At 8 a.m. on Monday, April 22, 2013, FDIC ‘s pre-conference workshops opened their doors to eager firefighters ready to listen and learn. In Wabash 1, one of the day’s most anticipated lectures commenced, as Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tony Kelleher’s (right) “Combat-Ready Firefighting” gave attendees a crash course in Kelleher’s experiences at several near-miss fireground incidents and how his “combat ready” mindset and preparedness avoided some potentially lethal outcomes.
Aided by Clearwater (FL) Fire Department Chief Richard Riley (below), this interactive, multimedia based presentation focused on fire service complacency, its effects, and ultimately how to avoid this complacency with sound anticipation and preparation.
“To develop a good habit takes the human mind about 21 to 28 days. So, if we take that and put it in the fire department world…where, for instance, I work about eight days a month at the firehouse… it will take me about three months to develop a good habit,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher and Riley gave many examples of their experiences across the years on how hose pulling drills, preconnect practice, and drilling on wrecked cars, even for 25-year members, were essential to keeping members’ muscle memory sharp and the preparedness up to date for when the training becomes necessary to real-life incidents.
“Preplans are very, very important,” said Riley. “You’ve gotta practice. I’ve got 20 years on the job; I can pull an attack line. You’ve GOTTA practice that constantly; it doesn’t matter who you are.”
“There are two kinds of people: builders and destroyers,” said Kelleher. “A builder is a person who is infectious in a positive way. You want to be around him. This person comes in and says ‘Hey guys, don’t be down about our contract. Don’t be down about our mutual-aid agreement. We still got a job to do.'”
He continued, “A destroyer is the person who brings everybody down. He’s the Negative Nelly. He second guesses everything you do and reinforces bad habits–an enabler.”
“The one thing about being combat ready is that you’re gonna run into both kinds of people when talking about this,” Kelleher concluded. “What is your motivation for being combat ready, for being that builder? To act accordingly.”