Weekly Firefighter Roundtable Sunday June 30, 2013

Join us for our weekly firefighter Roundtable discussion this Sunday evening June 30, 2013 at 8:00 PM Eastern time.

We use voice and video chat via Google HANGOUTS so you should have a minimum of a gmail address and/or a google+ account.

We talk about all topics that come up, tactics, recent events, equipment, leadership and more.

If you would like to join in send. Your email to pete@petelamb.com.com and I will send you a link at exactly 800 PM Sunday evening. You check your email, click the link and you join us live!

We have a small connected group now and we are looking to expand.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013


I get a variety of emails each week some are good and some are not so good but at least I am provoking some thought and hopefully doing what the website says and that is “Changing the fire service, one mind at a time”.

This week I am once again talking about a problem that is a symptom of our society. The problem is that it is spilled into the fire service and as emails would tell me it is wide spread. The subject is entitlement.

I should preface this commentary by saying that I have well over 30 years in the service in a variety of capacities and I have been involved in three departments and a statewide agency.

Nobody owes me anything, nor do I believe that on a daily basis. I chose this service to do just that and provide service to others.

The problem that I am noticing is that some of our younger members believe there is some entitlement or rights that come with being on the job for four years. Chief Billy Goldfeder coined a term 6/22 meaning someone who had been on the job six months and acted like they had been on 22 years. I think we all have these members.

These are the members who suddenly become veterans once they have been on past their one year probation.

Some of the things that have been reported to me via email might sound familiar…. A member with three years explaining to someone else why they should get the assignment, because they are senior!

The members who are first worried about when they ran out of sick days because they have been on for two years and have no sick time. They make these stupid statements in front of firefighters who have not used sick time in twenty years but yet they need their entitlement.

What about the members who suddenly put themselves on the same plane as those who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. These younger firefighters who think that their application and successful appointment allows them to claim some act of heroism or bravery as their own. There is no comparison to those 343 member that gave their lives that morning. Simple.

There are those members who think that some number of years months or hours in grade entitle them to some form of respect.

What tips can we offer to make sure that folks understand earning something versus an entitlement? I am not sure I have a conclusive list but I will offer some tips.

Make sure all new members are taught basic fire service history. If they understand the aims and ideals of those who came before us then maybe they will be less likely to feel entitled.

Make sure all new members meet and review your own department’s history with previous members who have gone before them. Members who may have worked 72 and 96 hours to get the provisions in the current contract that you now enjoy.

Lead by example even if you are not an officer but are in fact a “real” senior member.

Teach all new members that their reputation and any ” entitlement” that they have is being earned each day they are on the job. They are entitled to a fair shake from their brothers and sisters and the boss, but anything else they earn such as their own reputation is their own choosing.

At the fire department funeral for a Boston Firefighter Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce made a statement about …”in this world there are givers and takers”…”The takers are easier to spot because they are always in front,…but there are few givers” This phrase has always stuck with me and it meant something as I always wanted to be a giver. It seemed like a better thing to do.

Hey that is why there are choices in this world of give and take. decide where you want to be in your department and fire service career.

Let’s try to show the takers what they truly have been missing because this business would be a lot better off with less folks that feel the fire service owes them some entitlement to either pay, benefits, respect, rust and much more.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – UPS Truck Haz Mat

This week a Haz mat simulation based upon an incident I actually had, with exception of the location….it was “delivered” to the fire station ramp!

1.) We all know we will probably never see quantities large enough for placard inch, so we now have to rely on labels and package type.

2.) Do we really know what the package contents are even though there is a declaration of the contents?

3.) Bill of laden??? Electronic package information and data? How do we know if the driver is incapacitated?

4.) Handling a Haz mat if there is a liquid leak involves containment, in a powder or solid the situation is somewhat static, what challenges are brought by a vapor or air release?

5.) List the first 5 action items you would perform.

Thanks, stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Leadership?…….It’s Elementary My Dear Watson

Recently, I got to re-watch a special about a man by the name of Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell lived in Edinburgh in the 1800’s. It is thought by many that he was the actual inspiration for the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.
Dr. Bell’s student A. Canon Doyle wrote about some of the things he learned from Dr. Bell and did so by inventing and writing the Sherlock Holmes Character.
So…what brings me to leadership?
During this presentation I was watching Dr. Bell explained his three basic principles for teaching early scientific methods (forensics) to his students.
His three principles he taught them were these:
Let’s apply those to being a good leader.
My thought here went in a couple of directions (what are the odds?). The first is as an officer, supervisor or leader you should say little and listen a lot. I have been exposed to so many leaders that have no concept of what is really going on in the agencies or companies it is disheartening. They call themselves great managers and leaders but they have no idea what is really going on in their command. Observation is more than a cursory glance it is really looking at things like Sherlock might have through a fine ever present magnifying glass. If we observe those fine, minute details the large problems will take care of themselves.
The second part or thought about observation I had, was how difficult it can really be and how it takes an effort. I am speaking now of the fire chiefs who fancy themselves as administrators only and do not even go to alarms or emergencies any longer. They have not really observed what is going on because they are too busy or they do not want to be perceived as checking on the troops. BULL! Get out from behind your desk, leave your ivory tower and actually observe your operation, you might be surprised (pleasantly or unpleasantly) at what you see.
After you have observed, think about what you have actually seen. Reason with yourself, and revisit any previous experiences you might have had that would have been similar. Research what others have done, spoken, and or written about a similar situation and make a decision. The definition of the word really means to come to some conclusion by reasoning. As this relates to leadership and handling of problems, my advice and analogy is pretty simple. Come to a conclusion and make a decision one way or another. Leaders today have lost their ability to take risks, educated guess, and have suffered analysis paralysis. These people do observe, and then they fail to come to any conclusions.
After you have observed and made some brilliant deductions we hope, you should not rest. You should continue to confirm what you thought and whether or not your proposed solution has positively affected the situation. This fail to follow up is critical. It can lead you to believe that every deduction you have made is perfect and that in fact you know you never have to follow up because after all you were right all along. This failure can compound itself by making and continuing to make horrible decisions in the future. It also ties in with my first comments about observations. Many supervisors today feel that following up and checking on subordinates is a bad thing. It is your job and your responsibility and if you do not have the stomach for it then get a paper route.
In summary I thought that these three simple basic rules as taught to medical students in the 1800’s applied to leadership principles.
In fact I think they have some merit in the tactical operations of firefighting as well for that matter.
Upon arrival make an observation (size-up), make some deduction (fire in a void space or a 2 1/2 story wood frame) and confirm by sending crews to ventilate and attack using standard tactics.
The three principles as stated could have been the basis of the DECIDE method used in hazardous materials by Benner as well.
Oh yeah… and Dr. Bell also always told his medical students the following…The lessons are presented in the classroom, they are learned by the bedside of patients.
How true that is and how well that applies to us in the fire service. Learn and study the educational lessons, but field experience is a must for a safe and effective firefighter or fire officer.
So some of the principles of leadership really are elementary!
Thank you Dr. Bell !
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Mill Building

This week a fire in a mill building. For those that do not have mill construction, think about a multi-story large area commercial building.

1.) What type of construction is this (NFPA Designation) and what are the characteristics of this type of construction?

2.) Have you pre planned the structure and is being used for the same occupancy loading as what it was built for?

3.) What is your strategy for this incident? Not tactical operations but strategy.

4.) What is the maximum flow rate that your department can flow to an upper floor of this type of building? Calculate this by using you apparatus and manpower assigned on a first alarm.

5.) How many aerial devices will be needed and what is the best placement for them?

If you would like feedback on your answers send an email to pete@petelamb.com, or use the send voicemail tab on the right hand side of this page.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013