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Learning to Be the Boss in the Fire Service

Blog by Alan Brunacini
Retired Phoenix Fire Chief and Author of “Functional Boss Behaviors”

I’ve studied bosses, and I’ve noticed that the best predictor of behavior in an organization is to look at the way the boss behaves. Often times, however, we lose sight of the fact that the relationships between bosses and workers have a direct impact on the level of service an organization provides.

If you ask anyone who has been a boss in the fire service, they’ll probably tell you a lot of stories about the road rash they experienced trying to get it right.

But I’d be willing to bet a lot of them would say, “I wish someone had told me this.”

After 50 years in the industry, making observations and learning by experience, I’ve put together some notes on what it takes to be a boss in the fire service. These notes, which I turned into my Functional Boss Behaviors book, which is available as a course through TargetSolutions, outline a set of 10 behaviors that effectively support and assist a worker in delivering standard service and added value:

1. Workers Must Take Good Care of Customers: A great deal of our focus is on customers. These are the people who receive services from us. When we are connected to the customer, we should deliver the best possible service to the customer.

2. Bosses Must Take Good Care of Workers: The relationships inside the organization are the launching pad for how we deliver services. The behavior of the boss is the most powerful thing in our everyday environment. If bosses don’t take care of workers, how can we expect the workers to take care of Mrs. Smith?

3. Build Trust or Go Home: Trust is a basic part of any relationship and is what connects the boss to the worker and to Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith trusts us because we respond quickly, solve her problem, and we’re nice. The workers trust Boss Smith because he responds quickly, solves the problem, and has a supportive relationship with them. Bosses must foster, develop, and then refine the trust relationship inside the system in order to provide the best service outside the organization.

4. Sweat the Big Stuff: The first priority for every boss is that “everyone goes home.” The routine stuff we do is important and ensures we are ready for the tough stuff; however, the boss’s focus should be on the critical stuff that allows us to deliver service and survive that service.

5. Set the Workers Free: When we become bosses, we gain authority and power that we use to create order, deliver adequate service, and take care of the workers. One of the best things a boss can do with that authority is to empower workers to be independent and self-directed.

6. Play Your Position: Organizations essentially consist of three levels strategic, tactical and task. For the organization to be effective, each level must be independently functional and capable, AND they must be interconnected. The challenge is to knit these three levels together in a way that connects the levels to each other, but points the organization toward the customer.

7. Keep Fixin’ the System: We are always operating within a model of continuous improvement. We follow procedures to deliver service and then constantly critique what worked and what went wrong. That model is necessarily boss driven. Bosses must continually look at SOPs, training, and, most importantly, themselves to improve organizational performance.

8. Create “Loyal Disobedience/Insubordination”: The firefighters the workers have the best set of perceptions, experiences, and connections to Mrs. Smith, and often they have ideas about how to improve service. A willingness to come forward with suggestions and bad news is a mature form of organizational commitment and respect. A good boss is accessible and will help solve the problem.

9. All You Got Is All You Get (Anatomy & Physiology): Every boss has different strengths and weaknesses. A boss’s personal effectiveness is dependent on how the boss uses his very personal skills and capabilities. Small improvements can produce big time results in the boss-worker relationship.

10. Don’t Do Dumb Stuff: This is pretty straight forward, but I bet we could talk all day about the dumb stuff we’ve done or seen others do. Workers can easily identify anything the boss does that is self-serving or stupid, which can be really destructive.

I’ve never figured out how to change somebody’s attitude, but I’ve noticed if you can change someone’s behavior, their attitude will change over time. And I don’t think you do that with leadership. You do that with an online, present, conscious, engaged boss.

About the Author
Retired Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini is one of the preeminent authors and pioneers of the fire service industry. Chief Brunacini is a 1960 graduate of the Fire Protection Technology program at Oklahoma State University and he earned a degree in political science from Arizona State University in 1970. He graduated from the Urban Executives Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and received a Master of Public Administration degree from Arizona State in 1975.

Boiling Point Avoiding the Hypertensive Fallout

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

A published study by the Institute of Medicine calls attention to a national epidemic that is particularly threatening to firefighters across the globe untreated hypertension.

With cardiovascular events one of the leading causes of firefighter morbidity and mortality, unrecognized and untreated hypertension and pre-hypertension must be more aggressively diagnosed and confronted.

More than 70 million Americans suffer from hypertension while an additional 50 million more are close behind with pre-hypertension.

Hypertension contributes to nearly one-third of all cardiac events and is the leading cause of stroke and renal failure. According to the International Association of Firefighters website, 75 percent of firefighters with hypertension do not have it controlled.

The United States Fire Administration has reported in a meta-analysis of firefighter line-of-duty reports that the leading cause of fire service deaths is heart attacks, which accounts for 44 percent of all firefighter deaths.

Furthermore, a Harvard study concluded that while only 5 percent of firefighter’s time is actually spent combating fire, they are 100 times more likely to have a heart attack.

This may be attributed to the extremely psychically demanding rigors of the service and environment that firefighters operate within. This, coupled with risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, heightened cholesterol levels and a sedentary lifestyle, creates an axis of risk.

Several factors were noted that fire service members should realize. First, only 2 percent of adults receive adequate amounts of potassium. This places a higher propensity to elevated blood pressure levels. A concerted effort must be made to eat foods high in potassium.

The recommended daily intake of potassium is 3,500 milligrams. Excellent sources are fish, fruit (especially bananas, apricots, cantaloupe, and grapefruit), peas, beans, and potatoes, among other foods.

Additionally, compounding the propensity toward high-blood pressure is the over consumption of sodium. In fact, the average adult unknowingly takes in 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day when the daily recommended allowance is 2,300 mg.

This is often a byproduct of processed, canned and prepared food son top of additional table salt added to meals to enhance flavor in preparation or at the dinner table. The study also reviewed contributory factors of excess weight and its effect of hypertension. The researchers concluded that modest reductions of 10 pounds in overweight adults through diet and modest exercise would result in an 8 percent decrease in cases of hypertension.

Of course, the first step in combating hypertension or pre-hypertension is identifying it. This can only be done by routinely monitoring your own blood pressure and sharing the results with your healthcare provider.

The Institute of Medicines findings show we can’t rely on our health care professionals to solve this problem. As the commander of your own ship, it’s imperative you take an aggressive role in managing your blood pressure.

As fire service professionals, your cardiovascular risks are greater than those of the general population and as such your diligence should be greater. Hypertension is not named the silent killer without good reason ignorance is not a panacea for wellness and heath.

Make a pledge to learn your pressure, modify your risk and contributory factors, and embark on a path of prevention. Your proactive imitative can prevent you from reaching a boiling point.

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

First TargetSafety Now TargetSolutions Our Online Training Management System Makes Profound Impact on Fire Service

In the very beginning, the idea of web-based training courses replacing hands-on education was roundly rejected. Some people laughed. Some even scowled. Most just said it would never work because it was impossible to effectively deliver training through the Internet.

“People were skeptical, and understandably so,” said TargetSolutions’ CEO Jon Handy. “We were offering a significant shift in how things had always been done. I think the fact we’ve changed so many minds over the last 12 years really speaks to the quality and usefulness of our platform.”

The company was founded in 1999 as a safety training business under the name TargetSafety. Training courses were originally offered as CD-ROMs before being moved over to HTML when the Internet took ablaze. But many who voiced doubts during the early days are now believers in TargetSolutions, which features the industry’s leading and most powerful online training management system.

“We’ve always been committed to providing the very best online training possible. That’s how we made our mark in this business,” Handy said. “But over time, we’ve continued working hard at creating technology solutions that enable our clients to manage their overall organizational operation. We are focused on building applications that help fire departments do their job quicker, better and with less risk so they can track compliance and improve productivity. We never stop innovating here at TargetSolutions.”

In October of 2011, TargetSafety officially changed its name to TargetSolutions to better depict the company’s full-range of services. The reason is simple the company isn’t just web-based training anymore. As municipalities and public entities have increasingly been forced to do more with less, TargetSolutions has worked to find answers that help clients reduce costs, streamline operations and improve productivity. The name change more clearly articulates that message and resonates better with clients, according to the company’s Chief of Operations Thom Woodward.

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

One way TargetSolutions is revolutionizing the way fire departments complete mandated training is with unrivaled career-development applications. Whether it’s ISO training hours, EMT certifications, driver’s licenses, or departmental SOPs; they all need to be managed. With TargetSolutions, departments are experiencing an easier process tracking that information than ever before.

“Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome,” said Stuart Sprung, who is a fire training specialist responsible for managing Oceanside Fire Departments training program. “We knew that for the guys to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions, guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before since we’ve implemented TargetSolutions.”

In 2008, the company released Custom Activities, which is at the center of the powerful data-tracking tools enabling clients to log information on activities. In 2009, the company released Credentials Manager, which enhanced the platforms capabilities in collecting licenses, qualifications, certifications and more. Then, in late 2011, TargetSolutions’ team of talented developers completed a major overhaul of the platforms interface.

Fueled by the feedback from clients, the redesign was focused on creating a more engaging and intuitive product. During the process, the company sought advice from numerous fire departments utilizing the platform on a daily basis. It was Sarasota County Fire Departments Ken Treffinger who summed up the changes with one word: Wow!

“After seeing the new (TargetSolutions) platform, I was immediately impressed by the layout and look that it presented,” Treffinger said.” Actually, I believe my first word after seeing it was wow! The new platform offered by (TargetSolutions) is sleek, professional, and appears very user friendly. I feel the new platform will make my job easier with its convenient layout and ease of navigation it offers.”

“No matter how much easier the platform is to navigate, it still needs to provide robust applications that deliver increased operational efficiency and save organizations time and money. The company continues to deliver on that promise, according to Mark Fleming of the City of Lawrence Fire Department in Indiana.”

“We’ve saved the city a ton of money using TargetSolutions,” Fleming said. “TargetSolutions is the best decision I’ve ever made. They’ve gone a long way to assist the department and to assist me with my job. Overall, I’m totally satisfied with TargetSolutions.”

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

Clients Excited About Upgrades to TargetSolutions’ Online Training and Records Management System

In late 2011, TargetSolutions’ online training and records management system underwent a comprehensive overhaul by the company’s team of engineers. The early feedback has been extremely positive as more than 100 fire departments have moved onto the new platform over the last few months.

“The reaction has been tremendous,” said Jenny Cady Fergason, who serves as TargetSolutions’ Director of Client Services. “The clients are finding it to be more intuitive and easier to navigate. Our tech team really did a great job enhancing the platform.”

According to Fergason, clients have praised the new systems look and functionality. Administrators are benefiting from upgrades to the File Center and the new Shift Calendar, while users are finding the Notification System incredibly efficient.

“The ability to pin credentials to the top of the schedule on the home page is really simplifying the process for users,” Fergason said. “Now, when they login to the website, they immediately know where to go and what they have to do. It’s just more engaging and effective.”

Administrators are taking advantage of the ability to maneuver files inside folders in the File Center, manage their work schedule with the Shift Calendar and update their own custom logo. The upgraded platform includes the following enhancements:

Shift Calendar: Clients asked TargetSolutions for a shift calendar and we delivered. Administrators can now coordinate and display their staff’s work schedule, as well as assignments, with the new Shift Calendar application.

Notification System: Users now have a prominently displayed and eye-catching Notification System that alerts them when an assignment has become urgent and needs immediate attention.

Dashboard: Statistical data pertinent to each organization is available in the attractive new Dashboard. Administrators can easily consume and analyze their organizations progress on certain activities and assignments with this application.

Password Recovery: Statistics show that one-third of users will forget their password at some point. TargetSolutions has taken action to upgrade its password recovery process. Users are being asked to verify they have a valid e-mail address associated with their account, creating the ability to receive e-mails with password reset capability.

“We were focused on providing our clients with an upgraded, more visually attractive home page,” said TargetSolutions Director of Information Technology Alex Day. “The platform has a new look and feel. The feedback we’ve received so far has been really positive. This was one of our company’s most significant releases and we’re really proud of it. We’re also excited about continuing to build on the platform. We’re always looking ahead at ways to improve our technology and we have some big things planned in the coming months.”

The new platform also features vastly superior help documentation system. If you’re a client still operating the old system and you would like more information about switching to the upgraded platform, please contact your client services account manager at (800) 840-8048.

What Our Clients are Saying:
Ken Treffinger of Sarasota County Fire Department: After seeing the new (TargetSolutions) platform, I was immediately impressed by the layout and the look that it presented. Actually, I believe my first word after seeing it was wow! The new platform offered by (TargetSolutions) is sleek, professional, and appears very user-friendly. I feel the new platform will make my job easier with its convenient layout and the ease of navigation it offers.

Jackie Hulsey, database coordinator for Seminole County Fire/EMS Training Center: I really like the new platform! The entire look and feel of the site is clean and organized. On the home page, listing everything that’s coming due, including credentials, right up front is very helpful. I believe it has assisted lapsed memories of certain individuals on several occasions. Also, although the new notifications box is unobtrusive, the fact that its more visible when highlighted and includes notifications for several additional items makes it an added benefit to our users.

Kathy Edwards, training section lieutenant with Lake County Fire Rescue: I was thrilled to start the new application when we did. It has been an upgrade in some areas. The largest area benefiting was the File Center. The ability to move my own files within the File Center has allowed for a cleaner, more organized site.As administrator to Target Solutions, I have been able to rid our site of unnecessary items, delete unwanted items and/or non-training related items and organize our site to be more user-friendly. The new site makes it easier for users to see what is required of them, locate classes, and track their credentials.

Stuart Sprung, training specialist for Oceanside Fire Department: When TargetSolutions first came out and we started using it, it didn’t have the ability to do everything it does now. It was probably at 25 percent of how it’s functioning now. It was really kind of a CE provider. The management aspect of it was in its infancy. But over time, it has become something we use extensively. Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome. We knew that for the firefighters to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before ever since we implemented TargetSolutions.

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

The Paradoxical Commandments of Fire Service Leadership

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

It’s always good to remember what we were taught by our mentors. Listed below are The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership, which I was raised on during my early years in the fire service. These commandments of fire leadership are right on, not only for those of us in the fire service, but every profession and in all areas of life.

Here are The Paradoxical Commandments of Fire Leadership:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway!

2. If you do well, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do well anyway!

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway!

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway!

5. Honesty and frankness makes you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway!

6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!

7. People favor underdogs, but follow top dogs. Fight for the underdogs anyway!

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!

9. People really need help, but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway!

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give your best anyway!

Ironically, I was searching for something else in the office when I ran across an old text book that I utilized while going through the International Society of Fire Service Instructors Company of Development Series many years ago. One of the authors of the book, Fire Chief Dan Jones, wound up being my mentor. The book Managing People happened to fall to the floor during my search and randomly opened up to page 32 where these commandments were listed.

This just happened to be at an opportune time in my life when I was looking to clarify focus, create drive and provide sound direction for my future. These commandments were like a sign from above.

Over the past year, I’ve had many discussions with colleagues across the country about the issues and frustrations we encounter on a daily basis in the fire service. It can be depressing. And I’m sure it’s not just the fire service. The future holds so many uncertainties. I’ve watched friends with more than 25 years be laid off. We see fire stations closing, training centers shut down and good leaders cut at the knees by ram-rod political events.

I believe the book falling open to the exact page of The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership is one of those events the kind that make you say, OK, I get it!

My frustration with the fire service is like riding a roller coaster. Many issues influence my feelings. I often find myself disheartened with current events that happen routinely in our business. Thankfully, The Paradoxical Commandments, which were written in 1968 by a 19-year-old Harvard student named Kent Keith, have given me, and will continue to give me guidance.

Keith’s commandments were part of The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, his first book for high school student leaders, which can be carried over to everyone in every profession.

I laid down the Paradoxical Commandments as a challenge, Keith is quoted saying. The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.

Thank you, Mr. Keith, for your wisdom. It’s as true today as it ever was.

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

CDC Makes It Clear Vaccination Records are Your Responsibility

Blog by Katherine West
Author and consultant on infection control

In December of 2011, the Center for Disease Control published updated guidelines and recommendations regarding vaccine records. The document clearly stated that EMS personnel are indeed covered under these guidelines, stating Health-Care Personnel (HCP) might include (but not limited to) physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists, technicians, emergency medical personnel, dental personnel, pharmacists, laboratory personnel, autopsy personnel, students, trainees, contractual staff not employed by the healthcare facility.

It is very clear EMS is covered. It should also be noted that National Fire Protection Standard 1581 makes the very same statement and recommends following the CDCs recommendations.

Due to the outbreaks across the country for measles and Pertussis, it is essential that vaccination/immunization records be available to assist with prompt exposure follow up. Here are the CDCs statements:

– HICPAC and CDC have recommended that secure, preferably computerized, systems should be used to manage vaccination records for HCP so records can be retrieved easily as needed

– Each record should reflect immunity status for indicated vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as vaccinations administered during employment

Medical records belong to the individual, so it is your responsibility to request the information be sent to your department. A declination form should be signed if an individual fails to request records.

Every health-care worker should be aware of their immunity status and possible need for a preventive vaccine. Vaccination is critical to risk reduction and concern in an exposure situation.

For more information, please check online at www.ic-ec.com.

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

With TargetSolutions Life is ‘Easier’ for Oceanside Fire Department

Stuart Sprung thought he would be a firefighter forever. After working as a firefighter for 17 years for the San Francisco Fire Department, his career came to a sudden conclusion when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a work-related accident.

Because of his injuries, Sprung is no longer able to perform his old duties. But he’s still able to help other firefighters. Since 2006 he has served as the fire training specialist for the Oceanside Fire Department.

“I’m here for the guys,” said Sprung, who recently conducted a Q&A with TargetSolutions’ marketing department. “I’m here to make sure they get the training they need.”

Oceanside looks to TargetSolutions for answers to its training needs. Sprung has seen the company’s platform come a long way since signing up in 2008. He continues to be a huge proponent of the technology, but not because it’s shiny or cool, but because it’s effective and helps his firefighters complete their mission.

“The whole reason we are here is so guys can get training in the most efficient way possible,” Sprung said. “The guys are out running calls, so we have to try and make their lives easier. TargetSolutions makes everyone in our department’s life easier.”

Here is a transcript of the complete conversation on how Oceanside is benefiting from TargetSolutions online training and records management system:

Question: Please talk a little bit about how TargetSolutions helps your department?

Sprung: We have to get training out. We have to make sure it’s complied with, we have to have a way to make sure it’s getting done, and we have to keep records for it. If people miss training, how do we get that fixed? We lost people in this office, and we had to find a tool to still do what we are required by law to do. Just because were short on staff doesn’t lessen our legal obligation to fulfill our training requirements. If our doors are open for business, we have to provide the training; we have to figure out a way to get it done with what we have. TargetSolutions is key for us accomplishing that. It gave us the ability to be able to do all the things we are required to do. TargetSolutions has become an invaluable tool for us.

Question: How has the platform progressed since you started?

Sprung: When TargetSolutions first came out, and we started using it, it didn’t have the ability do everything it does now. It was probably at 25 percent of how it’s functioning now. It was really kind of a CE provider. The management aspect of it was in its infancy. But over time, it has become something we use extensively. Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome. We knew that for the firefighters to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before ever since we implemented TargetSolutions.

Question: You guys experienced budget cuts. Can you talk about how TargetSolutions helped your department make it through that?

Sprung: Over the last five years, we’ve seen our training staff cut in half. TargetSolutions has not only picked up the slack, but improved our recordkeeping from our inception all the way to now. There has never been recordkeeping as thorough and accurate as we have right now with TargetSolutions. All of our training is tracked on TargetSolutions. When those guys do hose evolutions this month on their own, it’s on them to enter training after completing the drill. It’s all tracked on TargetSolutions.

Question: What applications have helped your department the most?

Sprung: The first is Custom Activities, which we have built to allow companies to log training very simply it takes them seconds to do it with TargetSolutions. The second is the Credentials tracker. We have the unfortunate role of being the certification police for all things that are required. We learned the hard way that is something we have to take seriously. We can’t have any flexibility on that. People cannot work with an expired paramedic license or expired driver’s license. We have to have eyes on the certificates of 100 people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TargetSolutions has really helped with that.

Question: Have you ever done a cost-benefit analysis to see just how much money you are saving with TargetSolutions?

Sprung: We’ve never done a cost-benefit analysis. … But it is worth every penny. The best way I can put it, is that it’s the best money a department can spend per training hour logged.

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

A Case for Company Performance Standards

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

During the 1970s, the fire service became involved in Emergency Medical Services. Then, during the 80s, it was Hazmat. And in the 90s, it was technical rescue. After 9/11, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) became the new service everyone wanted to provide.

We trained hard and became proficient at delivering these new services. But there may have been some unintended consequences.

I recently retired as the chief of training for a large metropolitan department in Florida. The department has its fair share of fires and I noticed numerous times that critical errors related to fundamental firefighting techniques were being made.

Pulling the wrong line (too short, too long), hooking up to an intake instead of a discharge, not properly using forcible entry tools, poor ground-ladder deployment. The list goes on and on.

If this sounds familiar, read on! This is how your department can develop a low-cost training program, set performance standards, improve basic skills and have some fun in the process.

To begin with, fire chiefs must use company performance standards to measure progress. These can be internally developed standards or you can refer to NFPA 1410 (Standard on Training for Initial Emergency Scene Operations, 2010 Edition) and use it as the standard.

The bottom line is that this training must be supported from the top. All officers must get up, get out, and participate with crews.

Find out who are your strongest players. Find out who are your weakest links. And determine who your top company is so they can mentor and teach others.

Company officers must train and challenge their crews to meet or exceed standards (measured in time and accuracy). Drivers can review basic hydraulic skills, or you can develop a scenario to solve that includes a basic pumping problem.

Finally, firefighters should strive to master each task. Why? Because it is their job. Because they are the future leaders of the fire service (drivers, officers, and instructors) and they need to be capable of passing down knowledge to the newest members.

It’s better to learn these skills in the beginning of your career. They will serve you well.

Developing the plan:
1. Identify special requirements for your jurisdiction. Are there special circumstances you must consider when developing your training outlines?

2. Determine what standard you are going to follow. Is it going to be the NFPA 1410, your own, or a combination of both?

3. Develop necessary drills and use your reference materials.

4. Break down each task into a separate drill. No more than one sheet.

5. Set a time limit to complete the task or refer to NFPA 1410. This will be your performance standard for initial training.

6. Enlist some of your senior people to test the drills out (chiefs, captains, and commanding officers). This is the alpha test. Get some photographs of them in action and post them prior to having the company perform the drills. This creates buy-in. Obtain their feedback on how the drills can be improved.

7. Identify facilitators (instructors and/or mentors) and have them master the drills while troubleshooting any problems. This is the beta test. Now they are ready to begin teaching!

8. Start the drills.

9. All drills should be performed in the appropriate PPE. You are trying to get crews comfortable in their gear when operating at the scene of an emergency. It also will assist in acclimatizing personnel for inclement weather. Do not forget rehab!

10. Have each company pair up with another company in an adjoining district to practice and master the drills. Your facilitator, company officer, or chief should set up these training sessions. If meeting on the line between districts, keep one unit in service for response or use a reserve apparatus.

11. Have your mentors and/or instructors meet during regular intervals to review the training and teaching points. This is continuous quality improvement.

12. Publish each company’s drill times in a public area (the TargetSolutions platform is a great tool for this). This builds pride and competitiveness.

13. Document and share lessons learned. Explore new ideas and techniques.

14. Once all of the training is completed, develop the department performance standard and demand each company meet it. Require monthly training on the standards then supervisors should quarterly spot-check and regulate annual performance standard testing.

You will see dramatic improvement in basic skills if you use this approach. I sure did!

About the Author
Bill Sturgeon is a retired division chief of training for the Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida. Sturgeon was a 30-year veteran of the United States Fire Service. During his career, he served as a volunteer, military, municipal, and county firefighter and held many positions, including paramedic, EMS supervisor, company officer (special operations), safety officer, battalion chief, assistant chief and division chief. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy.

Celebrate Your Department’s Legacy

Blog by Battalion Chief Chris Hubbard
Hanover Fire & EMS Training Academy

I liken it to Tom Brokaw’s bestselling novel The Greatest Generation. That sparsely populated group of remarkable individuals who left a footprint on our profession without even knowing. You know whom I’m talking about. The old-timers. The ones who don’t come around quite as often anymore and take with them the tale of your department’s journey.

With their departure comes a lack of knowledge for the legacy of our fire service. We are left scrambling to put the pieces of the puzzle together and celebrate the impact they’ve had on today’s generation of firefighters.

As a battalion chief in the Hanover Fire & EMS Department in Virginia, I recognize a need to educate tomorrow’s industry professionals on the history and the legacy of the department. While the importance of fire behavior, streams, ladders and EMS skills are essential to the development of a firefighter, so too is the passing on of our history.

The past is a direct reflection of who we are as a department. The vision and mission is directly impacted by individuals who painted the canvas of our department and the footpath for those who will take ownership of it.

To tackle the lack of knowledge and respect for past generations – and their influence on the department – our training division established a program that both honors our veterans in the department and delivers an invaluable learning experience to the fire academy recruits.

Life members of the Hanover Fire & EMS Department were assigned to current academy students with an expectation to personally interview them. The result was to provide the students with a deeper understanding for the decades of services by the life members, as well as the history of the station. The students were held responsible for presenting their research in both a written report as well as an oral presentation to fellow recruits.

The challenge for today’s training department is providing quality programs on a tight budget. But at little to no cost, a similarly designed program will re-energize both the new recruits and officers alike. It engages that dwindling generation of fire service professionals and calls home the importance of celebrating our past to develop our future.

What are you and your organization doing to capture the history and legacy of your organization? Capture it now before its gone forever!

TargetSolutions Helps City of Lawrence Fire Department with Recordkeeping Challenges

One of Mark Fleming’s first initiatives after being promoted last year to Division Chief of EMS for the City of Lawrence Fire Department was finding a solution for the organizations recordkeeping challenges. The department had already signed up with TargetSolutions in 2009, but was not yet capitalizing on all of the platforms capabilities.

Fleming quickly changed that.

“We already had a membership with TargetSafety (now called TargetSolutions) at the time,” Fleming said recently during an interview to discuss the powerful online training and records management system. “The more I learned about it, the more I saw it could do. I learned there was a whole lot more we could use it for.”

The platform was originally intended to keep the townships personnel in accordance with mandated training requirements while doing it in a flexible, convenient web-based format that keeps staff members in their districts serving citizens rather than attending expensive, instructor-led training sessions. But Fleming soon learned TargetSolutions was the answer to his entire list of training needs; things like recordkeeping, reporting, and disseminating critical information to personnel.

“I (now) use every single thing TargetSolutions offers,” Fleming said. “From Web Events, to Reports Manager, if we have a new directive out, we put it on TargetSolutions as a mandatory read and it gets communicated to everyone. I don’t think there’s an aspect that I haven’t used. I’m a huge fan.

Simplifying his department’s recordkeeping practices was the biggie for Fleming. When he needs to pull a report to see how many hours his personnel have in EMS training, or some other topic, it’s all at his fingertips.

It saves me a lot of time, said Fleming, whose department serves approximately 46,000 citizens with 118 firefighters on the TargetSolutions system.

Fleming and the Lawrence FDs fire chief Dave Batalis recently participated in an in-depth interview on how TargetSolutions online training and records management system is benefiting their organization. Here are the transcripts of their comments:

Mark Fleming, Division Chief of EMS, City of Lawrence Fire Department

Question: How is TargetSolutions different from other systems you’ve considered?

Fleming: They really paid a lot of attention to us as far as customer service, by showing us new products and helping expand on the products we already have. The representatives really went all-out to explain all the ways we could use the system. And while were using the system, we can call them up and there’s usually someone there to answer questions. If they need to get back to me, it’s same day.

Question: How has TargetSolutions helped your business?

Fleming: Recordkeeping is the biggie. I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to records. It makes it so much easier for me to pull a report and see exactly how many hours they have in EMS training or exactly how many hours they have in Special Ops training. It saves me a lot of time.

Question: What application inside the platform has been most beneficial to your department?

Fleming: The recordkeeping and the Web Events. The Web Events was a new part when I took over; it allows us to do in-house training for example. I can sit at the training academy and host a class, and say it snowed and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground, the guys can sit and watch the training at their firehouses. It saves us time, saves us money for vehicles moving back and forth across the city. There are a lot of features there that have helped us.

Question: How effective is the auditing process for completed training?

Fleming: That’s one of the best features of (the platform). I can pull a report and verify that they have done the training. We require the officers to do the entries and once the officer does the entry, I know it’s on TargetSolutions. The training is complete and has been verified by a supervisor and that actually helps me in my recordkeeping, as far as auditing my version. If the state were to come in, they could pull my records and see that (our personnel) have done all the required trainings.

Question: Are there any major accomplishments that you can attribute to TargetSolutions?

Fleming: Just improvements in training. I know we’ve saved the city a ton of money in gas and maintenance, things like that. TargetSolutions is the best decision I’ve ever made. They’ve gone a long way to assist the department and to assist me with my job. Overall, I’m totally satisfied with TargetSolutions. Our representative really helped me to expand the services that we use to help me with my recordkeeping. It takes me five minutes to verify training for somebody, where before it could take hours. If it’s on our TargetSolutions system, we’re good.

Dino Batalis, Fire Chief, City of Lawrence Fire Department

Question: How has Target Solutions benefited your department?

Batalis: TargetSolutions has been very popular around this fire department. It serves a lot of purposes. It’s easy access for firefighters. We’ve been able to access training and leave equipment in their firehouses to protect the districts. This is especially important for EMS runs, for fire runs. Instead of bringing everyone to a central location, we’re able to leave firefighters and ambulances in their respective locations and watch the telecast live (through Web Events). It’s also about getting the training or message out to the whole shift and keeping the apparatus to better serve the citizens.

Question: How has TargetSolutions impacted your bottom line?

Batalis: I don’t have the exact figures, but there have been cost savings with the fuel, going to and from trainings. I don’t think you can put a value on quick response, if these vehicles are able to stay in their districts; the response time is much quicker than having to travel from a central location. Cost savings, definitely, but time, effort, support, things that we can’t put a number on, all the way to quicker response time to the people we serve.

Question: Do you use the entire platform now to its full potential?

Batalis: We use pretty much everything TargetSolutions puts out there. The great tool for supervisors is that it notifies us when assignments aren’t done. It also allows us to send out directives firefighters are given a certain amount of time to get them back in, if they are not, supervisors are notified, so it’s a good tracking method on who has done what. I use it every day and it makes the day-to-day business much more fluid.

Question: What application is your department benefiting from the most and why?

Batalis: The training. It fits our needs as far as the time element. If the firefighters are in the middle of training and they need to make a run, they can stop it and go back to it. I like the ability to start and stop. Once they complete their training with TargetSolutions, their chief, EMS or fire chief, immediately transfers that into their personnel file. It’s a very modern way of keeping track of the training they’ve had, what they’ve completed and what they still need to do and how long it takes them to do it.

Question: What would you say about your overall experience with TargetSolutions?

Batalis: Fantastic. It’s made our jobs much easier. One of the hardest things is to go back and follow is a paper trail. This makes it easy to go back, check certifications, past training, what they’ve completed. It even has come in handy for discipline, now we’ve got a record of a person not completing assignments. It’s all recorded. It’s good documentation.

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