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Month: February 2018

Women Are Beginning to Take More Leadership Roles in the Fire Service

women in firefighting

Since the beginning of the women’s rights movement in 20th century America, women have taken on leadership roles all across the nation. From corporate executives to politicians, females have gained authoritative positions within numerous career paths. However, in some male-dominated industries, women have struggled to reach these leadership roles. One such industry is the fire service.     

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Recent Active Shooter Incidents Prompt NFPA to Fast Track Standards for First Responders

nfpa shooter response

Recent shootings like the Florida school shooting earlier this month have no doubt sparked debate and controversy over effective response and prevention methods. During the last five years the United States has been inundated with at least 14 prominent, high-casualty producing active shooter incidents. This has forced police, fire, and EMS to change tactics to handle these unfortunate incidents. The locations where incidents occur have been shown to be a school, an office complex, a fast food restaurant, a warehouse, or as you are passing by a freeway overpass. It is clear that this type of situation requires all agencies to practice readiness and have a clear understanding of what actions are needed, who should take them, and when. Police organizations already have been training their personnel with Immediate Action-Rapid Deployment tactics. This training employs immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to ongoing, life-threatening situations where delayed deployment could otherwise result in death or injury to innocent persons. The introduction of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events seeks to provide direction to fire personnel in the event a situation like this occurs in the future.  Let’s highlight some of the important points of the standard that might help you or your firefighters in the future.

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Ranks and Structures of Firefighting

deputy fire chief

The fire service was developed as a paramilitary organization around 1647. A paramilitary organization is a semi-militarized organizational structure similar to those of a professional military but not actually part of the armed forces.

When firefighters are hired, they are considered recruits. They must complete a recruit academy to become probationary firefighters and remain on probation for six months. Promotions to higher ranks are determined by years of experience, test scores, and other evaluative criteria.

Here is an outline of the firefighter ranks in order:

  1. Probationary firefighter
  2. Firefighter
  3. Driver engineer
  4. Lieutenant
  5. Captain
  6. Battalion chief
  7. Assistant Chief
  8. Fire chief

Fire Department Units

Fire department units are usually divided into a few basic categories:

  1. Company
  2. Battalion
  3. Districts

Company

Two or more firefighters are organized as a team, led by a fire officer, and equipped to perform certain operational functions. This is the basic unit.

Battalion

A battalion consists of several fire stations and multiple fire companies. A battalion chief has command over each fire station’s officers and each company or unit’s officers, as well as the uniformed firefighters.

Districts

This is another division that is most often employed only in the larger departments. A district chief is usually over several battalions.

Firefighter Ranks

Here is a look at each role within the fire service and its ranks.

Probationary firefighter

The probationary firefighter is an individual that is classified as entry-level within the hierarchy. They are often still undergoing training and evaluation to determine if there is an organizational fit. The period for the probationary term may span from 6 months to one year, depending on the individual and the organization.

Firefighter

After an individual completes the probationary period, they are referred to as a firefighter. The role of firefighter is responsible for much of the actual hands-on actions during a live operation. These tasks can include but are not limited to handling hoses, operating fire-rescue equipment, and conducting a search, find, and rendering of initial first aid care to victims of the fire.

Driver/Engineer

Fire engineers are responsible for the implementation of the firefighting vehicles that respond to emergencies. They ensure that the vehicle is clean and running efficiently, perform maintenance tasks, and drive the truck. In addition to knowing the apparatus in and out, the Engineer is also responsible for knowing the location of every alarm in his jurisdiction and the location of each hydrant.

Lieutenant

Aside from overseeing apparatus operation and the crew’s responsibilities, fire lieutenants are also responsible for candidate training, daily firehouse operations, and other duties. In the absence of the captain, lieutenants may stand in as acting captains.

Captain

This firefighter is the highest-ranking on-scene responder, responsible for directing operations at the scene of a fire incident and overseeing station duties. This role requires great responsibility, and the individual must have exemplary management skills and the ability to lead firefighters.

Battalion Chief

The Battalion Chief oversees administrative tasks such as employee scheduling and ensuring all firehouses under their scope are staffed for emergencies. Due to the nature of shift-work in firefighting, one fire department could have numerous rotating Battalion Chiefs ensuring 24/7 operational readiness.

Assistant Chief

The assistant Chief helps support the Fire Chief by ensuring a high standard in operational quality free from personnel issues that could jeopardize the department’s mission. In addition, the Assistant Chief also helps the Chief with matters such as budgets, community and department programming, training, and managing the success of the fire department.

Fire Chief

This is the highest-ranking position in the fire department organization. The Chief oversees all operations and roles inside the department and works with city officials to create a safer community. A successful Chief understands the value of legal agreements, partnerships, networking, trusting and empowering others, and stepping back to look at the big picture.

All ranks have the opportunity to work their way up the ranks to the fire chief.

As firefighters advance their careers, they are likely to assume more responsibility in managerial or administrative roles. It becomes their duty to train, assist, and promote the interests of their company, battalion, or district.

How Drones Are Hindering Firefighting Efforts  

drone interfere with firefighting

As we move deeper into the 21st century, one of the prevailing issues of our time is the need for common sense to keep up with burgeoning technology and how it can help or hinder our response to all sorts of emergencies. Recently, the serious issue of civilian drones has come to the forefront of emergency services as incidences of drones interfering with first responder operations are on the rise. Sometimes, this has devastating effects.

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Three Reasons Why Firefighting is Getting Costlier

wildfires getting costlier

It turns out that 2017 was a banner year, and ultimately a tragic one, for the bottom line among the world’s insurance carriers. Unparalleled natural disasters around the world will result in more than $135 billion in claims and losses. Total property losses, after you factor in uninsured property, will exceed $330 million. Only 2011, which included the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulted in greater losses.

While it’s impossible to put monetary value on the loss of life, one can only imagine the scale of tragedy after so many floods, hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfires.

Possibly more distressing is the overwhelming opinion among the scientific community that these natural disasters, caused and amplified by a number of factors, will only increase in years to come.

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The California Wildfire Season Is Now 4-5 Months Longer

california wildfire season longer

Last December, another major fire plagued California. For over a month, the Thomas Fire blazed through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The destruction surpassed 440 square miles of land scorched and 1,063 structures burned, claiming the title as the largest wildfire in California history. As of December 22nd, more than 8,500 firefighters fought to contain it. It took firefighters until January 12 to reach 100 percent containment, thanks in part to the subsiding Santa Ana winds that had originally exacerbated the fire in early December.

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Why Mudslides Occur After Large Wildfires Like the California Thomas Fire and How to Protect Yourself From Them

thomas fire

In January of 2018, the relief from hazardous weather and extreme conditions did not appear to be in sight for residents of the Golden State.  Devastating mudslides in California killed at least 20 people in early January in the coastal town of Montecito.  Downed trees and power lines as well as cascading boulders made the task of getting to those needing assistance difficult.  The excessive flooding and debris made air transport the only viable form of rescue.  Helicopters loaned by Ventura’s Air Squad 6 dedicated were used to pluck more than 50 people from rooftops from parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

As of mid-January, the relief and search effort numbered 3,000 workers from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross.  Details regarding the victims’ circumstances before the mudslides emerged from rescuers.  As the saturated hillsides gave way, the torrent of mud, water, and other debris was said to have swept the casualties away while they slept.  The mudslides were triggered by a powerful storm that hit the region along with mountainous areas that were stripped of vegetation burned bare by the gigantic December 2017 Thomas fire.  Let’s take a look at how the wildfires that raged through the area late last year have made the mudslides more devastating.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Purchasing Your Next Fire Apparatus in 2018

boise mobile equipment water tender

Purchasing a fire apparatus today can be a complex process of determining your department’s needs, meeting with manufacturers’ representatives, specification development, and securing adequate financial support from your community’s purchasing authority.  To complete the mission of your fire department effectively, the fire crew under your authority must have dependable fire apparatus that are replaced on a maximum lifespan basis. When the purchase price for a customized fire engine is in excess of $250,000, the decision to allocate funding for a replacement fire apparatus must be supported by a thorough review and needs assessment.  Ultimately the fire chief or a ranking authority must be prepared to justify the expenditure to a board of his community constituents.  Let’s discuss a number of ways you can ensure you’ve covered all your bases before purchasing that next apparatus.

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