IAFC President Testifies Before Senate on Responding to New Terror Threats

February 3, 2016

As I wrote in a recent blog post on What’s next for the fire Service?, open-mindedness and a far-reaching vision will keep the fire service in the game.

After several unexpected, mass-civilian attacks on U.S. soil in 2015, the fire service will have to provide a more unified response to these new security threats. More use of a rescue task force approach combining law enforcement, fire, and EMS will be required. That means an even better relationship between those services and much more practice together to work out the kinks!

Read this article and watch the video testimony.

Report From Engine Co. 82: Read The Book, Get The Shirt

Hooks & Irons Co.
November 17, 2015

Like many young firefighters, reading Report From Engine Co. 82 inspired me and helped me better understand the culture of the fire service. Many years later, as a chief officer who promoted intentional reading, I re-read it and purchased several copies and passed them on to others. I’ve also read Dennis Smith’s other books that explored the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and fires, the history of firefighting in America, and firefighters’ lives in their own words. Who better than a firefighter to help us learn and discover the history and meaning of the fire service.

Hooks & Irons, also, is a firefighter owned company that understands the importance of knowing who we are and where we come from. Their mission is to help “celebrate the traditions and history of the fire service,” and they do that through a story-telling blog and the sale of firefighting merchandise that “reflects the beauty and history of our job”. Read their blog on Report From Engine Co. 82 – Remembering A Classic. I wear one of their hats and a couple of their shirts.

Read the book Report from Engine Co. 82 and buy the shirt Engine Co. 82 from Hooks & Irons.

Get and read other Dennis Smith books here:


Are You Building A Harmonious Team?

Wildland Fire Leadership
November 10, 2015

There’s more to it than just saying you’re a team. In complex and dangerous situations, teams have to work together, harmoniously. Like the improvisation of a jazz quartet, each member knows when to step in and when to hand it over to another. They’re connected.

Read here Pam McDonald’s take on Unity Through Harmony, or how fire leaders build cohesive teams to work in high risk environments.

5 Leadership Lessons: Leading Above the Line

Leading Blog
November 2, 2015

Leaders build trust, set clear standards, and then equip and inspire people to meet that standard.

Read here an excellent book review of Coach Urban Meyer’s new book, Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season.

Here’s a quick look at the 5 lessons:

  1. Winning behavior will not thrive in a culture that does not support it.
  2. If your habits don’t reflect your dreams and goals, you can either change your habits or change your dreams and goals.
  3. Do whatever you can to reinforce someone’s confidence by helping him to achieve small victories.
  4. When things aren’t going right, the most important thing you can do is slow down, go deep, and figure out why.
  5. You can’t lead people to a place that you are not going to as well. If it isn’t happening in you, it won’t happen through you.

Where It All Began: 6 Pioneers Of Fire Behavior

FireRescue1: Fire Chief Digital Edition
October 21, 2015

In days of old, fires were ferocious and demanded that firefighters learn on the job. There were no water systems or building codes to slow the fire to give firefighters the time to respond. Many people, including firefighters, died trying to save lives and protect property. They had to make decisions, and fast. The fire service needed pioneers to design tools and develop ways to do it better. A few individuals have stood out for their contributions to do just that.

Read here in the Fire Chief Digital Edition about where it all began.

To learn more about the history of the fire service go here to BruceHensler.com.

5 Fire Department Self Inflicted Wounds

July 14, 2015

Sometimes “we” are the problem. Because of a lack of teamwork, we don’t effectively plan. Because of a dislike to change, we don’t learn from previous events. Because of a strict, vertical hierarchy, we don’t listen to new ideas for development. Because a “status quo” attitude seems easier than growing and improving, we allow mediocrity to prevail. And, because growing leaders and building a team is hard work, we fail to provide the next generation of leaders and firefighters.

Treating and healing self inflicted fire department wounds is difficult. First, we have to overcome the fact that we did it to ourselves. Maybe that means a change in leadership. It certainly demands a change in our approach. I would suggest it requires that we assemble a “team of teams.”

Just about everyone knew, or had heard of Chief Glenn Gaines. He recently passed away in April 2015, but left us with many years of fire service wisdom. I had the privilege to be part of a lunch conversation with him about a year ago when I was teaching a command and control class at the National Fire Academy. Along with a few other instructors who met daily at the Ott House for lunch, we listened to Chief Gaines’ insight and spirit for the fire service and how we could do it better.

Read here an article recently published at FireChief.com where Chief Gaines identifies five key organizational wounds fire departments inflict upon themselves and some suggestions on how to prevent them.

You can also click the “5 Fire Department Self Inflicted Wounds” title at the top of the page to go to the article.

Are We Preparing for the Wrong Threats?

Jeff Rusteen at Firehouse
June 9, 2015

Our responsibilities have expanded dramatically. We are confronting new challenges that demand the ability to adapt to ambiguous situations. But it seems that most of our training focuses on “base conditions,” or what we expect based on responses we have been on before. We must be ready for complex incidents that quickly lead to chaos. We have to be ready for anything!

Jeff Rusteen’s Firehouse article warns us not to fall into rule-of-thumb decision making, but instead, to be ready for a complex attack that requires multiple resources working together.

CHOICES: 4 Practices to Ensure the Best Possible Outcomes

Mark Fernandes at Values Based Leader
January 6, 2015

Confused, young businessman looking at chalk drawn arrows on a cThe choice is ours, everyday, to treat people better, do things better, and leave our world a better place. This blog post explains how we can positively impact the direction and outcome of our choices more by aligning them with our personal core values, principles, beliefs, and purpose- our genuine or real self.

Why Complaining Is Good Business

Switch and Shift
December 29, 2014

“Don’t just complain, give us solutions.” Heard that a lot throughout my time in the fire service.

As a matter of fact, too often we’re (firefighters) accused of just complaining. Well, maybe we were just trying to bring a problem to the forefront. After all, we are problem solvers, right?

Sometimes we respond too fast with the wrong answer to the problem (some people just like to get things done, or crossed off their list). Maybe we should be patient, step back, and find out what the real problem is.

In any organization that aspires to innovation, improvement, and problem-solving, you must create an environment for complaining and bringing up problems so that trust will thrive and problems will get solved.

Read this article, and you may want to complain even more. And as the leader, hopefully now you will listen better to what you’re people are complaining about.