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“Get With The Program” – FossilMedic

FossilMedic prods us again:  

FAILING TO LEARN DISRESPECTS THEIR SACRIFICE

Phase II of the “Routley” report was issued in Charleston last week. If you want to honor the sacrifice of the nine that died at that commercial fire, it will take more than buying a t-shirt, putting a sticker on your helmet or posting a snarky remark on a discussion board.

WE need to accelerate the rate of change in the institutions that codify our work and develop the reference and teaching materials.

MAKE SURE NFPA STANDARD 1021 REFLECT THE LESSONS LEARNED FROM OUR LOSSES

In 1971 the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) expanded their consensus code process from buildings, materials and industrial processes and into the firefighting occupation. Prior to this, firefighter training did not have a national standard set of knowledge, skills and abilities.

Oklahoma State University has been publishing the “Red Books” since 1931, generally aimed at rural and small city departments. Large departments like New York and Los Angeles wrote their own manuals. Warren Kimball used the Boston Fire Department drill manual when he wrote Fire Attack 1 in 1966.

The updated NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications is up for adoption at the July World Conference. While there was a struggle over the fire inspection section of the standard, there are no substantial changes to the Job Performance Requirements (JPR) or areas of knowledge within the 2008 version of the standard.

I wrote a textbook covering the 2003 version of Fire Officer I and II. There are few changes in the 2008 version. That means much less work for me in writing the second edition. The original manuscript came from the fire officer I and II courses I taught at the community college, using the 1997 version of the standard. While there was a shuffling of some tasks between fire officer I, II and III, there is no significant change in the 1021 standard since the 1997 standard was revised into the Job Performance Requirements format.

HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING SINCE 1997?

It is troubling that, from a standards perspective, no new knowledge has been developed in fireground operations or the lessons learned from the investigations after 400-some brothers and sisters who have died in burning buildings.

Let’s consider four structural fire events with a single LODD that generated reports in addition to NIOSH:

Firefighter Brett Tarver, Phoenix, 2001 (Carbon monoxide poisoning in supermarket)

[photopress:mike20may_a_phoenix.jpg,full,centered]

http://phoenix.gov/FIRE/report.pdf 

 *  *  *

Captain Jay Jahnke, Houston, 2001 (Carbon monoxide poisoning in residential high-rise)

[photopress:mike20may_d_texas.jpg,full,centered]

http://www.houstontx.gov/fire/reports/fltr.pdf

 *  *  *

Firefighter Oscar Armstrong III, Cincinnati, 2003 (flashover in residence)

[photopress:mike20may_c_cleveland.jpg,full,centered]

http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/cityfire/downloads/cityfire_pdf8213.pdf

 *  *  *

Technician I Kyle Wilson, Prince William County, 2007 (structural collapse in residence)

http://www.pwcgov.com/default.aspx?topic=020016001470004566 You should read these reports after you have finished the Charleston Phase II report.

After reading these reports consider what should be added or changed for the 2013 version of NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. If we promised to “never forget” we need to institutionalize the changes that these reports recommend.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • http://thehousewatch.com/ thehousewatch.com

    Well put Brother,

    That’s the critical thinking that is so desperately needed by those who ACTUALLY read reports and make inferences about them.

    Keep up the good work,

    The Housewatch

  • http://thehousewatch.com thehousewatch.com

    Well put Brother,

    That’s the critical thinking that is so desperately needed by those who ACTUALLY read reports and make inferences about them.

    Keep up the good work,

    The Housewatch

  • Patrick

    I think what we need to emphasize is formal education in officer selection and promotion. Houston has provisions in their contract that will require different ranks to have different levels of education at a certain future date, including bachelor’s degrees for some company officers. In my opinion, until we find a way to ensure that our officers think like professionals and can critically read and write we’ll never make any progress. The best way to ensure they can do that and think like that is to see to it that they have a college education and are, in fact, professionals. While it won’t make sure that all our officers are critical readers and thinkers, it will go a long way in the direction of eliminating the guys who know nothing beyond the IFSTA and PennWell books they read for the promotional tests.

  • Patrick

    I think what we need to emphasize is formal education in officer selection and promotion. Houston has provisions in their contract that will require different ranks to have different levels of education at a certain future date, including bachelor’s degrees for some company officers. In my opinion, until we find a way to ensure that our officers think like professionals and can critically read and write we’ll never make any progress. The best way to ensure they can do that and think like that is to see to it that they have a college education and are, in fact, professionals. While it won’t make sure that all our officers are critical readers and thinkers, it will go a long way in the direction of eliminating the guys who know nothing beyond the IFSTA and PennWell books they read for the promotional tests.

  • http://home.gwu.edu/~mikeward/ Mike “fossilmedic” Ward

    The Housewatch:

    Thanks for your generous remarks, I am going to keep working on the critical thinking piece.

    Patrick:

    I appreciate your post

    Formal education *may* be a factor, the challenge is in your statement that “…our officers think like professionals and can critically read and write.” Going to college does not assure that critical thinking occurs.

    I KNOW that we can develop this skill, thinking about how to do it.

    details in future columns

    Mike

  • http://home.gwu.edu/~mikeward/ Mike “fossilmedic” Ward

    The Housewatch:

    Thanks for your generous remarks, I am going to keep working on the critical thinking piece.

    Patrick:

    I appreciate your post

    Formal education *may* be a factor, the challenge is in your statement that “…our officers think like professionals and can critically read and write.” Going to college does not assure that critical thinking occurs.

    I KNOW that we can develop this skill, thinking about how to do it.

    details in future columns

    Mike

  • http://Firehouse.com/ William Carey

    This is was a very well written and provoking piece. I believe that the fire service is reaching the point where professional standards, for both career and volunteer firefighters and officers, are going to have to take into account how people learn. Instituting change, especially in personal behavior, is going to take more than the typical NIOSH report and will have to be personalized by any department that desires to learn. With the technology today members can read of a LODD and have nearly all the most probable causes and armchair corrections, all within the same day. The challenge is to capture that attention and direct it not just to what the fallen may or may not have done, but to the reader’s own department and members, with the same scrutiny. I wonder how many readers have contributed comments about Charleston in the various forums, yet have not gone out to identify their own Sofa Store, or look into their municipal fire and building codes. If we take a deeper look at the behavior of individuals, we should see that in some cases all the standards in the world will not change the outcome. I believe that before too long and after more LODDs (especially regarding seatbelts, driving and personal health), involved fire departments will begin to see financial penalties as part of the review and after-action process. A department that may have received a federal grant for training or equipment for example, and suffers a LODD, may eventually be called before Congress to explain, why after funding to help prevent such tragedy, was one allowed to occur. When deaths begin to impact the financial future, we well see a greater, faster change. As it stands now, NIOSH reports have become simply another monthly fire service periodical to some on the job.

  • http://Firehouse.com William Carey

    This is was a very well written and provoking piece. I believe that the fire service is reaching the point where professional standards, for both career and volunteer firefighters and officers, are going to have to take into account how people learn. Instituting change, especially in personal behavior, is going to take more than the typical NIOSH report and will have to be personalized by any department that desires to learn. With the technology today members can read of a LODD and have nearly all the most probable causes and armchair corrections, all within the same day. The challenge is to capture that attention and direct it not just to what the fallen may or may not have done, but to the reader’s own department and members, with the same scrutiny. I wonder how many readers have contributed comments about Charleston in the various forums, yet have not gone out to identify their own Sofa Store, or look into their municipal fire and building codes. If we take a deeper look at the behavior of individuals, we should see that in some cases all the standards in the world will not change the outcome. I believe that before too long and after more LODDs (especially regarding seatbelts, driving and personal health), involved fire departments will begin to see financial penalties as part of the review and after-action process. A department that may have received a federal grant for training or equipment for example, and suffers a LODD, may eventually be called before Congress to explain, why after funding to help prevent such tragedy, was one allowed to occur. When deaths begin to impact the financial future, we well see a greater, faster change. As it stands now, NIOSH reports have become simply another monthly fire service periodical to some on the job.