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Best Practices for Emergency Response During an Active Shooter Incident – Part 2

active shooter emergency response

Approximately 15 percent of fire departments have some type of active shooter response model, according to Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.). (Photo courtesy of Ofer Lichtman)

Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.) is an expert on numerous subjects impacting the fire service, including Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) and terrorism awareness. Earlier this year, Lichtman provided an in-depth interview to TargetSolutions on strategies for emergency responders during active shooter incidents. This is the second part of that interview. Please click here to view Part 1.

Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.)How can first responders prepare for active shooter threats?
The Rancho Cucamonga Police and Fire Departments have had an active shooter response program since 2003 and have conducted over 136 scenarios involving multiple law enforcement and fire agencies from all over our region in Southern California. Each one of our firefighters is trained in TECC, multiple rescue task force (RTF) tactics and ICS (Incident Command System) for tactical response scenarios. Every one of our apparatuses is equipped with full ballistic PPE and tactical medical gear for every crew member.

In the first few years of our program, we focused on the small unit skills and tactics. As we progressed, we maintained a high level of competency and accountability at the crew level of our firefighters but we have also addressed strategic-level operations that focus on the elements that must be in place for our firefighters to get into the warm zone as fast as they can to actually make a difference.

As a training cadre, we study both past and possible future trends for active shooter types of scenarios and use those trends to build realistic and achievable scenarios in our own target hazards. For example, after the Aurora Theater shooting, we had four days of late night/early morning drills at a local movie theater. In these drills, all our RTFs had to wear their respiratory PPE and perform duties in a smoky, low visibility and loud environment to simulate a respiratory irritant at a confined entertainment venue.

The reality is that just like you can’t prevent every terrorist attack, you can’t be completely prepared for them either. You can, however, have a great response that will eliminate the threats and save as many lives as possible. One of the things that best highlights our preparation and reaction for the San Bernardino attack (in December of 2015) was during the incident, at the Unified Command Post we had a very strong suspicion that there were going to be other attacks in the county. We had to be proactive and prepare. Through good coordination, we deployed strike teams of RTFs from agencies that already had an RTF program in place to specific areas of the county where we thought the next attack could be. These RTFs that we had in staging around the region would have had very good response times if another incident would have happened and would have been able to save many lives.

Has anything changed as a result of these recent attacks?
Since the San Bernardino incident, we have personally trained 13 agencies in our county in the current RTF model that is used throughout the country. We have a very proactive, aggressive and practical program. In San Bernardino and Riverside counties we now have great coordination, not just with our law enforcement partners but with our mutual aid resources. If we speak the same language and understand each other’s objectives and what a specific resource can offer, then we will be prepared to help each other if a situation like this were to occur again.

One of the things we changed in the last year, and not specifically because of the San Bernardino incident, is that we now deploy our RTFs sooner than ever before. We want them to engage appropriately in a warm zone without necessarily making sure the ICS charts have been filled. In the past and in some cases still today, you see departments with RTF capabilities stage their RTFs while they wait to build an ICS chart, fill out the positions, wait to hear key words such as “Shooter is dead” and only then engage in treating patients. So you ask yourself, “have we really changed?” The reality is, we must treat casualties in the warm zone and provide care as soon as we can vs. spending time building an ICS chart. We have to allow the incident to dictate the ICS structure and not the other way around.

What would you like to see change in the future when it comes to these responses?
I believe that the golden standard for response to civilian mass violence should be redefining our trauma chain of survival followed by an aggressive data-driven first responder rescue program. Traditionally we looked at the trauma chain of survival as starting with the medical first responders (firefighters and paramedics; national average response time: eight minutes).

The problem with this concept is we are missing two significant groups of people that would always be on scene prior to most firefighters and paramedics. These groups are your non-medical first responders such as law enforcement (national average response time: three minutes). The second and most impactful group is your bystanders, who are on scene before anyone responds. Both of these groups can buy time for medical first responders by treating the injured when an event happens, especially if they are equipped with the means to do so. When these two essential links in the trauma chain of survival are in place then we will truly have a robust and successful trauma chain of survival that will potentially save more lives than ever before.

Additionally, I believe we must continue to focus on immediate-unified command between law enforcement, EMS and Fire. We must have a collective understanding that this is a multi-pronged response with multiple missions in these events and it’s imperative that we establish common incident objectives to meet all of them.

To read Part 1 of this two-part series, please click here.

About the Author

Ofer Lichtman started out as a first responder in Israel and is currently the Terrorism Liaison Officer Coordinator for Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.). Lichtman was instrumental in developing its Terrorism and Tactical Response Program. Lichtman is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and is on the advisory board of the C-TECC.

Why Effective Public Relations Is Important for the Fire Service in the 21st Century

Fire Service Public Relations

Fire departments need to be more proactive communicating with the public in order to connect with the community, says author and speaker Daniel Byrne of the Burton Fire District (S.C.).

When it comes to humility, fire service members usually lead the pack. You’re not going to find Joe Firefighter cruising around town boasting about his job to every Tom, Dick and Harry. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Daniel Byrne, who serves as Community Support Officer for the Burton Fire District in South Carolina, condensed a firefighter’s typical day down to a simple routine: come to work, do your job, go home.

Ask Byrne to add some flare to describe the line of duty and the result is almost glamorous: Respond to calls, fight fires, then go home.

But Byrne says that type of mindset needs to change. As an outspoken proponent of encouraging firefighters to be more enthusiastic about informing their community and neighbors about their occupations, Byrne urges enhanced public relations with those same communities and local media to spread the word and tell the firefighter story.

“Times have changed and so much focus is now placed on economic efficiency and transparency,” said Byrne, who has had numerous articles about effective public relations strategies published in Firehouse magazine and online at Firehouse.com.

“It’s all about ‘what are you doing for me today? What services are you providing for me today to warrant tax dollars?’ If they don’t truly know what we do in-between fires, what challenges we face, and what our needs are to meet those challenges – along with the consequences for not having those resources – how can they support us?”

The public is simply uninformed because no one in the fire service is informing them, Byrne believes.

“People in your community can tell you reams of information on the Kardashians and the latest story on the bathroom wars, but can’t tell you what the leading cause of fire in their community is or how many fires their department responds to,” said Byrne.

“People are asking why we pay firefighters to sleep. Managers and government officials are asking. Now the public is asking. The public want answers to these questions that we never had to provide.”

Public Relations Fire Service

Byrne cites the problem coming down to fire departments assuming what the public wants, but never actually asking. In reality, departments need to be more proactive in order to close the disconnect between themselves and the community, he said. This can include teaching classes, writing articles about the firehouse, providing guest speakers for schools and other social groups, and generally do everything possible to engage the public. The fire service’s perceived value can no longer be taken for granted.

Breaking out of the traditional persona of staying quiet is a role the fire service can’t afford to play anymore. For example, for many people sprinklers aren’t seen as a necessity because not enough speakers going out into the community to explain the benefits.

“Going out into the community and doing blood pressure checks and talking about fire extinguishers and smoke detectors is just as effective, if not more so, than any large scale fire program,” Byrne said.

Daniel ByrneUltimately, as Byrne states, prevention is a major part of fire protection and taking the proper steps to communicate this to the public and ensure safety can save lives and keep the damage to a minimum.

About the Author

Daniel Byrne is an Engineer/Paramedic and Community Support Officer for the Burton Fire District in Beaufort County, S.C. He is also an Assistant Chief of Training for the Georgia Air National Guard 165th Fire Department. Byrne is a third generation firefighter and holds both an associate and bachelor’s degree in Fire Science, and a Fire Officer and Fire Instructor III certification.

 

Why Sleep Deprivation Is a Serious Threat to Firefighters

Serving in the line of duty results in an abundance of health risks for firefighters, though perhaps none more silent or threatening than the constant onslaught of sleep deprivation.

David F. Peterson, a retired fire chief and current fire training coordinator of Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wisc., has made it his mission to expose the ongoing dangers of sleep deprivation and establish guidelines to ensure firefighters are getting the quality rest they need.

Firefighter Sleep Deprivation

David F. Peterson

Although the fire service’s line of work has become synonymous with a lack of rest, Peterson scoffs at that notion.

“To me, that’s a hollow acceptance,” Peterson said. “I think we can do much better.”

Typically, the human body goes through four to five cycles of sleep every night, with each cycle lasting roughly an hour and a half to two hours. Toward the end of each cycle, the body goes through rapid eye movement (REM), a crucial stage for repairing brain cells, DNA, and allows the brain to cleanse itself of waste that it produces during the day.

Over the years, however, this crucial stage of sleep has considerably shrunk for firefighters.

Peterson cites an exponential increase in 911 responses to an aging population as the primary reason for an elevation in call volume. “While I’m retired now, I can’t tell you how many calls I went on that were not emergencies,” recalled Peterson. “People lack the education of when to call 911 but also lack transportation so they use emergency services as a clinic-type service.”

The result of Peterson’s theory is an increased amount of calls and longer work hours, with many firefighters working 24 and, occasionally, 48-hour shifts.

Although it varies from person to person, most experts suggest that the human body needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to allow the brain to rid itself of waste and repair DNA. Long-term damage from a lack of quality sleep can turn into chronic problems later in life, including an increased chance of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain.

Although there is no conclusive data yet, Peterson points out a link between Alzheimer’s disease and lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation robs the brain of a crucial protein called amyloid beta, which results in a plaque buildup that’s similarly seen in cat scans of patients with Alzheimer’s.

Contrastingly, studies show that the short-term effects of REM-lacking sleep begin with a decline in cognitive skills.

“After 18 hours of no sleep, you’re operating on .05 percent alcohol level as far as cognitive ability and that goes up to .1 percent after 24 hours. After four to five days of no REM sleep, you start to develop psychosis.”

David F. Peterson, Retired Fire Chief

Fixing the issue long-term, Peterson suggests, begins at the core of the problem: shift times.

“Some departments change shifts at 6 a.m., but if you live out of town and have to drive two hours, you’re going to be up at 4 a.m. and into the day and up all night. If you shift change at 8 a.m. then you could get two more hours of sleep.”

Check Out Fire BlogsOne solution that Peterson recommends for the short-term is a sentiment that’s echoed by many experts: naps.

Some departments don’t allow their staff to nap, which Peterson argues is detrimental to getting quality rest. Darkened dormitories and a flexible napping schedule are critical first steps for departments when it comes to solving the issue of sleep deprivation.

Although change can take time, Peterson’s advice remains simple and sound: “In other words, try to catch your Z’s when you can.”

About David F. Peterson
David F. Peterson is a 35-year veteran of the fire service and a retired fire chief. He is currently an EMS and fire training coordinator for Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wisc. He served as a Level A regional HAZMAT team coordinator and instructor for 20 years and holds a bachelor’s degree in fire service management from the University of Southern Illinois and a master’s degree in executive fire leadership from Grand Canyon University.

Best Practices for Emergency Response During an Active Shooter Incident – Part 1

Best Practices for Active Shooter Incident

Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.)Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.) is an expert on numerous subjects impacting the fire service, including Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) and terrorism awareness. The terror attack in San Bernardino (Calif.) in December of 2015 has heightened domestic concerns over violence and against civilian populations. Lichtman recently provided TargetSolutions with an in-depth interview of his thoughts regarding effective strategies for first responders during an active shooter incident. This article is Part 1 in a two-part series. Please click here for Part 2.

Here is the Q-and-A:

TargetSolutions: What are the current protocols that are commonly taken during an active shooter incident?

Lichtman: As a country, about 85 percent of fire departments have an archaic type of response that is traditional in the sense of waiting for law enforcement to declare a scene safe. Then firefighters would proceed to enter a cold zone environment and begin treating patients in a traditional EMS fashion. The other 15 percent of fire departments have some type of active shooter response model. These proactive fire departments have identified the best way to increase survivability in these situations is to treat preventable death injuries as close to the time and location in which they took place. Fire departments around the country are identifying this as a standard model that needs to be developed and practiced.  Entering a warm zone environment and treating patients is one of the best things we can do as an industry for our community.

TargetSolutions: What are the characteristics of preventable death injuries during active shooter incidents in civilian environments?

We traditionally fall back on the military model of what’s killing our soldiers overseas. Our theory was that the injuries killing our soldiers overseas are the same injuries that are killing our civilians here at home. There was this notion that “a bullet in the Middle East does the same damage as a bullet in San Bernardino.” Massive extremity hemorrhage is known to be the No. 1 cause of preventable death injury in our soldiers, so it’s probably the No. 1 cause of preventable death injuries for civilians here at home during active shooters, but the reality is that it’s just not true! A recent study done in cooperation with the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care(C-TECC)  shows that civilians do not have a way to defend themselves in active shooter situations and the proximity to shooters is much closer than it would be if they were in a gunfight as soldiers engaged in combat.

The issue of body armor in the civilian population is non-existent, whereas in the military it’s very advanced. When you consider that most soldiers have a ballistic plate on their torso and a helmet, you realize why there is a very high injury pattern to the extremities. That is the reality in the military. In the civilian tactical environment, we must be data driven and recognize the differences from true combat. For example, applying a tourniquet isn’t the No. 1 treatment we should be focusing on anymore when we are treating civilians with no body armor. Applying a tourniquet is still a very high priority but the data shows that torso injuries result in the highest amount of preventable death injuries in the civilian environment. If we don’t train our people on how to identify and treat that, then we’re negligent as first responders. We have to ask difficult questions like are we really doing everything we can to give these people the best chance for survival?

TargetSolutions: How can the community help first responders during an active shooter scenario?

Lichtman: We know there are plenty of civilians who are trained or can be trained to provide care, information, and even eliminate a threat if they can. The reality is that the response time for a bystander is truly zero minutes. We can never come close to that as first responders. So why not empower the community and correctly train them to not only survive an active shooter incident but what they can do to save themselves, family and friends. Second, teach them treatment options for preventable death injuries that are more specific in the civilian environment and not the military. Trained community members give us the time we need from injury to when advanced care can enter the warm zone. We need to treat this with a whole community-wide approach and decrease the time it take patients to get treated. We can achieve this with bystanders who are actively participating in treatment and not afraid to take action during these disasters.

TargetSolutions: What can first responders do to help train the community should such an event occur?

Lichtman: One of the most effective and inspiring programs around is called the First Care Provider program (FCP). It’s a non-profit organization that identifies the concepts and approach needed to be done by civilians during these environments we have been talking about. It draws from the TECC guidelines that we as firefighters use and adapts them to civilians. In essence, it empowers civilians how to ACT (Actions, Communicate, Treatment) in an active shooter situation, what actions and options are appropriate in different situations, including treatment of preventable death injuries in the civilian populations.

As firefighters, we’re missing a golden opportunity to impact and prepare our community if we do not engage with them on this topic. As firefighters, we are becoming more comfortable and proficient with TECC and must use what we have learned to prepare our community for what they can do to increase all around survivability. Just as we have done in the past with respect to fire prevention and community AED programs, this should be no different.

You might have already heard of some communities attempting to implement this in reaction to the San Bernardino incident. In Rancho Cucamonga, we have trained all city employees and more than 2,200 civilians in that same model. We put on a three-hour course that consists of first care provider training and surviving an active shooter event which focuses on TECC and what they need to do in that type of environment. We have to give the community the tools they need to do a good job so that we can do ours. Further, in Rancho Cucamonga and cities across the country, we’ve employed community trauma kits. We have placed these kits in every city-owned AED compartment throughout the community, these kits include the equipment necessary to manage injuries in a mass type of civilian shooting.

To read Part 2 of this two-part series, please click here.

About the Author:
Ofer Lichtman started out as a first responder in Israel and is currently the Terrorism Liaison Officer Coordinator for Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.). Lichtman was instrumental in developing its Terrorism and Tactical Response Program. Lichtman is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and is on the advisory board of the C-TECC.

Creating a Healthy and Fit Culture for Your Fire Department

Healthy Fire Department Culture

Since 2007, firefighter Aaron Zamzow has served as a firefighter and EMT with the City of Madison Fire Department in Wisconsin. He is also an author and certified personal fitness trainer. He began his career, however, in the fitness industry at 18 years old. He has worked with elite athletes and studied under some of the top trainers in the world. Zamzow believes diet and exercise are foundations for a healthier fire department culture.

We recently spoke with Zamzow about how the fire service can create a healthier culture, a topic he presented on at Firehouse World in San Diego this past February. Here is the Q-and-A:

Firefighting is a physically strenuous job, but when you say “creating a healthy and fit culture,” that implies something needs to change. What do you think needs to change?
It seems 99 percent of the budget that most cities have is spent on PPE (personal protective equipment), which is necessary, but only 1 percent is spent on the health and wellness of those operating the equipment, and that seems backwards.

What diseases or conditions put firefighters at risk due to their occupation?
PTSD is prevalent in the service. Suicide is prevalent. Health and safety issues, sudden cardiac arrest, plus all of the injuries that go along with the job. There are a lot of resources out there, but not a lot of application. We’re talking about it, but nobody’s really doing much about it.

To maintain the kind of culture you’re striving for, where should resources be allocated?
Spend more time and money on wellness resources. Funding should be allocated toward the education of what exactly is health and fitness. Even just getting fire departments to talk about PTSD and nutrition and get people to talk more about fitness and health and wellness and what they should be doing to improve it.

Departments will spend thousands to get chiefs to come in and talk about fire attacks and behavior but they don’t allocate any of those funds to health and fitness to make people more aware of it. By simply bringing a few pieces of fitness equipment into the firehouse shows your staff that you’re making the commitment to fitness.

Read More Fire Service Content

Leadership needs to start stepping up, including chiefs. Prevalent people in the industry need to step up and say this is important and place emphasis on it. Chiefs need to be leaders and set the example. It doesn’t have to be extreme but they need to be aware that they can be the ones that set a program in place. Lead by example and be open. Don’t be a dictator. Find resources that are out there even if you’re a small department. Set an example. Start providing resources around the firehouse. It can be cheap stuff, like foam rollers.

Go out into the community. People believe in helping and giving back to the fire service and could help with the promotion of health and fitness. Firefighters are highly motivated and very competitive. We had a “Fit for Duty” challenge where crews can challenge each other and set weight loss goals. Let’s say that everyone puts in $10 and the winning crew gets the money. Make the challenge to change the culture and be that leader. There are resources and things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money but that can get people involved. If 20-30 people in a department of 100 participate in a challenge with no money out of pocket, that can really change a culture right there.

What are the basic steps to sustaining a healthy and fit lifestyle?
Drink more water. The more hydrated you are, the more actual fluid your blood is which makes it easier on your heart to do work. If you’re not hydrated, the blood is thicker and the heart works harder to circulate blood.

Work on core and flexibility training. The number one cause of early retirement is lower back pain and back injury followed by the shoulders and knees. The chances for injuries in this profession are high but being in better shape can lead to a quicker recovery.

Build a good cardio base. Get to the point where you’re doing intervals that mimic the spike in cardiac stress that you go through on the job. Help build that cardiovascular base.

Full body training. How often during a fire have you ever done a bench press? On the fireground, you’re never isolating anything.

Eat like an athlete would. Change the diet up. Stop eating like we traditionally do in the firehouse. Eat more fruits and veggies, no processed foods, and prepare meals ahead of time. Think of what you’re going to eat ahead of time. Got to be ready.

What is the culture like in the firehouse when it comes to dieting and nutrition?
Portions in the firehouses are huge. We usually eat on big platters because you don’t want to run out. My suggestion is to serve on smaller plates because it’s all about perception. A big plate with a lot of food creates the idea that “oh, I only ate one plateful so I have to go back and get more.” But if you have a small or medium plate, then your body and mind perceives it differently and tells your body that you are fuller.

Avoid highly processed foods, bagged foods, and packaged foods while including natural, one-ingredient foods. Always have vegetables and fruits available. I won’t throw sweets away because I don’t want to be “that guy,” but I’ll put them in the cupboard so it takes effort to get to them. Then I’ll leave celery and peanut butter with some orange slices on the table and, believe it or not, most of that stuff gets completely eaten. If you make it more work to get the bad stuff and you put some good stuff there, chances are they’ll take the good stuff.  Smaller portions, natural foods, and limit the sugars.

Aaron ZamzowAbout the Author
Aaron Zamzow is a firefighter and EMT for the City of Madison Fire Department in Wisconsin. He is also a degreed personal fitness trainer and author, as well as the owner of Fire Rescue Fitness, a company dedicated to creating products and blogs focused on keeping firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics in top physical condition and “fit for duty.” He has almost 10 years of experience as a firefighter/EMT and another 20 as a fitness expert, training with elite athletes and studying with some of the top trainers in the world.

 

 

Developing the Future of the Fire Service

Future of the Fire Service

In February at Firehouse World, Jake Rhoades, a 24-year veteran of the fire service who currently serves as the chief of the City of Kingman Fire Department in Arizona, delivered a presentation, “Developing the Future of the Fire Service.” The discussion focused on the problems facing the industry’s culture of tradition and the ascension of firefighters through the ranks.

TargetSolutions had the opportunity to interview Chief Rhoades about the topic. Here is the Q-and-A:

What types of challenges are fire departments facing today and how do you think those can be addressed?
Right now we’re in the midst of big changes in the fire service. There’s a generational change; we’re retiring out a large chunk of experience, baby boomers are retiring, veterans who learned on the job over the last 25 years. Losing that on-the-job training is a huge setback because fires are actually down 62 percent. Those real-life scenarios and events haven’t been experienced by the new recruits and thus the service is forced to promote people who aren’t ready.

What does the future of the fire service mean to you?
Leadership is changing. Currently it’s quasi-military with a very set standard of “this is how we do it, this is our hierarchy, and this is how it is.” However, society as a whole is changing, not just the fire service. The old leaders who said, “we’re going to do this because I said so,” is going away. Today, people want to know why we do what we do and why we operate in our system. Communication is a much bigger crux in the fire service in that we cannot communicate enough, from the top down to the bottom up. The other part is planning and having a plan. I get to go around the country and talk and speak and no matter where you are, people don’t have development plans. What is your succession plan? Who is the next you? Who is the next fire chief? They don’t know, but there needs to be a plan in place to develop these people. Everyone needs to be on the same page with officer development, strategy, and succession plans.

read more fire service blogsA lot of models are out there to follow and there are lots of departments that are doing it right. We have to look around and look at our neighbors. We need to look at promotional policies. Ten to 15 years ago, a chief was required to have 15 years’ experience on the job. Today, an EFO is required, as is a master’s degree, and in some cases a Ph.D. is preferred. Before long a Ph.D. may become mandatory for a fire chief’s job.

We talked about some of the challenges currently facing departments. What are some of the things that are going right that can help prepare for the future?
Every one of us should have a comprehensive officer development program based on your organization. Nothing cookie cutter that can easily be copied. You can take whatever departments have and tweak it to your department, but it needs to be personalized with promotional policies and courses tailored to your own organization. We have to provide opportunities, guidance, and leadership for those individuals who are going to be us one day and wearing the white shirts and bugles. People have guarded their knowledge in the past because they didn’t want anyone to be smarter than them. I want people smarter than me. The more people below me who are smarter than me, the better we are as an organization and better off we are as a fire service.

When you hear the phrase “this is how we’ve always done it,” how does that make you feel about the future of the fire service? Do we need to change that mentality?
We should not and cannot tolerate that answer. We should give a definitive answer as to why we do what we do, even the small things; fog nozzles, smooth board nozzles, why ventilate every fire from the roof. We have to challenge the culture of the fire service in our organization and that’s difficult. That’s a hard battle because getting out of our comfort zone is very difficult. The fire service is very traditional and becomes engrained and even on the task firefighter level, guys get comfortable doing things a certain way. We have to challenge that daily.

It starts with the leadership of a department. Communicate those visions and goals for the organization. I think using an accreditation model from the CFAI (Commission on Fire Accreditation International) is critical for the fire service because that promotes continuous improvement. Stay on top of trends in the fire service and not accepting the status quo. As long as we accept the status quo then we fall behind. I say that the status quo gets people hurt and that’s the last thing we want to do. We work very hard for retirement. Firefighters are known for that. Let’s get them there safely so they can enjoy a life after the fire service. Enjoy those grandkids and enjoy life after working so hard serving their communities.

 

fire service futureAbout the Author
Jake Rhoades is a 24-year veteran of the fire service and is currently the chief of the City of Kingman Fire Department in Arizona. He holds a Master’s of Science degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership and is pursuing his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Organizational Development. Chief Rhoades is a frequent author and speaks nationally on topics of relevance to the fire service.

 

Seven Ways to Win in Today’s Fire Service

Ways to Win in Today’s Fire Service

Battalion Chief Bob Atlas is a 20-year fire service veteran who is currently the Interim Assistant Chief of EMS and Training for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District located in Northern California. Atlas is a prodigious adherent of personal growth and lifelong learning, with a mantra of “the minute you stop learning is the moment you start dying.”

Instead of prepping firefighting candidates for a test, he advocates preparing them for a career. Seven Ways to Win in Today’s Fire Service was developed as a personal and moral compass for individuals to always put in their best efforts and strive to be better than they were the day prior. Whether it’s with a combination of all seven tried and true methods or with a focus on just one, it’s important to always move forward every day, he believes. “Excellence is not what you do, but who you are,” said Atlas.

During Firehouse World in San Diego, Atlas presented the Seven Ways to Win in Today’s Fire Service. Here is an overview:

1. Take Control: Generate positive change and avoid negative influences. Communicate your plan to the people around you, build strategic relationships and, most of all, take control of your reputation. When you succeed at taking control, then you have essentially taken control of the outcome.

2. Establish Credibility in the Profession: Avoid developing a sense of complacency. Firefighters by nature are very humble people who don’t toot their own horns, but we can’t be ashamed of sharing who we are and what our values are. We need to develop our own mission statement that describes our values and what we’re committed to. We need to establish public outreach and proactive campaigns and create a delicate balance that shows the public what we do and how we do it.

3. Be a Participant in the Organization’s Success: Be a part of something greater than personal gain and help take an organization to the next level. The key to success is remaining relevant in the fire service and being better today than you were yesterday.

4. Have a Vision: Individuals need to change the way they approach their careers. They need to be lifelong learners and not just be looking to get a job and then kick back. It’s important that they don’t fall into the mindset of thinking that they’ve learned everything once they’re off probation, or that they’ve learned everything they need to know for the remainder of their careers.

5. Master Command and Leadership Skills on and Off the Fire Ground: The question is: Do you have what it takes to lead in different fields? Can you lead in the firehouse? How about a single engine response?

6. Know Your ‘Why’: Your “why” is the thing that makes you get up in the morning and drive to work and push forward in your career. It’s what makes you excited and happy with wanting to continue and to do more for yourself. Life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey.

7. Learn How to Fail Forward: We’re so used to failure as something that moves us backward. Failing forward is no different than a boxer who gets up after being knocked down. Champions and successful people figure out how to use failure to drive them to succeed. Failure is not a bad thing but rather it’s a fork in the road that presents you with opportunities. You fail when you quit. You fail when you let everyone pass you by. Learn to respond and be successful in overcoming obstacles. Don’t let it hold you down. Don’t quit.

Atlas summed it all up by challenging entry level firefighters and incumbents alike: “Do your job and do what is right … always!”

 

Bob AtlasAbout the Author

Bob Atlas is the Interim Assistant Chief of EMS and training for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District in California.  He entered the fire service as a Community Fire Aide for the Milpitas Fire Department in 1996 and completed an internship with the South Santa Clara County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire in 1997. Chief Atlas has been married for 25 years to his wife Teresa. They have three children and reside in Brentwood, Calif.

 

 

Empowering Employees to Make the Right Decisions in the Workplace

Empowering Employees in the Workplace
Building a culture that allows for empowerment takes courage, commitment and vision.

Blog by Peter Dove

Shared Values Associates

My wife, Kathleen, and I recently visited my daughter Haley’s in-laws in Las Vegas. A small, spontaneous poolside party took shape so Haley went with two friends to a neighborhood chain sandwich shop for refreshments.

No one was in the shop except two employees so she went to the clerk and said, “I’d like to order 10 sandwiches to go please.”

The clerk said, “Well, that would be a party order and our policy says we need 24 hours’ notice.”

Haley, a bit puzzled at this stated the obvious; “There is no one in the store or the parking lot for that matter. There are two of you here with no orders to work on, couldn’t you just make the sandwiches”?

“You’d think so,” replied the clerk, “but that would be against our policy.”

She thought about this for a moment and said, “Well I’d like to order three sandwiches for me, would that be within the rules?”

“Certainly” replied the young and well-intentioned clerk. Her friend also ordered three sandwiches as did the third and all slept well that night knowing that the 24-hour party order rule was kept intact.

I wonder if the CEO of the chain would have slept well in his home on the east coast that night if he had known about my daughter’s experience.

Just about all companies these days say they want empowered employees, but there are some rubs.

  • Can they be trusted?
  • Will they comply with policies and procedures and what about the law?
  • What happens if they err?
  • What if they take advantage of the situation?

Empowerment is fine as long as all goes well. What happened to the last brave soul who was empowered and took a risk? The motives for empowerment are laudable: speed to market, customer service, continuous improvement, and actualization of both line and staff functions and the intrinsic motivation that results, which is the durable competitive advantage.

So how do you get people to be empowered and stay that way? It begins with the CEO and senior management framing the question and making a firm and heartfelt decision of yes or no.

Building a culture that allows for empowerment takes courage, commitment and vision because it will be a contest of wills as all change initiatives provoke.

Here is an example of a frame; it might be something like this: The keen internal vision is for all of our people to both feel and be safe in taking appropriate risks for the organization’s sake.  The expectation is for all employees to be proactive in serving the internal and external customers by using their own best judgment. 

Proper framing by the senior team is an imperative and requires much thought and conversation in order to minimize the UC’s (unintended consequences) so go slow here. So, the frame is established, now what?

All organizations have a culture. The question is this; is the culture by default or by design? The sad answer is that the culture is usually one by default. It is important to keep in mind that a corporate culture is organic, that is to say it is something grown. The fruit of the culture can be empowerment or it can be dictatorial control, it depends on the roots.

Space here does not allow for a comprehensive conversation about corporate culture design or empowerment, but here are a few main roots that must be established for empowerment to become possible.

  • Trust
  • Freedom
  • A transaction zone mindset

These three roots can only be established by and through shared values. Empowerment cannot be established by some program, mandate or announcement. One does not “brand” their way to empowerment. Which values must be institutionalized so that trust, freedom and transaction zone thinking can be established?

Employee Empowerment in the Workplace
Empowered employees are often more productive employees.

Research shows there are eight values beyond fair pay and workplace safety that must be shared by all in the organization in order to have the right culture for empowerment. Seventeen million people from 40 countries in 32 industries say this is what they need to be empowered and volunteer their hearts and minds.

The Eight Heroic Values

1. Treat others with uncompromising truth.

2. Lavish trust on your associates.

3. Mentor unselfishly.

4. Be receptive to new ideas regardless of their origin.

5. Take personal risks for the organization’s sake.

6. Give credit where it’s due.

7. Do not touch dishonest dollars.

8. Put the interests of others before our own.

Now, let’s look at the three main roots of trust, freedom and transaction zone thinking in light of shared values. Trust is the foundation of all relationships whether at work or at home.

I’ll take your orders boss, because I’m a good soldier but I won’t take your empowerment if I don’t trust you. Empowerment has to be a win for both the organization and the individual. Faced with making the choice between the right thing and the safe thing, many employees will choose the safe thing just like the clerk in the sandwich shop.

Penguins mass on the edge of the ice to force one of their number into the water to see if a leopard seal may be lurking nearby. Is it safe to risk going into the water where you work? The trust root becomes more possible when the next root is healthy and growing and that root is truth.

Have you ever had a boss that if you were to tell him or her the uncompromising truth, it could have been a career-limiting event? Most of us have. It must be safe for all regardless of station to be able to tell the unvarnished, uncompromising truth. The truth will set you free. Here are some common sense truth guidelines to establish with your people.

  1. Am I discussing the issue with the other person within 24 hours?
  2. Am I asking the other person for permission, “Is this a good time to talk?”
  3. Am I approaching the other person in a non-threatening way?
  4. Is my language simple, polite, understandable, non-apologizing and non-personal?
  5. Am I making a request of the other person and not a complaint? Is my request telling the other person how I would like it to be?

Establishing these two roots of truth and trust take time. Let’s say we have some solid trust established and difficult conversations regularly occur from line to staff and visa versa within agreed, established guidelines. An adult-to-adult environment is being established. So far so good, now for the third root to make empowerment come alive: transaction zone thinking.

Transaction zone thinking is the moment of truth. My daughter asks for 10 sandwiches and the clerk is now in the transaction zone. It’s time for a decision. Do I keep the party rule policy intact and refuse the customer, knowing full well that there is no harm to the company, community or team in making 10 sandwiches or do I seize my freedom?

Do I trust that my choice will be perceived as acting in good faith to honestly please the customer and make the 10 sandwiches? If my decision goes against me is it celebrated as a learning experience or is my freedom eroded? In the end, empowerment is about the employee feeling safe in using their own good judgment and management trusting them and giving them credit for doing so. Your choice is freedom or control.

About the Author

Peter Dove, is president of Shared Values Associates, a firm dedicated to corporate culture design. Learn more about Peter Dove at www.peterdove.com.

 

Fire Department Leadership: Nature vs. Nurture

leadership in the fire service

“Leadership is the art and science of influencing and directing people to accomplish the assigned mission. … Leadership does not equal command, but all commanders should be leaders.”

The Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1, Leadership and Force Development

We all know it when we see it. When we hear the words “leader” or “leadership,” certain people come to mind. Whether it was someone’s steadfast presence on a tense call, or maybe how they mentored a younger firefighter. We all have that sense of relief when we know a certain individual will be leading a scene. I can think of several incidents over the years where it could have gotten squirrely, very quickly, but the ICs on scene used their presence of command, the tone of their voice, their experience, and trust in their crews to beat the odds.

Where did they learn these traits?

Some people believe leaders are born while others are developed. In a recent edition of Fire Engineering Magazine, Bobby Halton discussed this theory of nature vs. nurture and the considerations of being born with a certain set of inclinations and predispositions that are the foundation for leadership.

Halton also discussed the other aspects of developing leaders, through the environments that surround us growing up. If you review the two excerpts above from the U.S. Army and the Air Force, neither statement references born vs. developed. Furthermore, it does not specifically reference rank or seniority as being a leader, but they both reference the power of influence and inspiration to achieve a goal.

Barn Boss LeadershipIn my book, Barn Boss Leadership (under review) we take the stance that leaders are developed through experiences and mentoring by wiser individuals. As we develop throughout our careers, it is the experiences (from incidents and training) that drive us to become better leaders.

It is the job of the veteran to show the way, provide opportunities and lead by example. If you are up and coming – ask for the hard assignments, take on additional responsibilities, and listen to the experience surrounding you. If you are a veteran – give those below you a chance, share your knowledge, and say yes more than no.

Mentoring is key, but it is the responsibility of the up and comer to position themselves to be mentored. This is done by positioning yourself to display your enthusiasm, motivation and desire as a student of the service.

Be safe, train hard and go mentor someone!

About the Author
Brian Ward is the chief of emergency operations for Georgia Pacific in Madison, Ga. He is also the author of Fire Engineering’s “Training Officer’s Toolbox” and the managing editor for the Training Officer’s Desk Reference. Brian serves on the ISFSI Board of Directors and is a member of the Georgia Smoke Divers. He is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Organizational Development from Columbia Southern University and is the founder of www.FireServiceSLT.com. Brian can be contacted at fireserviceslt@yahoo.com.

 

Why Firefighters Should Complete a Thorough Size-Up at Every Fire Incident

Completing Fire Incident Size-Ups
Performing a size-up during a dynamically changing event like a structure fire is essential. Information is changing so rapidly that your brain can quickly become overloaded while trying to process and comprehend information.

Blog by Richard B. Gasaway, CFO, EFO, Fire Chief (ret.)
www.samatters.com

During my fireground situational awareness classes, I talk about the process for making high-stress, high-consequence decisions. The first step in this process is initially performing a rapid size-up. When I ask participants how long they take to size-up a single-family residential dwelling fire with no exposures, the answer I get ranges anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.

Then I challenge the group why they don’t take 5 to 10 minutes to make such a critical, high-risk decision. The answer I most typically get is “Because the building will burn down.” This may be true. From the perspective of brain science, the timeframe is the same, but the explanation is much different.

Performing a rapid size-up during a dynamically changing event like a structure fire is essential. Not because the building will burn down if more time is taken (though, as I noted, that may happen). Rather, it’s because in a dynamic event, the information is changing so rapidly that your brain will quickly become overloaded trying to process and comprehend information.

Think about it this way: If I gave you a sequence of seven random two-digit numbers over the course of a thirty second period of time, and asked you to recall the fifth number in the sequence, you’d probably be able to recall it with ease.

But, if I gave you a list of seven different, random two-digit numbers numbers every 30 seconds over the course of five minutes, and then asked you to remember the 18th number I gave you, your performance would likely be abysmal. Why? Information overload. Under stress, you’ll do better when you process small amounts of information versus large amounts of information over a longer period of time.

Think back to the early decision maker of our species, the cave dweller. Their genetic encoding of how to survive in high-stress, high-consequence environments is the same genetic encoding you have in your DNA. Imagine the cave dweller is out on the daily hunt for food. A predator is fast approaching and it’s game on. The “Fight or Flight” response engages.

The cave dweller is going to have a bunch of clues and cues to process in a compressed amount of time. But there’s really only a handful of clues that are going to be important to survival, perhaps five to seven, but definitely not dozens or hundreds. And while the scene is rapidly unfolding, it’s all going to be over quickly … perhaps in 10 to 30 seconds. The size-up must be rapid and accurate. Sounds a lot like a fireground size-up, doesn’t it? Your genetic engineering is working in your favor when it comes to making an accurate, timely incident scene size-up.

The secondary size-up is as important as the primary. Again, there is a misconception the secondary size-up is to capture what may have been missed in the primary. And while this may have an element of truth, from the perspective of situational awareness, the secondary size-up serves a completely separate, yet critically important role.

The secondary size-up should take considerable more time. Two to three minutes is not out of the realm of possibility. In addition to capturing clues and cues that confirm or refute the intuition of your initial size-up, the secondary size-up is your first opportunity to develop “Level 3 Situational Awareness” and predict future events.

The ability to predict future events is a catastrophically important the skillset for a commander or company officer. To predict where the event is going, and how fast it’s going to get there, you must first understand the SPEED at which the incident is moving. And every dynamic incident scene has a speed.

The secondary size-up, conducted over a minute or two, allows you better assess the speed of the incident, as you watch conditions change over a minute or two. Armed with that information, you can now make reasonable predictions as to whether the resources you have on hand are going to be able to outmaneuver the incident based on it’s speed.

About the Author

Dr. Gasaway is widely considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and the human factors that complicate first responder decision making. In addition to his 30-plus years 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. His website, Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAMatters.com) welcomes 50,000 visitors a month from 156 countries. He can be reached via e-mail at Support@RichGasaway.com.