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The Poltiics of Safety

Mon, 7 Mar 2011|

Frank Ricci discusses politics and its impact on firefighters safety and staffing issues.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

I and welcome to the Xena I'm point five studios here in Indianapolis Indiana I'm -- Thompson professional firefighter here in Indianapolis but I also do this radio gig. -- my days off. You know Indianapolis in FDIC have become synonymous. How traders from all over the country -- -- world come here each year to hone their skills. -- tradition of frank Richie -- preaching is a New Haven firefighter. He's also a guy that knows they -- in front of the issues and -- and there is -- get things done but also to attract some lightning. But the best part francs a friend. New Haven firefighter in the computing -- -- the firefighters handbook. He's also the creator of the bestselling dvd firefighters survival techniques -- is currently writing a book entitled the politics of safety and well whether it's last just filter technology consulting for you know for advocating for legislation. You'll find enough for a ladies and gentlemen. Frank -- The politics -- safety City Hall in your role in -- staffing. I'm honored to be able to speak with you today who like to thank the entire -- well and fire engineering family for all they do to enhance firefighter safety. I'd also like to recognize our armed forces for their sacrifice and dedication to preserve this great democracy. Someone asked me in class the other day frank how did you get where you are. I thought it was a fair question but the answer had little to do with me. The only way you can achieve in this profession is through others. It's no different than a fire an individual or even a crew is only one building block in what is needed to get the job done. -- sacking requires ESP. Education and emotion standard and statistics. Political action and of course a little bit appointments. Today we're gonna talk about the root causes of our failures when it comes to staffing. How to work which city hall and at times against it who also cover some innovative solutions from around the country can increase your staff. Our combat fire deaths continue to grow. If you look at and I -- reports is a random report card of our service we are failing in many areas. There needs to be a new focus on staffing training and physical fitness. Today we're just gonna cover the one that is the hardest to -- safe staffing. No it is not the hardest because of our economy. It is because we've gotten away from our roots and we failed to participate in our democracy. Our -- understood that politics and service my hand in hand most of our forefathers were firefighters. George Washington our nation's first advocate for safe staffing in the last years of his life. After second term as president was riding this horse down king street and Alexander Virginia when he came across a blaze. The crowd stood -- he was appalled by the indifference they were -- They were watching -- understaffed fire company try to contain the fire to the block. He dismounted his horse in full dress and rallied the crowd to assist his words are still relevant today. Washington said it is your business lead in these matters. The crowd along Washington extinguish the blaze. The crowd fail to understand the potential for their cost of inaction. Just as some of our elected officials have failed to understand the cost of their actions. It is our responsibility educator community leaders. In the Washington story you will know that their goal was to contain the fire to the block. Today we strive to contain the fire to the -- of -- Bobby hall and is taking the lead and having firefighters understand the dynamic fire environment in the critical boundaries we operated. Remember we are forced to make decisions based on imperfect information. Our officers are further challenged when the air force -- lack -- staffing to get directly involved impact to operations. If they lose valuable perspective the in the overall operation. In turn this negatively affects firefighter safety. Although technology has evolved it has not it will not fix this problem. With the advent of breathing apparatus. We have been able to save more lives and property and we could've imagined. We have become more efficient and more effective but not safer. -- only way to increase safety is to ensure adequate staffing. The tactics we use must occur in unison with -- each other in order to control the building. The structures that we respond to today are more dangerous. Lightweight components that fail early him. High heat released from furnishings that are made synthetics essentially solid state gasoline that brings on flash over and rapid fire development quicker. Toxic smoke that contains hydrogen cyanide. -- growing carbon monoxide hygiene chloride in -- affects firefighters and victims at the fire. Moreover this chemical cocktail continues to harm -- years later in the form of stroke heart attacks in cancer. The only way to impact safety and improve our overall effectiveness it's increased staffing. Get politically active train hard. It blows my mind that our members have the courage to crawl down interior hallway on a -- in port through blinding. Smoke. Blistering heat to extinguish a fire. -- the -- that scares them the most. -- City Hall. We need to stand together and not just when their -- and our budgets. We have the best service that our municipalities offer a citizen calls nine -- want and within minutes we arrived ready to help. We know paperwork. We help everyone regardless of their status. Our political leaders must understand that when times are tough the need for our service grows. I was having coffee a few months ago. In -- diner after work and the mayor walked in and immediately went into speech on how bad things were in the city and -- cuts would be coming. I current -- mr. mayor. You understand that we serve is the health care as a safety net for the two most out at risk segments of our population the elderly and the poor. We need more resources not lasts. He simply not -- I explained further foreclosures are on the rise in the city. And that means the increase in the fire hazard is going up. Last night we have fired up -- -- house that was supposed to be -- there was eleven people in that house. The conversation turned the mayor started talking about the number of vacant buildings in our area -- -- jump from 400 to 825. He was concerned that the problem the fire problems that the city saw in the 1960s would return. There were no more talks of cuts in that conversation. The two firefighters -- -- with looked on in amazement. And after the mayor left they asked was -- -- I said no but when speaking to a politician always try to -- conversation. We use a service have been able to accomplish so much but we must change the way we measure our success. Firefighters have oversimplified what constitutes -- fire. The food on the -- call that we all mitigate on a weekly basis is not viewed in the proper context. The incipient fire is the equivalent to a home invasion without armed suspect were injured debt is likely to occur. Every fire start small it is only our actions that stop the inevitable harm from occurring. Yet we blow this -- it's no big deal do you think the homeowner would be happier if it extended and led to the loss of most of their belongings of course not. So why do we only measure what is lost. While -- first is set up to measure what is lost there is a way to record through name for -- the value of what -- saved. Remember if the fire progressed without being checked. It would result in a total loss. You're role. Is to market the fire service customer service knows no rank. Our firefighters interact with our citizens on a daily basis we must keep in mind that these are our customers and they should be treated as such. The -- -- call may not be an emergency you. But he is for them. Giving a citizen and attitude can have a devastating political fact. When we go to or call there's three impressions that we can leave on the public our customers. Number one complete indifference the meeting could -- -- chip or help yet it's almost like the meeting didn't happen. Number two they think you're -- acts in this could be catastrophic. And we want to avoid that at all cost. Number three. You can make a new best friend and this is what we should strive for and every call make this interaction an opportunity to educate the public. Leave a survey with some safety information that covers what -- fire department dots. These are the citizens that will rally to -- cause when we ask him to help us. Remember as a firefighter citizens listen what you say. It makes it extremely tough for your leaders to advocate for safe staffing. We have firefighters going around seeing you only thing they do is wash your cars -- sleep at work. Hell if I come off the night shift and we're fortunate enough to sleep I tell my wife what a rough night we had to kidnap that a principal. We are an insurance company we -- insurance policy that pays out on every single alarm. Firefighters must know what our message is and how to deliver in a quick SoundBite. A recent kitchen fire and -- Torrington Connecticut ended with the entire lost an apartment building. The fire department arrived on scene with just eight firefighters. But eight firefighters they were unable to control the building. I believe the fire still burning today. But the union president had the courage Chris -- -- He said to depress that there are understaffed department is the equivalent of a baseball team playing the Yankees we know -- field. I'd like to add to that that the names on the jerseys of those yankees. They when he read Jeter -- other Yankee greats but vertical boy -- Illegally altered buildings and synthetic fuels. An all star lineup compared to eight firefighters when the stakes are injury and death. Our members should be armed with the latest information. They should know just off the top of their head how many alarms -- department response to. What's their departments operating budget as well as general national exit statistics. Know how many firefighters died a line of duty how many -- part is getting injured. Each year there's over a million fires reported in the US -- over 3000 civilian deaths and over 171000 injuries. These are not just numbers they represent our friends our family and our neighbors. -- -- members know even what their elected officials look like many lobbying firms for business will print out -- sheet each year. They'll have the photograph on of each politician on the sheet. They'll also say where the politicians stand on pertinent information. And issues. We can learn a lot from business I hear firefighters say things things are bad now we cannot advocate for more staffing. -- one of -- mind -- Tom Brennan former chief of Waterbury Connecticut had some of the best staffing in the country. And speaking of officials. He would state the reasons why should have an increase. He was set. If you're not asking for more. If you're asking for more they're less likely take it away. One of the simple business models goes like this when the economy's bad we must prepare for recovery. When the economy is good we must prepare for a downturn. Good days of allowing politicians to shake our hands -- one hand and slash our budgets with the other must stand now. Let them know that we will hold them accountable. And if they work with us will work for them. Get out support a candidate. If you work hard as an organization you work the polls you get out the -- you craft your message you won't win even if your candidate loses. Other politicians will respect the effort of your organization and understand that you could be -- future -- they're not gonna wanna go against you in the future. -- politics is a compromise never never never should we as a profession compromise on safety this means staffing merit based promotions and training. Understand. The standards that affect our profession. NFPA 1710 is a good starting point. Most -- personal realize it's only based on a two story house that S 2000 square feet no basement and no exposures. The goal with seventeen tends to happen for personnel arrive on scene within five minutes from the notification of the alarm and have the rest of -- -- assignment. Arrived within -- minutes. This puts us in a good position to limit the fire spread back to that -- origin. If the -- allowed to extend past the -- -- in the death rate for civilians -- seven times higher. If the fire extends past the fire for the civilian death rate climbs eleven times higher. But what about the other standards out there for volunteer combination departments. There's NFPA seventeen point and in my opinion it harms volunteer in combination department. The fire does not discriminate between a volunteer career firefighter it will kill and injure just the same. But there is some hope volunteer departments across the US are recognizing this and are instituting -- -- to decreased response time. And allow for adequate staffing. They've also implementing junior programs and explore programs to build interest and public service and mold young adults into the future leaders. Of the fire service. Paid and volunteer fire departments have taken initiative. An innovative approach to start college live in programs to bolster their ranks increased staffing. As a pass living at station 31 -- Rockville Maryland I can attest that these programs are beneficial to all. For a -- department's one of the best methods of utilizing. ESP method to achieve safe staffing. Is to conduct our ops one of one training through -- -- at that. This program puts. The politicians. Right in our boots we run them through realistic fire revolutions. In the opening we utilize a book off film called smoke showing helped demonstrate why and how tactics must be performed. This -- almost put together by fire engineering the Williams direct -- company in the Hartford insurance company. Its biggest strength is it demonstrates that it is not the number of firefighters you -- it's on scene. But it's how many firefighters can arrive within minutes of each other to control that building. The best thing about this film is that I -- Bobby hall and grant you permission to add a short segment to it. -- -- your own union -- union president and your fire chief. Make it hit home personalize it get the message out -- your community. Had to play on public access career day at the high school just get the word out. In the opening up fire -- 101. Explain that revolutions that they're gonna perform are under ideal conditions. It's not ninety degrees out or fifteen degrees out the fires not gonna burn a hole -- the floor. A collapses -- gonna trap them underneath the break. Draw a comparison to nearby city or department. It doesn't matter whether you're department runs one -- year 600 the number of firefighters needed to put out that fire and control the building does not change. In my apartment a firing a two and a half story wood frame residential structure we get 24 personnel arriving within minutes of each other. Compare that to the same fire on main street America where my brother response. Only eleven firefighters does he have to put -- that fire. I'll tell you who's got the most dangerous job by far it's the department that's understaffed. These departments have my greatest respect. But they just can't accept the way things are. Our nature is to get the job done no matter what the cost this is the spirit of firefighters everywhere but we must do more. Fire chiefs -- share responsibility advocate for staffing. Your members and the citizens -- -- there are far too many fire -- spending so much time keeping their job that they forgot to do their job. One great -- one great example the fire chief lead -- chief Riordan from the New Haven fire department. He was ordered by the board of -- the key. Two companies in 1980s. His response to the board was simple I will take the company's off duty but I will decide which companies come off. There were two members of that board that -- strongly advocating for to closure of the company. One of a master chief chief what companies are you gonna take off. Without hesitation -- chief answered the one that response to your house and the one that response that this. No there was a change of heart and both companies stayed on chiefs we want to follow we want to support ship that requires you to lead. What -- the budget -- becomes impassable. We need to ensure that automatic mutual -- agreements. Get help on the way after receipt of the alarm. Not after the fire has been confirmed in any units -- will only be playing catch up. For a shift commanders and the kind chiefs. If you're in command of a fire remember there's no politician on -- telling you you cannot call for the resource is you need to keep your personnel safe. Across the country has firefighters. Are too quick to concede yard. -- cutbacks close station's rotating -- brown outs we must fight this. Look at her own personal lives. If you can't balance the budget at your house you're sure to cut back on record -- and entertaining. It would be absurd to shut off the electricity you're -- -- these are essential items they're no different from our service. In the days of working two jobs balance in the family -- to -- managed to get our members out to those meetings. Maximize your turn now schedule your monthly meeting so they fall in line. With the town or city's means that way at the start you can establish a presence either before or after when you me. When asked why you're attending. Follow the advice from -- else we -- here to make sure that you have the right information. Or from our own my own union president Patrick Egan who says we're here to keep -- -- inning Jimmy -- took our local in a political direction used to be neutral on everything. We now -- represented -- at almost every political function. We establish relationships. We took out full page ads in the newspaper. Account -- firehouse Russian roulette. We work the polls went door to door and even on the coldest day and we had less than stellar turn out to get the word out we divided the city into sectors. So when the mayor's office received calls from the citizens it appeared that we -- the entire city. If your work in the polls have limited staff. Mean and the most important ones that have a team a rovers that you could split up the hit the other polls on a rotating basis. These tactics have given us one of the best staffing agreements in New England despite being one of the poorest cities. We must be prepared to stand up. In recent months the city of -- in Connecticut was facing -- -- station closing. In order to save a mere 600000. Dollars. Firefighters went to the neighborhoods they posted signs to utilize the media and that firehouse has been saved. If you haven't been caught yet being proactive and get out there get the word out. There is a sign that hangs in office at Yale. It reads. If it doesn't make sense the answer is political. How true is that in these times sometimes when all of the facts and education. Is on our side no matter what it will come down -- a political decision it will come down a political relationships. Fostering these relationships. While being right can make a difference. We can no longer go down the path of in action. We must take this as a call to action to wield political influence educate our elected officials protect our firefighters everywhere. Once again I'd like to thank you for your time check out the film smoke -- will provide a link for it at the conclusion of this. Special thanks to the end of Sarah -- -- Crisp -- -- Glenn Corbett Marla Paterson Mary McGee my wife and son Christine it was reaching. -- Adams didn't -- seem to -- my Brothers Jimmy John -- body to fully and of course the guy gets everything done Bobby hall. So get out there. It's in the.

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