How Do You Know?

November 25, 2014

If you had a tool that would help your fire department evaluate risk and ultimately reduce the threat of firefighter injuries and death, would you use it?

Think about your firefighters and use the Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP) to implement operational and strategic plans to help them work safe and effectively.

Automation Makes Us Dumb

Wall Street Journal
November 22, 2014

FFrobotvintageHas artificial firefighting arrived? Today’s firefighting technology can sense the environment (thermal imaging cameras) and respond to unexpected problems (personal alert safety systems). It has increased firefighter safety and improved fire ground operations. But it doesn’t think the way we think. Our input and actions are still required.

Our concern should be, as presented in this WSJ article, that the overriding effect of automation may work to “de-skill” us. And this “fading of skills” may lead to relying too much on automation, which will render us less capable and adaptable in complex, dangerous situations. We will become more subservient to technology.

Human insight, ingenuity and intuition can’t be replicated by robots.

We will always need thinking, human firefighters!

Get Smart

Mark vonAppen at Fully Involved
November 6, 2014

vonAppen-get smartMost problems that firefighters encounter do not have easy fixes or short answers. That’s why they call us; we’re problem solvers.

But we need “thinking” firefighters to safely and effectively unravel the complexity we face. Mark vonAppen’s point is right on.

Education makes you respect the job.  Ignorance breeds bravado.  Fatigue and ignorance make cowards of us all.


The 343: Better Angels

better angels: The Firefighters of 9/11

I first saw the better angels: The Firefighters of 9/11 display at the 2011 Firehouse Expo in Baltimore. It is 343 individual oil paintings of the New York firefighters who died on 9/11. Seeing the display in person was a deep experience. I was within inches of the portraits of the firefighters who gave all that day. Each face, different in shape, size, and color, told a story of who that firefighter was. After a few moments, I realized I was also standing next to some of their families and friends who were there viewing it for the first time. I was humbled and sad, but overwhelmed with pride to be a firefighter, and to be there with them. I sat down and just watched and listened for a while.
Artist Dawn Siebel has created a painting that memorializes our brother firefighters who ran into those buildings on 9/11 and didn’t come out. Visit the better angels website to learn more about each of those firefighters. There, you can read the stories and buy the poster. I did. It’s on the wall right outside of my office.

Chaplain Mychal Judge

Chaplain Mychal Judge

Lift The Lid At Your Department

The Leadership Freak
August 25, 2014

Firefighters call their helmets “lids.” Our lids are important in everything we do; they protect us, they help us go where we need to go and do what we need to do, and they are a recognized symbol of service in our communities.

But there are other lids in our organizations that reduce our safety and undermine our effectiveness. They’re called “The Law of the Lid,” and there’s nothing more frustrating than to feel trapped in a “status quo” environment that’s reluctant to change.

Don’t be held back by the “law of the lid.” You are the lid on your own effectiveness, so lift the lid at your department!

Do You Respond To Fires? Read This

August 17, 2014

Firefighters routinely respond to incidents where the contents of a structure, car, or garbage can contain unknown  hazards. On some of those incidents we discover the “bad stuff,” while others remain a mystery. That is until later in our lives, usually around retirement, we begin to suffer from the exposure through some type of cancer or other disease.

Please! Use your all of your senses, including “good sense,” and be aware of the unknown hazards we face and practice effective exposure protection.

Mann Gulch Made An Impact On Me

Pam McDonald at Wildland Fire Leadership
August 5, 2014

I first learned of the Mann Gulch incident while completing a wildfire program several years ago. The instructor shared a variety of books with us that told stories of wildfire incidents that took the lives of firefighters. Young Men and Fire, written by Norman Maclean, was one of those books on the table. I picked it up and immediately thumbed through it, noticing an underlying theme that focused on crew resource management. That book changed my thinking and my approach to understanding the situation, making sensible decisions, managing my task-ability, and communicating effectively in the midst of chaos.