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December 31, 2003
NEW YEARS Resolutions? Revolutions? Just MAKE NICE
Chief Billy Goldfeder
WithTheCommand.Com

Well, here we are. Another year has passed and a lotta good stuff has happened... and a lotta bad stuff keeps happening.

You can talk about the good stuff on your own-we will talk about the bad stuff with hopes that the bad stuff gets added to the good stuff side of things.
 
I just read Harry Carter's latest commentary-and it was cool. Of course, Harry likes Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and that crew-that's OK, I like Looney Toons and South Park-we all have our vices. But as you may read, Harry relates the "Peanuts" gang to some good and bad stuff... a friend of his and a funeral conversation. In that conversation, his pal talks about how "we" act amongst each other. And what about the part where Harry questions "Maybe the day will come when the American Fire Service stops acting like a seriously dysfunctional family"... a great question, Harry. Not the first time he or many others have asked. But we keep on doing what we do.
 
Maybe it all starts locally? Maybe it doesn't matter what happens inside Washington DC-maybe it's more about LOCAL fire departments working their crap out within and with neighboring FD's. Kinda like the theory of "all politics is local"... if FD's locally worked their silly stuff out and could plan together, communicate with each other (on and off the fireground), train together and a bunch of other related stuff, we could lessen the risk of injury and death. Just a thought. Maybe it even starts "more local" than that. 
 
Last year at the IAFC conference in Dallas, we witnessed an engine company on an Interstate type highway traveling at about 65 mph. No big deal. The problem was that it was a canopy cab (no doors at the jumpseat area) and the firefighters on each side were standing up, looking forward and hanging over the sides. If one of them had fallen, they would have been run over about a dozen times and then it would have been declared a line of duty death and had big funerals and everything. How can a LOCAL problem like that be solved at any FD? 
 
The officer in the front seat 
 
How about their policy be strictly ENFORCED by that officer (a/k/a/ supervisor) in the front seat... that the apparatus doesn't budge until everyone is seated and belted? And that the officer makes sure it is happening? Seems simple.

But yet in 2003, a few firefighters were killed because they didn't have their seat belts on. Sure-many others died in many other ways-but we are just gonna cover THIS issue right now. It's a LOCAL problem.

There is NOTHING Pres George Bush, USFA Chief Dave Paulison, the DHS, the IAFF, the IAFC, the FDSOA or anyone else can do to reduce our DEATHS if the OFFICER in the front seat doesn't do some basic, simple, in your face POLICY enforcement and SUPERVISION. The Officer requiring FF's wear their seat belts is the answer to totally and completely making this LINE OF DUTY DEATH PROBLEM GO AWAY. It really IS THAT SIMPLE.
 
What if a FF refuses?
The apparatus doesn't budge.

What if a FF still refuses your order?
That FF becomes a former FF. 

What if they take it off?
The firefighter is suspended once and then terminated the 2nd time. 

What if it is too hard to pack up and wear a seat belt?
Take the packs out of the cabs and put them in compartments. Phoenix did it....solved the problem and they still pack up quick.

What if the seatbelt is broken?
Fix it. 

What if the firefighters start talking bad about the officer and don't like that officer anymore? 
Get over it-they probably don't like you anyway.

What if the officer refuses to do this stuff? 
Odds are they probably refuse to do lots of stuff-time to fix that problem, Chief.

What if no one in that FD gives a damn? 
We'll probably read about them in 2004.
 
It's just a matter of how SERIOUS you are at no one falling off or out of your apparatus--open cab, close cab or whatever. If there is a seatbelt-wear it. "BUT IT WILL DELAY US IN GETTING IN TO FIGHT THE FIRE"... Shaddup.
 
It all starts in the front seat and works its way up from there. Having the guts to do the supervisory job as an officer, train the FF's on the policies, enforce those policies and take serious "I would rather do this then have you get hurt or killed" corrective action without worrying about being liked is what "makes" an Officer. Hmmmm... a possible New Year's resolution: Do the job. The other, easier option, is to do nothing. Predictable outcome.
 
As New Year's EVE approaches, some of you may remember the "New Year's Resolutions" we did last year-good, if ya liked those, go back and read'm again.
 
This year, we have SIX simple NEW YEAR'S "REVOLUTIONS" that we wanna toss your way for consideration and hopefully, application. We are calling them "REVOLUTIONS" not because we are writing some life altering stuff or expect any great revolutions in our business. Nope-we are calling them NEW YEAR'S REVOLUTIONS because we had a great old Chief years ago who did a GREAT job when he COMMANDED fires-but his COMMAND of the ENGLISH language made Archie Bunker sound like an English Professor. So, these "New Year's Revolutions" are in honor of old C-63.
 
Of course, if you wanna make a "resolution" for 2004, go ahead-but you can probably forget the weight loss or the treating your spouse better-you know how THAT works out. But if LOCALLY some of this "REVOLUTION" stuff is applied-maybe a few less of "us" would get hurt or killed.
 
SEAT BELTS
Yep-here it is again. Officers-be a real SOB when it comes to the enforcement of this and related safety procedures. Accept nothing less than every single member being belted before the vehicle is moved and none of our own will be killed by falling out or getting thrown from the vehicle in 2004.
 
PROTECT THE ROADWAY. 
Last night, in New Orleans, on  I-10, an SUV SLAMMED into the rear of E-14 who was working a crash site. Their apparatus was destroyed, 1-civilian was killed, 2 firefighters to the hospital and two other firefighters jumped the divider to escape injuries. Forget the cops, forget the traffic and forget all that other crap on why we DON'T shut the roadway down or at least BLOCK multiple lanes... PROTECT your members at all costs-why take the chance in experiencing this nightmare? We have a chance again to learn from another tragic event... or we can ignore it.

We need to act as if EVERY MOTORIST is a crazy drunken lunatic who wants to run us over. Now protect the troops knowing that. 

Some FD's are actually assigning ACCOUNTABILITY at crash sites... some are protecting scenes with other, larger apparatus way back from the scene-as traffic starts to approach... some are simply closing the lane and the lanes next to them-and blocked with apparatus. The best seems to simply STOP traffic to protect the area we are working. Check out www.ResponderSafety.com for more solutions.
 
IF OSHA won't let someone type on a keyboard without wrist protection to prevent "carpal tunnel"... how come OSHA doesn't MAKE US shut the roadways down when we are operating?
 
STRICT COMMAND, CONTROL and ACCOUNTABILITY on the FIREGROUND.
Look at almost any of the fatal fire reports in the past year-or years past. Yeah-they all DO kinda look the same, don't they? One of the common denominators of them all is that strict, dictatorial COMMAND, CONTROL and ACCOUNTABILITY was missing. Sure, Officers TAKE command... some areas it's a mad race to see who "gets" to "take" command. What is THAT all about? Anyway-simply put, STRICT Command, Control and Accountability means that the boss has just that. That the boss and officers in their sectors and crews:

Have full COMMAND of what happened, what is happening and planning on what may happen. Have full CONTROL of all people and resources required to fix the problem and how those resources are being applied. Resources also include the use of modern technology such as thermal imagers to provide a safer operating environment for your members. A thermal imager assigned to at least, every crew and a portable radio assigned to every firefighter? It's time. Have full ACCOUNTABILITY which doesn't mean that the IC knows where everyone is, but that each OFFICER knows where their crews are, that all personnel are with their supervisor, that no one is doing "whatever they wanna" and that each crew is reporting to another sector that-at anytime-can inform the IC where everyone is, what they are doing and who they are. Is accountability a pain in the ass? Sure it is-do it anyway. Are members doing what they are supposed to? If not-fix it. Are they wearing full PPE and SCBA? No-stop'em in their tracks... simply put....be in command. Be a supervisor.

All of the above requires some serious applicable, initial and regular TRAINING... this stuff just doesn't happen when given the brass, the badge or the new helmet.
 
FIREFIGHTER TRAINING
"Everyday is a training day"... simply put-we can't do ANY of this stuff without TRAINING... and we are all responsible. Look at some of the LODD reports that have come out... what is missing? TRAINING. Some FF's have NO training-and don't have to. Some Fire Officers have no training-and don't have to... but yet-the BARBER or STYLIST who cuts your HAIR MUST have training-and a frick'n license. What's the answer?

  • The Feds oughta make a national law that no one goes to a fire without minimally certified Firefighter I training for everyone, and that everyone must have 12 hours of re-cert training annually. Period. It isn't asking too much, it will not shut down any FD's, the world won't come to an end or any of those other lames excuses-all it will do is improve things. End of argument. How they gonna do that? We, the fire service, would have to ask for that. And since THAT probably isn't gonna happen because some groups would fight it for some self serving reasons...
  • It is a LOCAL solution. If you are reading this, just get SERIOUS in 2004 about TRAINING your personnel. ALL the training you need can be done simply and easily. Go to Firehouse.com, FireEngineering.com, WithTheCommand.com, FireTimes.Com and many others ANY DAY-and there is TONS of stuff out there for you to get moving on. You can also go to www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com and click on WEEKLY FIRE DRILL-there ya go-all for free. IF you take the initiative, no matter what your rank, you will minimize the risk of one of your FF's getting hurt or killed in 2004.
  • Attend FIRE TRAINING CONFERENCES and CLASSES OUTSIDE of your FD's area. Get some other perspective on how OTHERS are preparing for and doing the job. From Firehouse World Expo to F.D.I.C. to Firehouse Expo, to the N.F.A. to C.O.D.E. to F.R.I. and so many State and Local programs... there has NEVER been a time in our business where there is SO MUCH firefighter training available. 
... and whenever we train-strictly follow the STANDARDS so no one gets hurt or killed during training. Hurt or killed during TRAINING? How 'bout that becomes history in 2004.
 
INTEROPERABILITY
To some, this means that all of our radios can talk to all of our radios. We love that concept. We also think though that INTEROPERABILITY means that nearby FD's WORK with one another instead of the usual bs that goes on about who likes who or any of that other stuff that stops FD's from working with each other. If your FD doesn't "like" that "other nearby FD"... great, don't go on vacation with them. But FD's shouldn't normally have the right to NOT use the closest, available resources available... we only think we do-our egos cloud clear thinking of WHAT IS BEST for the final outcome of the incident, which includes our firefighters and those we protect. The other FD not trained well enough? Invite them to attend your training programs. Other FD on different radio channels? Trade radios. You have the excuse? We'll provide the solutions.
 
There's an idea for another LAW that oughta come down from the Federal Govt... closest mutual aid FD's WILL TRAIN together and will RESPOND together. Some will say "they are taking LOCAL control away"... damn right-we have pretty well screwed it up "locally" in the past-so, someone needs to take command. We can call it the FEDERAL "MAKE NICE" ACT of 2004...
 
M utual aid 
A nd
K indness
E quals
N atural
I nteragency
C ooperation at
E mergencies...
 
Now... isn't that special.
 
6-APPARATUS and VEHICLE OPERATIONS. Hold OFFICERS accountable for the conduct of those they supervise while driving and operating equipment. A new concept? No-but so many times we forget that officers are their SUPERVISOR and not their buddy or pal. If your driver is driving like a lunatic, stop it... before some Mom and her kids in their mini-van get between your apparatus and the scene. Make sure that your apparatus operators have valid licenses, are always sober and straight and that they have regular training to MINIMIZE THE RISK of something BAD happening. 
 
In closing, take a few minutes to some of the LODD reports. Here are URL's to some of the most recent:
 
http://www.state.nj.us/dca/dfs/westdeptford.pdf  (West Deptford, NJ) http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/firehome.html (NIOSH) http://www.wildfirelessons.net/ (Wildfire) http://www.iaff.org/safe/lodd.html (IAFF)
 
... and read what happened to your Brothers and Sisters in 2003... and then APPLY those scenarios to your FD to see if "it can happen here" and then, most importantly, take organizational action immediately to minimize the risk now-before it happens again. It's all just a simple matter of how serious we all are at stopping some of the deaths-that keep happening.
 
We wish each of you and yours a very happy, healthy, safe and successful 2004 and look forward to see'n ya soon!