As firefighters, we are asked to provide many types of services. Firefighting, EMS, hazardous materials, rescue, and other tasks that are usually menial. We respond when someone needs help standing after a fall, getting cats out of trees, and removing storm debris for hours on end. We teach CPR to local organizations, fire safety to children, and assist elderly residents with installing smoke detectors and vitals checks. We commonly refer to this as “service” when in reality these are “services.”
Service is not the duties we perform on a daily basis. Service is the art of putting others before yourself. Service is not a cheap buzzword to be used in mission statements or administrative meetings. Service is at the heart of our obligations. It refers to our heritage and tradition. It encompasses the meaning behind our craft as a whole. We are the “fire service.” Service is defined as, “an act of help or assistance.” This is what we do. This is how we make our mark in the future.
We serve three distinct groups of people. First, the obvious, our community. To serve the community we protect, we must continually strive to improve. If we fail here, we provide a disservice to our department and the name of all those who gave their lives in service. If we take our position for granted, we fail to help those in need. Our lack of preparation leads to a failure to provide assistance to those in distress.
The second group of people we serve are our fellow firefighters. My biggest fear is allowing one of my men/women to perish, knowing I could have done more to prepare them. When we fail to ensure the safety of our crews, our citizens, and ourselves, we perform a disservice. This disservice has a butterfly effect on the daily life of everyone we come in contact with.
The next group we serve are our families. We serve our families by making sure we are using effective, functional knowledge to ensure our safety. When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, they feel no more pain. They are burdened no more. But the lives and actions of their family, friends, department, and community are changed forever. They bear the burden of the loss, they feel the hurt, and they reap what you have sown. All too often we act as if everyone owes us something. Before you react, remember that you signed the dotted line. We asked for this job. No judge sentenced us to time in the fire service. We chose this line of work for a reason, and if you have any sense at all, it’s not the benefits. We are the ones who owe something. We owe our families more than just making another 24. We owe our brothers more than watching how to save his life on YouTube. We owe our community more than learning search procedures from an IFSTA manual. We owe these people. We owe our children the right to have a father growing up, by embracing the facts……We can be called to meet our maker at any time. We must exceed the status quo. There are too many amongst us that are not prepared to face adversity. I cannot and will not allow myself to become complacent in my “service.” I will serve others with a tenacity that scares the mediocre. I will not allow the opinions of others to affect my service to my brethren, community, and most of all, family.
It’s an honor to serve. It’s an honor to respond in a time of need. Don’t let disservice be how you are remembered for your service.
Bremen Fire Rescue
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.
What makes us fit for duty? Training.
What training are we referring to? Tasks used to perform our job. Whether it be a technical rescue, hazmat knowledge, ARFF, district familiarization or countless other avenues, as firefighters we are called upon to know an extremely wide range of skills to perform our duties and go home at the end of our shifts.
While this knowledge is part of the necessary tools needed to perform, almost half of our brothers and sisters who pay the ultimate price do so because of overexertion. When called upon to fight fires, it takes an enormous amount of physical exertion to do our job, yet we aren’t physically training for the arduous tasks we will probably encounter.
That’s where Firefit Firefighter Fitness Trainer comes in. This machine mimics the most strenuous of fireground activities in a compact unit that will fit in the corner of most fire station truck rooms. In some cases, departments are replacing the cumbersome entrance exam equipment with Firefit. It’s turn key, requires virtually no set up and is modeled after the CPAT, with a couple of exceptions of course. Just drag the machine from the truck room to the station apron, or use it inside if you have the space for it.
Firefit was created and tested by Randy Johnson, a 14 yr firefighter in the Texas Panhandle, 13 of those as a career firefighter. His personal results while doing a six-week testing program were nothing short of phenomenal. Starting with his heart rate, Day 1 resting heart rate was 66, working HR in the 180’s and recovery time to resting was 14 minutes. His body fat was 22%. Weight was 202. After six weeks using Firefit as his only training, and only on duty for a total usage of 15 times, his HR was in the 150’s during the workout; recovery time dropped to 4.5 minutes! Randy lost 7 lbs, gained back 2 (probably muscle), and lost 4% bodyfat.
While these results are amazing in themselves, the reason for the creation of Firefit, according to Randy, is to reduce the number of names we put on the wall in Colorado Springs and Emmitsburg every September and October, respectively. After all, isn’t that the goal and why we train to be the best at what we do?
I know of a few departments around me who don’t let their juniors do anything, and by anything I mean throwing ladders, stretching lines, hitting a hydrant…You know, the basic things every firefighter should be 100% efficient at.
Up at my company, we look at juniors as the future of our company. They are involved in meetings, drills, hall rentals, cleaning. Everything a senior member can do at the station, a junior member can also.
I’m from a company in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, called Munhall Volunteer Fire Company #5. We run a Tower-Ladder, an Engine, and a Squad. In our borough, we have four different stations, one located at each end, and two in the middle. I can’t say we are a busy company, but every time we go to a call, we do it quick, proficient, and right. I really can’t stress enough about having a junior program in your stations. When I first started out, I was 14. I joined a company in the hometown I lived in, and it was called Whitaker. They ran two Engines, a Squad, and a Foam Unit. I fell in love with it the first day I joined. My dad was and still is the Assistant Chief there, and he helped me get through everything tremendously. If it weren’t for them having that junior program, I would’ve never had as much passion for the fire service as I do now.
After two years, I moved on down the street to the station I’m currently at. I joined when I was 16, and right when I joined they only allowed members 16 and up. But a few months had passed, and we changed our by-laws and are now able to allow members to join at 14. That was by far the best decision our company has ever made. We currently have seven junior members. I was the 8th, but I just recently turned 18 and have become a fully active member. When I was a junior, we had a junior officer line. I was the Junior Chief, my buddy Jake was the Captain, and the Chief’s son was the Lieutenant. Being able to already hold an officer position at that age was like winning an Emmy.
You must be thinking, “Oh, okay, they just had a title…” No, we had duties and responsibilities to handle by ourselves.
Me being the Junior Chief, my duty was to train the juniors up to my level and make sure they know the ins and outs of the fire hall. I was a pretty educated kid at that age, and I had my brother and my two uncles help me out along the way. Several times at drill, they put me as the lead guy, the front man, the role model for the other juniors to look up too. When I first started this, I would always wonder why they put a 16-year-old up on stage to teach the SENIOR guys. It took me two long years to realize why. The only way you are going to better yourself is by trying to better other people. If it weren’t for this junior program, I wouldn’t be as smart or as trained as I am right now.
When I teach at our weekly drill, I look at it from a junior’s perspective. I can see what they do and don’t understand; I was in their shoes for 99% of my time so far. No matter what we do at drill, the juniors do the same. When we cut holes in our simulator, they are right there doing the same thing. They watch us, then they do it. When they do it, we go step-by-step with them, making sure they don’t mess up, but when they do, we reassure them it’s okay. When you’re training, that is the time to make those mistakes. You learn a lot more from the mistakes than doing it right.
Many people criticize and bash juniors for being untrained “whackers.” Well, start training them. Get them involved with EVERYTHING. Every single time you’re at the station with them, go over the trucks, throw ladders, pull some lines, learn what every tool does and their names, learn the role of the officers, learn the different truck and engine duties. Teach every single junior how you would want someone coming to your house at 3 in the morning for a working fire. After all, those juniors will fill your shoes one day.
If you don’t have a junior program or you don’t train your juniors because they aren’t certified, then step up. Make a difference in a young person’s life and be their role model. Be the one that when they say they first started out, you helped them. There is no better feeling in this world than making someone’s life better, if you don’t think that is true, you’re in the wrong line of work. Every time you go to a call and see an elderly woman standing in her doorway telling you guys that the fire alarm was an accident, you check to make sure, and you smile and say have a good night to her. You just made her feel safer and one of the happiest people in this world. She now knows that when trouble occurs, people that have never even met her will drop ANYTHING to save her and that my friends is one of the greatest feelings you can have. Do not take this job lightly. Train, stay fit and treat everyone fairly. Just remember, you were a junior at one point in time also. Make sure all your other juniors act in the same manner of courtesy to that elderly woman, as you did.
– Jonathan Scripp
Munhall VFC #5
Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so it only seems fitting that I should write about women in today’s fire service. I don’t know about you, but I can’t advise messing with someone who can both endure childbirth and swing a halligan. Cheese, light-hearted humor, mild controversy, and hard truths are all present and accounted for in my bag of writing tricks this morning. Let’s begin…
You walk through the front door of your local fire department on your first day on the job. You’ve dreamt of this very moment since your dad took you to see ‘Ladder 49’ as a little girl. The bay smells like diesel exhaust and various cleaning products, and the dining area smells of coffee and fresh kitchen table BS. Yes, this is exactly what you had hoped it would be like. A crisp blue uniform and black boots with nary a scuff or blood borne pathogen to be found on them.
You went to fire school and raised ladders, humped hose, slayed simulated dragons and dragged rescue dummies (some dummies even had pulses). You attended EMT classes and had your Hollywood expectations of life-saving heroics demolished, just like all that came before you. You’ve waded through interviews, physicals, psych evals and polygraphs to earn a chance here.
Your dad gave you parting advice as you left this morning; “You’re the new guy. Be seen and not heard, always be the last to eat and the first to wash dishes. Pay attention to your LT. Love you.” Some of the guys seem distant this morning, others, jovial. The coffee must not have kicked in yet.
Your gear is issued, and you get to work.
Fast forward to one month in; You’re growing as a firefighter. The things you learned in class are finally starting to make more (or less) sense, but you still feel out-of-place. ‘Maybe it’s me,’ you’ve asked yourself once or twice. Most of your new coworkers are genuinely good guys, but a select few either treat you like a fragile porcelain doll or a hindrance that they must bear the weight of for 24 hours.
You’re becoming increasingly agitated by romantic advances from co-workers and have even heard rumors swirling about your involvement with several of the guys from other shifts. True or not, why is this news any of their concern?
There have been grumblings from out of shape firemen about your physical ability to do this job. Despite passing all of the physical requirements and being able to stretch an SCBA cylinder to its very limits, you still catch shit from a guy that perspires at the mere mention of physical exertion.
“I weigh 300lbs; there’s no way she can drag me out of a fire!”
‘So, don’t weigh 300lbs,’ you think to yourself. A lack of dietary self-control on his part has somehow morphed into a negative remark about you. Is this guy for real?
There are plenty of other whispered criticisms; she’s a distraction, some jobs are better left to the men, she only got hired to boost diversity numbers, etc.
This isn’t what it was supposed to be like.
Why do you feel like an outsider, the constant third wheel of the firehouse?
You were told this would be the beginning of the best years of your life, working alongside people who will become like family to you. If any of this was indeed true, you are off to a slow start…
Sparing my dramatic liberties, this is what the fire service might look like to your female coworkers. Hopefully, the overwhelming majority of women reading this are scratching their heads, having never encountered this kind of issue at work. I sincerely wish for that, that all of this was simply make-believe. Unfortunately, we know that more than a few will relate quite well. On a more somber related note, a female firefighter recently committed suicide. Her actions are believed to have been sparked, at least in part, by workplace harassment. She was the topic of crude online comments, rumors, and stories. The information that was uncovered during the investigation will leave an ugly scar on the department forever, regardless of its role in her choice. Suicides rates are statistically higher in public service careers; this is not disputed. Did her “brothers” throw gasoline on a fire that was already burning hot enough on its own? Given this knowledge, any excuse you might have for the kind of treatment faced by our fictional firefighter described at the outset of this discussion is a bad one. Don’t be an ass.
How long has this gone on? I don’t know. Probably since the first woman picked up her first ax on her first horse-drawn, steam-powered fire engine.
The first known female firefighter in the United States was Molly Williams (per i-women.com Terese M. Floren 2007), a New York City slave who became a firefighter with Oceanus Engine Co. #11 in 1815. The first paid urban career female firefighter in the United States? Sarah Forcier in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1973. Women have been “Doin’ it” in the US of A for over 200 years, but it is still news when “insert name here,” Texas Fire Department hires their first female employee.
The reason is clear; this has been a boy’s club for generation after generation, and some opponents of change are being dragged into 2017 kicking and screaming. We all have worked with, met or know of one of these guys. Don’t play dumb. Hell, maybe you are that guy.
Ask yourself what your department looks like through the eyes of your female co-workers and their families. Why stop there? These same arguments can be made by anyone that feels disenfranchised by public service. The topic may be Mother’s Day-themed, but the message is about common decency.
So, is your department or shift one that makes them go home and tell their families about the great group of brothers they work with, or one that makes them go home and question their career choices? I have a wife. I claim sisters of the blood, marital and fire service variety. I have a mother, aunts, grandmothers. I have a daughter (love you, kid, if you’re reading this someday). If they were to follow me to work one day, would they approve of the way I treat my sisters in service? I like to think they would. Would yours?
There’s a fine line to be considered here. The line between making someone feel like a welcome member of the department, and treating someone differently in a way that makes them feel like an outsider. The line between innocent fun and downright bullying, between including them in questionable (see; fun) antics and being overprotective. If you must ask yourself if your department falls over the line, it’s probably time to change the culture of your department. The women I have met doing this job have no interest in special treatment or coddling. In fact, nearly all just want to be “one of the crew.” Nothing more, certainly nothing less. Many of them may not even like that I am writing this piece because in perhaps the very truest of firefighter fashions they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
“I’m not changing the culture of my department, there’s no reason. They joined us, we didn’t join them.”
In the words of Maya Angelou; “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Folks, the time has come to change some attitudes. To provide a pleasant nudge in the right direction, here are a few guidelines to aid in your future decision-making processes. These guidelines can apply to almost all of life’s situations, I have found.
-If it wouldn’t be funny to be said about (or to) your little brother or sister, it probably won’t be funny about (or to) most of your co-workers.
-If it would be embarrassing to have your family overhear you speak that way about someone, don’t speak it.
-If it feels wrong, it probably is.
-Always assume your mother is creeping just over your shoulder, ready to pounce and twist your ear while dragging you off-screen (using your FULL NAME, of course).
-It is possible to be both a brother and a gentleman.
-You don’t get to decide what should and should not be hurtful, offensive, or irritating to another. This is a tough concept for many to grasp.
To bring it all home, let’s talk about how this affects me because that’s what’s really important here, right?
It’s a hurdle I’ll never have to worry about jumping, so why even drag it out and open myself to (mostly) good-natured heat? What, if anything, do I stand to profit?
I have skin in the game. I’ll explain;
Someday, my daughter may decide to follow in my footsteps. I genuinely hope that she inherits her mother’s brains and grows up to become a rocket scientist, but I won’t stand in her way. I do worry about what kind of legacy we might be leaving behind for her and others; it doesn’t seem fair that she should have to inherit our messes. “Painful” might not be a strong enough word to describe how it would feel to watch one of my children struggle against antiquated typecasting that I had a hand in cultivating, whether by indifference or otherwise. Lastly, my daughter will inevitably run into coworkers of mine, both past and current, if she decides to enter public service. What might they have to share about me, what kinds of stories do I want to be told about me to my offspring? Will they reinforce her (hopefully) cherished memories of Firefighter Dad, protector, and friend, or will they tarnish them?
Will she be forced to question which man was the real me, “Work Dad” or “Home Dad?”
It’s up to me, I suppose.
Yours is up to you.
Happy Mother’s Day
– Randy Anderson
You know, the small boy in my heart has always wanted to be a fireman, and I’ve always been a little envious of the guys that get to wear the big names on their coats i.e. Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, New York, Boston…even Amarillo, Lubbock and so on…..
But my coat says Vernon, and you know what, we do the same job with 10% of the personnel, but 10x the heart…I couldn’t be prouder of MY dept.
We don’t need the big name, and we obviously will do this job with much less than the big city paycheck because we vowed to protect our community and our community’s belongings.
Take ownership in YOUR trucks, YOUR department, YOUR crew, YOUR name on your coat. Take pride in making those things shine like a diamond through cleaning, preparing, and training. Push through the shitty days and relish in the days that are call-free or full of the “fun stuff.” That kind of investment in YOUR department will only drive you to continue to grow and “leave it better than you found it.”
CLIFFWOOD, NJ – In an announcement made today by the U.S. Supreme Court, leather will no longer utilized in the production of firefighter ensemble or accessories, unless lawfully approved by a Board of Trustees that is comprised of members throughout the country that are trained and authorized to employ such use in a manner that would prove to be uninvolved with fire suppression activities.
The New York Times revealed several studies and interviews made by the founding members of Cairns & Brothers, a company that designed leather helmets has been named as one of the leading proponents of it’s product’s usage. “Leather is made more durable and outlasting today than ever before. If it weren’t for it’s usage in the fire service, we would be out of a job.” Cairns & Brothers have been the leaders in “lids” since the early 1850’s and have kept the design similar to that of it’s inventor, Henry J. Gratacap. Recent studies by consulting firms have revealed that leather helmets are being referred to as “top-heavy and unsafe.” Click here for current lawsuit information.
Other leather accessories such as front pieces, belts, and radio straps are also being included as a way to completely rid the profession of all types of leather, due to it’s apparent risk. Different types of leather are currently being tested in burn rooms for endurance, sensitivity, moisture release, conductivity to electrical hazards, and melt factor.
What could be done to prove the regulations are working? For years, safety stickers have been found inside the impact cap that indicate the date of manufacture, type of testing, inspector test code, and light refractivity rating. Over time, these stickers have stood up against the elements of the atmosphere most commonly found in fires. Manufacturers have become less strict on their placement/type of material used and it has been apparent in recent tests. “It is important for all manufacturers to comply with labeling requirements,” says Justin Paddock, Chief of Sciences at the Bureau of Exposure and Atmospheric Reactions to Headgear Factors under Thermal Insult (BEARHFTI). “These labels ensure consumers know if the products they are purchasing are new or used, contain added chemicals, may pose a risk to family members with allergies, and that products meet basic flammability requirements. In short, these labels protect the health and welfare of households.” For years these labels have stayed inside helmets, however it is becoming evident they are being removed, or more importantly, becoming less legible. Just so you know, some people probably didn’t make it this far. If you did, I would like to formally thank you very much for staying true to our page and following us. Without loyal viewers like you, we wouldn’t be what we are today. Since you are here, please be sure to bash the hell out of all the haters of this article in public forums and don’t let them talk too much trash about us. We appreciate your support and thank you very much. Now back to the end of the article, to “make it look good. “Labels have been required to assist in warranty and claim information, but have recently been of little help. Helmet labeling requirements in California began in 1911, in response to the fires following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. At that time, there were no set standards for letting consumers know what materials were used in the making of their leather products, allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to use unsafe materials.
Furthermore, due to a national shortage of cowhide, there has been an incline in supply, which has caused an all-time low in “economical relative susceptibility to purity,” according to Paddock. Consequently, leather products and their by-products have been on the decline in recent months. For these reasons and more, leather has become a past-time in our great profession, and we all need to go out and rid ourselves of it’s usage. We at Station-Pride highly recommend putting it to good use and put some salt on it as quickly as possible…because it sounds like it won’t be around for much longer. Visit our friends over at Leatherhead Mafia for more details and literature on how YOU can prevent this from happening.
As the Editor-in-Chief of Station Pride, I’ve gained an interesting perspective on the American Fire Service. From our follower’s, there have been numerous debates, discussions, arguments, inappropriate comments, judgments, learning moments, and praise. I’ll be forever grateful for the experience Station Pride followers provide and additionally grateful for the support of our movement. Processing, and sometimes engaging in, discussions has been a far-reaching educational experience for all of us here. We all come from some place different and we’ve each learned a special nugget of information unique to our firefighting environment.
As a fire service, we collectively live the same values; the preservation of life, property, and the environment. From that basic statement evolves an entire mission taken on by men and women who believe that cause to be a righteous one. The execution of that mission happens in every which-way possible. Effectively meaning that 27,198 fire departments in the United States, are all executing the same mission just a little bit differently than each other.
There is a myriad of valid reasons for the oddities between departments. One obvious difference among fire departments is geography, California tackles its fire problem different than New Jersey because each geographic location has a different fire problem with different fire needs.
What’s less obvious is the nuances. The small things that make us all different even if we are the same.
Have you ever experienced that moment, while visiting a different fire department, that causes you to cock your head to one side? You think to yourself, why are they doing things this way? It’s awfully archaic, or progressive, or bizarre, you might even think what you’re seeing is stupid. That hose load looks weird, I’ve never seen a tool like this before, why is there a homemade such and such. When you find yourself in those moments of noticing a strange difference between what you know and what you’re seeing, you’re actually witnessing the process of individual fire service evolution.
Every fire department starts off somewhere small. They’re born from one station, perhaps growing to two and even many as time passes and the population grows. Like children, each department grows up becoming who it was meant to be. All the guidance, helping hands, tough lessons, discipline, and difficult choices along the way, help to shape and mold what that department has become today. Every fire department is the hero of its own story.
As part of this evolution we end up with different rank structures, some fire departments have sergeants, crew chiefs, lieutenants, engineers, chauffeurs, and driver operators. We call vehicles Engines, Pumpers, Wagons, Ladder’s, Trucks, Rescues, Ambulances, cars, command vehicles, buggy’s. Rhode island calls Ambulances “Rescues” and they call a Rescue Truck a “Heavy Rescue.” On the Westcoast it’s flys in and on the Eastcoast, it’s flys out. Once again, every decision, whether thoughtfully made or culturally driven, is a small piece of each department’s evolution.
Fire service evolution has spawned new tools like the Boston rake, the San Francisco hook, the New York Roof hook, the Cleveland load, the Denver hose pack, triple load, and much more. Each tool, hose load, process, strategy, tactic, and norm was solidified by decisions and solutions found and executed for individual challenges by individual departments. Some departments are aggressive with tactics, others are more reserved and cautious which is a direct cause of fire department cultural evolution.
As a fire service, we have a few guiding lights of standardization. We have standard training materials provided by IFSTA, and an industry standard provided by the tireless efforts of the NFPA. Handfuls of national efforts to further standardize response efforts include First Net, Presidential Directive #5, NIMS, and FEMA’s EMI. But none of these have had much effect on individual fire service evolution. The way we do things is all different, yet the same.
Fire service evolution can’t exist without fire service leaders steering the ship. With every cultural norm, equipment purchase, solution based decision, strategic plan there is a firefighter, fire officer, or fire chief right there directing the evolution of the department. Evolution can be reactionary or intentional.
What is your department evolving into? Is it a premeditated evolution or a reactionary evolution. One of them you are in control of, the other one controls you.Are you even paying attention to it? Do you have a 5-year, 10-year, or even 20-year plan? With that plan, do you have a path laid out for achievement? Envisioning a long term plan is sometimes overwhelming. It’s imperative that you piece it out into manageable chunks.
A great example of controlling a fire department’s evolution is Boston, Kansas City, and St. Paul Fire taking the reigns on cancer prevention. Cancer prevention measures have wide-reaching affects on the quality of life for their firefighters. Not today, but tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Is it perfect? No, but it’s an effort to swing the pendulum and control the evolutionary and cultural process. By developing processes and operational procedures, leaders are steering the evolution of their fire departments.
All specifics aside, it’s important we refrain from judgment when we see fire departments doing things we don’t quite understand from our own experience. Each department has evolved to solve the same problems in a way which works for them. It may not be what you’re familiar with but if it works for them, than what’s the big deal right? That old adage, “there are more ways than one to skin a cat” comes to mind. (Even though I’m not certain why anyone would, apparently our ancestors had an aversion for cats.)
In apartment complexes and commercial strip malls across the country, we have issues with line placement through narrow or obstructed paths. These can be caused by parked cars, short setbacks, parking barriers, planters, shrubs, etc. With this in mind, one option available is to pass these obstacles before the deployment of the hose. This is what I like to call “The Delayed Triple Split.” This maneuver allows for the entire hose bundle (on a triple layer) to be deployed after passing through any obstructions or obstacles on the pathway to the building. A few considerations go into this deployment process; they are as follows:
– Placement for the aerial at buildings. The best practice is to have the first arriving aerial’s turntable at the center of the building to access the entire length of the building.
– Placement for the next engine company to bring water or supply a “booster back-up.”
– The width of the average car is approximately six to seven and a half (6′ – 7.5′) feet.
– The width of the average parking space is seven and a half to nine (7.5′ – 9′) feet.
– When spotting the hose cross-lays, use an object in the same area on the truck to act as a reference point, i.e. Piston Intake Valve, wheel well, strobe light, etc.
– The objective could be met with only two firefighters involved.
– Find the average length of bedded hose. The average car is about fourteen to eighteen (14′ – 18′) feet long. You need to find how many folds in the cross-lay are needed to reach the sidewalk, which is approximately twenty (20′) feet from the apparatus.
– The Nozzle Firefighter and Driver/Backup Firefighter go in opposite directions (Triple Split) with the loop and nozzle. This allows for short setback deployments.
– When choosing which way to separate the triple layer on the walkway, consider the need for the loop to advance with the building, not against.
– When Backup/Driver is pulling the loop section of the Triple Layer to the opposite side of the fire building, keep pulling it until the fifty (50’) foot coupling is at the entry to the breezeway/recessed area. This will allow the Nozzleman to walk in a straight path to the entry point and keep all remaining 100’ of hose in usable position in the yard.
– On the return trip to the pump panel or relocating to the front door for Doorman position, the last parts of the hose is placed onto the sidewalk/walk space to allow for clearance once the hose gets charged.
– The 50’ coupling is brought to the front door, with the accordion style layout in the open area between the stairs and building.
– If the 2nd-floor apartment is the apartment, take the nozzle and 50’ coupling to the top of the landing. This will further prove the need for the Backup/Driver to pull the looped section far enough to align the 50’ coupling with the base of the stairs.
With these steps, the training evolution was completed in approximately 1 minute from the time the parking brake was pulled. This is an easy way to allow for the needless pulling of the Triple Layer in a straight line, causing multiple steps to place in proper position.
The key to this process, as with any new training elements, is getting out and practicing. Finding those landmarks on the truck, the direction of the loop placement, and placement of the final layout in the yard or on the landing are the fundamentals to making this stretch successful. Unfortunately, many things in these types of properties will reach up and grab anything on the hose layout to hinder the progress. Couplings get caught on the edge of parking blocks, hoses get pulled under tires, etc. By moving the stretch to the fire building side of the obstructions, the layout will transition smoother with fewer locations for Murphy’s Law to apply.
– Joel Richardson
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.
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.
Allowing 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.
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.
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 lives. 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:
- “No employer should be allowed to deprive employees of their Constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms.”
- “I’d rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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:
- “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”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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?”
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?