Should candidate Fire Officers be required to face a Kobayashi Maru style exercise?
For the Trekkies out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For everyone else; The Kobayashi Maru, also known as the No-Win scenario, is a fictional test given to cadets attending Starfleet Academy in the popular science-fiction series, Star Trek.
The exercise involves a realistic simulator that mimics the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The cadet is acting as Captain of the Starship and is tested on his/her decision-making abilities under pressure situations.
The Kobayashi Maru is the name of a Fuel Carrier with 300 crew-members aboard. The Carrier is sending a distress signal after sustaining heavy damage from hitting a mine in the Klingon Neutral Zone. The cadet has the ability to save the crew of the Kobayashi Maru, but in order to achieve that they have break a treaty, which triggers the arrival of three Klingon warships. It’s a “No-Win” scenario because it’s programmed-design makes it impossible for the cadet to simultaneously rescue the crew of the Kobayashi Maru while avoiding a skirmish with the Klingons and still get out alive. The cadet has the moral dilemma of breaking an interstellar treaty with a hostile force to save the 300-person crew at their own possible demise or sit and watch them perish from the safety of their ship. Either way, people die and it’s not possible for there to be a positive outcome.
The idea of the exercise is to provide prospective Starfleet Captains with a scenario that is designed to have no winnable solution. In essence, you are expected to fail but it allows you to decide, or at least have some control over, exactly how you fail. The objective is to subject the cadet to a stressful scenario that will test their ability to process life and death moral dilemmas. The end result of the test is irrelevant. The test itself is intended to judge the character of the prospective Captain who would be expected to make these difficult decisions if promoted. In this case, it’s the thought behind the Captain’s decision that holds the most weight, and frankly, there isn’t a defined passing or failing thought process. It’s a pure judgment of character.
Captain Kirk didn’t believe in the “No-Win” scenario. He actually had to cheat the test by reprogramming it in order to win during his third attempt.
Should Fire Officers be required to face a “No-Win” scenario before becoming certified or labeled qualified? I think they should. The Kobayashi Maru is a solid way to measure one’s decision-making abilities when faced with a barrage of obstacles.
In 2008 I had the privilege of taking Fire Officer II at the Connecticut(CT) Fire Academy (CFA) located on the backside of Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. I say privilege because I’ve previously attended fire certification classes at TEEX and likewise Alabama Fire College(AFC); I can say without question that Connecticut runs a very progressive Fire Academy and I feel as if the curriculum is light-years ahead of their counterparts. Not to say TEEX and AFC are bad schools by any stretch, the education I received at both was top notch and the instructors were incredibly knowledgeable. However with that said, at the end of CFA’s Fire Officer II class was a simulated practical that mimicked the intention of a Kobayashi Maru.
As I recall, one of the scenarios was a 2 or 3 story brick nursing home that had been renovated a few times. There were water supply issues, rescue challenges, manpower and mutual delays, as well as bizarre construction features. It didn’t matter what decision I made, there was always an obstacle or a reactionary problem from my command decisions. It was nerve-racking to say the least and my mind was racing a mile a minute. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get ahead of the scenario. It was frustrating and pushed the limits of my incident command abilities as well as my emotional intelligence.
CFA’s Kobayashi Maru had a panel of 3-5 well-experienced and knowledgeable Chiefs, hand-picked, from a few of the larger cities in the area. It was an intimidating group for this young up-and-comer and you knew you were on stage. The panel would constantly question my thought process but never elude to whether I was doing well or failing miserably. After making a command decision, all five heads would turn down towards their notepads and they would begin writing feverishly. The large screen in front of me projected the simulation. This was only a simulated incident, but you could definitely feel the heat.
I realized years later while completing my Bachelors degree that Connecticut’s Kobayashi Maru style exercise was meant to test my resolve and my ability to make appropriate decisions under pressure. Decisions that I was required to reasonably justify in front of a panel of experts. I am thankful to have had that experience and I’ve never forgotten it. It was clearly evident that the Connecticut Fire Academy takes the task of training it’s Fire Officers very seriously and rightly so.
I’m not sure if the CFA still provides Kobayashi Maru style simulated incident command practical evaluations, but I hope they do, it was valuable and eye opening.
I firmly believe it should be a requirement for Fire Officer candidates to undergo a Kobayashi Maru in order to evaluate their ability to make decisions appropriate for the situation. It also provides valuable educational insight if they are ever faced with an incident of that magnitude. The practical itself, although a test, turned into an incredibly valuable learning experience.
I firmly believe that having to demonstrate your ability to lead a rapidly evolving and risky incident prior to becoming a fire officer is imperative to upholding the responsibility of possibly having to lead people to their potential, even if unintended, deaths. Your thought process and decision making abilities should be put in the hot seat and scrutinized. It’s an awful large responsibility and a heavy weight to carry if you think about it too much.
Of course and as always, aside from the Kobayashi Maru, general on the job experience and performance evaluations of prospective leaders will develop the necessary skills that successfully lead firefighters into battle. Over the course of working shift together, everyone gets the general sense of how you process information. Firefighters should be able to anticipate the decisions of their leaders most of the time.
The way most of us learn to command an incident is by taking ques from the white helmets we work for. Firefighters soak up experience throughout their careers which helps prepare them to face Kobayashi Maru type incidents. But shouldn’t that experience be put to the test before they are faced with making those decisions?
Does you’re State, academy, or department require a Kobayashi Maru?
Definition: Kobayashi means “small forest.” Maru is a common suffix for Japanese seafaring vessels. Maru by itself means “circle”.
When people think about the term 1%er (one percent-er) they usually think it’s something negative. The 1% is often thought of as outlaws and law breakers. In the fire service I would say the 1% is a good thing.
To me, the 1%er is a Firefighter, Engineer or Captain who is all-in and does the right thing even when it’s not the popular thing. The 1%er is the person who has pride, honor and integrity.
When the economy was good, fire departments would send personnel to classes on the department dime in hopes they would return and pass on the knowledge learned. With the economic decline and with decreased budgets that type of training funding has stopped. So with more firefighters having to foot-the-bill for additional training from outside the department there has been a major backslide in people taking classes, except for one group, the 1%er’s. This is the group that will go out and take classes to better themselves, their crew and their department. The 1%er’s are often looked down on, made fun of and even harassed sometimes. Does this happen because the non 1%er’s or the 99% are jealous? Do they just not get it? If it’s because they don’t get it, then it’s our responsibility to make sure they do get it and pass on the passion. If they are jealous, then hopefully someday they will step up and join us.
I have attended and instructed a lot of classes and it never fails that at least once during the class I will hear, “well my department made me come” or “I don’t want to be here but the department said I had to come”. These people are not part of the 1%, they are the exact opposite. These are the ones who will harass you for taking a nozzle/hose class, tech rescue class, a forcible entry class, etc. These are also the ones who will ask, “do I get a cert from the class” and if the answer is no then their response is “I am not going if I don’t get a cert”. These are the individuals that I call the certification firefighter. Now don’t get me wrong, certifications are important and needed in the fire service but if you are not willing to take a non-cert class to help better yourself, your crew, and department then maybe you should reevaluate your profession. Is it always easy to spend your own hard earned money to get out there and learn, no it’s not, but, you never know when you’ll learn a skill that could make all the difference.
The 1%er is all about pride, honor and integrity. I am sure this article will stir some discussion both good and bad, and hopefully everyone who reads this will take a look at themselves and evaluate if they are a 1%er or not. If you are a 1%er then keep doing what you are doing it will make a difference and if you are not then please don’t criticize those who are.
This is a review the HexArmor Elite EXT Rescue extrication gloves. The gloves arrived on a Monday November 10th, 2014 and immediately went into service. First impression: Glove size is true to fit. I usually wear an XL but requested a large just to be safe so as to make sure they weren’t too big. The large is a little snug on me but they’ll stretch and form with work and sweat. The back of the hand on the glove is well protected with rubber, almost skeleton in appearance, is designed for finger and knuckle protection. The dexterity is great. I was able to retrieve an ink pen from a concrete driveway as well as a quarter. The gloves have red patches, of what can only be identified as cut resistant material. These patches are sewn palm side on the tips of your four fingers and the complete palm including the thumb web. The cuff has an elastic material keeping debris from entering your glove as you work. It goes on a little tight for the ease of rapid donning but after I wear them in a bit it may loosen some. There does appear to be some reflective material added to the outer edge of the rubber knuckle protection and the wrist area. It doesn’t appear to be there for much more than cosmetics.
Use: The HexArmor gloves were used for minor tasks like loading hose and equipment into the trucks for a few shifts before I attended a weekend long extrication class. They were worn during all stabilization and cutting scenarios for 2 days totaling approximately 12 hrs total time.
Conclusion: During the 12 hours of extrication the HexArmor Elite EXT gloves held up great! They still look almost new. The dexterity is amazing, allowing for operations to be handled easily without the bulk of other gloves. The “Hex – Skeleton” rubber along the knuckles and back of the hand is tough and very protective. The red cut resistant material in the palms withstood glass and sharp metal with ease. While my gloves were brand new at the class, a simple glance around at the other firefighters in the same class proved that HexArmor gloves is a go to brand for comfort and durability. There were many other firefighters wearing the same model glove as well as other HexArmor models.
Product description from the company website found here http://www.HexArmor.com SuperFabric® brand material palm provides ISEA Level 5 cut resistance and maintains the highest level of protection available in the industry. Durable TP-X® palm and fingertip reinforcement utilizes the highest-level of abrasion resistance while maintaining an oil-resistant grip. Superior back-of-hand impact protection system utilizes an advanced design to dissipate forceful blows over a large area. Exterior and interior seams implement a double stitched core-spun thread, adding further durability and longevity. Reinforced index finger and thumb saddle extends glove life. SlipFit® and anti-debris cuff assists a quick on and off between tasks. Hi-Vis color scheme increases visual awareness. Machine wash.
Most volunteer fire stations have one. You know that one guy? He’s usually found wearing EMS uniform pants with trauma sheers, maybe a roll of medical tape, sporting a fire t-shirt while strolling Walmart’s auto section. He’s equipped with a duty-belt containing a mounted medical glove pouch, CPR mask key-chain, several Minitor pagers, a scanner, mini-Maglite, rescue knife with window punch and… you get the picture. He’s a walking Fire Store catalog.
He’s, sometimes, known to spout off NFPA codes, fire truck specifications, pump calculations and he knows everything there is to know about fighting fires and saving lives. But it’s likely this guy has done little of either. I know you’re aware of the type. This guy is lovingly, and ill-fatedly referred to as Ricky Rescue but may also answer to “Whacker,” “Yahoo,” and the transverse “Rescue Ricky.”
Believe it or not, it takes a special person to be Ricky Rescue. It’s not for everyone, but they fill an important void among people of our kind. Ricky Rescue is usually young and a little green with an over-enthusiastic affinity for firefighting. Ricky possesses the kind of enthusiasm we wish all of our firefighters had for the job but yet he lacks the humbleness of not flaunting the image and ultimately causing eye rolls. Ricky Rescue strongly values the public’s ability to immediately recognize him as a firefighter, and not just any firefighter…the best firefighter there ever was.
There is a sad psychological story that is playing out in the life and mind of Ricky Rescue, and perhaps I’ll cover that in a Part II, but for now… What do we do with him?
I’ve witnessed several of these characters throughout my career, and I’ve noticed avoidance among officer’s to manage these folks. Most leadership tactics I’ve witnessed involve suppressing these individuals, poking fun at them, holding them back from doing things, ignoring them, and basically trying to make them go away. Let’s face it, more often than not Ricky Rescue’s energy level is higher than most people can tolerate.
The short answer is to lean into them instead of shying away. Ricky Rescue needs a patient mentor, but one who will give him a long leash. Ricky Rescue has loads of enthusiasm, spirit, and energy so why not put that to good use? Giving Ricky individual tasks such as polishing everything or simple fire service research may not be enough. Task Ricky Rescue to the hilt. Give him a project or make him responsible for something and see what he does with it. I’m willing to bet Ricky will surprise you. You could make Ricky in charge of chrome, or have him research new extrication tools and present his findings. Ricky would probably love to update the district maps and is dying to help you organize your filing cabinet. If your inbox is stacked with things that can be outsourced why not give them to Ricky. If his product isn’t good enough to use, then coach him a little or don’t use it at all. Would you like to start plugging away at NFPA 1500, Ricky?
I know what you may be thinking here. “This is pretty cruel.” But I know from experience this method is a win-win. A Ricky Rescue needs to be kept busy. The busier he is, the less trouble he is causing or, the less he is annoying everyone. This works because Ricky gets to be a part of the successful operation of the fire department by actually having responsibility. It’s likely that nobody has ever trusted him with anything. This leadership tactic will help Ricky mature as well as fill him with a sense of much needed prideful satisfaction in that he’s actually helping. Ricky will be so elated about being a part of the operation that he wouldn’t dare give you anything less than his best.
Bear in mind, this tactic only works with a long leash. Give him a project and a brief explanation of what you want the outcome to look like and let him run with it. Allow Ricky to work through the particulars in his own way, you’ll be less frustrated, and he will feel like he’s trusted.
There are a few Ricky Rescues that are merely in it for the T-Shirt. These folks will give themselves away pretty quick. If the work your Ricky Rescue is giving you happens to be less than acceptable or he is slacking, perhaps you have a dud. A dud Ricky Rescue takes a lot of work, and in the end, you can only polish a turd so much.
All-in-all Ricky Rescue needs strong coaching, mentoring, and peer assistance. Turning your Ricky Rescue into a useful member of your department is a thoughtful process and one that takes a little planning but in the end, it’s worth it!
One thing that everyone in the fire service needs is pride, and the best part is… it’s free and it’s inside everyone. Some take pride in their wealth, success, rank, etc. Have you ever walked into a firehouse and seen bare walls and ask yourself why there are no pictures oranything showing the history of the department. There’s a good chance that there is a lack of pride in that station. It is also a slight possibility that the administration or powers that be don’t want things on the walls but I highly doubt it. Pride is all about putting pictures on the wall, whether it is pictures of incidents, events, pictures of personnel or inspirational posters. Another great idea is hanging old department equipment on the walls, find an old pike pole, clean it up, make it look good, and hang it up. Find an old hydrant from your district, paint it up and display it in the corner. If your firehouse has bare walls ask if you can do some research and find some meaningful things to hang on the wall. Take pictures of the crews after calls, trainings and community events.
As firefighters we need to take pride in the job, our equipment, our department and ourselves. If you don’t care what your duty boots look like then I can guarantee that the rest of your uniform reflects your boots. If you don’t take pride in yourself then I bet your apparatus is dirty and not taken care of very welleither. We need to take pride in every aspect of our job even if it doesn’t feel important. We need to take pride in our tools, keep them clean and take care of them. You might not have the newest and greatest equipment, but deal with what you have andtake pride in it. Sharpen your tools, clean the handles and inspect them on a daily basis. Take pride in your hose loads, no matter the time of day or night, rain or shine make sure to rack your lines with pride. If you load your lines sloppy then they will pull sloppy. When it’s time to go to work the last thing you want is a pile of tangled mess in the front lawn. Take pride in your equipment; clean the apparatus at the start and end of shift even if you didn’t turn a wheel. That piece of apparatus is expensive and the way it looks is a direct reflection of your department. Have pride in your station and never bad-mouth your department. Remember that someone in your city, district or town saw something in you and hire you. So take pride and be proud of that.
Pride is contagious. I have seen it happen. I guarantee if you polish your boots before the start of each shift then others will follow suit. If you take care of the equipment and tools others will also. Set an example and see what happens. If you have pride and show it then others around you will want to do the same. If someone doesn’t want to show pride then that’s on him or her, just keep doing what you know is right and never compromise your integrity. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or a career firefighter you should have pride.
P – Professional (Be professional no matter if you are a volunteer or career)
R – Respect (Respect the senior person, yourself, the job, your equipment and your department)
I – Integrity (If you don’t have integrity then you have nothing)
D – Dedication (Be dedicated the job and love it)
E – Example (Be an example to others and your pride will catch on)
Stay safe brothers and sisters. Get your Pride on and be an example to everyone around you.
Sadly, you see the headlines all the time now; “Firefighter breaks in and spray paints (vandalizes) own fire station” or “Paramedic steals money from patient”, how about “Fire Chief lies about his education.” These are disappointing black-eyes to the fire and emergency services community. What some firefighters and EMTs do not understand is that whatever immoral or illegal act they do represents all of us!
When you are a firefighter the headline will never read “John Smith arrested for embezzlement” it will always read “Firefighter arrested for embezzlement.” The reason this happens is because Firefighters hold a position of public-trust, including volunteers. Nothing makes a headline more juicy than a firefighter breaking that trust. Of course we’re all human and we will slip-up from time to time. It’s important we carry ourselves with the integrity our title inherently possesses.
Likewise, the manner in which some firefighters and EMS agencies provide their services can be sub-par and even unethical. When a loved one hears about how you treated little momma jean. They are going to tell the whole community about how bad that EMS service or fire department operates. Not just you or that one person the whole operation looks horrible. The agency gets slapped with a label that could take years to rid away with due to one action of one individual.
Now what could that label mean? A cut in funding from city or county budgets? A large drop in donations? Decrease in community members willing to support the dept. Once you are labeled a sub-par unprofessional waste of taxpayers dollars, you will then catch flack from fellow agencies. One black eye from one member not doing their job can take a departments image and flush it right down the prevebial shitter.
Now lets take a step away and look at how a person can ruin their image or the departments image. Let us focus on the department erasing there own good image. When you have visitors at the fire station, is it clean? Are the trucks clean? Are you proud to call the station your home away from home? Does your stations roof leak? Do your engines start and run safely? Leadership, is it there? Do they do their job? If not and your equipment is not taken care of and people’s feet are not being held to the fire then the departments image will drop in the community. Just one of the many ways to lose the public’s trust! Show up and don’t put water on the fire, failed to make a search when it was safe to do so ,when there is reports of a victim trapped? As well, don’t just stand there and watch the house burn to the ground!
If you feel you do not have that perfect public image FIX IT! Hold community block parties or open house one day at the station! The more you involve the community the more outpouring of donations and community backing will follow!
After reading this are you or somebody you know or is your department giving the emergency services a black eye to all of us?
If it runs deep in your blood, there are a few words or phrases that can get you excited when you’re listening to radio traffic.
That would be one of them. But what happens if you need them NOW? What happens if you’re second alarm is 20-30+ minutes out and you are already using all-hands on the fire? Were there enough initial units even dispatched to the assignment? Company officers have a very big decision to make when arriving first or second due onto these incidents. Several thoughts are being tossed around, including tactics, priorities, incident management, resources required, possible water supply issues…the list goes on and on. But more importantly, what if the world goes to hell and the worst possible situations arise? What if a MAYDAY or rescue mission were to be initiated? What if we need a lot of resources, very quickly?
Some of the most difficult decisions to make are those that are under the circumstances of the unknown. We would all love to be able to say we can call additional resources, and they be around the corner. Let’s be logical, even big cities can’t get to the scene immediately. Everything takes time, and everything gets worse before it gets better. I’ve always been told there’s a firefighters version of Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. If we call for additional help, they won’t be needed. If we don’t call, they will be needed. Everything takes longer than you think. If you were to ask an audience at FDIC who thinks their second alarm companies are as close as they should be, I bet you would only see a few hands. In reality, we live in a fire service that is under staffed, and inundated with service specialties. We are jacks-of-all-trades and we’re relied upon for everything under the sun. This is can be a good thing, because it proves we are needed we are still an important necessity to the community. Consequentially, when the “big one” gets dispatched, we have a potential of not being available for the call. The end result: lives could be at risk. So who are we going to call for the “Big One”? What type of resources/manpower are they bringing? Where/How far out are they coming? When will they be on scene, ready to operate? That answer is one of many of the unknowns that we train for on a daily basis. It’s not know when they will be arriving, and when they do, they may have to fill roles that should’ve been assigned to first alarm units that have become overwhelmed with duties. Vent, RIT, additional searches or fill in for the companies going to rehab. So what do the departments do that don’t have a second alarm coming? These are the situations that make or break firefighters.
Rural departments have a heavy burden on their shoulders every time an alarm sounds. The quick thought of “what if we need more help” is the first thing that runs through my mind when I’m at my rural department. But then, we switch right into “Go” mode, and make it happen. If we need help, we attempt to stabilize the scene and grab a hold of the big picture. Hopefully keep the situation from worsening, and take a safe enough stand to get-by until it arrives. Fortunately, in my case, I am lucky enough to have additional town people who are trained, and active as volunteers of the company. These members can fill roles such as water supply, crowd control, rehab, and evacuation members. This is only my department, which is unlike 99% of rural departments in the country.
In all reality, rural departments in the US have a second alarm assignment as far out as an island just off the coast, or as a long stretch of highway in the middle of Texas. The logistics that go into getting resources is different, but response times are 30+ minutes. Anybody who is one of those departments, I applaud you. Not only are you ready to jump in the wagon and go for a long drive, but you are also willing to take the other side of the coin, and be without assistance for the same amount of time. For those who are lucky enough to be urban or suburban, think of these rural situations and brothers/sisters who have to conquer the odds men the next time you get 4 engines, 3 trucks, 2 heavy rescues and a partridge in a command vehicle. Stay salty.
– The “Irons”
Station Pride had the honor of awarding the Rhea County Fire Dept. with the first ever Station Pride Brother-to-Brother grant! Station Pride Founder and President Riley Amoriello, as well as Vice President Jonathon Jacobs traveled to Wolf Creek Fire Station 740 in Rhea County, Tennessee to deliver the grant items in person.
The Rhea County Fire Dept operates twelve fire stations across the county with over 100 volunteers. Due to the dangerously small operating budget provided for each station it’s very hard for them to buy even basic necessities, like fuel and maintenance. The continued stress of their meager budget has place Rhea County in the position of having 30-35 year old front-line apparatus and out of date breathing apparatus. Even with their financial and equipment challenges, Rhea County Fire Department volunteers stand up and do what they can, with what they have and still accomplish what needs to be done. The struggle they face is not uncommon.
Will Sargent, of the Rhea County Fire Department, wrote the grant in early 2014 with the hopes of bringing a gas monitoring device to the department which only had one gas meter to cover a response area greater than two hundred square miles.
Station Pride accepted their request in mid 2014. Since then, the members of the Station Pride community both company members and followers stepped up to raise funds for gas monitoring devices. On December the 30th Station Pride awarded two “single” gas monitors to the Fire Chief and District Chiefs of the Rhea County Fire Department, the County Mayor was also in attendance. “It is an honor to be able to help these brothers that work so hard to better their department and community and strive everyday to make their community safer”-Riley Amoriello Station Pride’s Founder.
The Brother-to-Brother Grant put much needed safety equipment into the hands of the Rhea County responders. With the help of Station Pride and all of our website followers we were able to award them with, not just one, but two single-gas monitors.
It is our mission with the Station Pride Brother-to-Brother grant program to support those that need it most. Remember, when you buy anything from our online store! Proceeds go directly to the grant program. When you donate directly to our grant program 100% of that donation is applied to the next grant award. One Hundred Percent of Station Pride’s profit is put directly into the Brother-to-Brother Grant Program. The only expenses we have are the cost of replenishing sale items. Nobody at Station Pride earns a paycheck and we are here to better the fire service one firehouse at a time.