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You Don’t Know What Brotherhood Means

Brotherhood is a word that is preached endlessly in the Fire Service.  However, for the majority of you, I don’t think you know what it means.

wordNow before you all get offended, hear me out.  I think the majority understand the concept of brotherhood.  However, until you have a personal tragedy in your life, the full impact of the brotherhood isn’t fully understood.  We may do little things like help each other train, move, or be an ear to listen and give advice.

I speak from experience when I tell you there is so much more to the brotherhood than those small things.  I’ve seen first hand the extent of the brotherhood when recently, a local Fire Department lost a long time member .  The members of the department were contacted by other firefighters they had never even met who called and told them, “we’re here if you need ANYTHING.”

When I was diagnosed with Leukemia, I hadn’t even finished fire academy.  Yet, the brotherhood stood up and accepted me as their own and supported my family and I in our fight.  That support was paramount in me reaching my goal.  As a result, I beat the Leukemia, went back to Fire Academy and graduated.

tragedy  The brotherhood isn’t something that just “is” either.  It’s an attitude.  It takes hard work and dedication.  The concept of the brotherhood should always be to put more into it than you get out of it.  Think of the brotherhood as a glass of water.  Without putting more water into it than you take out of it, it will eventually be empty.

As current members of the Fire Service, it’s up to us to keep the heart of the brotherhood strong.  Without us working to keep the heart of the brotherhood pumping, it will die out and be no more.  We all have to work hard to maintain the best part of the Fire Service, the brotherhood.

Blog

Ghosts

Any amount of time put into this career will most certainly riddle the corners of your brain with calls that shake you, give you chills and/or wake you up with cold sweats, some months or even years after the run. We all have them or something like them. I call them my “ghosts”. Everybody handles them different, some are good at separating themselves from the incident and never think twice about it. Some wear every bad run on their sleeves, and you know, that’s ok too.

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Without too many details, one of my “ghosts” that visits me regularly is from a Christmas eve fatality wreck. Kids in an unfortunate circumstance put my crew and myself on a scene that would later prove difficult to separate myself from, because of a decision I made in a split second that could have not only cut my career short but could have potentially made a patient unable to walk ever again.
That’s just one of a few I have, I handled it my way and went on about life. Some don’t handle these calls easily and others never even show a sign that they cared. But what resources do you have if you need to talk about your “ghosts”. At that time all I really had was my brothers, which I think should be our number one crutch for situations like these. Some departments have a full blown PTSD resource, which is great and had i asked, my department might have had one as soon as possible but I don’t actually know.image

The point I’m trying to make is to use your resources, make an effort to rid yourself of your “ghosts” when they begin to interrupt your daily life. Discuss with your brothers, your officers or chief officers whenever you need to. Get it off your chest, get help. Professional and volunteer civil servant suicide rates are way too abundant. Firefighters are notoriously tough, BUT IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU LESSER OF A MAN TO REACH OUT TO YOUR BROTHERS OR ANYBODY ELSE FOR SOME HELP.

For Help with your ghosts Visit FireStrong.org
For Help with your ghosts Visit FireStrong.org

 

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Can You Polish Black Plastic Trim with Peanut Butter?

600793_10151440009417075_2116068_nHow black plastic trim ever ended up on a fire truck I have no idea. Cost saving measure? Maybe. Traditional? Not even close. Sleek? I don’t think so. Stubborn to keep looking fresh? Absolutely.

You don’t see too many fire trucks with black plastic trim but the ones that do are usually engine forward. Numerous vehicle makes and models are coming off the line these days with this future eye sore. It should be a sin of all sins to trim something as majestic as a fire truck with black plastic.

I work in a desert environment where it’s dusty on a normal day, let alone the dirt roads. My poor fire engine was adorned with black plastic trim, of which takes a daily beating. Over the last several years I’ve battled to keep it looking restore-plastic-car-trim-800x800fresh. The sun beats on the plastic and then blowing sand pummels it into submission. The trim is porous which allows fine sand and sand dust to make its home there. Black plastic trim fades white with time when exposed to the elements because the oils within the trim are slowly drawn out and evacuated from the plastic.

As a member of Station-Pride I’m big on taking pride in my truck and my station. I’m constantly looking for improvements that can be made. Over the years I’ve tried several black trim restoration products which seem to work for a little while but it doesn’t quite solve the problem.

Some commercial products DO work but amount to nothing more than a paint-like substance that just coats the problem. I’ve also seen a heat gun used 269936_10151439979302075_1573402780_nto gently burn off contaminates and slightly melt the plastic back to looking new. I don’t have enough gumption to take a heat gun to my department’s apparatus.

Scrubbing, brushing, soaping, and washing the plastic doesn’t seem to remove the contaminants from the porousness. Nor does it restore the color of the plastic. I was at a loss until I discovered Peanut Butter! Skippy, Jiff, Peter Pan, Planters; as long as it’s creamy it’ll work great!. I know it sounds crazy but it’s effective.

Peanut butter works because of it’s physical characteristic. The sticky, thick, butter like 11281839_10152928886787075_2052045459_nconsistency adheres and binds to the contaminants in the porous areas, lifting the foreign crap from the plastic and into the peanut butter. Circular motions with a paper towel helps to work the dirt and dust out of the porous areas leaving behind the natural oil from the peanut butter. The oil left behind helps to re-hydrate the plastic giving it a nice natural, clean, glossy shine.

After working the peanut butter around for a few minutes, take a fresh terry-cloth towel or a fresh paper towel and wipe the trim clean. It’s good to go!

I never would have believed it possible until a good buddy of mine introduced me to the polishing magic of peanut butter. I thought he was crazy, but he may have been a bit of a genius.

Applied every month to two months will leave your black plastic fire truck abomination (trim) looking fresh and new.

 

Peanut Butter Shine
Top: Before – Bottom: After

 

 

Blog

The NFPA Police

  QUESTION: Is it possible for a fire department to be fully, 100% NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) Compliant?

Let’s start off with declaring that there is no such organized entity as the NFPA Police. However, there ARE a select number of our kind who take it upon themselves to verbally wave the sword in defense of the NFPA. These fire service warriors of the internet like to take judgmental swipes at fire porn videos and images. From a recent video of a fire truck parading through town with two celebrating volunteers on the bumper to  John Wayne style structure fire situations, these virtual tactical response teams ensure the rest of us are staying in line with NFPA.

Everyone is a non-credentialed critic. Except the Fire Critic, I suppose he’s the only legit one.

police-badge-clipart-9 copyMy point here is that I have yet to find, observe, or even hear of a fully NFPA compliant fire department. I often, jokingly,  liken the NFPA Standards to the Holy Bible. It’s nearly impossible to follow all of it without sinning.

Before I continue, we need to get a few things straight. The NFPA is not the law. It does not carry the same regulatory meat cleaver as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). OSHA is a government regulatory agency that enforces occupational safety and health laws passed by Congress. When OSHA laws are broken, organizations and companies can be fined or even sued by the government for non-compliance, they are usually sued on behalf of the offended party.

NFPA codes, standards, and recommended practices are written as an attempt to self-regulate our industry. The standards are written to give a benchmark of performance for the manufacturers who make all of our awesome stuff as well as providing minimum competency standards we “should” meet as firefighters and officers. The NFPA standards are created by committees consisting of fire officers, chiefs, manufacturers and technical folks. The main reason why manufacturers are on the NFPA is so there is collaboration between the people who need firefighting equipment and the people who make firefighting equipment.

There is a lot of sentiment regarding NFPA being a profit driven entity. I have a hard time seeing it that way. The creation of all of these things takes financing. You can’t print books and create content and expect everything to be free. Also, there are legalities involved with the construction, testing, and selling of safety equipment. All of our stuff has to meet certain requirements so we can all go home to our families. It’s important to have fire service manufacturers a party to the standards creation so we’re on the same page of self-governance. After-all, manufacturers would know whether or not it’s even possible to design equipment that can meet the standard being created. It’d be sweet to re-write NFPA 1901 so all fire trucks had to have hovering capability and an endless on-board water supply… But common sense would dictate that engineering has not yet figured out how to make that work yet.M-SWAT-Blog-LCOA copy

With 7000 thousand volunteers comprising 250 technical committees, creating over  300 codes and standards(NFPA.org), writing tens of thousands of lines of text; is it possible to be 100% compliant?  I’m not so sure. It would be great if one of our readers could chime in here and name a department that is fully provable 100% compliant.  I’ve spent years assisting departments with becoming as complaint as they can be. The real fact of the matter is funding.

Bringing a fire department to 100% compliance with NFPA is incredibly expensive. Not to mention master level planning and auditing. Most fire department budgets won’t allow for it. 447 copyI know departments that don’t provide an annual physical, annual fit testing, annual SCBA flow testing and the like. That’s a tiny fraction of what needs to happen.

For budgetary reasons and perhaps even ideological reasons fire departments will adopt chunks of NFPA or individual standards while disregarding others. Some of the largest fire departments in our nation pick and choose which NFPA codes they will follow because they know they just can’t pull some of them off completely.

I don’t believe the NFPA is intended to be a buffet of options, it’s intended to regulate the way we do everything, so we’re all on the same page. The fact is, we’re not, and as a fire service I’m not so sure we’ll ever be on the same page. But we have a lighthouse and a beacon to follow and that’s not bad, in fact it’s pretty great.

I bring all of this up for the social media warriors who call people out on their NFPA violations. It really needs to stop. It’s more than highly probable that your department has or does a few things of their own that don’t meet the NFPA standards.  I want to say something about glass houses here but I’ve never been good with cliché sayings.

Do you know of a fire department that is fully NFPA compliant? Please comment below. If you find a legitimate one I will write an article on that department and eat my own words. I hope this is an educational moment for me.

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All NFPA stats & information provided by: http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards

 

Health and Wellness

Crisis Intervention

As much as we like to think of ourselves as unbreakable, we break, and when we do it’s usually hard and fast. If this feeling of being in crisis comes we may not feel comfortable to reach out for support. It’s embedded in our DNA that we are firefighters and we are supposed to fix problems.

Our exposures to high stress calls and events have given us the ability to overcome our feelings and work through them. Over time we store up our issues until they may overflow into other parts of our life. Sure, we may use dark humor or sarcastic remarks to move past our own feelings and continue to do our jobs but what happens when the floor falls out from under us, and we or a friend needs help.image

If we finally do decide to accept help we will need somebody we can trust. We will need to know what the help will look like. So if you or somebody you know is in crisis and you decide to ACCESS RESOURCES to get help. What can you expect to happen next?

‘What will a crisis intervention look like?’

Each program is different, but all professional licensed counselors adhere to regulations when it comes to crisis intervention. Crisis Intervention should not be confused with traditional Therapy or Counseling. Crisis Intervention is used in acute situations to assist those who are in urgent need of help.

  • hanging at end of ropeTheir behavior constitutes a danger of inflicting serious physical harm upon oneself, including attempted suicide or the serious threat thereof, or if the threat is expected that it will be carried out.
  • There is potential that the continued behavior can reasonably be expected to  result in serious physical harm to others.
    Behavior in which a person is likely to come to serious physical harm or serious illness because he/she is unable to provide for his basic physical needs.
  • They are showing signs that they are suffering severe and abnormal mental, and emotional issues and that these issues are significantly impairing judgment, reason, behavior or capacity to recognize part of reality.

These four guidelines are reasons for a Crisis Intervention. It is after intervention and when the person is back to more stable that they would benefit from therapy or Counseling in hopes of creating a new healthy baseline.

A Crisis Specialist will ask a series of questions to identify relevant safety issues, and to assess if the person meets the criteria above. Some of these questions may seem intrusive when asked, but regulations dictate that the level of safety is assessed. Here are some sample questions to expect:

Safety Assessment Questions

  • Have you had any thoughts or actions, now or in the past, to do anything to hurt yourself?
  • Are you concerned about your ability to maintain your own safety?
  • Is anyone else concerned about your ability to maintain your safety?
  • What, exactly, are any thoughts you have had or are having to hurt yourself?
  • Do you have a plan on what you would actually do to hurt yourself?
  • Have you ever acted on these thoughts? What did you do?
  • Regarding any past actions to hurt yourself, was your intention to hurt yourself, die, let someone know how bad things are?
  • What were you trying to get away from or are you trying to get away from, by doing something to hurt yourself?
  • How are you hoping hurting yourself/killing yourself will solve your problems?
  • Do you have the means to hurt yourself? Do you have access to weapons or drugs?
  • Has anyone in your family ever hurt themselves/committed suicide?
  • What level of support do you have in your life?
  • Are you willing to make a no-harm contract with me?sub_crisisinterv
Steps in Crisis Intervention:

  • Define the Problem. Explore and define the problem from the patient’s point of view. Use active listening, including open-ended questions. Attend to both verbal and nonverbal communications.
  • Ensure Personal Safety. Assess lethality, criticality, immobility and seriousness of threat to patient’s physical, emotional and psychological safety. Assess internal impact as well as environmental situation.
  • Provide Support. Communicate (by words, voice, and body language) a caring, positive, non-possessive, nonjudgmental, acceptant, personal involvement with the one in crisis and the family.
  • Examine Alternatives. Assist in brainstorming choices available now. Search for immediate supports. These supports might include hospitalization or rehabilitation facility
  • Plan. Develop a plan with your patient which: provides something concrete and positive for the patient to do now with definite action steps which the patient can own and comprehend.

Before leaving

  • Ask the patient to verbally summarize the plan and commitment.
  • Demonstrate your part of the commitment if you collaborate.
  • Follow up on the patient’s performance or in obtaining assistance.

Click Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) to receive a FREE digital copy of suicide assessment guidelines put out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

 

For Help or more information on Crisis Intervention please visit FireStrong.org.

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It’s In My Blood

Just a short story about myself.

As a young boy,  I always knew I would become a firefighter. Growing up, my parents showed me photographs and memorabilia of past generations of firefighters in my family. I have Its In My Blood3evidence of being a fifth generation firefighter, and I take great pride in that. I distinctly remember going to the firehouse with my dad, and watching him work. I watched that man at so many of his firehouse functions, that I can’t remember what I wanted to do more…Walk in his footsteps, or run up behind him, and exceed what he has done in his fire service career. I now find myself on track of surpassing him, as his career has ended. He is proud of what I do. I am becoming the fireman that even my father has always wanted to be.

It’s in my blood. And not only is it in my blood, it’s in every ounce of my body. The brotherhood. The camaraderie. The passion.

I live everyday to become a betterIts In My Blood4 firefighter, and to prove to not only to myself, but to my loving family, that I was born for this. This profession is better than any other out there. This is the type of profession that has you walking out the door with a smile from ear to ear, every day you go to work. This profession is what gives many of us the drive to keep training, keep working, and keep going home after every tour of duty. A firefighter that decides it’s time to permanently grow roots in the station recliner, and hold the remote control until his knuckles are seized to it. That, my friend, is one who has given up. He has decided that the job has not worked out completely the way he wanted it to, and that he has nothing else to learn. That is when he expects the job to give something back to him, in return of all the years he has given to it. That is when we need to feel that fire burn again. We need to feel the heat, as we look down a dark, smoky hallway. At a moment like this is when all firefighters get that feeling back. That livelihood. That reason we all became a firefighter in the first place. That is when we remember that we are all brothers. No matter who we are, or what our family history is….it’s in each and every one of us.

We can all sit at the kitchen table or on the back step of the truck as we laugh, cry, or joke. No matter what, it’s in our blood. I train to better myself, my crew, my shift, and my community. The more we can learn, the better we will be. I strive for the best. I demand to be the best. As an instructor, I demand the best from my students, and I hope they take away as much as I could possibly teach. If they take one thing away from me, I can only hope it is the same feeling and desire to serve that I have for the job. And for that reason, they too, can say that it’s in their blood.

TIts In My Blood2he good come with the bad, however. When we become bad apples, it brings the crew down. It brings the battalion down, and in the worst case, it could bring the community down.

We are not in the business to let our community down. Let’s all get out there, get motivated, and get to work. When you feel like you’ve done enough work, do some more. We all have something to learn. Many of us can learn from each other. All you have to do is get out there, dig deep, train hard, get dirty, and GO GET IT! Now, can you see that it’s in my blood?

– The “Irons”

 

“Blood relatives have nothing to do with family, and similarly, family is about who you choose to make your life with”. – Oliver Hudson

 

Health and Wellness

Chappy’s Weight Loss Solution Chapter-2

Picture-for-Meet-ChappyIn the depths of my collapse, I found a relationship with God and began to help other alcoholics in the 12 step program and at the local hospital in Newport as a volunteer and eventually as a counselor/consultant to businesses in Rhode Island and two nearby states. My life of recovery and sobriety was aided by a strong Christian participation in the church and eventually led to a ministry as a pastoral counselor following a move to Florida in 1988.

In 1994 I established a Christian counseling ministry: Hope Ministries Inc.(hopeministriesflorida.org) in Palm Bay Florida, a ministry that focused on helping hearts heal for Christians who were struggling. I was ordained as a minister at the start of Hope Ministries and the ministry flourished. In late 2005 I began to desire the expansion our ministry to the workplace and a friend at the local Mental Health Center suggested that what I wanted was to be a workplace Chaplain.

I started offering a Chaplaincy to local businesses and enjoyed this work, but did not feel fulfilled because most of the businesses did not take the chaplaincy seriously. In the process, I had a flashback memory of Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.53.34 PMthe wonderful relationship that I had with the Newport Fire Department when I was on the City Council and it occurred to me that local fire departments might be interested in a serious commitment to Fire Chaplaincy.

I began introducing my self to several departments offering myself to be their Chaplain. Several departments showed interest in having me be their Chaplain but Chief Jon Macdonald of The Indialantic Fire Rescue Department actually invited me to be a member of their volunteer association and to be the Chaplain to the entire department that was a combination department. However, Chief Macdonald insisted that I take the Fire I class to be eligible for certification as a Fire Fighter if I wanted to be his Chaplain.

So, at 65 I took the full Fire I class. The Chief said it would be all right if I could not complete all the physical requirements because of my age. I took that as a challenge. The classroom instruction was very difficult for me because I am not mechanically inclined. However, at the end of the class I had passed everything including the physical requirements. Chief suggested that I take the test for state certification which I passed with great help from God and so I began to ride Engine 57 on emergency calls and grew to love being a volunteer firefighter as well as serving as Chaplain. All of the members of our department welcomed me as their Chaplain and as a volunteer Fire I firefighter.

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Blog

Tips for Being a More Effective Fire Instructor

Notice the title is not “How to be a good fire instructor.” There is a distinct difference and the definition of “good” is relative anyway. You may be thinking that as an instructor, you have already taken all the classes and have become a subject matter expert, but have you really?

untitledLet me be clear on something first and foremost; for those of you who believe that because you have achieved a certification in a particular discipline (i.e. technical rescue, hazmat, EMS, etc…) that means  you have nothing to prove to anyone, and because you are certified that makes you qualified… nothing could be further from the truth. Being certified simply means that you have met and been tested on the minimum standards to attain that certification. That does NOT make you a subject matter expert. What makes you an expert in that field is dedication, training, and knowledge over and above what is the accepted norm.

Having said all of that, I have heard the arguments that you can be extremely knowledgeable about a subject and not be certified. My opinion on this matter is that if you want to be taken seriously by your peers, get the certification to back that knowledge up. I have personally been on both sides of this coin in my career, and I finally realized that I needed to put up, or shut up. Moving on…

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To be an effective fire instructor, you MUST have the following traits and characteristics (among others) :

Experience:

I remember sitting in classes as a very young and inexperienced volunteer and assessing the instructor as he made his introductions and pleasantries. I would look around the room at the (what I considered to be, at the time) old guys with the classic fireman mustache and gray hair and watch how they would struggle to relate to the younger, hard charging kid that looked like he had just graduated rookie school the month before. I took many classes where this exact same scenario played out month after month. I started to question how the local fire service had gotten to the point where the “kids were teaching the adults”. The funny thing was, that I was only a few years younger than the instructor. My own perception of what an experienced fireman was is what skewed the impression in my mind. Now, if you think back to the classes that you have taken in your career, you’ll recall classes that were better than others, and had instructors that were better than others. There’s a good chance that you have met some amazing teachers that were “old and salty” and some that were “young bucks”.

To clarify this point, I am not saying that you have to have 25 years on the job in order to be a good instructor. A person in a busy department or company with only 3-5 years can be just as effective as a person with 25-30 years in a rural community where call volumes are much lower. I am also not just referring to how many calls you have run, or how many classes you have taken. It is a balance of all of these. If you happen to be in a department that does not run many calls, and is a very young department, I encourage you to utilize the passion and dedication of people who want to better the department and themselves.

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Dedication:

You have to be dedicated to the task at hand. You must, therefore, be a good student. It cannot be overstated enough. It is essential that you have the basic knowledge of theory and the skills to demonstrate to your students, but also learn about the new techniques and technology that is changing on a day-to- day basis. Have you ever taken a class where the instructor claims to be a guru in his field, but is teaching techniques that are over 20 years old and outdated? Dedication also means that you are accessible to your students, even after class has ended.

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Motivation:

The original saying is “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” A more recent FaceBook meme shows a photo of a horse with the caption “You can lead a human to knowledge, but you can’t make it think.” I have personally shown this in classes to kick it off. It helps to lighten the mood just a bit, but also drives the point home…that you will not just breeze through one of my classes without being challenged, and then expect to get a certificate out of it.

You must find a way to motivate your students. This means that you show up and can show them how passionate you are about the job. You cannot teach people everything that there is to know. But you can give them a strong foundation when you teach the classroom theory, and then the basic skills required to do that job. You have properly motivated someone, if when after they have left your class they continue to learn, to drill and train, and to develop.

Approachable Personality:                   Battalion-Chief_jpg

Let’s face it… Some of us come across as military drill instructors, either from past experience or from the projected idea that this is how it is done. It is important to let the students know that you are approachable, and that you care about their development and absorbing as much of the course content as possible. Whether they are paying for your course, or they were assigned to your course, you must treat them as the internal customers that they are. That being said, that does not mean that you go soft on them, or they get the certification just because they may have paid to be there. That degrades our craft, and is outright dangerous for all parties involved. Look for an article from me on this topic in the future.

Desire to be an instructor:

This applies especially to those who are seeking that full time role. It is one thing to be an “in-house” instructor, where you are still assigned to operations and running calls. It is an entirely different animal to make the transition to a full time training position. Trust me on this. The work schedule changes, the job responsibility changes, and there is less of the camaraderie and adrenaline than you have in the station. You have to WANT to be the very best that you can be. This applies to either type of instructing. You will never take a class again, if you keep finding bad instructors who act as if they do not want to be there.

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Ability to Adapt:

This includes learning all you can about the subject that you are teaching, but also means finding ways to relate the material to your students in ways other than what the book says. You had better know how to think on your feet. I have known some amazing firemen in my career, but some just cannot teach what they know how to do. Not everyone is brought up the same way, and we all learn differently. Just because you were taught a specific way, does not mean that you are successful in delivering it the same way.

Reinforce the idea that training is where we make the mistakes:

It is said that some people do not like to train because it will show everyone how much they do NOT know. Mistakes on the training field or in the classroom are where we can take these and use them for learning and comprehension. It is the basic principle of Cause and Effect. Of course, we must monitor these to ensure that safety in training is always of the utmost importance. The real world is an unforgiving place, and even when we do everything right, sometimes things go badly. It is crucial to drive home the message of the VALUE of making mistakes in training. I have made many mistakes in my career, and will continue to do so. I just do not repeat the same mistake twice.

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Do not BS:

Seriously, when a student asks you a question that you do not have the answer to (Trust me on this…it happens) do not make it up if you are not completely sure. This is one of the fastest ways to lose all credibility with your students. This can take you from a perceived subject matter expert to a complete fraud in a matter of seconds, in the eyes of your students. If you do not know, you can tell them that. But reinforce it with telling them that you will find out what the correct answer is. WARNING: Follow through is critical here! Do not just tell them that to blow them off or buy time. There are some who may criticize you for not having all of the answers as an instructor. I do not believe that anyone knows everything. Research the right answer, and then pass it along in the manner you deem appropriate.

Regarding hands on skills abilities…you had better be able to perform. There are several old sayings that would be appropriate here, but “Practice what you preach” is probably the most relevant. If you are teaching a ropes and knots class and cannot tie a bowline knot, then there is a problem.

Above all, be a good student. Try to place yourself in a student’s position before you teach a class. Know what you would want to get from it, how you would want the instructor to interact with you, and how relevant the material is going to be. Find ways to inspire and motivate students to continue learning after they have left your class. After all, we are all brothers and should continue sharing knowledge and experience with each other to help us operate as effectively as we can.

Know how to deal with classroom distractions, and don’t become one in your own class.

I took a class a few years ago where one instructor started the class. On day three, after all of us had acclimated to the instructors teaching style, and our surroundings, a guy opens up the door in the middle of the lecture, and strolls in wearing a hula shirt, cut off cargo shorts, and flip flops. Needless to say, we were all pretty shocked that someone would just interrupt an ongoing class that way. We were informed that this would be our stand-in instructor for the next few days, due to a family situation. The next day, that new instructor showed up in professional attire, but now we all needed to adapt to his teaching style, compared to the previous guy. And to say that they were different is an understatement. One instructor would read E-V-E-R-Y, S-I-N-G-L-E, W-O-R-D (making those 160 slide presentations really painful), while his colleague would interject a (somehow relevant) story about a scenario from 1982 after every slide (also making a 160 slide presentation very painful).

Knowing how to deal with distractions from your students, without in turn becoming one as well is a craft all of its own. If you have a student who is actively disrupting the class, and you call them out on it every 30 seconds, but don’t remove them from the learning environment, then you are creating as big of a distraction as the “attitude problem”. And yes, this includes the Know-it-all attitude in your class when they want to hijack your class. Find a way to deal with it, without punishing those who actually came to learn. Sometimes a bit of validation goes a long way with this type, or sometimes you may have to take a class break, and have a word with them, that it cannot continue.

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Get out of the PowerPoint slides.

Firefighters don’t learn by PowerPoint. They learn by actually doing. But if the slide presentations are kept to a minimum, are relevant, and don’t try to teach an audience all they will ever need to know about the theory of swinging an axe, then I’m not opposed to them. But, KNOW your presentation. Put good info, or illustrations up on the screen, but get the class to focus on you. They will get a lot more out of the class, and you will be surprised at how much of a connection you can make. If you’re the person who never looks up from your Instructor Guide book, or you teach by reading the screen out loud with your back turned on the class, then it’s time to brush up on some solid instructional techniques. That presentation is not intended to be read word for word. Otherwise, we could just email that presentation to people, do a completion record, and that’s all she wrote. People attend classes to have an interactive experience. Many times, students can learn as much from each other, as they can from the lead instructor. That is something that is unique for attending classes, as opposed to online training or PowerPoints.

Are you ready?                           IMG_0364

How many years on the job do you need to have? How many fires under your belt? How many??? The answer is not simple. Yes, experience does, in many cases, demonstrate credibility. But it’s only the perception of credibility. My advice to someone who wants to teach, is to approach your appropriate officer about it. Start small. Teach an in-service session on a topic that you know well, and are passionate about. From there, move into more in-depth training that lasts a full day, but not multiple days. If you survive this experience, and you get positive feedback from your students and peers, then you’re probably ready for a multiple day class. Like anything else, it’s all about the progression of things. Go too fast too soon, and you may have a less than ideal experience which can lead you to never wanting to do it again. And learn how to take constructive criticism about how to improve your delivery techniques.

Being an effective fire instructor, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to be sure to leave the fire service better than we found it. But only if you’re dedicated to that ideal completely. I hope to take one of YOUR classes one day!

Product Review

The Iron Fox Axe-updated

The Iron Fox “Breach” 7.5 lb Flathead Axe is up for review.

The axe arrived 17 November 2014  and immediately went into service. This version has the 28″ brown plastic handle. While it seems a bit short, the axe handle length is genuinely a personal preference I believe. The head of the axe is shaped with a chisel type blade, allowing the blade to “bust” through what you are cutting and has a wedge at the top of the blade resembling a common axe to allow for the creation of a purchase point when chopping. The flat side of the axe is square on the edges with a small dome to the head to allow for a solid striking surface at any angle.

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The Iron Fox Axe has been primarily used for forcible entry and also for opening up walls and such to check for fire spread. The Iron Fox Axe is very wpid-snapchat-6950854926171305310.jpgtough, and has proven to be a perfect add-on to any tool compartment. This model does not have the notch to allow to married with a Halligan but has been used with a Halligan. At the beginning of April i received the notched version of the axe that allows it to marry to a Halligan. the handle on this one is wood and is 36 inches long.

The Iron Fox Axe marries beautifully and with a tight connection, allowing for a secure set of irons. The Iron Fox Axe appears to have a taller sharper lead point to it than the original has. The flat head part of it is the same. Again i wrapped the handle to suit myself for a little extra grip using hockey tape and this time used oxygen tubing under the tape. Our call volume hasn’t allowed recently for either axe to be really tested hard but I’m sure time will allow for a better test. Both axes are tough, balanced beautifully and have been a great addition to our “tool box”. If I had to choose between the 2 styles, which one i would prefer to keep, I personally would probably just buy them both.

4 years later….an update. These tools have been joined in the cabinet with another tool, that’s been reviewed here also and has its own purpose, the Iron Fox axes still continue to prove their worth. The handles are still original and while marred haven’t broken or needed repair. I have updated the handle wraps with Fire Maul Grip Kits and the combination is amazing! The heads have been painted. With some simple care of the heads and handles I don’t see why they shouldn’t last another 4-5 with out drastic repairs! Check them at the website below and buy a hat or a t-shirt while you’re there!

http://ironfoxaxes.com/

Blog

Prideful Mothers Day

“Firefighting is an ultra hazardous, unavoidably dangerous activity. To reduce your risk of death, burns, injuries, disease, and illnesses, you must carefully read and strictly follow this entire ‘Official User Information Guide’ and all labels on your protective ensemble.”

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We know it. We’ve all seen the warnings on our turnout gear, we’ve tested it and trust it. Our mothers just know what they have been educated about. They know the stories we have shared, some of which we probably shouldn’t have.

 

A firefighters mother knows early on in that little boy or girls life that caring for people is something her child will do for his/her life, in one way or the other. Her child was probably somewhat of a daredevil with heart of gold. They love the adrenaline rush of jumping curbs and racing their bikes down hills. The child was likely stubborn, somewhat mischievous with an attitude of the unstoppable invincibility. Our moms recognize those attributes, they don’t allow the stubborn mischievous ways to dominate the caring and passionate traits.

imageMost of our mothers are strong women who are passionate about their own careers and their family. Tough on the outside but inside they’re worry warts. Our mommas raised us to be tough but compassionate, they guided our decisions towards what was best for us to grow into mature adults.

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The contributors at Station Pride discuss pride all the time, hell it’s our mission and movement. A mothers pride is immense and ever growing; as a result, I on behalf of everybody at Station Pride would like to say thank you to the moms. A big happy mothers day to the lady’s that raised the men and women of the fire service to be strong, confident, caring and passionate.