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Leadership Academy update

Announcing the
“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.
 
Cost
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

New Strategic Plan 2019-2020

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.

STRATEGIES

  1. 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

 

  1. 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
  2. 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.

STRATEGIES

  1. 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
  1. 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.

STRATEGIES

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  1. 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 shauwnhowell@cityofpinebluff.com

 

 

Managing within the context of a fire organization

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.

Continuous Training

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.

Team Spirit

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.

Influence

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

Lack of quality sleep leads to other issues

 by Dr. Curt Sumners

Sleep Deprivation

(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.

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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 creativitysleeping not

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

old mattress

MATTRESS:
•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)

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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 3000 standard released in May

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.

NFPA 3000 cover artwork is available online. For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

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.

Reminder of Fentanyl Response Safety

Responding to Fentanyl Incidents:
First Responder Safety Considerations

June 2017

 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:

  1. Absorption (through your skin)
  2. Inhalation (through your lungs)
  3. Ingestion (though your mouth)
  4. 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).

 

Universal Precautions

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.

 

 

Shedding light on firefighter PTSD

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.

Learn more about how Lexipol can protect your most valuable asset…your people!

lexipol

IAFC-SW Division Strategic Partner

IAFC-SW Division set to offer assistance to Houston and surrounding departments 

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

Protecting self brings a new concern to fire service

Foreword:

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. 

 

 

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