A fresh attempt on a variation of the old (and short-lived) “Weekend Update” posts. This regular post will forgo the random photos and viral videos to recap only articles and training videos posted on the Facebook page throughout the week(often captioned as “today’s reading assignment”), as well as some that I may have missed. As my original articles are less frequent, and may be published elsewhere, I want to continue to use this site to share the work of others. With that in mind, you may share your own work here. Article, rant, photo, poem, drawing, or other…send it in.
Here’s your weekend reading assignment:
- Don’t Kill Yourself – Christopher Brennan, Fire Service Warrior
An honest and timely article from Chris on a topic that is all too common in our community, yet is often avoided in discussion: suicide. Read it, and if you know someone who is in a dark place, talk to them…starting with those three, most important words.
- Close the Door! Were You Born in a Barn? – Ed Hartin, CFBT-US.com
“Coming and going as a little kid, I frequently would forget to close the door to the house and my mother would say; close the door! Were you born in a barn? What does this have to do with firefighting operations? As it turns out, it has significant impact!”
- Throwing Ladders – Jason Jefferies, Fire Service Warrior
“A good training program should consist of progressive learning so that as a task is learned and then mastered, the difficulty is increased. We cannot expect a firefighter to see a technique that is new to them and expect perfection in performance right out of the gate.”
- Sick Days – Mark vonAppen, Fully Involved
“The old days are gone. If we wish for the past, worry for a future that might not happen, the present goes by and we don’t live the days that are right in front of us.”
- What Research Tells Us about the Modern Fireground – Steve Kerber and Timothy E. Sendelbach, UL
“Applying water to the fire as quickly as possible—regardless of where it is emitting from—can make conditions in the entire structure better.”
- Finally, two things in the wake of the Houston LODD’s –
A post on the Fire Service Warrior Facebook page had this to say:
Risk does not recognize rank. Collapse does not recognize rank. Fire does not recognize rank. Heart attacks don’t recognize rank.
There is no experience required to access information, no prerequisites to get in the gym. If there is a fire engine in your station you have all the equipment you need to drill. It just takes the will to do and the soul to dare.
Stop waiting for someone else to take care of you, to show you, to prepare you.
Your life is your responsibility and has been since the day you were born. The lives of those you serve are your responsibility and have been since your first day in uniform.
Enough with the dependance, avoidance and laziness. Pride and ownership isn’t a book, it is an internal drive, a different standard and most importantly it is hard work. Dig in and start now.
You answer to yourself and your duty. The critics will not be there for you at the moment of truth so why let them influence the outcome. We have lost enough this year.
Put down your phone right now or log off the computer and go to the bay, the gym or the book shelf. When the voice from the lazy boy asks “What are you doing? Don’t you know it is the weekend?”
Just tell them “unfortunately it is a weekend that too many are missing and I choose not to be one of them.”
- Secondly, the following WOD was posted in honor of the fallen in Houston:
The Houston Hero WOD
Captain Matthew Renaud, Station 51
Engineer Robert Bebee, Station 51
Firefighter Robert Garner, Station 68
Firefighter Anne Sullivan, Station 68
1 mile run
68 KB swings
1 mile run
Many Brothers and Sisters have posted times for the workout over the past week. I completed it on Wednesday with a time of 37:04. Denver area firefighters organized a fundraiser workout at Crossfit Ken Caryl in Littleton, CO this morning. Knock it out and show your work here or on the FSW Facebook page.
Remember the fallen.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
There were many excellent classes presented at FDIC 2013. Some presented new, ground-breaking information, while others taught the good-old (but oft forgotten) basics. The following three classes, which feature both new and old information, were recorded and posted online. They all center around UL and NIST research and they all contain valuable information. I was able to attend the live presentation of “Why ‘That’s the Way We’ve Always Done it’ is NOT Good Enough.” These videos have been circulating around Facebook for a while, but there are still those without Facebook accounts, so I’m posting all three here. Bookmark this post and watch them at your own pace, but please watch them. The information presented may reveal misconceptions held by you or your department, or it may be simply be a refresher of common knowledge. Either way, it is worth your time.
Back from FDIC 2013. A mental recharge and a motivational springboard. A short, visual review.
It’s been a while since I wrote a legitimate article here. I’ve been focusing more on self-improvement and handling local business and have slightly neglected this site. Those of you that follow ELAFF on Facebook know that I continue to share the good works of other minds on a regular basis, and that’s the point. There are an overwhelming number of brilliant minds writing and teaching in the fire service today. With this in mind, I raised the level of scrutiny regarding what I deemed worth posting for the world to see. I’ve never even written a “training” article, anyway. I’ve simply scribbled down the random musings and odd opinions of my mind. Rest assured, I will continue to write, however it may not always be hosted here and I can’t guarantee the frequency.
So with that in mind, I’d like to try something new here…by ADDING to the many voices out there. Sort of hypocritical, but stick with me.
I will be posting a guest post from a Local in the near future. He sent me a draft to look over and I told him that I would just post whatever he wanted to say right here on ELAFFHQ.com. So, perhaps YOU have a few words to say, but you don’t want to create “Fire Blog #1,957,372” just for a single post. Maybe you’d like to rant about transitional ventilation, the 7-9-8 attack line, or retail packaging that’s too hard to open. Maybe you have some witty satire piece that will leave sarcasm-blind readers in a stupor. Maybe you have a piece of motivational messaging that you’d like to share, or some pseudo-hipster slam poetry on budget cuts and plastic helmets. One paragraph or 10, 200 words or 2,000, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it if you meet the requirements:
- You must include your real name, and preferably an email address, too. You may write whatever you want, but you’ll have to stand by it when the wolves come running…or the adoring fans, whichever.
- I reserve the right to omit submissions as I please, for any and all reasons. I may also refer to various colleagues for their opinion on your submission prior to posting. The standards won’t be too stringent, though.
- Despite the context of #2, I do not have to AGREE with what you write. I asked Matt to write whatever he wanted as Captain Chaos, regardless of my opinion. In fact, I don’t even completely agree with everything that I’ve previously written. Still, my previous posts remain accessible, as will your future posts.
This may become a forum for the fire service “everyman” to share his thoughts. Then again, it may deteriorate into an utter mess of chaotic chest-thumping, the likes of which has never been seen…not even in the comments section of Statter911.com (in which case I will delete everything and we will pretend that this never happened.) Maybe nobody will submit anything. We shall see…
Let the madness ensue…
Send submissions to email@example.com with the subject “Post Submission”.
Today, you can find my latest article, entitled “Good Enough”, published on Fire Service Warrior. This is my first article on FSW, but I don’t plan on it being my last. I am a huge supporter of Fire Service Warrior and I hope to continue my involvement. The site is an excellent resource, bringing together valuable information from many authors nationwide.
For now, I still plan on writing here, as well, and I will post a link to every article, regardless of where it is published, so ELAFF email subscribers will still receive notification. I will also continue to post content on the ELAFF Facebook page, so continue to check it (especially since you may no longer see every post on your News Feed).
Thanks for reading,
– Pete (Lt. Lemon)
Disclaimer: My knowledge of comic book canon is extremely limited and skewed greatly by feature film adaptations. Please excuse any incorrect or non-canonical information in my opening analogy and focus on the greater message.
Batman and Superman. Both comic book superheros, but for different reasons. Batman is an average man, except that he has limitless financial resources and some martial arts training. His advantage over crooks and robbers is found in a state of the art suit, belt full of gadgets, and some exotic vehicles.
Superman is an alien. Due to some kind of gravitational difference between his native planet and Earth, he has a number of superpowers including super strength and being able to jump high/fly. He is also somehow able to deflect bullets. He wears a “uniform” when saving people, but his superpowers are still available when in civilian dress.
How do the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight relate to the fire service? If Batman loses his gadgets and suit, he’s just a rich guy with kung fu moves. If Superman loses his cape and tights, he still has his powers. He can still fly, leap tall buildings, and shoot heat rays from his eyes. Superman doesn’t rely on a technological advantage, but instead has a basic skill set creating a physical advantage.
The fire service is constantly evolving its “tools of the trade”. Every expo debuts a new “game-changer” which promises to revolutionize our trade, and these breakthroughs often involve new technology. This is not a new trend, nor is it isolated to the fire service. Every industry has been undergoing the same pattern of technical advancement for decades, even centuries. Pieces of equipment that were common place when I joined this profession were rare or non-existent when today’s senior members came on the job. Thankfully, the “salty vets” are still around to remind us that the job can be done without the fancy toys. And so, this is my message to my fellow “youths” of the fire service.
The tools we have at our fingertips today are incredible. Read a training manual from just 20-40 years ago and that becomes evident. I can only imagine what will exist when we retire. However, this job was around before today’s technology and was completed without it. Today, we have the advantage of being able to learn from the “seniors” who worked before the time of high-pressure SCBA’s and TIC’s. They can teach us how to search when the TIC dies, attract attention when our PASS doesn’t work, and how to stay calm and have a chance of survival if our SCBA fails. They know that we need a sound foundation in the basics, or we will be lost when the technology inevitably fails. However, they won’t be around forever.
We will one day be the seniors. We must make certain that we retain and pass on the same values. Don’t let the next generation become reliant on circuit boards and sensors. They fail even under ordinary conditions, and we are firemen, we can find a way to break almost anything. Learn from the senior members. Learn how to function “unplugged”, if necessary. If the knowledge isn’t readily available within your agency, then search it out. There is still valuable information to be found in old training manuals. Just keep in mind that changes in building construction, building contents, and accepted practices have left some old tactics invalid. Continue to gather and store this knowledge in your mental toolbox and dispense it as new faces join the ranks.
Accept, embrace, and utilize new equipment as it is introduced, but don’t rely on it for absolute survival. Remain grounded with a solid base of basic skills that don’t depend on a battery. Be like Superman, and teach future generations to do the same.
On September 11th, 2012, my wife and I participated in the Colorado 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. I had been planning on writing a longer post about the event, but it would still ultimately fall short of sufficiently describing the experience. I’ll leave you with a handful of words and images instead…
I climbed in memory of FF Lincoln Quappe of Rescue 2. The participants gathered in the parking lot below the amphitheatre, beside retired FDNY Rescue 4. As the pipes and drums played at the foot of the towering rocks which frame the amphitheatre, and we prepared to climb before a beautiful mountain backdrop, the morning stood as the antithesis of the day which we were remembering. The only commonality…110 stories. Beyond that, we can never truly understand the unfathomable circumstances that met the Brothers that day.
There were 72 fire departments represented from 11 different states, along with law enforcement, members of the armed forces, relatives of 9/11 victims, and supportive civilians.
In all, 1,700 gathered to climb the stairs in remembrance. A staggering number for an event like this.
Yet, only a fraction of the number of lives lost on that day, eleven years ago.
Thank you to the Brother who took the time to make us feel welcome on what was surely a busy morning, and thank you to the family who allowed us the honor and privilege of joining them that evening.
“The garbage man doesn’t get excited when he turns the corner and sees trash, because he’s expecting it. Likewise, you should be expecting fire on every run.” – Lt. Andy Fredericks
The above quote by Andy Fredericks is one which permeates the fire service from coast to coast. It is spoken in many a firehouse, usually by an elder fireman to one with less experience, even if the speaker doesn’t know where the quote originated. If you aren’t familiar with the late Andy Fredericks, click the link above for a brief bio.
What Andy was getting at is obvious. The garbageman isn’t reduced to a hyper-ventilating, giddy, screaming maniac at the sight of trash because that’s his job, that’s what he trains for, that’s what he expects when he mounts his rig in the morning. In the same respect, firemen should expect fire. That’s often why people call us. They usually mention something about it in the dispatch. We shouldn’t be surprised, screaming the size-up and jumping around in the front yard, when we roll up and visually confirm the reported fire. Burning property is simply part of this job. Take a breath, make a plan, and execute it. Simple enough, so how else can the garbageman be related to the fireman?
I was recently reminded of this quote as I read an article in a magazine published for government workers. It discussed a 2010 NIOSH study on Solid Waste Collection workers, mainly the occurrence of fatal traumatic injuries in the industry. NIOSH investigates on-duty fatalities in almost every industry, just as they do for the fire service. This report was intriguing as it stated that, on average from 2003-2009, there were 85 on-duty traumatic fatalities per year in the solid waste collection industry. The fire service typically states an average of 100 LODD’s per year, which isn’t far off in itself, but the past three years have seen a decrease in those numbers. In 2010, the USFA counted 87 LODD’s. This number includes 15 post-duty deaths (which must be removed as those deaths are not counted in the solid waste report). Subtracting those incidents leaves us with 72 LODD’s, which was the number reported by the NFPA. This number is meaningful, but not accurately comparative. Taking the average number of NFPA recorded on-duty LODD’s from 2003-2009 gives us a useful result of 97. Just over 10 more LODD’s than trash collectors for the same time period. So, trash collectors experience almost the same number of on-duty deaths per year on average.
These numbers are still not in proper context, so let’s dissect them a bit further. In 2010, the NIOSH listed 478,000 waste collection employees nationwide. The NFPA listed 1,103,300 firefighters in the nation for the same year. This means that there was a 0.018% fatality rate for the waste collection industry, and a 0.008% fatality rate for the fire service, on average.
Refuse collection is not the safest occupation by any account. They spend nearly their entire shift in traffic. They work around compactors, grinders, shredders, and all sorts of other nasty, destructive equipment. In addition, most areas still allow trash collectors to ride the tailboard. They are “in the hot zone” everyday, where many firefighters hardly see fire on a weekly or monthly basis. However, most in the fire service, and public, would still consider our profession to be more hazardous. The fact remains that the numbers show trash collection to be more dangerous than firefighting in the U.S.
So, what’s the point of all of this? I really don’t know. The numbers and similarities simply caught my eye and I thought that I would share. I’m not pushing an agenda or taking sides. I’m simply passing on some interesting information. It’s worth a thought. We can still cut those numbers down. Wear your seatbelt, maintain your equipment, stay in shape and eat right. Be prepared. Too many of these fatalities were potentially preventable. On the other hand, some of them just weren’t. Plain and simple. If we do the job that we are supposed to, somebody inevitably won’t come home. The garbageman faces the same odds as he collects the trash. We simply can’t eliminate the risk. All that we can do is minimize it, but not by taking shortcuts or making excuses. As of now, we may be better off than we thought…it just depends on your perspective.
I could have cut the post off there, but the topic of perspective stuck with me. Let’s continue with the summertime example of a swimming pool. You’re standing poolside, nice and warm in the sunshine, when someone in the pool encourages you to jump in. “The water’s fine!”, they shout. Of course, you know better. That water feels pleasant to them, but to your sun-warmed skin it will likely feel like diving into the North Atlantic in January. However, once the initial shock wears off, the water begins to lose its frozen bite. Your body begins to acclimate to the new environment and before long you find yourself wondering why you spent so much time allowing the UV rays to cook you on the deck.
The same issue arises when we discover new tactics for the fire service. We hear someone mention “transitional this” or “single-person that” and we wither up in fear. “No way, I’m not jumping in THAT pool. It’s freezing and cannot possibly be capable of sustaining life. It’s not what I’m used to.” At this point we must decide. We can remain outside the pool doing the same old thing as we burn up in the sun’s radiation, applying sunscreen to prolong the effects, but eventually succumbing to the scorching rays; or we can jump in and test the water. We may find that it is much more comfortable than our previous methods, leaving us questioning why we didn’t make the jump earlier.
There will likely be cases where this is not true. You will jump in to find that the few swimmers calling to you are absurd, and the water is truly unbearable (at least to your department). Don’t let this possibility stop you, though. In those cases, the solution is as simple as climbing back onto the deck of your old, tried-and-true methods and carrying on. A lesson learned and no harm done. That’s why we test new tactics during drill time first.
The message here, if there is one at all, is simple. Don’t let your perspective fool you. Take a look at the job from a different angle from time to time, you may be surprised at what you see.
– Pete (Lt. Lemon)
NIOSH Solid Waste Collection Data – http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2012-140/pdfs/2012-140.pdf
Further reading on change of perspective – http://www.fireservicewarrior.com/2012/04/i-have-a-theory/
“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”
These words caught my eye in a recent blog post, one of a few which struck me deeply in the past 24 hours, stirring a period of serious reflection. Reflection on myself, my ideas, my actions, and my writing. Reflection on this site and ELAFF as a whole. It has been nearly one year since I moved the ELAFF movement to this standalone site. I used to hesitate to call it a “blog”, as I tried to steer away from the personal posts commonly associated with that term. This was due in part to the anonymous nature of the posts, but it was also an attempt to maintain the universal, ambiguous nature of the topics which any agency or individual could relate to. As you well know, the anonymity is no more. So, the occasional “personal” post can be expected…and this is the first. Stay with me, though. I might stumble on something of use to you.
The removal of the “anonymous” barrier brought a question to my mind. If he isn’t the mythical “Fire God”, who hand-carves door chocks out of oak trees using his Leatherman multi-tool, then who IS Lt. Lemon? Who AM I? I found that it was much easier to answer the inverse question. Who am I NOT?
I am not anyone special. I am not an expert. I am not an instructor, trainer, teacher, nor professor. I am not a philosopher. I am not the definitive voice of reason on all or any topics.
Who am I? I am a guy with a keyboard and an interest in stringing words together into sentences. That’s all any of us(bloggers/writers) are. I am simply sharing opinions and ideas, not undebatable facts. So, how does this relate to you?
This serves as a simple reminder to take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t automatically believe anything you read online or see on t.v. This is not a training site, but a forum for discussion. Read critically and question the material presented. If you disagree, feel free to rebut with your own opinion. If you agree, add your own thoughts to the discussion. I never fully cover any subject which I write on and there is always room to elaborate. I’m sure most other fire service writers would ask that you do the same and I am striving to become more involved in the posts which influence me.
My status as a member of this forum, rather than a teacher, affects me even more. This site isn’t really about spreading my ideas, but more about gathering the ideas of others. ELAFF has allowed me to network with firemen from beyond the county, state, and regional boundaries which usually inhibit growth in the fire service. It exposes me to varying ideas, tactics, theories, and equipment which I might have missed if I remained isolated within the comfort of my home department.
Some don’t realize the potential of these differing ideas and tactics. They immediately jump to bash and scrutinize others for their differences, falsely perceived to be mistakes. They react with the same fear as the townspeople to Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein’s “turtleshell” wearing, fireground sprinting, roof cutting monster. However, they are not fearful of the literal differences which they see, but of the theoretical change which those ideas could bring to their department. Oh, “change”. That double-edged sword that we’re all SO scared of..even positive change(a.k.a IMPROVEMENT). Perhaps what scares us most about improvement is that , in order to improve, we must expose our weaknesses. Admitting the need for improvement is admitting that you are doing something wrong or, at the least, not as well as you potentially could.
I try to take a different approach to these “differences”. I’m intrigued by them. I see them as a chance to learn, grow, and improve…and that’s a good thing. Obviously, new tactics must be evaluated, just like online articles. Will it be useful in OUR first due? If not, can we modify it until it IS useful? In this same manner, we should also evaluate our CURRENT tactics, ideas, and equipment to see if there’s a need for improvement.
This is the benefit of the site, and the network it provides, for me. A chance to discover new ideas and re-evaluate my current ones. I get more out of this experience than any of the readers will…and that’s the point. This is an experiment in self-improvement. The cycle of discovery, evaluation, and improvement is both humbling and enlightening. Expanding my knowledge, while shrinking my personal pride.
As much as I enjoy the satire of ELAFF’s roots, I require more accountability in my material. I long wrote as “Lt. Lemon”. Since the “Big Reveal” I’ve simply added my first name, in parentheses, clinging to that alter-ego. However, it’s time to separate that persona from myself and set it on the back-burner. I’m Pete Sulzer…this is my “blog”…and these are my words. Thanks for reading them.
-Pete Sulzer (Lt. Lemon)
I was driven to write this after reading a number of articles, namely the following:
Go read them now…
I recently had the pleasure of sitting through a wonderful, city-mandated, OSHA compliant safety class. I’m not going to discuss the frivolity of teaching identical blanket courses to every city employee (including chainsaw safety to receptionists). In fact, this post has nothing to do with that class, directly. Rather, it stems from a side comment by the instructor.
He started speaking on the subject of recognizing trends in workplace injuries and acting to prevent them. He mentioned another municipality which had recognized a trend in fire service injuries during training, mostly heart-related problems to be more specific. Some of these incidents occurred at their department, however most occurred at other agencies. This led the municipality’s administrators and safety gurus (as far as I know this was done above the fire department level) to investigate the cause of these incidents. Their investigation led them to determine that many of the cardiac and respiratory issues, which resulted in treatment and/or hospitalization, occurred while training in full turnouts, and that the extra stress from training in full gear was a direct cause of these injuries.
Fair enough. Donning full PPE brings added weight, restricted movement, and limited vision. Its hindrance IS stressful if you aren’t used to wearing it and working in it. So, naturally, the safety gurus brainstormed how they could decrease employee injuries due to the stresses of TRAINING. Their answer was simple. Stop wearing full gear while training, unless absolutely necessary. That’s right. Training in turnouts is stressful, so we shouldn’t do it.
Now, it doesn’t take an expert to realize that this is ridiculous, but I’m going to break it down anyway. The stress and anxiety of working in full gear, whether during training or on the fireground, is mostly due to our being unaccustomed to working in such conditions. Our brains don’t like it when our senses are restricted. The limited movement, vision, and hearing cause anxiety on their own, which elevates pulse and respiratory rates. Add in the sheer physical exertion of WORKING in full gear, and we’re putting a decent strain on our hearts in training alone. Training without gear on will most definitely alleviate the occurrence of training injuries, but it won’t do a thing to help us remain calm while working in full gear. When we do don that gear on the fireground, the stress, the anxiety, and the panic will still be there and it will be elevated because of an even lower frequency of training. The difference is that on the fireground things are real (increasing stress), lives are in danger (increasing stress), and there is no pause button when a Brother falls out because he hasn’t worked in his gear since the last fire. The only impact this policy will have is to move those injuries from the training ground to the fireground.
What needs to be done? I don’t know any members of this department, but PT is always a good idea. If your body is weak, make it stronger. If your body is strong…make it stronger. Secondly, instead of doing less training in full gear, try doing it MORE often. The only way to reduce the anxiety of wearing gear is to become accustomed to it, as though it is the only clothing you ever wear. The more often you suit up and move around, the stronger your mind and body get. Once you take care of the minor stresses of wearing and working in gear (which really shouldn’t be an issue if you are off probation), take it to the next level.
That is the famous “Impact This” video from Ric Jorge, aka Glass Guy. Here’s a link to a longer, but un-embeddable, Facebook video of the training exercise “Impact This…AGAIN!” Watch it, then keep reading.
Intense, but the only way to be prepared for a stressful event (disorientation, collapse, low air, etc.) is to work through it during training. Mind you, the “Impact This” scenario is not one to simply jump in to for your next training. That drill was preceded by hours of lectures on stress-management techniques, followed by hands on training, slowly progressing to the full-blown drill in the video. The drill involved a lot of preparation, and that is what our entire profession is about…being prepared.
Prepared for the worst, prepared for the struggles, prepared for the circumstances that we’ve never encountered before, so that we may overcome, do our job, and survive.
– Lt. Lemon (Pete)