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“IAFC-SW Division High Performance Coaching & Leadership Academy”
|What it isThe IAFC-SW Division, and 1SmartCareer proudly partner to bring “Cutting Edge”leadership training to the fire service. Our promise to you is that this academy will be considerably different than you ever have attended before and way more powerful.|
Join us to learn the key skills and practices necessary to successfully lead people and manage resources in today’s fire and emergency services.
What sets this training apart from other leadership training courses is that, upon completion of the symposium, 2 coaching and 2 mentoring sessions will be scheduled by phone for each participant.
Who Should Attend: Current Officers, Company Officers, Future Chief Officers, Mid-level Chiefs, anyone in FD Leadership Positions or aspiring to same.
|Academy Topics IncludeYou are the leader; roles, responsibilities and behaviorsCommunicating and Connecting effectivelyMoving Forward and dealing with obstaclesLeading into the Future and developing other leaders|
|When and Where|
This symposium is being held March 12 – 14, 2019 in Lafayette, Louisiana at the Lafayette Fire Training Center; event time 8:30am – 5:30pm.
Pricing at $849 per attendee. Includes a 3-day in person symposium plus 4 online classes, and 2 coaching and 2 mentoring sessions over the following four months, April – July, 2019. Class size is limited to 44 attendees.
|Learn More and to Register for the Academy Here|
|For specific questions or additional information contact: Steven Matzat|
October 4, 2018
By unanimous vote, the IAFC-Southwestern Division elected to adopt a new 2-year strategic plan. The previous strategic plan’s final worksheet
was discussed at the BOD meeting in Fayetteville October 2, 2018. The new plan was reduced into 3 main goals: Lead, Educate Serve
Please see the Strategic Plan below. Or you may visit our governance page to download a copy for your files.
Goal # 1: “To LEAD”
To LEAD by being the preeminent voice and advocate for the fire and emergency services on SW regional policy and in government.
- Improve involvement of SWD between IAFC and State Chief’s organizations
- Continue to work with new Division Governance Committee & Division Policy Manual through outreach to the divisions and annual committee meetings
- Assure each state association has representation through a vice president appointed annually to the board of directors as per the existing policy
- State vice presidents should attend all state meetings and provide a report to the membership of the division’s activity
- Fulfill the organizations financial responsibility by creating and developing additional revenue streams to support programs and initiatives.
- Increase IAFC membership.
- Research and implement new programs to increase Division income.
- Maintain fiscal responsibility by monitoring and controlling expenditures.
- Continue to work with new Division Governance Committee & Division Policy Manual through outreach to the divisions and annual committee meetings
- Continue to advocate current legislative priorities/issues.
- Establish updated legislative resource page to the organization website; include periodic updates via media outlets to include IAFC legislative committee and lobbying efforts
Goal # 2: “To EDUCATE”
To EDUCATE current and future fire and emergency services leaders by providing training, education and professional development opportunities.
- Make the knowledge, experience, and resources within the SW Division easily accessible for research and problem solving
- Supplement, develop, enhance, and effectively deliver education, training, and professional development programs relevant to the members
- Facilitate career progression, mentoring, and succession management at all levels.
- Serve as an educational resource for existing state professional development programs.
- Support leadership development throughout the division membership
Goal # 3: “To SERVE”
To SERVE by providing services and products of value to our membership, affiliates and partners.
- To improve Communications with SW Division membership.
- Remain flexible to evolving technology
- Continue to evolve and enhance the association website
- Promote the Fireground Newsletter by monthly and/or quarterly issues delivered electronically via email and social media
- Continued committee appointments to increase member involvement in Division business
- Seeks ways to provide our membership with additional services and resources to enhance the valve of membership.
- Implement mechanisms to continuously seek out, evaluate and respond to feedback from membership.
Various communication platforms are available via the website, social media and board member direct email and links provided on the website
- Increase membership participation in SW Division committees and business.
- Support the IAFC in developing resources to assist fire and emergency leaders who are confronted with challenges that exceed their resources to manage.
- Support membership by facilitating IAFC and Division resources
Please contact President Shauwn Howell for any questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Human Relations: Managing within the context of a fire organization
• September 2018 • Chief Robert Benoit – 2nd Vice President, IAFC-SW Division – Fire Chief Lafayette Fire Department
The basic principles for managing one’s personal and family life, a private corporation (small or large) and both for-profit and nonprofit businesses are similar to those needed to manage a fire department. These management processes provide an orderly structure to achieving goals and objectives through delegated authority under competent leadership.
Within the context of a fire organization, effective management is a learned behavior that demands continuous training, requires team spirit and provides a strong disciplinary influence.
The NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, Section 10, Chapter 1, states
Almost all fire departments were administered by clearly defined organizational structures long before system techniques were applied to industry and business. A system of task allocation to engine and ladder crews was developed whereby each person on the apparatus performed certain functions in sequence so the team operated as a coordinated unit, without duplication of effort.
Most fire departments are structured around this traditional model, and with it, leaders have a firm foundation to build on; continuous training, team spirit and influence are some of their construction tools.
On June 15, my department held its 101st recruit academy graduation, with 17 graduates who started their training in January. The academies are six months long, with the objective of making sure each recruit has the foundation needed to perform in an effective manner during the working test period, which totals 18 months of probationary status. At the end of the working test period, they’re confirmed as permanent firefighters.
This is where the real training begins, and it will continue throughout their careers.
Effective leaders in the fire service are no different than those they manage. Management principles must start at the top and flow downward through the chain of command. Lower-level officers often find it difficult to practice leadership styles different from their superiors if we are not practicing what we preach.
Common sense is not without its merits. However, it’s just one tool mangers use, along with consistent education and training, to help members understand that decisions made at the member level may resolve an issue temporarily but that some decisions need to be made from a wider perspective, such as seen by the department leadership, to have lasting effects.
If you are going to wear the jersey, become a team player. A spirit of cooperation is a powerful tool, meaning sometimes you will have to change your focus and direction for the betterment of the organization. Staff meetings are critical, can be very efficient and should be inclusive. All aspects of the department, both supervisors and members, should be able to sit at the table and present ideas to management on a regular basis.
The fire and emergency service is a very complex field that is constantly evolving, often very rapidly. Individual skills can make or break an organization and can best be managed when the leaders feel the pulse, which can only happen in a huddle (that is, staff meetings).
When employees are given the opportunity to provide input, self-ownership takes over and the stronger players have a way of getting the weaker players to buy into their goals and objectives. As a manager and part of the team, you have the authority to make things happen. Never let power keep you on the sidelines.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines influence as
“Power exerted over others. To affect, modify or act upon by physical, mental or moral power, especially in some gentle, subtle and gradual way.”
A lot can be said about influence depending on who is in charge. I like the phrase “gentle, subtle and gradual way” because it takes the sting out of having to use force to achieve goals and objectives in running an efficient fire service organization. The truism “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” goes a long way in making people feel appreciated.
Managers are held to a higher standard and are always being watched, filmed, recorded and scrutinized. Managers can get in trouble for off-duty actions, sometimes forgetting we’re always on the radar. Fire service leaders who excel do so because they’re on top of their games. More often than not, we forget that we’re human; it’s not the big things hurting us, but the illegal, unethical or immoral acts that destroy us because we don’t think things through.
Education = Knowledge = Success = Power
As an administrator, you have the authority to manage the performance within your organization. It takes a long time to build character and excel to the level of leadership in the fire service. It only takes a split second to crash and burn. As a leader, you owe it to yourself, your family and the entire fire service to finish strong, making a colossal impact on the organization you represent.
Chief Benoit is a member of the IAFC Human Relations Committee and currently sits on the executive board of the IAFC-Southwestern Division
by Dr. Curt Sumners
(and it’s lasting effects of your qualify of life)
Is defined as not obtaining adequate total sleep. When someone is in a chronic sleep-restricted state they’ll notice excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, clumsiness, and weight gain or weight loss. In addition, being sleep-deprived affects both the brain and cognitive function.
Firefighters often don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to real problems, including safety concerns. During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well. You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also come at a delay, decreasing your coordination skills and increasing your risks for accidents.
Sleep deprivation negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity
Sleep is a necessary bodily function that cannot be replicated through any other means. Fire service leaders need to let go of the attitude that “we don’t pay you to sleep” and firefighters need to lose the idea that they can function just as well in the 48th hour being awake as they did in the first.
Assuring quality sleep for firefighters is a health and wellness issue whose time is long overdue. Lives depend on it.
Steps for better sleep
1. First and most importantly, departments must recognize that adequate sleep is a wellness and performance issue equal to other priorities such as strength fitness, diet, and agility.
2. Fire departments should evaluate current logistics for sleep and consider changes. Some positive changes can be made quite simply — installing fans or white noise generating machines in common dorms, for example:
The room or place that is used for sleeping, should be relaxing and quiet. Lights, noises, a room that’s too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable bed, can keep people/firefighters from getting the sleep that they need. A dark room is more conductive for sleep, both night and day. The temperature should be 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Loud sudden noises from outside as well as the inside should be kept to a minimum. How old your mattresses,
Mattresses and foundations do wear out
•Cheaper is not better for the budget you will end up replacing sub standard mattresses more frequently
• Should be supportive and comfortable
• 10 or more inches is good, 8 inches should be a minimum,
• Many of the newer Foam, Cool Gel Mattresses Are good
• The newer Hybrid mattresses (Spring and gel foam) offer superior support and excellent comfort
• A good mattress manufacturer should offer a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty
Reasons Why You SHOULD Replace Your Mattress Every 5 to 7 years
1. Hygiene Your bed is made of absorbent fabrics so over the years as you sleep on it bacteria, germs, sweat and debris such as skin, scales, hair, dust mites etc. are being built up in the mattress materials.
Gross, I know. The good news is if you clean your mattress regularly, change the sheets, and maybe even use a mattress protector you can extend the lifespan of your mattress. 5 to 7 years is the general rule of thumb. If your mattress is particularly grimy you may want to replace sooner.
2. Comfort The second main reason why we recommend replacing your mattress so frequently is for your own good or, at least your own comfort. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night a quick solution may be to replace your old mattress with a new one. Over time, a mattress loses its firmness and begins to sag in the middle. This can make it uncomfortable to sleep in and over time can cause back pain. It may be time for you to replace your old mattress.
3. Health Last but certainly not least the 3rd reason why everyone should consider replacing their mattress every 5 to 7 years is for health reasons. Like it or not our bodies are constantly changing. What was comfortable for you many years ago may no longer suit your sleep now. Not to mention, many common health problems like INSOMNIA , BACK PAIN and SLEEP DEPRIVATION may be caused by your bad mattress. (this is particularly important for the Fire and EMS industry)
4. Do an assessment of the current state of sleep fitness among members. As much as possible, gather data anonymously to get an honest picture of how department members manage sleep both on and off the job.
5. Allow appropriate naps on duty. Numerous studies have shown that brief naps of 30 minutes or less can make a positive difference in cognition and reflexes for someone who is exhausted.
6. Make resources available for those who are suffering from sleep disorders. Do not stigmatize the use of these resources.
7. Reconsider shift scheduling and overtime rules to diminish the effects of sleep deprivation on emergency response.
Taking steps to minimize the effects of sleep deprivation keeps your liability down and improves the overall health of your firefighters.
NFPA releases the world’s first active shooter/hostile event standard with guidance on whole community planning, response, and recovery
Timely, critical document was developed with insight from law enforcement, fire, EMS, medical providers, facility managers, private industry, DHS, the CIA, FBI and others
May 1, 2018 – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released NFPA 3000TM (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program to help communities holistically deal with the fast-growing number of mass casualty incidents that continue to occur throughout the world. Serving as the first of its kind, NFPA 3000 provides unified planning, response and recovery guidance, as well as civilian and responder safety considerations.
“The NFPA 3000 process, from start to finish, has been an exceptional example of emergency responders and other safety-focused practitioners swiftly coming together to provide invaluable perspective and address a significant threat in our world,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “The proactive, integrated strategies recommended and defined in NFPA 3000 will go a long way in helping communities plan, respond and recover from active shooter and hostile events.”
This marks only the second time in NFPA’s 122-year history that they have issued a provisional standard. Provisional standards are developed in an expedited process to address an emergency situation or other special circumstance.
After the Pulse Nightclub massacre in June of 2016, Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County Fire in Florida requested that NFPA develop a standard to help authorities come together and create a well-defined, cohesive plan that works to minimize harm and maximize resiliency. NFPA responded by establishing the NFPA Technical Committee on Cross Functional Emergency Preparedness and Response. In mid-April, NFPA 3000 was issued by the NFPA Standards Council, making it the first consensus document related to active shooter and hostile events.
The 46-member Technical Committee responsible for NFPA 3000 is NFPA’s largest startup Committee, to date, with representation from law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, hospitals, emergency management, private security, private business, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice, and many more. Committee members provided job-specific insight and real world observations from mass killings at Mandalay Bay Resort, Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Sikh Temple, the Boston Marathon, and other less publicized events.
NFPA 3000 helps entire communities organize, manage, communicate, and sustain an active shooter/hostile event preparedness, response, and recovery program. In addition to offering NFPA 3000 via a new digital subscription – which will be updated automatically when the next edition becomes available – NFPA is offering an Online Training Series (the first of three courses are available now); a downloadable checklist; a readiness assessment document; and fact sheet for authorities to learn more about establishing a proactive, collaborative active shooter/hostile event program.
Some have asked why NFPA would be the organization to develop an active shooter standard. “For more than a century, NFPA has facilitated a respected consensus process that has produced some of the most widely used codes and standards in the world including more than 100 that impact first responders. Our purview goes far beyond our fire safety efforts as evidenced by our ongoing work to address new hazards with professionals in public safety, emergency management, community risk, electrical services, the energy sector, engineering, the chemical and industrial industries, healthcare, manufacturing, research, the government, and the built environment. The recent increase in active shooter incidents and the fire service involvement in them warranted NFPA’s standards development expertise, and the timely development of NFPA 3000,” Pauley said.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.
Responding to Fentanyl Incidents:
First Responder Safety Considerations
Article provided by Lexipol- Strategic Partner of IAFC-SW Division
Written by Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)
The use of mind-altering substances by humans is nothing new. Since the first person left a bowl of grain out in the rain, and then the sun and wild yeast did their thing, humans have had access to beer. Additional intoxicating substances followed through different methods of discovery. How people figured out that the milky substance contained in the un-ripened seed pod of the poppy flower is a powerful drug is beyond me. This drug is opium.
Opium use in America is also nothing new. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a substance called laudanum was very popular. This product was a mixture of 10 percent opium and alcohol. Laudanum was available as an over-the-counter drug. It was basically the aspirin of its time and was recommended for pain relief for many common ailments and for serious diseases such as tuberculosis. The problem with laudanum is that it is highly addictive due to the opium content. As more and more people began to develop addictions, doctors began to discourage its use; government regulations restricting access to opioids soon followed.
Today, opium comes in many natural and synthetic forms. Modern pharmaceutical companies have created synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl, Dilaudid, Norco), which are much more powerful than their natural cousin. These medications were created to reduce pain and suffering for patients after injury or surgery and for those living with chronic pain. The problem is that humans tend to abuse these medications and can become addicted; take away the prescribed medications and some addicts will turn to street drugs out of desperation. Four in five new heroin users start out misusing prescription painkillers. Opioid abuse in the U.S. has become epidemic and many people are dying as a result.
I’m not going to get into the current debate on how fentanyl and related substances arrive on our streets; I am more concerned with their impact on first responders. We have seen numerous reports in the past several weeks of police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel being exposed to highly toxic opioids. These exposures have come through casual contact such as searching a car for drugs, brushing off a small amount of white powder (following a search in which the officer had used gloves and mask), touching a patient with a synthetic opioid on their person, or inhaling a drug after it was aerosolized from a flash/bang device. These recent events lead me to believe it might be time for a training refresher.
Risk from the Patient and the Material
A patient overdosing on opioids presents inherent risks to first responders. These drugs cause respiratory depression and we often find patients who aren’t breathing. Our first treatment options are to provide ventilation for the patient and administer Narcan (naloxone) if it is available. Naloxone will reverse the effects of the drug. Sometimes, when the patient becomes conscious, they are very agitated and can become violent. Also, they may have residue or greater amounts of the drug on their person. We need to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate precautions.
Hazardous Materials Refresher
First responders need to start approaching these incidents with a hazardous materials (hazmat) response mindset. I know it’s not practical for all responders to show up in Level A suits; that’s not what I’m talking about. We are taught from the beginning of our careers that hazmat calls are uniquely dangerous. Our first responsibility in these situations is to isolate the area and deny further entry of responders or civilians.
Many of the recent events where police officers and firefighters have been exposed to and become ill from fentanyl and other opiates have occurred through patient contact or contact with the drug by touching a contaminated object. If this happened at a hazmat call we would all say a policy or procedure had been violated. I’m not blaming the victim here but I am asking us to rethink our approach. We need to re-evaluate our mindset about responding to calls involving illicit drugs. We might need to start viewing them as hazmat calls.
Hazmat is defined as “A material or substance that poses a danger to life, property, or the environment if improperly stored, shipped or handled.” Based on the evidence I believe opioids fit this definition.
Routes of Exposure
There are four routes of exposure for a hazmat:
- Absorption (through your skin)
- Inhalation (through your lungs)
- Ingestion (though your mouth)
- Injection (by an object like a needle or through force such as liquid under pressure)
All four of these exposure routes are in play when it comes to illicit drugs. It is easy to understand that if you touched a drug with your finger, and then stuck your finger in your mouth, you would suffer an exposure to the drug. Or, if you were stuck by a hypodermic needle that was contaminated, you could be exposed to the drug. What about inhalation? Well, users often snort these materials through a straw, so exposure from breathing in the powder makes sense.
The most surprising exposure route, as noted by recent exposures to fentanyl, is absorption. The fact that just touching the material, or accidentally getting it on your skin, can cause you to become ill or intoxicated, and even overdose, is what is shocking to me. We need to take this issue seriously and protect ourselves from all routes of exposure.
How can we protect ourselves in a practical way when we encounter overdose calls daily? We need to have a “me first” attitude and use good decision-making, proper procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).
I joined the fire service in the early 1980s—a time of discovery for bloodborne pathogens. As we encountered new communicable diseases, we realized we were potentially exposed when treating patients. We began training on and using the concepts of Universal Precautions.
Universal Precautions basically means “treat all blood and body fluids as if they were infectious.” We protected our hands with medical exam gloves, our eyes with protective eyewear, and our mouths and noses with medical masks. We didn’t wear masks for every call but we did use them when performing invasive procedures (e.g., intubating a patient’s airway). Many paramedics learned to wear a mask the hard way: by experiencing exposure to blood and other bodily fluids when performing these tasks.
We need to consider approaching drug overdoses, and drug investigations, with these principles in mind. What does this look like?
- If you suspect opioid use, ask safety-related questions about what substances may be present.
- Use hand protection (minimum and mandatory) at all potential overdose/drug investigation calls. To be sure you’re getting the maximum protection, use nitrile gloves rather than latex. One coroner’s office has indicated that latex gloves may allow absorption of synthetic opioids into the wearer’s skin.
- When encountering unknown substances, consider the use of N-95 masks, eye protection and paper covers for clothes and shoes.
- Handle patients and objects as if they were contaminated.
- Avoid (better yet, prohibit) cross-contamination. Only touch items with protected hands. Following the call, don’t touch anything until you have followed proper decontamination procedures
- If applicable under your EMS protocols, carry and be prepared to administer naloxone to patients and first responders who may become exposed.
If these steps sound burdensome, consider that they are common practices in settings such as dental offices.
For more guidance, access “Fentanyl: A Briefing Guide for First Responders,” recently released by the DEA.
Protect Yourself So You Can Protect Them
When we encounter new hazards in the workplace we need to evaluate the risk and develop new engineering and work practice controls to protect ourselves and our employees. The new threat of very powerful synthetic opioids, and the severe harm they cause, must be addressed in this manner. It’s difficult and maybe even impractical to avoid these hazards altogether; however, we need to try. If we can approach opioid overdose calls with a hazardous materials mindset, practice Universal Precautions, and slow down when there is discretionary time, we can reduce the risks and hopefully avoid any further injury.
It’s really about doing our jobs well, serving those we swore to protect—but still going home healthy at the end of the shift. Take care of yourselves and each other out there!
Sean Stumbaugh is a management services representative for Lexipol. He retired in 2015 after 32 years in the American fire service, serving as battalion chief for the Cosumnes Fire Department in Elk Grove, Calif., as well as the El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Fire Department and the Freedom (Calif.) Fire District. Sean has a master’s degree in Leadership and Disaster Preparedness from Grand Canyon University, a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University, and an associate degree from Cabrillo College in Fire Protection Technology. In addition to his formal education, he is a Certified Fire Officer, Chief Officer, and Instructor III in the California State Fire Training certification program. Sean has taught numerous state fire training courses and has been an adjunct professor with Cosumnes River College in Sacramento. Sean is now continuing his career by serving as the volunteer Para-Chaplain for the Daisy Mountain Fire District in New River, AZ.
Lexipol’s Fire Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies to enhance the safety of firefighters in all areas of department operations, including emergency medical services. Contact us today to find out more.
This article is provided by Lexipol
By Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)
When I was a supervisor in the fire department, my crews had a nickname for me: The Red Man. I embraced the moniker to some degree and I would joke with them, “Don’t make me take out the Red Man.” This was a term of endearment (at least that’s what I liked to believe) in many cases, but I knew it was born from numerous times that I led with anger. In hindsight this is not a great way to lead.
So, what was really going on here? I hadn’t been brought up in some military academy where I learned to be a drill sergeant when things didn’t go my way. Was there something else at work? Something I couldn’t really put my finger on? After retirement, I realized some of this behavior was born out of stress I was feeling, at work and at home.
I was confident retirement would fix this issue and my life would be a breeze. I soon found out that retirement was something I wasn’t fully prepared for. I went through a two-year transition that was more difficult than being at work. Fortunately, I had some support mechanisms that helped see me through
This experience made me want to know more about the stress we face as firefighters. So I reached out to an expert in the field, Jeff Dill, founder and CEO of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA). In this article, I’ll share some insights Jeff opened my eyes to, with the hopes that they might be eyeopening for you, too. And in my next article, I’ll share three steps all fire service professionals can take to combat the negative effects of work-related stress.
1,100 and Counting One of my goals when I was a training chief was to design training programs that reduced the risk of line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) by targeting the root causes of LODDs. We commonly use the number 100 to explain how many of us die on the job each year. This number is an average, and the actual figure fluctuates, but unfortunately the deviation is small.
Jeff Dill stresses an entirely different number: 1,102—the number of confirmed firefighter and EMS suicides he has validated since he began studying the issue. “These are not merely numbers, they are the names and faces of brothers and sisters who have left us behind,” Jeff says. “That’s always been our message at the FBHA. We never want to forget them.” Jeff now dedicates his professional life to helping reduce this growing number.
Call It By Name So, what is it we are struggling with? We can—and should—call it Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) or PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We’re hardly alone in being at risk for PTS; military personnel, police officers and other first responders face it too—not to mention anyone who experiences a traumatic experience, such as being assaulted or witnessing death or abuse.
SW Division President Tom Bradley along with members of the executive committee have met to discuss the current needs in Texas and Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Harvey. President Bradley commented with Texas and Louisiana located in the heart of our division, we feel it’s critical that we offer this local assistance. Executive Director Moatts has been in touch with vendors and suppliers who are also willing to help the division and leaders of the area as soon as more information is gathered. “We don’t want to be a nuisance, we just want them to know we are here if and when needed” – Chief Tom Bradley.
Moatts has been in touch with division president-elect Randy Parr, fire chief of Tomball Texas. Chief Parr is dealing with flooding in his town. Tomball is located just 30 miles north of downtown Houston. Chief Parr stated that his unmet needs are “help with evacuation and care of the people.”
The leadership of the Division is conducting a needs assessment with area leaders. Currently operations are still in rescue phase however, the recovery phase will bring additional challenges and needs at that time as well.
Moatts also reached out to Louisiana vice president Robert Benoit, fire chief of Lafayette Fire Department to offer assistance as they prepare for the potential of flooding from tropical storm Harvey.
Fire Chief James LeBlanc of St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department in Ascension Parish announced that Lamar-Dixon Conference Center is being used as a donation collection site for the Harvey relief effort. Chief LeBlanc reflected on the tragedy that struck his community last year. “A year ago this week the Texas people showed up in Louisiana with supplies that we needed, so we want to return the favor to them, ” as quoted to WAFB9.
More information of the relief efforts will be available in our electronic newsletter or visit http://swdnewsletter.wordpress.com
A real valid issue is being raised in our fire departments among our front line first responders..carrying concealed weapons. Depending on where you live, this is a protected right under the current laws. But, this law can create a whirlwind of liability for on-duty or off-duty public servants. Whether we agree or disagree with CCW, we must be proactive in these discussions and in developing policies to protect our teams, our departments and our citizens.
Taking the Heat
by Steven “Doc” Bernard
You arrive to a reported structure fire and it is fully involved. Fire is through the roof. The first thing you do is send all available personnel into the fire on interior attack mode……… No? Why not? Is there some written guide or training on how it is to be done? Of course there is. We size up the scene. We follow guidelines our department has adopted. We follow our training. That’s how we do things. We have bookcases full of regulations, manuals, operating guidelines, policies, and operating procedures. NFPA alone takes up a couple of those shelves. The more complex or potentially injurious an item is, the more manuals and information there is on how it is to be used. But we are used to that, because they are meant to help us do a dangerous job with some potentially dangerous tools.
Lately though, it seems the job has gotten even more perilous. This is not due to the fire, but from a section of the public that has been making threats against our departments, and in some cases where units have been struck by gunfire. And logically, our personnel want to be protected from these assaults. We see departments issuing bullet-‐resistant vests and helmets, and some organizations have been calling for or allowing their personnel to be armed while on duty.
But in polling a number of departments that I have some connections with across the country, I asked two questions of them. First, “Does your department allow concealed or open carry of a firearm on-‐duty or on scene?” And secondly, “Does your department have a written policy about it?” What I found, in my unscientific poll, was that if the answer was “No, it is not allowed”, there was a written policy in place. But, if the answer was “Yes…well…only certain calls…” “Only certain people can”, or “If the Chief says okay”, I found that there was usually no written policy associated with it or only a verbal/assumed policy, if that. This article is NOT being written to promote or prohibit our personnel from being allowed to carry. That is for the individual department to decide, in my mind. But for there to be an allowance to carry this new potentially life-‐threatening equipment in our workspace, there must be a policy in place that sets out how, where, and what level of training must be achieved. Otherwise, those departments could very well be setting themselves up for a lawsuit and sorrow. Personally, I have my CCW permit and the blessing from my state to carry as a private citizen and I want to protect that right. But on a fire department, whether career or volunteer, we are not private citizens while we are doing the job. We are invited into people’s homes, and sometimes we don’t even wait for permission to enter private property. John Q. Public does not have those same privileges.
We represent the department/agency/county/city/township that has hired us. We are now held to a higher and stricter standard than Joe Citizen with his carry permit. So I ask all of you, what is your department’s policy on the carry of firearms while on a call and/or at the firehouse? If you have them established, then this question is already answered. But if you haven’t, this article is addressed to you. We are looking at major liabilities if we do not seriously address this within our departments.
I am not against protecting ourselves, but I am also not ignorant to the fact that both the department and the individual could face severe civil and legal penalties if there was no policy regarding it. You see, now we need talk about responsibility and liability.
There are some laws that might defend a person’s actions but that does not mean the departments are immune from a case being brought forward and need to be defended to prevent it from going further if someone is shot by a department employee while on duty/call. A case being sought incurs attorney fees, and if they name the individual as well as the department…and should there be a motion to sever the case…the individual may be left holding the proverbial “bag” if there was no written policy that the individual was to follow, and if there was any hint of impropriety, negligence or acting without authorization. Or the department could be held liable for not having regulations in place that addressed this issue for that employee. And yes, a volunteer, while representing a department is still an employee and an agent of that department. How many departments accept that Ricky Rescue, new on the department, can properly and adequately get on the pump and get us water…when his experience is just playing with his sump pump in the backyard? No, we put him through Pump Operations Class and we can verify he can do the job properly. We won’t even talk about driving the rig… How about something more lethal that we see nearly everyday, a defibrillator/monitor? Will we allow Freddy the New Fireman run around with the paddles without confirming he is certified and trained how to use them? The spreaders? But yet we are allowing our personnel to bring personal equipment on to scene and to the station that has lethal implications and yet we have no policy governing it’s carry or use while on the job. We have no record of their training with this equipment, other than a CCW permit, which is fairly easy to get in many states, and some states don’t require any actual education or training to carry a firearm legally.
So I have been becoming more and more concerned with the calls to allow firefighters and EMS personnel to be allowed to carry while on duty, yet not seeing any written guidelines or policies about it. Some departments just allow it to happen and don’t think anything about it and have set no policy as they are afraid of Constitutional issues.
We must remember that we can set standards for the use of equipment when it is used in the line of duty. A choice by the employee has to be made: adhere to the policy, or seek employment elsewhere if they feel the standards are too strict.
We have to protect our departments by setting policy and standard. But not having that policy to be able to benchmark off of, is opening us to high levels of liability. Firearms and their place at the station and on a scene need to be addressed, and department policy needs to be written as to who can carry and when they can carry a firearm while on duty.
Mind you, I am on the range at least 2-‐3 times a month, have extensive firearms training, and a veteran. So, to even hint that I am anti-‐firearm or anti-‐self protection is a non-‐starter. I just want to see any department that does not have a policy about carrying while on duty to establish one.
Whether it is accepting of it, or forbidding of it, let’s make sure everyone on our department knows what the policy is and what the requirements are should they be allowed.
Steven Bernard is a firefighter, conributing author, writer, video and photo journalist.