Technology with a Purpose
Menu

Blogs

Building a Culture of Safety

Blog by Tim Holman
Chief, German Township Fire & EMS, Clark County, Ohio

The fire service continues to lose approximately 100 firefighters each year. Many steps have been suggested to reduce the number of fatalities. Things such as Rapid Intervention Teams, Emergency Driving Courses, Reading Smoke and other valuable classes have been developed. Unfortunately, until fire departments make safety part of the everyday culture, the firefighter death rate is unlikely to change.

Every organization has a culture. The culture of an organization is related to the environment of the department. Some environments are positive and some are negative. The culture defines how the firefighter operates on a daily basis. The culture is established by the chief officers. Developing a culture of safety requires several steps:

Step 1: Leadership
The leaders of the organization must promote safety from the top down. The leaders walk their talk. They set the example. The chief officers talk about safety and the follow the rules that have been established. I recently witnessed an assistant chief at the scene of a working house fire on the roof operating a ventilation saw wearing no turnout gear. In addition, he had not deployed a roof ladder. What message did he send to his firefighters? It should be no surprise that many of the firefighters at this scene were not wearing gloves, helmets and eye protection. This is a prime example of a poor safety culture and it started with the leadership.

Step 2: Training
The old saying, Train like your life depends on it is exactly what every fighter should do. Do you cut corners during training? Are safety rules followed and enforced during training? Are the leaders participating in training evolutions?

Training is what prepares the firefighter for battle. It should be taken seriously and it should represent real-life situations as much as possible. Training evolutions should be well thought out and planned in advance. During the training session and following training, everyone should come together and safety concerns should be reviewed.

Step 3: Accountability
True accountability is not punishment. True accountability is a mindset of I can’t do my job if you fail to do your job. Everyone must be accountable to each other. This concept is even more important when it comes to safety. Firefighters must watch out for each other. They must correct unsafe actions when they occur. This is not just the officers job this is every firefighters responsibility.

If a firefighter is injured on the fire grounds a minimum of three firefighters are taken out of service, the injured firefighter plus two firefighters to care for him. In addition, the mental and emotional element of fellow firefighters is impacted and they become less effective.

So when does accountability become punitive? When a firefighter repeatedly drops the ball and fails to do what they are supposed to do. In the past it has always been the officers responsibility to hold firefighters accountable. Today, if we are to change the death and injury rate, everyone should be responsible for holding each other accountable.

Step 4: Attitude
Once again the leaders set the tone for the attitude in the organization. If the leaders have an apathetic attitude toward safety they cannot expect the firefighter to have a positive attitude. Negative attitudes need to be addressed quickly and effectively. If the leadership allows negativity, it will spread like a cancer throughout the organization.

Bad attitudes lead to poor morale. Organizations with poor morale tend to have a higher probability of firefighter injury. This is due to the fact that if morale is low, the firefighter is not focused on the right things. Firefighters become depressed and stress levels increase, which is a true formula for careless behavior that can lead to tragedy.

Step 5: Expectations
Every firefighter should understand what is expected of them both on and off the emergency scene. What behavior is tolerated and is not acceptable? Clear expectations allow firefighters to function more effectively.

Step 6: Integrated Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedure must support the previous five steps. When developing policies it is important to make sure the policy can be policed. Many policies look good on paper but may not be practical in implementing or enforcing. Policies must set firm standards and be fair to the firefighter.

A culture of safety starts with an organization’s leadership. Once this culture is established, safety becomes a way of life because it is being lived out by the firefighters each and every day.

About the Author
Tim Holman is a seminar speaker who has conducted programs throughout the United States. Holman speaks and trains on a variety of business, fire and EMS management and leadership issues. Holman specializes in providing fire and EMS officer development programs. Holman was the Fire Chief magazine “Fire Chief of the Year” for 2002. He has also been appointed to the commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. For more information on Holman, please check online at www.holmantraining.com.

New Look New Feel TargetSafety is Revamping Its Online Training and Records Management Platform

You may have heard TargetSafety will be changing its name to TargetSolutions later this year to better reflect its services. But the name isn’t the only thing the company is refining.

TargetSafety’s online training and records management system is undergoing a comprehensive overhaul by the company’s team of engineers. The upgraded platform will be made available to fire departments starting in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fueled by the feedback from clients, the redesign is focused on creating a more engaging and intuitive product. The upgrades exhibit the company’s overall objective to develop cutting-edge technology that brings operational innovation to clients.

“The engineering team here at TargetSafety is very excited for the feature release this fall,” said Alex Day, the company’s Director of Information Technology. This project addresses the need to provide new and exciting applications to our users coupled with improvements to the existing applications. We are also introducing a new look and feel throughout the platform aimed at providing an easier-to-use product that is also easier on the eyes. This is one of the biggest launches in TargetSafety’s history and we are proud to be a part of it.

In addition to a much cleaner interface with more intelligent navigation catered specifically for the fire service, the platform will include several new features and numerous enhancements.

Shift Calendar: Clients asked TargetSafety for a shift calendar and we listened. The fall release will enable administrators to coordinate and display their staff’s work schedules, as well as assignments, with the new Shift Calendar application.

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

Dashboard: Statistical data pertinent to each organization will be made available in the attractive new Dashboard. Administrators will be able to 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. TargetSafety has taken action to upgrade its password recovery process. Users will need to verify they have a valid e-mail address associated with their account, creating the ability to receive e-mails with password reset capability.

The new platform will also feature a vastly superior help documentation system, as well as several other innovative features, including the ability for administrators to prioritize assignments, and much more.

At the end of the day, however, users will be most thrilled with the new interface that makes it easier to navigate throughout the website.

“We stepped back and realized that we had been adding to our course offering for the past 12 years, but hadn’t really done much to improve the delivery method,” said Jon Kostyzak, the company’s Director of Sales. “The technology is so far beyond when we started in 1999 that it just made sense to take a hard look at the platform and really update the user experience.”

During the redesign process, the company sought advice from numerous fire departments that utilize the platform on a daily basis. It was Sarasota County Fire Department’s Ken Treffinger who summed up the new platform with one word: Wow!

“After seeing the new TargetSafety platform, I was immediately impressed by the layout and the look that it presented,” Treffinger said. “Actually, I believe my first word after seeing it was wow! The new platform offered by TargetSafety 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.”

About TargetSafety
TargetSafety 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.

iPhone CPR App Helps Save Lives

Having used TargetSafety’s PreventionLink platform for more than five years now, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is no stranger to innovative technology.

The Districts Fire Chief Richard Price has watched how hi-tech advances like online training have boosted his staff’s operations, so he’s constantly searching for more ground-breaking solutions.

Even while dining out.

“I was at lunch at a deli when I heard a siren and saw a truck on the street pull into the deli,” said Price, who was describing what led to the District creating a revolutionary new iPhone application that empowers everyday citizens to provide life-saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

“Here I am on duty, in uniform, and crews are responding to a cardiac emergency right next door. As fire chief, I carry a pager, but I’m not notified of every single medical emergency. But this one was right next door to where I was. We just thought that we need to find a way to do something. That was the genesis of this project.”

The iPhone CPR app, which was released in January and is free to download, gives users trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) alert notification when someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency. The application uses sophisticated GPS technology to inform users when an emergency is happening at a particular location. It also directs users to the closest available automated external defibrillator (AED).

“The creation and deployment of a smartphone application that notifies trained bystanders of nearby cardiac arrest events completely redefines the traditional meaning of a witnessed arrest by expanding awareness over a much broader area,” Price said. “Providing actionable, real-time information during a sudden cardiac arrest emergency, including mapping the victim and rescuer locations, along with the nearest AED locations, is the quintessential use of GPS technology on a mobile phone today.”

Time is incredibly precious during cardiac arrest and Price knows every second counts. In fact, survival rates nationally are less than 8 percent and brain death begins in just four to six minutes. “Considering emergency medical service responses averages more than seven minutes and nearly 300,000 people die each year in this country from cardiac arrest San Ramon Valley’s application can be incredibly useful for all departments,” Price said.

“The application is built specifically for the San Ramon Valley area in Northern California, but is capable of working in other locations,” he said. In fact, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White announced plans to implement the application later this year for the San Francisco Fire Department, which handled 356 cardiac arrest cases last year nearly one a day.

“The District will share tools to allow other public safety agencies to deploy the application at no cost in their community,” said Price, whose District has started a foundation dedicated to helping other departments utilize the application.

“Although it was pioneered here, the value of this application is far too important to society to not ambitiously share it with other communities around the globe,” he said.

The District, which serves a population hovering around 170,000, tested the application for six months preceding its release and pushed more than 600,000 notifications during the trial period. Clearly, quality technology is something Price knows can pay a huge dividend including his Districts utilization of PreventionLink.

“TargetSolutions is a component of our overall technology strategy and it’s been a very efficient way to deliver training content,” Price said. “We think technology like the iPhone app and PreventionLink can make a big difference and we are definitely trying to use technology in unique ways throughout our organization.”

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.

ISFSI Members Finding Value in TargetSolutions’ Community Resources

Some things go together perfectly. Take TargetSolutions’ Community Resources application and members of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, for example.

ISFSI has utilized the robust application more than any other group on TargetSolutions’ platform, which makes total sense. After all, Community Resources has been called Google on steroids for the fire service, making it ideal for fire instructors looking to beef up their training programs.

Community Resources is a way for instructors to network and share information, ISFSI President Eddie Buchanan said. “If there is a program they have done that they are proud of, they can put it out there for everyone to use. They can also look at what others have done for some help. It’s really a great way to share in a community setting.”

TargetSolutions first introduced Community Resources in 2009, and the application has been a hit with ISFSI and other groups ever since. Users from ISFSI’s Members Only PreventionLink Connect website have downloaded more than 1,200 resources to help with their instruction, and that’s nearly 300 more downloads than the second-most active user, Cal Fire Riverside County.

Community Resources gives users access to training presentations, educational videos, inspection forms and other compliance management and loss control documents that help departments develop custom training and compliance programs at a fraction of the cost it would take to create from scratch. “I like to keep my training fresh, relevant and interesting,” said Charles Collins, who is a battalion chief for Estero Fire Rescue in Florida. “I have been the bored student listening to training presentations that are re-runs or outdated, as well as the unimaginative drills where we just go through the motions or pencil whip the training. I do not want to have that type of training with my name on it. For those reasons, I am continuously looking for examples, ideas, PowerPoints, lesson plans, etc. that aid me in creating my programs.”

“With time and resources so tight these days, it makes no sense for trainers to recreate the wheel,” Collins added.

“I look to my peers for their ideas and I share mine as well,” he said. “I will be uploading several more items very soon to the Community Resources (application) that I have created recently. These types of resources are vital to our mission in the fire service.” Two of the most well-received resources available right now are San Diego Fire and Rescue Departments SDFD Ventilation Training, a PowerPoint, and Ventilation Skills, a video produced by the department. The two resources each have an outstanding 4star rating (out of five) and have been viewed more than 4,500 times combined.

SDFD’s resources are well organized with clear learning objectives, according to Jim Bryla, the chief of the Training Division for the Roseville Fire Department in California. The information is practical and provides a good foundation for manipulative training, he added.

While SDFD’s ventilation resources have been smash hits for TargetSolutions’ entire network of users, 10-1 HYDRAULICS, which was uploaded by Craig Kodat of the Riverside Fire Department, has been viewed more than any other resource by ISFSIs users.

With such a powerful search engine, however, users can easily locate the topics they are seeking.

“The search engine is helpful if you go into it looking for a certain topic, like forcible entry, or something, you will find material in there,” said Wes Djuplin, who is a firefighter/instructor with the Kenosha Fire Department in Wisconsin.

Brian Ward of the Gwinnett County (Ga.) Fire Department has been an active user of the application since its inception. Ward has uploaded numerous resources, but he’s especially fond of the Tactical Decision Games resources that were recently uploaded.

“Those resources are Word documents with a picture, a paragraph with a question, and a time limit that can be done at the kitchen table,” Ward said. “It’s good to test and see if guys can process the situation with a time limit, because if they can’t perform with a hard time limit in that setting, you know it’s something that needs to be reviewed before it happens in the field.”

With such a tremendous tool for finding material to help with teaching and keeping firefighters prepared for duty, it’s no wonder TargetSolutions’ clients are benefiting greatly from Community Resources, Buchanan said.

“I think firefighters are just very resourceful and when something benefits them they’ll try to find a way to put it to good use,” Buchanan said.

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.