FE’s new publisher seeks “… to better serve the fire service”

Scott Schwadron has been named group publisher/executive director of Fire Engineering, FDIC/FDIC West, and fireengineering.com.

Scott Schwadron
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Having spent the 15-plus years of his career in the business-to-business media arena, where he has been actively involved with trade shows, magazines, and Web sites, Schwadron noted that an added benefit of one’s work “is to be able to make a difference in the area you serve. It is rewarding to know that what we do at Fire Engineering and FDIC helps to save people’s lives,” he observed. “I am very honored to be affiliated with these entities and those things they represent and to be a contributor to the fire service.”

In assessing his plans for the future, Schwadron explained: “I am looking forward to working closely with Bill Manning, editor in chief of Fire Engineering and conference director of FDIC/FDIC West, and his team-a prize-winning combination. Our overall top priority will be to bring our magazine, shows, and Web sites together to better serve the fire service. We plan to continue to reinvest in our magazine and our shows and to place real emphasis on our on-line presence.”

Schwadron resides in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and New York City with his wife, Sara.

Panels complete fire grant application peer reviews

The last of the 19,000 applications for grants filed by fire departments under the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program have been reviewed, and the screened applications have been forwarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) staff for additional processing and evaluation, according to Ken Burris, acting USFA administrator.

More than 200 fire service members had volunteered to assist in the three-session review process that took place in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

FEMA/USFA received a one-year appropriation of $100 million for the grant program. The applications for assistance totaled nearly $3 billion; there were more than 30,000 requests for funds in the six eligible categories of training, wellness and fitness programs, vehicles, firefighting equipment, personal protective equipment, and fire prevention programs, according to Burris, who added that the “actual number of applications and the dollar value of the requests far exceeded our expectations.” Burris noted that only a portion of the fire departments that applied for assistance will receive grants. “This is dramatic evidence of the financial need of our nation’s first responders,” Burris said.

Grant awards will be made by September 30, 2001; all applicants will be notified of the final status of their submissions. Fire departments are asked not to contact FEMA/USFA regarding specific application status. Regular updates on the grant program are posted online at <www.usfa.fema.gov/grants/update.htm>.

Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend October 6-7

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend will be October 6-7. Family members and friends of firefighters honored in previous years are encouraged to volunteer that weekend to assist with various activities such as greeting family members and friends of firefighters to be honored this year, helping with registration, assisting with daycare, and staffing various information and activities centers. For additional information, contact the Foundation at (301) 447-1365 or by e-mail at firehero@erols.com.

Seton Hall fire ruled arson

The fire that killed three students at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, in January 2000 was determined to be an act of arson, according to a report in The Record, Hackensack, New Jersey. Authorities have not released any information pertaining to the identity of the individuals who may have been responsible.

The fire, which occurred on the third floor of the Boland Hall dormitory, also injured several firefighters and some 50 students. The fire had ignited a couch in the student lounge, and flames and smoke quickly spread throughout the floor. The investigation was conducted by the Essex County Arson Task Force, working in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

(Source: “Fatal fire in dorm is ruled arson,” Paulo Lima, The Record, June 14, 2001.)

NFPA 1710 appeals to be reviewed

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710 Standards Council met July 10 (after press time) in San Francisco to consider procedural and substantive appeals. NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, was approved at the NFPA’s annual meeting held in Anaheim, California, in May.

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the National League of Cities (NLC) continue to oppose the standard and are urging their members to challenge the guidelines. The Standards Council’s decision may be appealed to the NFPA Board of Directors.

August 31 deadline for swiftwater rescue nominations

The National Association for Search and Rescue Swiftwater Rescue Committee is seeking nominations for the 2001 Higgins and Langley memorial awards for outstanding achievement in the field of Swiftwater Rescue. The deadline for submission is August 31, 2001.

Nominees may be recommended for individual incidents and acts of heroism, swiftwater-flood rescue team efforts, developing and implementing swiftwater-flood rescue training programs, and public safety media-education efforts.

The awards honor civilian rescuer Earl Higgins, who was swept away in the flood-swollen Los Angeles River in February 1980 while attempting to save a child, and Firefighter/Paramedic Jeffrey Langley of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, who lost his life in a helicopter accident in March 1993.

For additional information and copies of the nomination forms, contact Paul McMinn, National Association for Search and Rescue, Swiftwater Rescue Committee c/o South Bend Recreation Dept., 727 Eddy St., South Bend, IN 46615; (219) 235-9328, Fax: (219) 235-5566.

Jon A. Hansen declines nomination for USFA administrator

Former Oklahoma City (OK) Assistant Chief Jon A. Hansen has requested that his name be withdrawn as President Bush’s nominee for the position of administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration. Hansen gave no reason for withdrawing.

ICHIEFS opposed to using “firefighter likeness” for law enforcement

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (ICHIEFS) has gone on record opposing the “use of firefighter likeness to carry out law enforcement duties.” The statement was issued based on a report that enforcement officials in Webster, Massachusetts, wore firefighter turnout gear and used a fire truck while executing search warrants at suspected crack houses. Reportedly, the operation was coordinated by the police and fire departments.

“ICHIEFS is adamantly opposed to the use of firefighters and other rescue personnel, their uniforms or likeness thereof, or fire apparatus to gain an advantage in criminal action by law enforcement representatives,” said ICHIEFS Executive Director Garry Briese. “This is a violation of our public trust, and actions such as these compromise our ability to operate in hostile situations and ellipse jeopardize the credibility of fire and emergency service personnel as life savers,” said Briese.

Bill proposes benefit increases for public safety officers

The Frances Collender Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) Improvement Act (S. 899), recently introduced by U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) and cosponsored by Senators George Allen (R-VA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would increase from $151,635 to $250,000 the one-time federal payment to the families of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The benefit would be adjusted annually in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.

Since 1977, the PSOB program has received an average of 275 benefit claims each year.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Legislation would limit liability of donors to volunteer fire departments

The Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighter Assistance Act (H.R. 1919), recently introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Mike Castle (R-DE), would limit the liability of donors of surplus equipment to volunteer fire departments.

H.R. 1919 is modeled after a bill passed by the Texas state legislature in 1997. As a result of this legislation, companies and wealthier fire departments in Texas donate their surplus equipment to the Texas Forest Service, which then certifies the equipment and passes it on to volunteer fire departments in need. The donated equipment must meet all original specifications before it can be distributed to the departments. The program has already received contributions in excess of $6 million worth of equipment. Arizona and South Carolina have also passed similar legislation.

Under H.R. 1919, the donor’s liability protection would be waived if personnel of a recipient fire department were to be injured by faulty equipment if the donor’s actions constitute malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. It also waives liability protection if the individual or agency making the donation manufactures the equipment.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The NVFC is asking members of the fire service to contact their representatives and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 1919. Congressional members’ addresses and telephone numbers are available at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials. You may also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

ASSE Member Henshaw nominated for OSHA assistant secretary

President Bush has nominated John L. Henshaw to the position of U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Henshaw is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), a nonprofit organization of safety professionals.

Pennsylvania House approves EMS worker protection

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) has introduced a bill (S. 543) that would create a presumption that emergency service workers who become afflicted with hepatitis C contracted it on the job unless it can be proven otherwise, according to the The Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The presence of such a law will make it easier for the state’s firefighters, police officers, paramedics, corrections officers, and some state psychiatric workers who contract hepatitis C to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. The bill unanimously passed the state House and will have to be voted on by the Senate.

The city of Philadelphia, which has been refusing to pay workers’ compensation to past and current firefighters infected with hepatitis C, opposes the bill.

A similar bill passed the House last year; the Senate took no action on it.

According to the Philadelphia Fire Fighters Local #22 Web site, Pennsylvania State Senator Gibson E. Armstrong, chairman of the Labor & Industry Committee, is attempting to stop the bill from coming out of committee. According to the notice, Armstrong says that hepatitis C affects only Philadelphia firefighters and does not warrant the consideration of the full Senate. Local #22 is urging that firefighters and other affected individuals call or write Armstrong and their local state senator to ask their support for the legislation.

(Sources: “Pa. House approves hepatitis measure,” Ovetta Wiggins, The Inquirer, June 5, 2001; “Hep C classified as work illness, Barbara Laker, the Philadelphia Daily News, June 5, 2001)

Virginia state fire marshal seeks information on sprinkler failures

The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is asking for reports covering the failure of sprinkler heads that have occurred within the past two years. Include the name of the manufacturer, the series type, and a brief description of the type of fire at which it failed to function properly.

The information should be forwarded to Richard A. Farthing, P.E.; chief engineer, Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office; 501 North Second; Richmond, VA 23219. You may contact Farthing by phone at (804) 371-7170, by fax at (804) 371-7192, or by e-mail at rfarthing@dhcd.state.va.us.

Access local Poison Control Center with one national phone number

Your local Poison Control Center can now be accessed through a national phone number 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is (1-800) 222-1222.

Leaky fuel tanks prompt recall of garden backpack blowers

Some 50,000 garden backpack blowers are being recalled because their fuel tanks leak and present fire and burn hazards. Consumers are asked to stop using the devices and to contact the manufacturer for free repair service.

The products involved and contact information follow: Husqvarna Forest & Garden Co., Models 155BT and 155 BF, (800) 438-7297, www.husqvarna.com; John Deere Consumer Products Inc., Models UT 26113, UT08093, UT 08104, (800) 537-8233, www.johndeere.com; Makita U.S.A. Inc., Model RBL500, (800) 625-4828, www.makitaope.com; Carswell Import & Marketing Associates Inc., Model FL500, (800) 929-1948, www.carswelldist.com; and Tilton Equipment Co., Model TB50, (800) 447-1152, www.tiltonequipment.com.

Bill extends tax breaks for families of fallen public safety officers

The Fallen Hero Survivor Benefit Fairness Act of 2001 (Public Law No. 107-15), signed into law by President Bush on June 5, amends the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 to extend to survivors of public safety officers killed in the line of duty before December 31, 1996, the same tax benefits applicable to the survivors of officers killed after that date. Beginning with benefit payments received after December 31, 2001, all survivor annuities will be exempt from taxes. Currently, survivor annuities paid to families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty are exempt from taxes only if the death occurred on or after January 1, 1997.

Bill would create retirement accounts for Connecticut volunteer firefighters

On May 9, Congressman John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Volunteer Firefighter’s Relief Act (H.R. 1870), which was cosponsored by Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA). The legislation would allow volunteer firefighters to make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $500 per year in “qualified firefighter savings accounts.” The contributions would be in addition to the limits of other tax-deferred contribution accounts such as Traditional, Roth, or Education IRAs. The objectives of the legislation are to help recruit and retain volunteers.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Pennsylvania volunteers’ services add up to billions of dollars

Volunteers in the Pennsylvania emergency services save taxpayers almost $6 billion a year, according to the Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute report “Funding for Pennsylvania Emergency Services … Beyond 2001.”

The value of the volunteer services, the report explains, increased from $4.5 billion in 1994.

Moreover, the money the volunteers raised through their independent fund-raising efforts jumped from $1.83 billion in 1994 to $3.8 billion in 2001, the study says, despite the fact that the number of volunteers in the state has decreased.

The report noted that protecting their communities and training to optimal standards have placed greater demands on volunteers’ time in recent years. These time demands become even greater when the volunteers must also devote more time to raising funds.

A copy of the report is posted at http://www.pfsi.org/fundingstudy.doc/.

Fire departments awarded FETN/ICHIEFS grants

PRIMEDIA Workplace Learning’s Fire and Emergency Television Network (FETN) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (ICHIEFS) have announced that 16 fire departments have been awarded an ICHIEFS/FETN Professional Development Grant. Under the grant, fire departments will receive free satellite dishes so they will have access to FETN’s fire and emergency training programs. The departments were chosen from 125 applicants.

The 2001 grant recipients are the following: Ocean City (MD) Emergency Services (Eastern Division); Appleton (WI) Fire Department (Great Lakes Division); Westerlo (NY) Volunteer Fire Company (Eastern Division); Roseville (MI) Fire Department (Great Lakes Division); Hoover (AL) Fire Department (Southeast Division); Branford (CT) Fire Department (Northeast Division); Deerfield Beach (FL) Fire Rescue (Southeast Division); Salem (MA) Fire Department (Northeast Division); North Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department (Southwest Division), Willis, TX; Coeur d’Alene (ID) Fire Department (Western Division); Ponca City (OK) Fire Department (Southwest Division); San Marcos (CA) Fire Department (Western Division); Fort Osage Fire Protection District (MO Valley Division), Buckner, MO; Des Moines (IA) Fire Rescue (MO Valley Division); King (NC) Fire Department (Southeast Division); London Fire Services (International Division), London, Canada.

The scholarship program was instituted to help increase firefighter safety and reduce community losses, acording to Ron Coleman, FETN president, and ICHIEFS’ Executive Director Garry Briese.

OIG issues advisory opinion on EMS Anti-Kickback Statute

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has just issued a new advisory opinion relative to EMS providers and the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. According to Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC, the statute makes it a criminal offense to knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit, or receive any remuneration to induce referrals of items or services reimbursable by federal health care programs, such as Medicare. The government may seek civil monetary penalties against the parties to an unlawful arrangement, as well as exclude the parties from federal health care programs.

The opinion letter, No. 01-5, explains Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, addresses the question of whether a hospital’s providing LifePak monitor/defibrillators to EMS providers for a nominal amount would be considered a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. The hospital foundation planned to purchase seven LifePaks for $80,000 and lease each of them (under separate leases) to the individual EMS providers for one dollar a year.

The OIG determined that, in this case, the arrangement would present a “minimal risk” of federal health care program abuse while “providing significant benefits to the community.”

This opinion is “good news” for EMS providers, the law firm says, and should help reduce some of the concerns hospitals have had in providing EMS providers withlifesaving equipment and support for fear of the implication that would be an unlawful kickback.

However, Page, Wolfberg & Wirth cautions that the opinion cannot be relied on by any party other than the one requesting the opinion, but it can be used as a guide. For the rationale the OIG used in making this decision and for the full opinion, go to <http://www.dhhs.gov/progorg/oig/advopn/2001/index.htm>.

Line-of-Duty Deaths, 2001

May 14: Firefighter Willard Christoffer, 54, of the Western Springs (IL) Fire Department, was killed when he accidentally fell approximately 65 feet down an aerial ladder during a training exercise.

May 16: Captain Ritchie Eutsier, 30, of the Republic (MO) Fire Department, died while sleeping at the fire station. On-duty shift personnel made the discovery when oncoming shift workers arrived.

May 22: Firefighter Lawrence Webb, 37, of the Newark (NJ) Fire Department, collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack while fighting a fire inside a residential structure.

May 30: Captain Donald Souza, 64, of the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Department, Centerville, Massachusetts, died of complications arising from a severe electric shock he received in December 1995 while working at a structure fire.

June 2: Firefighter Travis Brown, 30, of the Dearborn (MO) Area Fire Protection District, was a passenger in a tanker responding to a mutual-aid alarm when the vehicle left the roadway. He was ejected from the vehicle and was killed.

June 15: Captain Carl Cook, 55, of the Birmingham (AL) Fire and Rescue Service, complained of shortness of breath and chest pain while completing an annual physical test simulating tasks firefighters perform at the fire scene. Fellow firefighters treated him at the scene and transported him to the hospital, where, a short time later, he was pronounced dead from an apparent heart attack.

June 17: Firefighter Harry Ford, 50, of the Fire Department of New York, was killed when the facade of a burning building fell on him while venting windows at a hardware store fire.

June 17: Firefighter Brian Fahey, 46, of the Fire Department of New York, fell through the floor of a burning hardware store into the basement where propane tanks and paint containers had exploded. He died after having been trapped for several hours.

June 17: Firefighter John Downing, 40, of the Fire Department of New York, was killed when the facade of a burning building fell on him while he was venting windows at a hardware store fire.

June 18: Firefighter Jeremy Chandler, 27, of Grant County Fire District #5, Moses Lake, Washington, collapsed and died from a cause still to be determined while operating a water tanker at a 20-acre brush fire several miles north of Moses Lake.

June 20: Captain Jim Clingenpeel, 38, of the Rosehill Volunteer Fire Department, Tomball, Texas, died from a cause still to be determined-probable cardiac complications. The day before, he was participating in a training session that included physical activity and complained about not feeling well. He was admitted to the hospital the next day, where he underwent bypass surgery. He passed away several days later.

Source: National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Database, United States Fire Administration.

Trelleborg Viking, Inc. recalls intake valves for drysuits

Trelleborg Viking, Inc., Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has announced in a press release that it is recalling all Viking rotating intake valves marked ME2, MK6, ML7, and NAI purchased by consumers in North America between September 1, 1998, through September 1, 2000. The marking will appear when detaching the valve from the suit. The production identification is stamped on the swivel valve base facing the suit surface. The valves can be found in suits or may have been sold separately as spare parts.

A potentially hazardous problem may exist with the valve swivel base’s being brittle due to overheated compound after molding interruption. This has caused the swivel base to crack with the result that the valve can leak or fall off. If this occurs during diving, the diver’s safety could be jeopardized.

This recall has been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, who will be monitoring the recall for effectiveness.

All consumers are warned not to dive with equipment containing the recalled valves. Failure to heed this warning may result in serious injury or death.

Replacement inlet valves will be delivered free of charge. Trelleborg Viking, Inc. will pay all shipping costs. For additional information, call the Trelleborg Viking, Inc. hotline at (800) 344-4458. Outside Canada and the United States, call Trelleborg Viking Sweden at +46-411-67940. Replacement instructions for Viking drysuit intake valves are available at www.vikingdiving.com/.

Editor’s note: On page 104 of Fire Engineering, May 2001, the affiliation of the photographer, Steve Corwin, should be Illinois Valley Rural Fire Protection District, Cave Junction, Oregon.

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