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Firearms on the Fireground

We watched a heated discussion take place on the LeatherheadMafia (LHM) Facebook page a few days ago (See here) regarding recent legislation proposed in Texas that would allow firefighters, EMT’s, and paramedics to conceal carry firearms. See story here.  See legislation proposal here.

Before everyone gets worked up, hear me out. We’ll comb over both sides of the argument.

The fire service is one of the last quasi-government agencies which still holds the public’s trust. Most other government entities are surrounded with skepticism and or stained with operational follies.  What the public knows for sure is when they call us, we’ll show up and do everything we can do help them. Our fathers and grandfathers gave their lives, their lungs, and their blood earning that public trust.screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-9-45-19-am

Let’s look at some statistics
  • NIOSH reports four (4) firefighter LODD’s relating to fatal assault since 1994. You can view and filter the NIOSH LODD map to your liking here.
  • NFPA reported one (1) LODD in 2016 related to Gunshot as well as one in 2015. You can view and filter that information here as you please.

That equates to one percent (1%) of Firefighter deaths per year for the last 2 years due to assault or violence.

The NIOSH and NFPA statistics also show that nearly 60 percent (60%) of firefighters are dying in the line of duty from sudden cardiac arrest and stroke, which indicates a need to conceal carry a treadmill before we’d ever need to conceal carry a firearm.

Liabilities and Legalities.

With all fifty states providing their own spin on firearms permitting, it has created an uneven patchwork of legal issues, almost a jungle really. Every state reserves the right to execute and legislate requirements for firearm ownership. It appears the legislation in Texas would exempt emergency workers from legal liability should they use their firearm to protect themselves. It seems obvious that few municipalities would ever want to engage in fielding the possibility of arming all of their emergency responders, even allowing a 2nd Amendment right while on duty is an incredible thick gray area. This has nothing to do with whether or not firefighters should be able to recieve conceal carry permits, ONLY whether they should be carrying a firearm during the execution of their duties.

img_2313Allowing Firefighters to conceal carry opens an entire legal liability nightmare nobody has yet fully realized. Imagine if an on-duty firefighter, paid by the taxpayers, were to shoot and kill a person after stepping off of a fire truck? That person is not a sworn officer of the law but has responded to an emergency representing the municipality. I’m not a lawyer, nor am I a firehouse lawyer, but the stick couldn’t be long enough for most jurisdictions to even touch that can of worms. In my professional circle of fire officer’s this topic is nearly absurd. Even if the legislation in Texas passes, I would venture to say that most career municipalities would create a gun-free policy.  It appears there is also a distinct contrast between career and volunteer. Volunteer firefighters may be presented with more latitude as they typically respond in their own vehicles.  As a career firefighter, I would be fired the moment I brought my pistol to work.

tumblr_ntl5l8fdhm1uojh5zo1_1280Perspective

Inserting a firearm into a scene where there otherwise might not be one. Escalation of force instead of de-escalation of the incident. As well as the idea that firefighters might feel embolden to intervene in a situation they would normally stage for, putting themselves at further risk. As firefighters, we often rely on our street smarts, and in rare times, our tools and brawn to bring troublesome incidents to a close. We’ve always made an emphasis on scene safety. Approaching when the scene is cleared by law enforcement. It’s been the gold standard and it works more often than not.  When law enforcement is not available, entering the scene is a decision for the incident commander to make sometimes it makes sense other times it doesn’t. Those decisions should not be changed by the fact that you are armed. There are several adverse scenarios that could play out by inserting a firearm into an emergency incident, incidents from accidental discharge to someone attempting to wrestle the firearm away from you.

Public Trust

Just the idea of firefighters being armed dilutes the trust the public will have in us. Our strength comes from our neutrality. We’re responding the public’s crisis’  not to judge, or harm them. Our sole purpose is providing assistance, help, or saving their lives. NOT taking their livesbreaking-news. The guys in my firehouse discussed this topic over the kitchen table and one firefighter said “Carrying guns would just make us cowards.” I found that to be an interesting perspective.

Another item to contemplate is the firearms actual use. We’re all different, what appears to be a threat to one firefighter may not be to another. Many things affect that perception such as our world view and the lens with which we comprehend situations. If half of the 1.3 million firefighters are carrying concealed weapons, they’re all going to be making decisions based on their own experiences. One firefighter might be a body builder and a green belt in Jiu-Jitsu, he may have a less lethal resolution than the guy who makes sure nobody steals the recliners. Within that difference resides whether a person continues to live or dies. Are we willing to respond to an emergency and then put ourselves into a situation where we might take a life because we are scared?

Here are some arguments (comments) from the LHM Facebook discussion FOR the legislation:
  1. “No employer should be allowed to deprive employees of their Constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms.”
  2. “I’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it”
  3. “As previously said I think concealed carry is great! If someone is going to shoot at us I’d like to be able to better defend myself and the others around me. It’s not something you’d be able to tell unless the situation arose that it was needed.”
  4. “It’s not about carrying as a form of enforcement. It’s about having the right to protect ourselves as United States citizens. How many times have firefighters and medics been victims of attacks and were defenseless.”
  5. “They are already shooting at firemen. As a cop and fireman, I don’t think being able to carry is a bad thing at the FD. It makes the best sense when you start talking about active shooter scenarios.”
Here are some arguments (comments) from the LHM Facebook discussion AGAINST the legislation:
  1. “There are idiots out there with “I fight what you fear” t-shirts that you wouldn’t want in a fire with you or anyone you know…And we will let those guys carry a firearm. Good Grief”
  2. “We are not cops. We are loved because of what we’ve always done. This will be the BIGGEST mistake in the history of the fire service.”
  3. “Police officers have much more training when dealing with using lethal force. They are also the ones when on scene watching for a threat to happen and can maintain constant awareness and control of their firearm.”
  4. “I’m pro-gun all day and conceal carry every day while not on duty, but there’s not many cases in the Fire/EMS world where a firearm makes the scenarios any better or safer.”
  5. “No, we do not need to be armed, more gear to deal with if we have to go interior, what are we supposed to do with a sidearm?”
Conclusion:damn-firebug

This is one of those defining fire service issues. It’s a decision that alters the posture and the perception of our service to the general public. Over the last decade or more there has been a huge push for safety within the fire service. The initiatives appear to be working as injury rates continue to fall nationwide. I can definitely see both sides of this argument, and they both have merit. It’s a situation where the individual firefighter might FEEL safer carrying a gun, while not physically being safer and in that distinction lies the difference. When you are armed, your decisions will change because you have the perception of being more powerful.  However, it appears that adding firearms to the mix will only complicate matters rather than compliment. Firefighter civil action with wrongful death suits will become common place. Our role on an emergency scene is not changing, but it appears the perception of ourselves is. By arming Firefighters are we putting ourselves first in the pecking order?

What are your thoughts?

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Inc. Yourself

A long time ago I was given the advice of “Inc.” yourself.  Sounds kind of strange, but let me explain.  

You see, in order for a company to grow and survive in the economy they must continue to create and give value to customers and investors alike.   Without offering them any value, they aren’t worth much to anyone.

Nowhere is this analogy more important than for the aspiring firefighter.  There are thousands of potential candidates going for only a few spots at career fire departments.  Among other things, you will have to articulate why a department should spend the time, money and effort on hiring you onto their department?

If you don’t  have a good answer to that, then you’re really going to struggle in the interview, but more on that later.

A better, or perhaps easier, way to think of this is to think of what valuable skills or knowledge would you bring to a department.  If you don’t have any skills or value, what can you begin doing to create value for yourself and a future department?

If you can’t think of any, here’s some to get you started…

  • Become an EMT-B

  • Become a Paramedic

  • Get your Firefighter 1 & 2 and beyond

  • Become extremely fit

  • Make friends in the fire service

  • Get a job working in an ER (where you’ll be exposed to a lot of firefighters)

  • Pick up useful hobbies (being mechanical, building construction, diving, ropes, radios, etc.)

The best way to boost your perceived value is experience, and at this point, you should be doing everything you can to get on a volunteer/part-time department or at the very least somehow become involved with one.

The next best way to boost your value to a department is to get some kind of EMS certification.  As with most things, the more you do, the more valuable you become.mastering-the-firefighter-interview-cover

In short, fire science degrees look great, but I’ve never seen a department that required one to get hired.  

Unfortunately, if you go to any school counselor, they will put you on an educational track that takes a lot of time, and doesn’t necessarily get you the results you want.

If you are looking to stand out in a sea of average applicants the best way to do that is to be a Paramedic.  A lot of departments don’t require you to have your Paramedic certification ahead of time, but like it or not, today’s fire service is moving more and more towards integrating Fire and EMS protection into one service.

Staying ahead of this curve not only makes you smart but allows you to stand out.

If you’re wondering where you can go in your area to get started on an EMS certification a quick google search of “EMT classes in ______” should point you in the right direction.

While a lot of the larger departments out there will send you to their own fire academy whether or not you have experience; I don’t recommend putting all your eggs in the one basket of getting hired at a large department and going through their fire academy.

A lot of smaller departments will require you to have some form of fire education.

This is where I highly recommend going to a Fire Academy.  Fire Academies are usually a few months in length and will give you the necessary education and training (for your particular state) to be certified as a firefighter.

The main difference between this and a Fire Science program is that a Fire Academy is more direct.  They give you all of the classroom and hands-on experience to be a firefighter in the shortest amount of time possible.  Degrees in Fire Science usually take more time (at least 2 years) and may or may not give you the necessary certification to get hired (depends on the school and the program).

Other ways to separate yourself from the crowd is to acquire special knowledge or skills.  This isn’t as important as your EMS certifications, but having excellent mechanical skills, knowledge of construction, plumbing (or any of the trades), ropes or really any sort of skills that would be used daily at a fire department can go a long way.

Regardless of your skills, knowledge, and experience, you must be able to articulate these in a way that is unique and memorable to a panel of interviewers.  Mastering the Firefighter Interview will show you exactly what is necessary to stand out from the sea of other candidates and get hired.  Click here to grab your free cheat sheet to get you on your way!

 

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Decisions

Our daily lives are completely reliant on decisions. Before we awaken, we have made a decision. Are we rising early to prepare for the day, or did we decide to sleep late and run behind? We decide to come to work on time or early. We decide to prepare ourselves physically. We decide to display pride in our craft. We decide to meticulously inspect our equipment, or we decide to do the exact opposite.

Did we decide to be lazy? Does drinking coffee and checking our Facebook take precedence over preparing to save a life? Does reading the latest article on celebrity gossip trump the duty you have to your brothers, to ensure you are not going to endanger them? Do we decide to spend more time armchair quarterbacking the decisions of others than making the right decision to drill our personnel to the point in which they cannot fail?

These decisions leave us at a crossroads on a daily basis take the easy path….or the right path. A friend of mine uses the saying, “The beaten path is for beaten people.” This is the heart of what’s wrong with the fire service as a whole. We’d rather concede and give people an excuse than hold them to a higher standard. That’s a decision in itself. Unfortunately for some, a difficult one to make. It should be automatic for us.

Every morning we should make the decision to go upstream, against the current. We must decide every morning not just to survive, but to thrive in a world where most would fear to go. Our job is to protect lives on both sides of the cross. If we choose the beaten path, we make a conscious decision to take the easy way out, to run the risk of having to live with ourselves knowing we allowed someone to be unprepared for the dangerous line of work we have. At no point, can we allow ourselves to let laziness be the order of the day.

Instead, we must DECIDE to awaken with a purpose. DECIDE to prepare for the worst possible scenario, physically, mentally, technically and spiritually. We must decide to make basic skills an autonomous response to stress. We must ensure we can make sound tactical decisions. This comes from deciding to prepare accordingly, deciding to prepare for your preparation of the unknown. As for me, I have decided that moderation is for cowards. I have decided that stronger people are harder to kill. I have decided that I will not waiver from my standards and expectations. I have decided that I will train with the intensity necessary to perform at a level higher than others. I have decided that I want to be the guy with the hard job, the crappy gear, the guy who can do more damage with a Halligan than most can with hydraulic tools. I want to be the guy everyone looks up to when the shit hits the fan. That’s my decision.

So, gentlemen, the day is yours……what did you decide?

-Jason Hurley

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Turf Wars

You’re on scene of a large, type 3 structure, moderately involved in fire. You have no water supply established, and only 5 volunteers have arrived at the call. Clearly, you need back-up. The incident commander makes a call for mutual aid, but the call doesn’t go out to the closest fire department. Instead, the mutual aid is requested from a fire department much farther away with a much longer response time.

This selective mutual aid scenario plays out way more often than it should all across the fire service. Somehow, the practice is justified internally within the concerned department requesting the mutual aid, but is it really justifiable? The hard answer is NO, of course. Frimg_6303om the outside looking in, this practice is incredibly dangerous. From the inside looking out, things probably appear more complex.

Let’s take a look at why this happens, where the ethics reside, and what we can do to minimize the TRUE victims of Turf Wars, the residents, and taxpayers of your community.

To dig into the meat of this situation, we have to look at the moments that lead incident commanders to make such a, seemingly, irresponsible decision. Typically, there is some type of tension that has festered between two departments. Even more likely, it’s mutual tension that has been inadequately addressed and communicated between parties.  It’s likely that the majority of the moments that cause turf wars are situational misunderstandings or a member fefd_birchstaptfire_061508rom either department acted inappropriately at one point causing a rift.

 

One specific scenario I’m familiar with involved one fire department with an explorer (junior) program and another neighboring department without an explorer program. The Fire Chief of the department without juniors believed that children didn’t belong on their fire scenes. Instead of having a conversation Fire Chief to Fire Chief a cold shoulder was bred and a Turf War was born. Mutual aid was never requested for years even though they shared a tight border in a business district. After several years, the two Chief’s finally had a conversation over a simple cup of coffee and a muffin. The two chiefs were able to iron out the situation by finding a compromise. No explorers allowed on mutual aid runs to this one district. The departments have been good with each other ever since.

A very simple fix to a long-running Turf War and all it took was a cup of coffee, a muffin, and conversation.

It’s important to recognize that working together and supporting each other will always be more beneficial than cold-shouldering your neighbors. In MOST circumstances simple comusinghydraulictoolsmunication will resolve the majority of misunderstandings. But you have to arrange the opportunities for communication to occur. If you’re a Chief Officer or Captain of a volunteer fire department and you aren’t friends or at least on friendly terms with your neighboring fire department and their members, you’re doing something wrong, and a change of behavior is needed.

Set up a monthly or quarterly coffee chats, or meet-ups over breakfast with neighboring Chiefs and officers. Strangers are more likely to ignore each other than friends. On scene, people are more apt to understand each other when they believe that friendships are at stake.

Take every opportunity you can to get-to-know your neighbors. Most departments are reaching out farther and more often for simple house fires they should be able to handle themselves. Making friends will always be more beneficial than making enemies. Bottom-line, Talk it out. Find some common ground. Chances are, you’ll end up finding you had more in common than you originally thought. In a perfect world, you should be training together, at least, quarterly.

 

 

Product Review

When Things Go Bad – 5 Disk DVD Training Set

This product review is in no way, shape, or form influenced or swayed towards one side or another.  It is strictly my perspective on what I believe in this product.

“When Things Go Bad, Inc. is a firefighter training company that has committed to deliver realistic training since 2005. WTGB teaches throughout the country at conferences and fire departments alike. All instructors share a level of energy that is motivating and contagious to the students. We here at When Things Go Bad are passionate about FIREFIGHTER RESCUE & SURVIVAL. The motivation for these Train-the-Trainer DVDs are to get this paramount information to as many firefighters as possible. Let us not allow our brothers and sisters to perish in vain. We do not rise to the occasion; we sink to the level of our training. Learn practical Firefighter Rescue & Survival tactics from experienced instructors on the When Things Go Bad training DVDs.”

 

I have known some of the instructors at When Things Go Bad for quite a while now, some of which are on the job in the same county as I am and are fellow F.O.O.L.S. brothers of mine.  I’ve known them for a few years, but only recently have they become involved with Paulie Capo and his company.  I personally called Paulie to ask for something unrelated to this when he mentioned he was looking for “the right website” to do a product review for his 5-disk DVD set based on Rescue & Survival.

After speaking to him a little about our site and what our mission is, he politely asked if Station-Pride would do it.

I told myself, “When you have someone like Paulie Capo asks for you to review his product, you had better say yes!”

wtgb1So there it was, a few weeks later, staring at me in my mailbox. The DVDs arrived in a manilla envelope with a personal letter from Paulie.

I opened it up and found the 5 DVDs, which were separated in their own individually photographed DVD sleeves and shrink-wrapped. Each topic/chapter was labeled on the back for ease of searching.

Each chapter skill was created by When Things Go Bad to remember and honor someone that was in a situation of needing its use.  Just to name a few, some of the included skills are window lifts & ladder carries, the Denver Drill, high anchor/hauling, flat & peaked roof removals, firefighter stuck in a roof, the Nance Drill, the Naked SCBA Drill, Calling the Mayday, Disentanglement & Low-Pro Maneuvers, Rope & Ladder Bail-outs, What’s In Your Pockets, and Drywall Ladder Climbing.

This DVD set is by far one of the best resources available for training at the firehouse.  We have all had our share of “Fire Porn,” but this feels like more than a training video.  From senior members to rookies, I have found that every person I had shown this to brought something valuable away from it.  When I got time to start the video in my firehouse, it took a few shifts to get through all five disks. Not because of length, but because of the lack of available time we had to sit down and watch them.

On the first shift, we got through the 3 Rescue DVDs. The rookie I had that day told me he was incredibly lucky to have learned some of the techniques in the academy, but he still just took away more than half the material for the first time. He was excited to get out to the engine room to practice putting some of the material to use.  He was able to quickly learn, retain, and repeat the hands-on skills he just saw on the DVD set. With excitement, he realized that he could move victims and firefighters quicker and with less effort than ever before in his short career.

The second shift we watched Survival. I had a different firefighter with me who has a couple of years under his belt. I got the initial feeling that he wasn’t too sure if this was his cup of tea. He didn’t give me the vibe like he was going to take anything away from it. After the first chapter, he got into it and started some conversation with me about some of the calls that the skills were created for. I told him about the importance of having an open mind when you train in these type of scenarios. Sometimes we get into the mind frame that we will never have to find our air pack in an IDLH atmosphere, reassemble it, and then don it. I get where he is coming from… We will usually not have to enter a burning structure and locate our air pack. But, we may have to locate a downed firefighter that just had a massive event occur, and they need help troubleshooting their SCBA due to a displaced bottle or a loose connection with an air leak. This is why we train. This is why we do this. Disentanglement props are only as good as we can imagine them to be. Yes, we can cut every wire and not have any entanglement hazards. But this video gives us four different ways to escape from this scenario. Open minds will win versus closed ones. Open minds about training will prevail and make you a better firefighter.

After seeing these two firefighters learn from these videos, I realized that I learned just as much.  What I knew already, I was able to reinforce in their minds by setting up the hands-on portion. The items that I learned, I take with me each time we roll out the door to the next emergency.

These five DVDs are an absolute asset to your training cache. It isn’t “just another training tape.” It is formatted and taped in a manner that makes it interesting and professional. When Things Go Bad has hit the nail on the head this time and I know they have much more to share. Their cadre of instructors are making a name for themselves and have taught at events such as Firehouse Expo, FDIC, Fire Rescue East, Wichita H.O.T., Fort Lauderdale Fire Expo, & Orlando Fire Conference.

Interview Questions with Paulie…
What made you start When Things Go Bad?
  • “I took firefighter survival/rescue classes and got a passion for the level of competence needed in that realm. After a lot of self studying about it, I had a local fire instructor ask me to come up with a presentation”.
  • It began with a couple guys without any official t-shirts teaching at someone else’s firehouse to starting a company.
  • “I didn’t intend to start a training company, the training company started itself. I just named it.”

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Who are some of your biggest mentors?
  • Jim Carino 33 year Squad Driver in City of Clearwater
  • Jim Crawford – Assistant Chief of Operations (Retired) – Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire & Founder of www.rapidintervention.com (no longer in service)

 

What are some of the classes you provide?
  • Rescue & Survival classes – two entirely different entities. We have classes for each separately.
  • Tricks of the Truck – Truck Company Ops Class – Classroom & Hands-On (Forcible Entry, Search & Rescue, Ground Ladders, Vent…along with many, many, many tricks)
  • Engine Co. classes

 

Who are some of the most important people to help you get to where you are today?
  • “I’m a student of the job – learning so many things from so many people.”
  • my wife, Kristie
  • my two children
  • and my late father, Mike, who taught me the business side of life that I had no idea of as a fireman.

 

What conferences has your company attended? (Just to name a few…
  • FDIC Class & Hands-On instructor for the last 11 years
  • Keynote speaker at this year’s Orlando Fire Conference and “Nitty Gritty Engine and Truck Workshop” with Bill Gustin.
  • Wichita HOT
  • Colorado Chief’s Conference
  • Along with many, many more.

Discount code for anyone that purchases from our link

10% off use code: stationpride

whenthingsgobadinc.com