I’m not one to regurgitate information. I don’t do a lot of pass through e-mails. And I certainly don’t perpetuate “Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Some inane subject matter” e-mails like so many copy-and-paste-challenged people do.
But some things bear repeating. Some things strike you so profoundly, so succintly, that you simply feel obligated to pass it along, even if so many others have done so already.
This is one of those occasions. I’m re-publishing (with permission) this excerpt of an e-mail from my good friend and mentor Billy Goldfeder. It’s from his not-so-secret Secret List at FirefighterCloseCalls.com. If you don’t subscribe to it, you’re either out of touch or you don’t care about our brother firefighters getting hurt and dead.
This one hurts to the bone. Read it. Re-read it. Make adjustments to your life and fire service operations as appropriate.
Stay safe. Train often. Happy New Year!
Sometimes people drop off TSL because they disagree with our occasional commentary or rare cynicism. We’ll miss you. Really. But sometimes it is for reasons that rip right through your heart. Sometimes the reason is because of “screaming pain” that will just not go away. This is one “Dear Chief” letter we received from a man who has a very strong life-long right to be very un-happy. His letter starts and ends in quotes, as follows, he wrote:
“…….First of all Happy New Year!
I wanted to tell you why I am doing what I’m doing. Huh?…. You say?
I will be taking my name off the Secret List. I’ve had it with the idiots out there in the fire service.
It is too depressing and aggravating reading what is reported. I buried my Firefighting Son 10 years ago in a LODD and no one can tell me why. This is about the same time I hooked up with your Secret List e-mailing. I’ve read your informational notes in Close Calls and share your site with my FF friends. It makes me sick to read what Firefighters do when the adrenalin is flowing strong and then again, when it isn’t.
=Limited or no PPE (while operating interior) ?
=Heart Attacks with elderly Firefighters (who are operating on the scene) ?
Why in God’s creation are we allowing people with over 50 years experience in the fire service still responding to (and operating at) emergency calls? Studies show time and time again how stressful this job is on a healthy (and young) body. In most cases we are asking for trouble.
You want to decrease cardiac arrest in the fire service? Start with family history, then physicals (weight control!), then mandatory stress classes in every firehouse. Most of these issues, I am sure, happen on the volunteer side of the fire service. Which I know (the excuses of) it being ”tough” to regulate when the volunteer population is dangerously decreasing.
I did a talk a couple years ago for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It was a make shift talk since I had little time to prepare, but tried to get through it for the cause. So I spoke from my heart as I went. Whether it was right or not, I started my talk with these Firefighters with:
==”What if you get a call at three in the morning from an IC, or you answer the door at home to see a Fire Chief with tears in his eyes to tell you what just happened to your (Firefighter) Son or Daughter?”
==”Or you answer your door to hear your (Firefighter) Mother &/or Father just died in a fire.”
==”What if you were the Fire Chief having to make that call? What if you were the Fire Chief making that call knowing the injury or death was preventable.
Making sure the equipment is ready does not end in the FD bays. If an Engine has trouble starting or is unsafe we either must fix it or retire it, because it may cause injury or death. If an engine does not go where we want it to (brakes, tires, mechanical systems), we leave it in the bays until we fix what is wrong. Never use apparatus that isn’t 100%.
I have been a Firefighter for over 15 years and I watched the Mother of my Son sob and cry at our Son’s, our Firefighter Son’s funeral. His brothers cried. We all cried. And as his Dad, I cried so uncontrollably for months wondering why it wasn’t me that was killed-instead of my child, Joey. It should have been me that was killed. Fathers aren’t supposed to bury their children. I went to Emmittsburg as a Father and listened to other LODD Fathers. I’ve shared your information with my people ever since I started reading it. There is always something to learn and share. So, your objective is working.
Personally, I can’t read about the incompetence, or lack of leadership at some fire departments anymore without wanting to throw something or just sitting down and staring at a wall. It just hurts too much.
God Bless. Be Safe, Matt….”
(end of his letter)
HAPPY NEW YEAR. Some letter, huh?
I’ll bet that each of you said “HAPPY NEW YEAR” to someone last night. Some of you may have actually MEANT that. Some of you may have meant it as much as when the cop who gives you a ticket says “Have a Nice Day”. Thanks Officer-I will be sure to. But just in case SOME of you actually MEANT “Happy New Year” …and may be interested in applying some JUDGMENT…so that maybe we have, at least, a BETTER New Year…here are just a few GOOD JUDGMENT items that might help:
-Be personally prepared for the run when the tones go off. Healthy? Eating right? Medical physicals? Is your gear set? Where are your personal tools? Does your light and radio work? Apply some heartfelt judgment.
-Driving to or on the run? Who is qualified to drive? Should “they” be driving? How are they driving? Slow enough to control the rig? Red lights? Stop signs? Is everyone seat belted or would you rather take a chance at slamming into the windshield and being ejected? A little judgment fixes this and avoids you being on the ICU vent until your family decides what to do with you.
-Enough staffing on the 1st alarm to provide water, stretch lines, vent, search, stretch more lines, rescue, supervise inside and all 4 sides outside while tracking all of your FF’s? Any less FF’s responding on the 1st alarm than what is calculably needed is predictably poor judgment. You can’t “do” a 25-30 Firefighter fire with 10 Firefighters and expect it to work well. We lose. The fire wins.
Civilians get killed. We do too.
Better judgment in planning staffing (including auto-mutual aid if that’s what it takes) and response appropriate alarm assignments makes it predictably much better. There were many examples of that in 2008.
-Size Up. Several of the most horrific single family dwelling fire injuries and LODD’s in 2008 were because of poor judgment, specifically with incomplete or non-existent size up. Our response, resources, personnel and equipment must match the worse case scenario potential of what is reported. And we DO know what that is before have the emergency-if we wanna know. Pre-plan your buildings or neighborhoods. Good judgment gets us out of the firehouse and into the field to see what will be on fire soon.
-We ALL Want To Go in. That’s why we joined. Most times we go in and should. But sometimes we can’t go in immediately. Sometimes we must wait or do something other than interior. Sometimes we don’t go in. We all hate that, but judgment applies. For example, when half of the light weight wood truss structure is well involved, we can’t always go in. A decent judgment thought is that when there is no real indication of people trapped, and a significant amount of the house is involved, we may want to focus on getting water on the fire. Get it flowing from the best vantage point asap before working on anything else that “might” be a problem. Maybe interior. Maybe not. Use good judgment in using what you have on the scene at that time to identify, slow down or fix the fire problem. Deal with what we KNOW vs. what if’s or what might be.
“But…but…but what if someone MIGHT be in there!?”
Most times the solution is to put the fire out. Get water on the fire. Quickly.
Look. If any of this is new to you, then you better be a probie. Otherwise, this is stuff we know. Sometimes we just need a reminder. Sometimes we need to be smacked on the helmet-like Joey’s Dad did to us above. And sometimes we need to be reminded that good judgment is a major ingredient to determining if you, them, us and we get to continue to go to fires.
Good judgment coupled with fire experience and training, in most cases, fixes problems. It can usually help avoid them. Not all-we said ”most” cases. We can’t forget that …SOMETIMES Firefighters must absolutely take risks when Mom is on the lawn screaming the kids are inside. Sometimes firefighters must risk (and sometimes give) our lives when the risk is pretty clear and good judgment is applied. When the size-up indicators are there…and when we have experienced and trained Firefighters and Fire Officers involved: Our judgment and the risks our Firefighters sometimes take usually pays off without creating any screaming pain for Firefighters parents, spouses, kids …or anyone else.
On behalf of Gordon, Brian, Forest, Chris, Barry and Rudy, we wish each of you and your families a happy, healthy and peaceful 2009.
The Secret List 1-1-09 / 2020 hours
Also on Tiger Schmittendorf …
- The roof is on fire! – October 28, 2013
- Train Your Replacement. Bob did. Paul does. – January 23, 2013
- 32 Years in the 15032 – September 23, 2012
- Thanks and Giving! – November 22, 2012