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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.

With His Feet Missing His Motivation Returned: Are You in the Same Boat? Is It Time for a Gut Check?

Blog by Richard Blackmon
Captain, Fulton County Fire Rescue Department (Ga.)

I want to share a personal experience you may understand all too well. Recently, when I stepped out of the shower, I looked down and didn’t see my feet. You can imagine my horror. I began to panic, where did they go?

I started to look in the shower to see if they might have fallen off, but was scared to move in case I fell over. Standing there flustered and alarmed, I took a deep breath and slowly bent down to search for my missing feet. It only took a second to realize I did in fact still have feet, they were just hidden by my increasingly over-sized stomach.

What is the point of this you might ask? Well, I had become overweight and at that moment, I decided it was finally time to do something about it.

I am turning 51 years old this year and things need to change. With that in mind, I put a plan in place. I have had a treadmill for years and it has had many roles in my household, most notably, a holding area for my clothes and a storage area for my belongings. But I decided it was time to make that treadmill my best friend. After all, it just might be what saves my life.

My wife and I removed some of the clutter the treadmill was collecting, cleaned the dust away and plugged it in. I didn’t expect it to work, but after a few seconds it came back to life and I jumped on. It was tough at first, but you know what, it’s starting to get easier now.

Motivated with a goal in mind, I’m now ready for my next challenge: lifting weights. I’ve started working out on a daily basis and am walking two miles per day. It’s only been a few short weeks, but I already feel better.

I thought, as long as I am doing all of this exercising, eating better, etc., I might as well go all the way. I decided to make an appointment for my yearly physical.

Those of us serving as emergency responders have a demanding, stressful and important job. But if you look at the statistics, most firefighters don’t die in a burning building or at the scene of a natural disaster. They die from a heart attack. It’s time to take health and wellness safety for firefighters seriously.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be around for a long, long time. I want to continue my career and carry on helping the people of my community. I want to see my grandkids one day.

If you read this far, you may be like me. I hope you’ll take the time to do a self-analysis of your physical well-being. If you need to make some changes, there is no better time than now.

Be safe. Be healthy.

About the Author
Richard Blackmon is a captain with the Fulton County Fire Rescue Department in Fulton County, Georgia. He has worked in the fire service for more than 15 years and is a training officer for his department. He is an adjunct instructor with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and the Department of Homeland Security as a terrorism awareness instructor. He retired from the US Air Force as a master sergeant and saw combat in Grenada, Panama and the first Gulf War.

Advice for Leaders in the Fire Service: Communicate with Your Rookies

Blog by Jacob Johnson
Lieutenant with Pearland Fire Department (Texas)

What’s the best way to handle a rookie who really isn’t a rookie? You know, someone who left another department and has arrived at your doorstep. These newcomers are rookies in your department and need to learn your department’s culture, but they are still skilled with some experience in the field.

How should we as officers handle these situations?

These individuals are a little different than the regular everyday rookie just off the street. These people require a certain kind of treatment that other trainees don’t. I have with this situation several times now. A rookie recently came to our department with four years of experience. He was starting to learn the Driver/Operator position at his previous department. Here is how I handled his assimilation, and though it may not be perfect, it seems to be working nicely:

First, I sat the rookie down on his first shift and explained my expectations. I wanted to make sure he found out what was expected from me, not someone else. Obviously, expectations for somebody with four years of experience are different than someone just out of fire school. Your rookie should be able to test out of basic skills very quickly and be comfortable testing on their first day if called upon. Once they clear all basic skills, then take those abilities and build on them.

Secondly, I explained that because of his previous experience, the rookie treatment would be reduced. That he would be given a little more wiggle-room than a typical rookie. I wanted to make sure he understood, however, if he ever slacked up, he was most definitely going to hear about it. Even with previous experience, newcomers need to have necessary expectations, duties and goals that all rookies need to live up to.

I have had this conversation with several newcomers to my crew and have seen tremendous results. By communicating effectively, the newcomers feel respect, while being made completely aware of what a new employee is expected to deliver.

The most important thing for just about any rookie, in just about every profession, is to be accepted by the crew. This is especially true in our line of work. Firefighters are known to eat their young and as officers we allow it because we believe it will pay dividends and make that one-time rookie into a seasoned professional. Very seldom do officers really need to get involved, anyway. Usually your crew will handle the rookie well before you need to. Just make sure they do it in the right way.

Treating a newcomer with some experience like he’s completely uninformed will cause them to shut down. We need to respect their experience. And the best way to receive respect is to give respect. It’s also equally important for rookies to respect the men and women who came before them. Communication is the key.

About the Author
Jacob Johnson is a lieutenant with the Pearland Fire Department in Texas. He has been in the fire service for more than 10 years.

The Ultimate Test of Leadership

Blog by Bill Sturgeon
Retired Division Chief of Training for Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida

At the age of 38, Scott Waddle was selected to become the commanding officer of USS Greeneville, an improved Los Angeles Class Fast Attack submarine stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Commander Waddle was selected from a highly competitive field of specially trained and exceptionally skilled naval officers. On board his new submarine, the challenges Waddle faced were staggering. Extremely low morale and an unacceptable turnover rate were two of the most pressing issues.

Few thought his ship could improve, but Waddle only became more resolved to prove the critics wrong. The solution was a system of beliefs that Waddle calls Deck Plate Leadership. Its a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion by engaging the hearts, minds and loyalties of workers. By every measure, Waddles principles led to breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented three percent. The rate of military promotions tripled and operating expenses were slashed by 25 percent. As a result, the USS Greeneville became regarded as the finest boat in the Pacific Fleet.

The ultimate test for Waddle and his shipmates followed a tragic accident when the Greeneville —  while at sea for a distinguished visitors day cruise — performed an emergency surface maneuver and collided with the Japanese fishing training vessel Ehime Maru, sinking the vessel in three minutes and killing nine aboard.

The story of the collision made global headlines and was the subject of heated discussion and debate. What followed, however, was even more unprecedented. Waddle, as the former commanding officer, took sole responsibility for his and his crews’ actions. He took the stand during the Navy’s Court of Inquiry and testified without immunity knowing his words could be used against him in a court martial. In a time when corporate executives have been quick to blame others within their organizations for their failures, Waddle demonstrated an uncommon strength of character, integrity and uncompromising ethical conduct by accepting responsibility for himself and the actions of his crew.

In the aftermath of the ordeal, Waddle shows us failure is not final and tells us there are no failures in life only mistakes, and from these mistakes, lessons.

What is deck plate leadership?

Let us start with a working definition of leadership.

Leadership is spoken of in various contexts. Sometimes it’s meant to describe the person in a position of authority and other times it is describing an ability to influence. Either way, a good definition of leadership would be to inspire a group of people to work together as a team and accomplish the impossible.

This is exactly what you are being asked to do every day as a fire officer. Our basic mission is to make a very bad day for someone better. But what are the characteristics of a good leader? Here are 20 characteristics of a leader:

1. Confident, but humble.

2. Demands excellence from himself and his crew.

3. Firm, but can relax and have fun doing the job.

4. Calm under pressure. Maintains focus.

5. Executes The 5 Best Principles. Be Positive. Be Specific. Be Consistent. Be Certain. Be Immediate.

6. Gives credit to teammates publicly.

7. Does not blame teammates or points fingers.

8. Knows the mission and the strengths and weakness of personnel and allows them to apply their skills.

9. Involves the entire team.

10. Sacrifices personal glory for the good of the crew.

11. Accepts that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes. But also recognizes when a mistake has been made and learns from it.

12. Visible for everyone to see.

13. Leads by example, from the front.

14. Displays the values of honor, courage, and commitment.

15. Multi-tasks effectively.

16. Manages time efficiently.

17. Has excellent instincts and vision.

18. Makes sound, educated decisions and only takes calculated risks.

19. Vocal and points out where things aren’t happening correctly, but is not openly negative or pessimistic.

20. Inspires the crew to accomplish the impossible.

If you do not possess all of these attributes do not fret. They are all obtainable with a willingness to learn and a willingness to change. Let me sum up what Waddle would say your action plan should be every shift:

1. Get up, out of the chair!

2. Get down, on the floor to see whats going on!

3. Get dirty, do the job!

By applying lessons learned and developing your attributes as a leader, you will soon develop deck plate leadership.

Understanding Crew Resource Management

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

The International Association of Fire Chiefs describes Crew Resource Management (CRM) as the effective management of all available resources to mitigate a situation while minimizing errors, improving safety and increasing performance. Five factors have been identified as major components in dealing with accidents. These same five factors make up the core of CRM. They include situational awareness, communication, decision making skills, teamwork, and safety barriers.

Situational Awareness
The first and arguably the most important component is situational awareness. Everything on an emergency incident functions and revolves around situational awareness, including our decision making on the fireground. Situational awareness is commonly referred to as the Big Picture. It also encompasses more than just the Big Picture.

In Gary Klein and Caroline E. Zsamboks Naturalistic Decision Making, situational awareness is broken down into three levels:

Level 1: Perception of the Elements in the Environment

Level 2: Comprehension of the Situation

Level 3: Projection of Future Status

For the fire service this translates to how we perceive incidents, being able to understand incidents and how factors are interrelated in accomplishing our goals and forecasting future factors of an incident.

Communication
If situational awareness is not the most important key to handling an incident, then it most certainly is communication. Without effective communication, nothing will be accomplished. The IAFC describes communication as the cornerstone of CRM. There are six keys areas to communication: sender, receiver, message, medium, filters and feedback. Its best to use face-to-face communication when possible, but radio is the only option most of the time. Regardless of the method, the six key areas must be understood and used in order for communication to work and the job to be completed. Within these six key areas there are several other items that need to be addressed. The first is simply being clear and concise. Say what you mean and give enough detail, but don’t overload the individuals working memory space.

Below is a prime example from Gary Klein’s Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions on how even great leaders can make a communication mistake:

During World War II, Winston Churchill gave the order to not engage with warships that were larger and that could destroy their individual ships. What he meant was do not try and take on ships larger than theirs and lose. Consequently, one of his admirals had surrounded an enemy warship but let it go because it was larger and he did not want any trouble with his superiors. This was not the intent of Churchill’s letter to the admiral, but because of unclear communication, it happened. That same warship went on to destroy some of Britain’s ships, playing a significant role against the British during the war.

Decision Making
Situational awareness is vital to how we make decisions. One recent study examining military fighter pilots showed their decisions were directly based on how they perceived situations. They may have made the right call for their perception of the incident, but they didn’t perceive the situation correctly, so they failed.

In essence, having a strong background in situational awareness can help us make decisions within our limited scope of time. In conjunction with situational awareness, our incident commanders need accurate information relayed back to them to establish strategies and tactics. Once this has occurred, the leader can make a sound decision that will have a positive outcome on the incident.

In recent studies in the field of Naturalistic Decision Making, making decisions in a natural setting (real-life environment) has brought forward several considerations for training to be designed around, including mental simulation, pattern matching, story building and the power of intuition.

Each of these plays a part in how our brain relates to what is in front of us and how we make decisions. Nothing can replace on-scene experience, but that is not always something we can control. With this information, we have found the need for more training.

Using scenario-based or tactical decision games is a great way for a firefighter to begin to build patterns and stories of how to operate at an incident, without actually being on scene to learn. Mental simulation and intuition will only come once we show a complete understanding of how one factor relates to the next even when it’s not directly in front of us.

Teamwork
How often do we actually train or perform as a team? How often do we actually examine what we do as a team that makes us function effectively or fail? As firefighters we train constantly to function as part of a team; however, do we always carry that to the field?

When a team has worked together and has bonded, it functions smoothly. One key in reaching this goal is communicating suggestions and concerns to other team members. Mutual respect among team members is essential for it to excel.

Barriers or Safety Nets
Barriers or safety nets are put in place so that when we make a mistake, something is there to catch us. No matter who we are, how much training or education we have received, how much experience we’ve gained, or how many awards we have garnered, at some point we are going to make a mistake. The key is to understand our weaknesses and to avoid repeating the same mistake.

Barriers can come in the many different forms. Some of the obvious ones are SOPs/SOGs, effective training, core competency books, updated equipment and increased use of technology. Other barriers could include establishing Incident Safety Officers on all scenes, establishing RIC teams with proper resources and staffing, providing acting and company officers training, and offering drivers training programs.

One other area that can be of great benefit is the use of checklists and worksheets to help the officers on scene such as Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Rehab Group Supervisor and RIC Group Team Leader. Checklists can help remind the officers of the tasks to be completed, benchmarks, safety concerns and crew locations. However, with all great things there are downfalls.

We still have not found a way to checklist or talk a fire out. It’s important to remember that the checklist is only as effective as the expertise of the individual using it. We must still train and educate the same as before and still allow officers the discretion to change the plan of the checklist as they see fit. Each of these key areas has a place in every fire stations training schedule. The ability to understand how to correlate and implement these components into our training will translate to increased efficiency and safety on the fire ground.

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.

Is It Time to Arm Our EMTs

Story by Tim Holman
Chief, German Township Fire & EMS

According to the department of labor, 52 percent of EMTs in the field have been assaulted. This statistic is even more alarming when we see the increase of ambushes on first responders. In recent years we have seen EMTs shot and killed while trying to perform emergency care. These incidents are increasing each year.

Due to media bias toward guns, the idea of arming EMTs for self-defense and protection will receive much scrutiny. But times are changing and civil unrest is increasing. More people are becoming desperate and more people resent figures of authority.

Some argue we should just wait for law enforcement to clear the scene before entering. Unfortunately law enforcement is experiencing staffing issues just like others in public safety. How will waiting 30 or 40 minutes to enter a home to treat a patient stand up in court? Many systems, when dispatched to a drug overdose, rely on law enforcement to clear the scene before entering. This is a wise and proactive approach for keeping our EMTs safe. But suppose you are called to such a scene and the patient is not breathing. You stage your unit away from the scene and wait for your local police. Unfortunately all their units are tied up and the ETA is 20 to 30 minutes. You wait and the patient dies. The family sues you because you made no attempt to determine if the scene was safe. They argue the patient was unresponsive and of no danger to anyone. Do you really think that a jury would rule in the favor of the EMS?

What about routine calls that deteriorate into violent situations? Retreat? And what if you do not have time? Is that just the risk associated with the job? No, that is unacceptable. Our constitution states we have a right to bear arms for personal protection. That right should not end just because you are now at work.

Some may argue there are many EMTs who should not be allowed to carry a gun. The same can be said about some law enforcement officials I know. No one can convince me we cannot train EMTs in tactical skills. We teach them to start IVs, intubate, deliver medications, and many other difficult tasks.

Why can’t we train them to carry a gun for protection? Not to arrest people. Not to be a cop, but to be able to enter a scene and clear it for safety.

In 2009 the FBI estimates that more than 2 million crimes were stopped by law-abiding citizens with concealed handguns. Of these it is estimated that fewer than 100 shots were fired.

Before arming EMTs they must be trained in tactical techniques in clearing a scene, carrying a gun in deep concealment, de-escalating a violent encounter and various other skills. And yes some may not be allowed to carry if they cannot qualify appropriately. At the very least we should consider arming at least on individual on each EMS crew.

There are some negative consequences in arming EMTs. Our image may change. Some people think guns are evil. Public education would be needed to combat this. Some advocate using deep concealment and not publicizing that EMTs are armed. Another drawback may be the liability insurance. Training and qualifying may help reduce this challenge.

By the way, if you are still thinking this is a crazy concept, consider several cities have already passed ordinances to allow EMTs to carry handguns while on duty. Another city in the west has made it policy that no EMS crew leaves the station without someone on the crew being armed. This policy originated after several of their female crews were dispatched on false calls to lure them into homes.

Most people will have very strong feelings about this concept. Talk about it. Think about it. Consider other options. But we must stop the senseless killings of EMTs trying to serve their communities.

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.

How to Motivate Your People More Effectively

Conventional wisdom says there are two ways to motivate employees. The carrot and the stick. But the truth is there is a third way, a better way. By showering employees with respect and appreciation, you can earn their loyalty and greater productivity.

Blog by Peter Dove
President of the Shared Values Association

Much has been written about how to motivate people. Some people think there is some type of magic that if they could only access, they could zap a new power into people.

Sorry, but no.

There are various kinds of motivation. Coercive motivation for example can be quite effective. Do you remember this quote?

“You can make a horse sit up and deal cards, it’s just a matter of voltage.”

Col. Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men’

Later in the movie, Jessep famously exclaimed, “you can’t handle the truth!”

The truth is this: People are only motivated by what they value. Yes, that might be money, or saving their skin, but people remain motivated exclusively by what they value.

You can coerce people into doing what you want. Threats, punishment, and the rest of the stick methods are often used. Restrictive motivation is another stick method and somewhat of a cousin to coercive motivation. You can restrict liberty, freedom, access to information, things, people, or opportunity, as punishment unless people do what is demanded.

On the more positive side, one can motivate by way of incentive or quid pro quo, which is “do this and I’ll give you that.” It really is sort of based on a bribe paradigm and the carrot-end of the carrot vs. the stick approach.

Offering a carrot or brandishing a stick will indeed get people to do things, but it is something difficult to sustain; and as Alfie Kohn demonstrates in his book “Punished by Rewards,” it does not work very well. People resist the stick and carrots become carrot cake, then steak and carrots. Entitlement sets in and people expect steak, carrots, peas, potatoes and fine wine! And yes, fine wine gets expensive.

But there is a better way, a third way. You can work to understand your people’s motives and align your behavior in a way to deliver what they want. This is sustainable. Again, people are only motivated by what they value.

The typical manager thinks they have only two kinds of power (carrot and stick) available to them. But the carrot and the stick are accessible because of their position. Do this or that because I’m the boss and I have a certain amount of authority over you, they say. A good example is automobile dealerships, which use coercive, restrictive and incentive methods to persuade sales people to sell cars. This does not make these dealers good or bad, it just makes them typical of how business is done.

What Is Referent Power?

Referent power is based on a third idea and the greatest of things: Love. I will do for you, not because I feel a threat, either explicit or implied. I will not do for you because of some reward. I behave, work at my best and carry a certain winning attitude because I respect and want to serve you. I do what I do because I want you, my boss to be proud of me. I execute my duties with care because I like the people I work with and want to contribute and not let them down. I behave as I do because what we do together has meaning.

Can you see how referent power is the most powerful? The trick of course is how to deliberately create this values-based referent power in your workplace. There is not enough space here to describe all that goes into building a shared-values work environment, however, here are three things you can do now.

1. Make it safe: Create a workplace where it is safe to tell the boss and co-workers the uncompromising truth, without fear of repercussion.

2. Give credit where credit is due: This is the easiest thing to do and you can start now. Most people are not told they are appreciated and why they are appreciated.

3. Make expectations clear: Unclear expectations are enormously de-motivating. Tell your people what is expected, by when, what a finished job looks like, what the failure and success paths are, what the resources are and then coach them on their way.

There are a number of other values that must be shared in the workplace in order to arrive at a credible referent power base – or what we call a Heroic Environment. But focusing on these first three steps can accomplish much. I wish you all the best on your journey.

About the Author
Peter Dove is a management consultant with a background in corporate culture design. He serves as the president of Shared Values Associates, Inc. In this position, he travels the U.S. speaking to groups on the importance of shared values in the workplace.

Personal Protective Equipment: Back to the Basics

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

How much do you know about your Personal Protective Equipment, specifically, your bunker gear? How well can you perform your job duties wearing the gear you have?

Understanding the basics of PPE and training in our gear are some key principles that will help us stay safe. The more information we know about how gear is properly put together, the safer we will be.

Several topics should be discussed when considering different types of gear. What may be good for one department in the northern part of the country may not be suitable for another department in the southern part or on the coast. It is important to point out that each of these topics is not mutually exclusive they all have an impact on each other:

>> Total Heat Loss is basically the breathability of gear. The higher the numerics, the better the firefighter’s body heat will dissipate. This could lead to cooling the core temperature of a firefighter and preventing such situations as heat stroke and over-exertion. According to NFPA 1971, a minimum of 205 watts per square meter must be met.

>> Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) represents how much conductive and radiant heat the gear will shield from a firefighter through all layers of the ensemble. At first thought, the higher the TPP rating, the better off a firefighter would be, however, this is not only false but also dangerous. As the TPP rating is increased, firefighters might be inclined to proceed further and envelop themselves in elevated temperatures where they should not be. In addition, the higher the TPP rating the lower the THL will be. It’s a trade-off.

>> CCHR was incorporated into the testing procedure as a method of examining the shoulder and knee areas of our PPE. This test is conducted with wet and dry gear at a starting temperature of 536 degrees, as a method of comparing the insulation provided by the PPE when it comes in contact with hot surfaces. According to NFPA 1971, it should take 25 seconds for the temperature of the opposite side of the gear to rise 43 degrees.

As you review gear, look at surrounding departments and examine the specifications they are using. Remember, there is no one perfect set of gear for every department. Choose the gear with the right combination for your department. In addition, no matter what gear you have, understand how it operates and know its limitations. Anyone can tie a knot, but can everyone tie a knot with gloves on, and correctly?

The only way to know these limits is to train and train often in a multitude of situations. Training for familiarization and in realistic environments will assist in developing these necessary skills.

Try this drill: Have a firefighter bunker out (pants and boots only) and blackout their SCBA mask. Take the remaining parts and spread them throughout the station in areas where they could obtain them by performing a primary search of the structure. Place the items so that the firefighters have to build their ensemble as they complete the search. This drill is simple, non-hazardous, and will assist in familiarization with their equipment. In the end the firefighter should be breathing air and dressed as if they were entering a burning building. Make sure that the gloves are the first item they come to and that everything is completed without the removal of their mask.

Train hard, take care and be safe.

About the Author
Brian Ward is chief of emergency operations and training director for Georgia Pacific in 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.