the same thing and this goes on for several hours and each team gets six evolutions on the line.

The instructors feel good because they know that repetition builds skills and these firefighters got some good training. The students feel good because they know they gained valuable experience and are now better prepared for structural firefighting. This is where the lessons of brain science and the fire service collide in a way that can have catastrophic consequences.

You see, the well-intended instructors, for the sake of expediency, never required each attack team to conduct a 360-degree size up around the burn building to develop their situational awareness before they engaged in the structural firefight. Why?

One of the most logical reasons is the burn building is constructed of concrete and steel. It’s NOT going to fall down on the attack team and everyone, including the instructors knows that. Everyone there has a comfort level with the stability of the structure. It’s built to be burned in for goodness sake. So, teams are not required to complete a 360-degree size up before starting each evolution.

Each team that enters the burn building advances a 1inch hose line to the fire and knocks it down. Fire isn’t large enough to require a 2inch in hose line. The smaller 1inch line is adequate and appropriate. The firefighters become very proficient with advancing their 1inch line and they are rewarded with success every time.

As firefighters practice these skills, the three laws from brain science are at work. The stress of the training causes the firefighters to think intuitively, not rationally. They are developing their automatic scripts (both cognitive and muscle memory). Under stress at a real structure fire, the firefighters are going to perform exactly how the scripts in their brains tell them to perform.

Have you ever seen or heard of an incident where a firefighting crew arrived on a fire that should have been a defensive (exterior) attack yet they went offensive (inside) the structure only to find themselves in a world of trouble quick? You could readily see they should not have gone inside. But for some reason, they didn’t see it the same way and, like fools, they rushed in. Were they being foolish? They certainly didn’t seem to be acting rational. That’s because they weren’t acting rational. They were acting intuitive. That’s Brain Law No. 1.

The firefighters arrive and go into a well-involved fire that any competent firefighter would readily say was a no-go fire (i.e., the firefighters do not go in for it would mean catastrophic consequences). Why would the firefighters enter a no-go environment and jeopardize their lives? Because that’s what they were trained to do-go! In fact, it is absolutely rare for firefighters to be trained on the physical and cognitive tasks associated with no-go. So when the firefighters arrive, they go in. They ALWAYS go in because their brains are running automatic scripts. That’s Brain Law No. 2.

The firefighters that arrive and go into the well-involved fire are yet vulnerable to another major consequence. If the fire is no-go it is probably going to be a large fire that requires large water. But the poor firefighting team does not pull a 2inch line. They pull the 1inch hose line and advance it into a fire whose potential far exceeds the capacity of their small hose line. Big fire requires big water. That’s sorational. So why would these firefighters not pull the larger line? Because muscle memory has been built up over numerous practice evolutions. The muscles know a structure fire gets attacked with a 1inch line. The muscle movement of practice over time has built muscle memory. That is Brain Law No. 3.

The Catastrophic Results
Put it all together and what do you have?

Firefighters arriving at well-involved structures, failing to complete a 360-degree size up causing flawed situational awareness. By not practicing the complete size-up they are missing the important lessons of how to assess building construction, fire and smoke conditions. The fire may be defensive but they don’t see it as a defensive fire. Because in their minds, the script reads every fire is an offensive fire.

They advance small hose lines into fires that need big hose lines because they have only practiced with small hose lines. Even if, during training, the instructor were to say now remember, if you have a big fire, you need to pull a big hose line this will not work. It is a rational statement being made to a rational mind. Of course it’s going to make sense. The students may even let out a collective “no duh!” in response as if to indicate such a simple concept did not need to be iterated.

It’s not what the instructor says that will dictate the performance. It’s what the student does that will determine it.

Recommendations
Here are some tangible recommendations for fixing these problems.

1. Build a 360-degree size up into every evolution. Don’t just have them walk around for the sake of walking around. Have them say what they are looking for as it relates to building construction, building decomposition, fire and smoke conditions.

2. Practice pulling 2inch lines in training. Even if the training fire is too small for a large line, practice pulling and using the larger line.

3. Discuss and train firefighters on what no-go conditions look like. What the building decomposition would look like. What the fire conditions would look like. What the smoke conditions would look like.

4. Train firefighters on the physical tasks to be performed when a fire is a no-go fire so they know, physically, what they should do.

Is it possible to train a firefighter to fail? You bet it is! But it is avoidable with a minor change in how we conduct our training.

About the Author
Dr. Richard B. Gasaway has served as a firefighter, EMT-paramedic, company officer, training officer and fire chief in six emergency services organizations in West Virginia, Ohio and Minnesota. In addition to his exemplary 30-year career in public safety, Dr. Gasaway has completed extensive studies on the high-stress, high-consequence environments first responders operate in and how stress impacts decision making and situational awareness. His findings have been chronicled in more than 150 books, book chapters, training videos and first responder journals. Dr. Gasaway serves as the webmaster for the Situational Awareness Matters website (www.SAMatters.com), a site dedicated to improving first responder safety.