Category Archives: Uncategorized

Go to school!!

I know it is only August, but in many parts of the country, children are either already back or going back to school.

My thought for you this week is check with your department’s fire prevention office or PIO and see if you can get into the elementary schools on September 11th. Do it now, scheduling class time is difficult.

I think it is a time where local fire departments can go into the schools, speak with children who may not have even been born at the time of the event. My point is two fold; One is to tell the story from a perspective of a firefighter. The second is to highlight and tell specific powerful stories of folks like Chief Jay Jonas, of Paddy Brown, or Fire Marshal Orio Palmer, or hundreds of other acts that were performed that day and the days and weeks that followed.

Do not tell the stories as if you did anything (unless of course you did) but tell the stories to show what firefighters do. I think you might be able to ask teachers to have some parents there also if they are able. If you can’t get an appointment easily, offer to go into your own child’s school or class.

If you can’t get into the schools, contact senior citizen groups, veteran’s groups and others.

We as a fire service speak an awful lot about never forgetting.

This tragic and historical event should be remembered. It affected each and everyone of us as firefighters and as proud Americans.

We should also take this time to say that the number lost is much higher than the 343. With all of the respiratory and cancer deaths the toll goes far beyond this day. It is also the same for us. Our health risks last long after any individual incident may last.

I think we should take this opportunity to make our youngsters and our civilians understand that these brave members that died are not heroes for what they did, they were in fact heroes for what they were willing to do.

Make a plan and an appointment to visit your schools today.

Do it to take action to honor these brave souls, and to “Never Forget“.

Do this public safety talk with humility, honor and respect. Do it on your own time. Do it for free.

Is it the results, the message, or how you performed?

This week we are talking about some things that require additional thought. Sometimes we do not look at things from the lowest levels and we just get somewhat self absorbed and always believe we are right without any critical thinking.

Is it The results?

Many times on the fire scene or any emergency incident we become very results oriented. If you make a save and make a great knockdown we will all claim it is our superior skill and effort and generally walk away. Even some after action reports now are afraid to actually say that anything went wrong, even if it did. Also if someone looks at the operation with a critical eye, people will deflect any form of improvement, because after all it all came out right anyway, right? What happens when the outcome is not good. Somebody hurt, or killed and things went bad. Do we learn from this or is it the unspeakable.

On the fireground or more importantly in the firehouse the message that is being sent consciously or unconsciously could be the most important thing. What is the message that you are speaking versus what is the message that you are demonstrating? How is it being perceived and interpreted.

This is sort of the root of this post, and in this case it also refers to your message you are sending to social media.

Here is what I see in many cases. Here I am and here is what I am all about and if you do not agree you are wrong and I will insult you. The second thing I am witnessing is people underestimating their social media reach and impact. We have people who are demonstrating some behaviors that might lead a young impressionable in experienced firefighter to emulate your bravado and get themselves in trouble.

I absolutely love the reach of social media and I have met lots of folks and friends that I speak with on a daily basis.

Here is something to think about for just a moment.

A young firefighter dies or gets seriously hurt, and you were the social media mentor without even knowing. Is it just because this is a dangerous business and stuff happens? Is it not my fault, I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it? He or she should have known better.

So my thoughts on this blog are to take our actions or performances and just be a little more aware of what we are responsible for. What impression are we leaving, and what actions have we taken, and if something goes bad, will we be happy and comfortable with the results, our message, and our performance.

Anchor App Explained

Earlier today I put out a tweet using the Anchor App and I also sent out the link to the App Store. The title from the App Store is misleading. It indicates that it is a Podcasting App. Not everybody is in to podcasting.

Let me tell you why I am excited about it. In real life it is short audio (2 minutes or less) tied directly to Twitter. If you use the APP you can actually respond with a quick audio reply.

This has amazing opportunities to get quick feedback and take a quick poll or get feedback.

I m going to experiment with it.

Even if you do not have the app you can still hear the audio.

Give it a try I think the possibilities for some down and dirty quick fire service discussions might be worth while.

Informational Triage

As firefighters, we all know what triage is. Simply put, it is the sorting out of patients so the outcome is the greatest good for the many.

I am a huge fan of what the internet and social media has done for the fire service. Speaking for myself it has allowed me to create this Blog, create the podcast, and the Firefighting Today Weekly Roundtables, and Training on Demand among other things.

My point is that the downside of social media is how quickly and how fast things are flying at us. My informational triage sort of looks like these four categories: Facts, Opinions, Both of these, neither of these. Lets take a look. This triage can be used for social media discussions, sitting around the firehouse table, or even at organizational meetings.

Facts

Facts are just that. They are statements that are true with out much dispute. There will always be people who disagree with facts but facts will usually stand on themselves. The sky is above us and the ground is below us. Facts. Now someone will say, what if I am hanging upside down or something. One of the good and bad things of the fire service is the phrase “What if?” It is really good on the fireground and during size-up and preplanning but in discussions it is most likely used to “argue” a point. If I present enough “What ifs” I can persuade you and prove my point.

Opinions

The old phrase is that everyone has one. We are very possessive and righteous about our own opinions and it clouds us from actually seeing the facts in some cases. Yours and my opinions, while they may be string beliefs don’t necessarily have to be factual. Most of the social media discussions and current events are based upon differences of opinions. This sometimes has value if it remains constructive but can be very destructive and devise it if remains unchecked.

Both of These

There are times where facts and opinions can coincide but it many cases they are not crystal clear. Many good debates use a blur and a mixture of facts and opinions to prove their point. We need to “diagnose” a little further when we triage these.

Neither of these

Generally this situation occurs with someone very uninformed or they are they result of a deliberate action because the person doesn’t know or care about the facts and just makes statements that can’t be verified or backed up. This can be deliberate misinformation to cause some desired result or just a lack of caring. I have seen both.

In a triage system, facts should be seen as GREEN. Easy to handle, require very little of our time and effort and will probably turn out OK.

Opinions can be seen as YELLOW. They should be measured and monitored and the outcome still is not certain.

Both of These are RED. They require a lot of effort and they should be diagnosed quickly because they have multiple issues and the outcome could be terrible.

Neither of These is a BLACK tag and maybe the best thing we can do is walk away and not expend any resources if our intention is to do the most good for the many.

Think about the information triage system before you engage next time.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering……This is only my opinion. ( Insert YELLOW tag here.

 

You Can’t Go Back To A Place You Have Never Been

I would love to take credit for this quote but it was given to me by an older crusty Deputy Fire Chief From Massachusetts, so I give Jack all the credit for this one.

What does it mean?

I watched a social media thread the other day, and I am mad that I did not join in because I agreed with much of it. It had to do with instructors selling their souls and trying to be all things to all people.

There is a capitalistic side to fire service training these days and I am not sure it is a becoming trait. Now before anyone goes off the rails, I do get paid for about 20% of what I provide. You see I do  not charge for most stuff at all. I barely cover expenses. You see none of that makes me smart, but it does mean I just want to help and give back.

I hope that we all take a breath and just be genuine in what we are sharing. be sure to cite references when re-sharing others writings and classes. We now have a reached a point where we have people teaching, writing and lecturing about skills they have never performed.

I am not sure this helps any of us in the service, and it might be harmful to a young impressionable firefighter who does not know how to sort or how to begin vetting the information they are reading.

The moral of the story is just try to be a “good fireman”. You should review if that is your goal or is it to collect money to become a famous fire service professional. Do believe everything on your resume….I know the author!

What Happens if it doesn’t work?

How come what I was trained to do, didn’t work?

I became a basic EMT in 1975. This is a story of my first loss.

When you are a young rookie, you hate to lose. Some things never change, but when you are young and inexperienced it leaves a mark.

When you first come out of EMT school, you think that you can cure most if not all of the ills of the world. Also, as gruesome as it might seem you sort of wait for something bad to happen to really test your skills. I guess it is sort of like the military that way, you don’t want to have a war, but it is nice to see all of this training in action so you know it works.

Paul & Dennis were twins. Both of them served as volunteer firefighters when they were ages 16 through 18 and had first aid training. Paul and Dennis went to school with my sister. You know, it’s sort of funny that in small villages or towns, there is always some connection to your own family or back to the department somehow. I think that is something that folks in large municipal fire departments miss, that direct connection to the community.

None of what Paul and Dennis did as volunteers, or the fact that they went to school with my sister mattered now, but those thought went through my mind somewhere while I was repeatedly counting out loud,….One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three on thousand…. Paul was 29 years old, and was lying lifeless on the floor. We found him sitting upright, with the telephone still in his hand, from his mom’s answering service business. My partner on this particular day, Dave,  lived three doors away and was a good friend of Paul’s about a couple of years younger. As I breathed into his lungs, by sealing my mouth over his, Dave continued to pump on his chest. I asked for an airway to put in, because we were getting air in, but his color was getting worse, from gray to blue from lack of oxygen. Paul’s elderly and handicapped mother was hysterical and  that made it very difficult to work on him. One one thousand, two one thousand,….breathe dammit!

Paul was a very large boy and probably weighed over 270 pounds so moving him out was a real chore. We continued CPR, we ventilated with a bag valve mask with oxygen, but his color only got worse and worse. When we arrived at the hospital, we explained all that we did, and they worked on him a little and then the doctor said to stop.

Stop! What the hell do you mean stop! he is only 29 years old! C’mon, lets keep going I said to Dave. The nurse had us stop and took us into the small side room where the EMTs made their report. Dave and I made eye contact, and we both started to become emotional.

Dave had lost a friend, I had my very first loss. I kept reviewing it all in my mind, what had I done wrong? I did exactly what I thought was right and what I had been taught. Just then the doctor came in, and spoke to us. It seems that Paul had an aortic aneurysm, a sort of a bubble on the main artery leaving his heart. This aneurysm ruptured suddenly and he never felt anything, and all we did , by doing CPR was to fill his chest cavity with blood.

How come nobody told me about that during EMT class? Sure we learned about heart attacks, and anatomy, and even about aneurysms, but I was supposed to be able to fix that, after all he was only 29.

I still have that mark, that was left on me so many years ago.

What Gear Are You In? P R N D L ???

I know, I know when a firefighter says what gear are you in, you are thinking Globe, Morning Pride, Janesville, FireDex or many others. What I am really talking about is what speed are you operating or functioning at?

Park

You are a member of your department that doesn’t move. You just exist. You hang back at trainings, use all of you sick time, and seem to always have trouble crossing the threshold. If you Park in the wrong place you can just be an obstruction! Members that are parked are really difficult to move, and they really don’t help any of us get to where we want to go.

Reverse

If you are in Reverse you are generally looking in your rearview mirror all the time. You don’t really care where we are going, you only care where we have been, and the good old days, and the way we used to do it. You spend a great deal of your time taking the crew further away from where the organization wants to go while they move forward.

Neutral

If you are in Neutral you are easily influenced meaning you can go either forward or reverse and you are easily moved with just a little push. This might be a big part of your organization and it is the job of the officer and the rest of the crew, to make sure that you are moved in the right direction. The problem with neutral is that while you are not hurting the mission you are probably not going forward. These folks in neutral also have to be monitored, because after some forward progress, they will easily slip if not properly chocked!

Drive

If you are in Drive you are trying to move the organization forward. You are helping others and can probably take passengers (other crew members) along with you for the ride! You are fully engaged and participate in all activities, training, house duties and you are awesome on the fireground as well. This analogy is the only time I am in favor of everyone driving, and I will even accept backseat drivers too!

LOW

If you are in Low I am Ok with that also. You might be a senior man that is cautiously moving forward but at a slower pace. You might have travelled this road before and you know it can be uncertain about the terrain. You want to move, but have good traction, good torque, and while a little slower you are almost guaranteed to finish the journey. In addition if you are careening down a hill of uncertainty at a high speed, being in Low can slow you down and make sure you descend slowly and safely. These members can be a tremendous asset to the organization and eventually they will probably pick up the pace and shift gears into Drive.

So as you read this you were probably naming the members and what gear they were in. We all have them.

If you are an officer, figure out your role, are you the navigator? Are you the mechanic? Are you the tour guide? …..Oh, and by the way what gear are you in as the officer?