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What Do You Think?

When I was first promoted to the officer ranks, I inherited a much older crew (in both age and tenure). The jubilation of the promotion coupled with the sobering reality that I was now the fall-back guy for anything that went wrong was quite the manic experience. My ego unwittingly got the best of me. I lived for a time under the delusion that as the officer, I needed to have the answers to every problem we would encounter. Trial and error was the order of the day with little progress and low morale. When I lost my driver to a transfer, I was able to convince a friend of mine from a neighboring station to replace him. Following his arrival, we set the standard of expectations of my crew. His frankness, professionalism, and intelligence prompted me to openly ask his opinion in many tough situations. I knew he would shoot me straight and was looking out for the crew and me, rather than having his own motivations. Before long, he spoke freely if he had a concern with any operations, but would always remain respectful that the accountability ultimately laid with me. “Everyone has a say,” was the culture we cultivated within our crew and because of this, we operated with impeccable production. Our relationship enlightened me that the greatest tool at the company officer’s disposal does not reside in a compartment, nor is it strapped onto his back; it rides belted in each occupied seat inside the cab. One of the smartest things an officer of any tenure can do is pose a simple question to his crew: What do you think?

It can be used in any situation where a fork in the road is encountered. Behind these four simple words is a thesis that tells the members that their experience is valued and that they have a stake in the operations at hand. Equally as important, it subtly encourages the crew to speak up without reservation which enhances the officer’s situational awareness.

Something to keep in mind is that there is a time, a place and a frequency to this approach. The officer must not hesitate to make the tough, split-second decisions that many on-scene situations call for and must understand that this question is not a way to dodge their basic responsibilities and duties. Accountability for the crew and their actions always lies with the officer, but when the situation allows for a second opinion, ask them what they think. The guys on the rig with you are motivated and driven human beings. In fact, they are some of the best and most caring individuals I have ever met. They want to be treated as such and significant ground could be gained by simply asking their opinion and letting their voices be heard. Their collective experience is the officer’s greatest tool, but like any other tool in the toolbox, you need to know how to use it most effectively, or you’ll be trying to vent a roof with a hacksaw. So I ask you: What do you think?

– Jake Henderson is a 30-year-old Captain with the Fort Worth, Texas Fire Department. He is assigned to Station 24 on the city’s east side which houses an Engine, Quint, and Battalion 4 as well as being a satellite HazMat station. Jake holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Protection Technology and is HazMat Tech and Fire Inspector certified.
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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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Leadership: A View from the Bottom Up

There have been numerous books, articles, speeches and blogs written about leadership. The authors range from Generals, Fire Chiefs, and CEO’s to the guy on the corner who took a business management class one time. Many works offer a great insight on the similar tools and attributes needed to be an effective leader; many just repeat what others have already stated. In any case, they all have one common thread…they are written from the perspective of a leader or someone in charge. This article takes a look from the subordinate’s perspective. An effective leader not only accomplishes the objectives set for them, they understand what their subordinates expect from them.

First and foremost there is an overwhelming difference between being in-charge (managing), and being a leader. People who manage tend to sit behind a desk and mitigate tasks without ever taking part in the work itself. There is a great disconnect between them and the workers in this situation. While this approach may work in office buildings and factories, it can cause dissent and inefficiency in a fire house. The nature of work that firefighters perform demands leadership, not management.

Leadership2Firefighters expect their officers to be leaders, not managers. All officers were at one time a firefighter themselves; it’s not like in the private sector where an “educated” college graduate is placed in-charge of workers who have been there for twenty years. Firefighters have to learn the job before they can be promoted. For any aspiring officer, these first years should be spent watching current leadership. What do they do right? What do they do wrong? Do the men respond positively or negatively to how they lead? Everyone develops an opinion about their officer, whether it’s good or bad. An officer should worry about how the men feel about them; it will affect how hard they will be willing to go for them. However, an officer is not in that position to be friends with everyone. They are there to ensure that their men go home at the end of every shift and that they are trained to the utmost of their abilities. That means that they will have to make unpopular decisions at times. They will have to call people out on their shortcomings. As a firefighter, I expect this from my leaders, as it makes me better at my job.

Sometimes it seems like trumpets have a way of erasing one’s memory of what it was like to be a firefighter. Some officers may even see promotion as an escape from the mundane daily tasks that firefighters perform. Being a part of those daily tasks is a great way to earn the respect of the men. The officer sets the tone for the day, if he’s out on the rig first thing after roll call checking his equipment, the rest of the crew will follow suit. If the officer disappears into his office after shift change and never once looks at his gear, the crew picks up on the lax attitude and equipment checks become less important. Firefighters understand that the officers have additional duties to complete during the shift. But what’s more important, filling overtime for the next day or making sure the equipment needed to perform is in working order?

An officer’s attitude can be seen in the attitude of the crew. When the officer works hard, the crew works hard. Leading by example is the quickest and surest way to earn the respect of the crew. A true leader would never ask a subordinate to do something that they themselves would not do. That’s not saying that the Captain needs to get elbow deep in a toilet, but when the entire crew is hard at work, the officer should not be checking their email. Firefighters notice when an officer is around and when they’re slacking, just like officers know when the firefighter is slacking. Being an officer may mean working harder than the rest of the crew, that’s why they make the big bucks.

Firefighters also value consistency in their leaders. Setting a standard and sticking to that standard gives the men confidence in the officer’s ability to lead. That can mean being consistent in disciplinary action or in decision making. Giving favor to certain crew members is a sure way to cause dissent within the house. In the same way, not following a medic on an ALS call because it’s after midnight will cause the men to lose respect. The officer should remember back to when they had to ride the box and needed help when it wasn’t there. The men should never have to wonder if help is coming, they should know that their officer has their back every time.

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The trust of having each other’s back can only be gained through time and training. Firefighters want to learn, they love getting dirty and working hard. It’s the officer’s job to ensure the crew is trained to the best of their ability. The attitude towards training starts at the very top with the Chief and trickles down to the Lieutenant. Some chiefs place training responsibility on the individual companies or houses, in which case the Captain or Lieutenant sets the frequency and quality of training. Other Chiefs, mainly in smaller departments, control the frequency and quality of training themselves. In either case, the training needs to be relevant to how the department operates and needs to be done more than once a month. If officers treat training as something that needs to be checked off for continuing education, the crews will suffer and so will the public they have sworn to protect.

If you are a firefighter aspiring to be an officer one day, observe those with the trumpets. What do they do well? What do they need to improve upon? Take notes on events that occur and how they were handled. Learn from both good and bad experiences. If you are a current officer take a moment to reflect. Really sit back and think about whether or not you lead your men or manage them. Have you become the officer you despised? Do you work with your crew? Do you earn their respect or demand it? To be a successful officer you, must remember what it was like to be a firefighter.

~ Charles Swank~ 125 Training ~

www.125training.com

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Yeah, I’ve Done This Before

It’s 3 AM on Sunday morning, you are sleeping soundly, in your bed, at the firehouse. At 03:01 you are very loudly awoken by tones that tell you a fire is burning, and you need to go. You put your feet on the floor, make your way to the truck room, and begin to don your turn-out gear as the driver opens the overhead door and starts the diesel engine that powers your fire apparatus. All four members of the crew take their place on the rig, buckle their seatbelts, and begin to think about what part of their district they are running to. As the truck makes its way toward the dispatched address, that familiar glow and smell of smoke tell you that you will be working soon. Around the corner, flames are visible, alpha/bravo corner of a single story, single family residence in a newer sub-division. The officer assumes command and begins his risk-benefit analysis, makes a tactical decision based on that analysis and begins to issue assignments to his crew and the other trucks arriving to help. You have done this many times; your crew has done this many times. This is a scenario that can happen to any of us, anytime. We will, no matter our position on the crew, begin to address the scene priorities the way we have been programmed. Life safety (ours – theirs), incident stabilization, and property conservation. I would like to discuss some things to consider in these “bread and butter” type fires that may have changed over the last decade.

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One of the very first “case reviews” I remember being exposed to, was about a fire that is still studied today. Twenty-Seven years ago this month five firefighters lost their lives fighting a large fire in a Ford dealership in Hackensack, NJ. After the fire, an investigation showed several mistakes that had been made. Mistakes in communication, command, and recognition of construction type were sighted. Hackensack Ford was a large, commercial building, of bowstring truss construction. The failure of the truss system led to a collapse that ultimately cost these men their lives. This tragic loss of life brought about sweeping changes in how we set up IC, and made basic knowledge of building construction priority on the fire ground. If you have been in the fire service very long, you know this case, you’ve hopefully read about it, and the dangers of that bowstring truss are burned into your brain. Traditionally we have thought of truss systems as being found in commercial structures. We all have heard the phrase “never trust the truss” and most of us show an extra degree of caution when dealing with them. However, it seems that more and more of these lightweight construction features are being found in homes.

In this article, we will take a look at what I call traditional construction vs. newer construction and see pictures of each. Once again, I am not Frank Brannigan, but these differences are worth a look.

We see a trend of open spaces and less compartmentalization in today’s newer homes. This change is largely due to builders using open web trusses and engineered wooden beams, rather than dimensional lumber.

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As you can see these trusses allow for wires, cables, and duct work to run through very easily. The open web floor truss will also support longer spans than does dimensional lumber.
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If and when a fire was to start in the solid lumber void space we would (more than likely) be able to confine the fire between the joists and extinguish with little extension

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The difference in fire control and extinguishment between these two types of construction is miles apart. However a fire in the truss void space yields very different results. This fire would have access to more space, more oxygen, and LESS MASS. The “less mass” part of that scenario is the one fire crews must take into account. Less mass=faster collapse. Another building component that has been used for years, but has made substantial gains in recent use is the “Engineered Beam”.

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These beams may be a piece of OSB stood on edge, between two solid pieces of lumber, or an LVL (laminated veneer lumber) sometimes called “GLULAM”. While both of these types of beams exhibit excellent load-bearing across long spans, from a firefighting aspect, we must be aware of their limitations.
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These beams will present the same “less mass“ problems that the trusses do and are built using glue that may cause accelerated degradation under fire conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You must also remember why these types of structural members are being used. Cost is a factor, but the main reason is to create larger open spaces inside the home. These large open areas, taller ceilings, and fewer compartments need to be planned for. Fires in larger spaces, filled with synthetic materials, that produce a higher HRR (Heat Release Rate), that are attacking structural members that have less mass could be a recipe for disaster.

Another feature that is worth a mention is what my department calls “bricks on sticks.” This refers to a faux chimney being built above the roofline and is supported by 2×4 “stilts” in the attic. When we see a brick chimney coming through the roofline of a house, the natural assumption would be that the chimney is made of masonry from bottom to top. While fighting a fire in a newer home, we experienced an unexpected collapse of a chimney, which led us to find out why. Here are some pictures of the type of thing we found to be common in newer homes.

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This is what the fireplace looks like inside the home.

 

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A simple metal chimney inside the attic space. Notice the two 2×4’s attached to the roof, and the ceiling rafters, and no masonry above the ceiling and through the attic.

 

 

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On the roof, we find a full brick “faux” chimney supported only by those 2×4’s and the roof deck itself. Imagine the surprise of fire crews should something like this overload the roof and end up on division 1 during a fire attack.

#7The only time that any of these (or other) lightweight features can be seen with little effort is during the construction of the structure. Once the building is complete, interior and exterior finishes will hide these construction practices. I have always enjoyed watching things being built. Houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, warehouses, it doesn’t matter, I like to see the various stages of how things are built and how it may affect me or my crew. I am not an engineer or an architect, but sometimes I see things during these construction phases that make me ask questions. Lately a trend of lightweight construction in homes has caught my attention. There are some tactical considerations that must be made for any lightweight construction building, especially residential. This is why a pre-fire planning program has become even more essential to what we do. Keep in mind, getting on your truck and going out to look at buildings being built is pre-fire planning. While significantly less formal than showing up to do a hazard inspection and draw a plot plan, I find this method to be equally or even more helpful.

 

#8So, it’s 3 AM, and your crew has been toned out to fight a fire in a single family dwelling. Be sure that you have educated yourself and are prepared if this “SAME FIRE” you have fought 25 times, happens to throw you a curve ball.

Stay Sharp, Stay Safe

Vinny

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than he who will give up his life for a friend.

Firefighters, all too often, may lose their lives protecting the lives of total strangers.

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10 Deadly Sins for Fireground Failures – Part 2

Please refer to 10 Deadly Sins for Fireground Failures Part 1 here.
So here we are, already through 5 of the “10 Deadly Sins of Fireground Failures” and we haven’t gotten to the juicy stuff yet. In our line of work, we need to conduct ourselves in the most professional manner. We are the men and women who are called upon to not only save a life, but to also do any job that is encompassed in the job description of a Jack-of-all-trades. Whether it be 3 in the morning, or 3 in the afternoon, we need to be as ready as possible. Some call it ‘Combat-Ready’ others call it just being a firefighter. But how many times has the scene fallen apart around you? How many calls have you been on where it got much worse before it got better?

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Well, as we continue the 10 deadly sins, please keep this in mind. We are here to do no harm. We are called upon to make the situation better. We are bettering the scene, and ourselves by not committing any of the deadly sins. Sometimes we need to prepare beforehand for what could occur during an emergency, and that’s why we train. Train hard and train often. With that being said, let’s keep going.

 


LACK OF PREPARATION

 Anything can happen on a fireground. We need to be ready for everything, plus anything else that can get thrown at us. Without our training, we’re a carpenter without tools.dont practice until you get it When we started, each and every one of us took an oath to help and assist in any way possible. It doesn’t matter if it was to the community, your family, or to yourself. We need to strive to better ourselves so we can abide by that oath, and return home after every tour of duty. If we don’t prepare, we won’t be ready. If we aren’t ready, it’s our own fault. Don’t be ready for anything, ALWAYS BE READY FOR EVERYTHING.

 


 LACK OF EXPERIENCE

The Brotherhood is one of the best aspects of our service. Whether we like it or not, that’s what we signed up for. Like every tool we have, it can have it’s advantages. One of the best advantages we have is the older members of our departments. Although some of them are tired, and over the excitement of running calls and screaming down the road, they are seasoned. They are a perfectly cooked steak that is waiting to be cut into. A seasoned veteran that spends their entire career gathering information is full of knowledge and know-how. Ask them. They know what they’re doing. All you have to do is ask an old salty dog what their biggest fire was. They will be sure to have a huge, ear to ear grin, as they speak about the scene of the most hectic, heavy fire they have seen in all their years. They need to be asked. Not only to get the experience from them and pass it on to the newest generation, but also to finalize their career.

Old firefighter

Whether volunteer or career, every firefighter goes through a series of phases. The beginning is when they are getting the very basic info (fire academy). Probation provides the means to get on-the-job experience, while still learning the job and how it works. The middle of the career is a slack period where the fireman betters him/herself and gets further education (either advanced fire/EMS classes or degrees). The hardest to cope with is the end of a career. The phase that occurs when the firefighter realizes they aren’t as young as they once were, and how they need to start passing it along to the new, young members. Before every Jake hangs up his helmet and coat for the last time, they need to reflect on their career. It provides excellent training to the membership, and finishes closing the doors to an invigorating line of work.

 


INABILITY TO FORECAST WORSENING CONDITIONS

Along with experience, comes that hidden sense to detect what’s wrong and what’s right. Whether it’s in a fire, or on a vehicle accident on a highway. A firefighter must always have their head on a swivel, and detect the possibility of worsening conditions. There are many situations that could arise, but detecting them beforehand is much better than to have to deal with the consequences later.

 


INATTENTION TO DETAIL

This one is mainly for the IC. Inattention to detail for the sake of this article is in reference to having too many radio channels that need to be attended to, and not being able to hear/understand all radio traffic. Another portion of that would include the ever-so-frequent radio transmission that no one understands, and everyone on scene is looking at each other, scratching their head, with the “what did they just say?” look on their face. Hopefully it wasn’t a MAYDAY. Hopefully it wasn’t a, “We’re out of water” transmission.

 


All in all, every department is different and run by different people of the same title. Our main goal is to provide the best quality of care, in the worst imaginable of times. We all have the same end goal in mind. Stay safe, protect property, stabilize the incident, and make sure everyone goes home. Every single one of us can find something that needs to be fixed along our career path. For the tenth deadly sin, I ask that each of you look at yourself. Find at least one sin that you need to fix, that could potentially ruin a fireground’s production rate. Let’s all take the time, and better ourselves, before something happens that can have disastrous consequences. It’s awfully easy to arm-chair quarterback a fire on YouTube, but it’s all irrelevant if you can’t do the same for yourself. In the end, it makes you a better firefighter, and it gets you to take the time to provide some self-realization in what can be fixed. We can change a lot in the big picture, just by making small adjustments in our own lives. Stay salty.

– The “Irons”

 

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10 Deadly Sins for Fireground Failures – Part I

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More than once, each and every one of us have been on a fireground that was absolutely chaotic. Whether it be in a state of disarray from the get-go, or operations were going smoothly and control has been lost due to one reason or another. That is the question. Do you remember the last time you were on a fireground that everything went smoothly? Those are the ones that stick out in my mind more-so than the scenes that were complete chaos. A fireground with no problems is almost thought of as a unicorn. One that is always dreamed about, but is never seen. For the purpose of this article, we will use the word “never”, and think of it as “seldom,” or “hardly.”   We will also use the name Joe Schmoe as your brother in battle. Joe has the best intentions,  he doesn’t always do the right thing at the right time. Poor Joe. We all have one, it’s up to you to know who he is.

 

After a lot of thought and tribulations, I have compiled a list of 10 Deadly Sins that are reasons why there are failures on the scene of an emergency. Whether it be EMS, Fire, rescue, or TRT, if any of these items occur, there could be an absolute break down in progress.

 


 COMMUNICATIONS

How many times have we been on a fireground Tac-channel, and “Joe” is on scan?   Better yet, what about when he hadn’t changed over to fireground operations at all? We all want to smack that guy, just to get his head in the game, but it happens. Now, what if Joe was the OVM, and interior attack is screaming for vent? What if he needs to bump up the pressure on the line?  Joe better get his act together! How about the good ole’ fashioned battery chirp.  The one that comes at the absolute, most inconvenient time while operating at a scene? Yep, that breaks down communication because not only can you hear the annoying chirp, but so can everyone else on the fireground. Trust me, we are all looking to see who “that guy” is.
 
 


 MANPOWER

Whether career or volunteer, getting personnel to the scene is a logistical nightmare.  Volunteers can never predict how many bodies will respond, and career departments sometimes don’t have the funding, and are operating at minimal or under-staffing. It’s a double-edged sword. A good incident commander can overcome this by performing the correct job functions, at the correct time. Mutual aid can be considered, if not for the incident itself, but for back-filling your empty stations. At least get them coming. They can be cancelled later, if they aren’t needed. Luckily, manpower is one of the easiest sins to overcome. You’ll see why when we get to the rest of them.
 


COMPLACENCY

Joe doesn’t need to wear his full PPE on this AFA activation. It’s always a false alarm. Does false alarm mean the same as unknown activation? Or should I say, does an unknown reason for activation constitute a false alarm?  Without going into tactics, I would bet most would say PPE, and investigate, investigate, investigate.   We all have our Joe’s, but this one should never happen if we strive to call ourselves professional firefighters.   If we were plumbers, wouldn’t we want to be the best damn plumbers out there? So we can get more clients, and make more money?  Well it’s the same for the fire service.   Go to work, DO YOUR JOB, and provide the highest level of customer service possible to get the job done correctly the first time.  And don’t go back to the scene later in the tour, just because of your own fault, Joe!

 

phonto

 


TOO. MANY. CHIEFS. (We all know what C.H.A.O.S. stands for…)

Now this one isn’t going to make me popular with the white hats, but it’s not always their fault. A leader can be anyone in the organization, from the bottom to the top. It takes that one special person to pick up the reigns and plow the way. With that being said, sometimes we don’t need idea-creators. We need workers. We need the collective coordination of ideas to come from ONE person, on ONE radio frequency, at ONE time. The confusion doesn’t usually come from having too many tasks, but rather, having too many people giving their own personal opinion about what should be going on at any given time. Too many plans at once is much worse than in a coordinated effort (Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…). This way, there’s no arguing, and no personal agendas that are left unfulfilled. Both of which create poor attitudes, impatient subordinates, and grudge-matches. And Heaven help me if I say the term “micro-manager.” I’ll leave it at that. So for the sake of keeping the scene running as smooth as possible, and the sanity of the members operating, remember why our officers are where they are. They are leaders. Not any Joe Schmoe can just jump in and take the helm. Let them lead. And on the other hand, let everyone do their respective job, and don’t jump in unless it’s not being accomplished.

 


FREELANCING & TUNNEL VISION

I combined these two because most of the time, they go hand-in-hand.  Let’s go back to bashing on Joe for a little while.  Joe just started with the department and it’s his first real fire.  Eager, and ready to work, he gets off the truck with his mask donned.  While grabbing his tools, pulling his line, and running to the front door, what does he see?  Our buddy Joe Schmoe sees absolutely nothing but a foggy lens, and an outline of a front door that he thinks he’s kneeling in front of, awaiting orders from his boss.  His boss is conducting a 360 and securing utilities.  Joe gets excited and goes inside to fight the beast.  Joe is currently spiraling downhill into the depths of the unknown.  Joe never read the smoke, never got a size up of the building, never received orders from his Engine Boss, and never even knew the house wasn’t on fire to begin with.  I’m not here to preach why freelancing is bad. We all know what happens. Joe continues to act out, and we all sit here and talk about him.

 

 

 

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The Art of Leading Ricky Rescue

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!

 

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Pride Try It, It’s Free

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.

Pride Acronym:

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.

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“John Wayne Time, You’re On Your Own”

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.

“Dispatch, strike a second alarm”

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 alarJWSPm 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”