By John “Skip” Coleman, Technical Editor

After listening to Lieutenant Frank Ricci’s keynote speech at FDIC 2010, I realized that the fire service still has serious problems with hiring and promotions. It took a decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States to settle the New Haven (CT) Fire Department’s promotional practices. In many East Coast departments, some officers are still chosen by a vote.

In the Toledo (OH) Fire Department (the department from which I retired), we had problems with promotions in the past, too. When I retired, the promotional process for lieutenant and captain was a written exam based on several textbooks on the promotional list, along with specific “in-house” reading materials such as our current union contract, emergency and nonemergency procedures manuals, and an emergency medical technician text. Candidates who scored high enough were allowed to participate in a “weighted” (scored) oral interview and then placed on a list. The chief interviewed candidates in the highest range (band), then selected candidates for promotion from a final list provided by civil service. Depending on the number of promotions (based on a mathematical formula), he could choose certain members on the list.

When I retired, Toledo was revising the process for battalion chief based on several college courses that were required, and then the chief could choose those meeting the passing criteria. For deputy and assistant chief, the chief could simply choose from a list of those interested. An interview was normally conducted but not required.

This month’s Roundtable question is, “What is the selection process for officers in your department?” Visit the Roundtable section at www.fireengineering.com/index/roundtable.html and tell us how your department chooses its officers. Go back often and view the new posts; you can even comment again, if you want. It’s all a learning process!




Visit our video section (www.fireengineering.com/index/videos.html) for a new season of Training Minutes. This season’s series of all new free training videos includes Dave Dalrymple on vehicle extrication, Paul DeBartolomeo on air bags, John Buckheit and Mike Perrone on forcible entry, and Joe Alvarez on truck company search. A new video is posted on the site every Tuesday, and you can still see all five previous seasons of Training Minutes at the above Web address, where you can also browse the videos by subject matter.




Dr. Oszkár Cziva, chief of the Budapest Fire Brigade in Hungary, writes an article on the dangers of hazardous materials leaks in his country. It’s interesting to compare the science applied to hazmat incidents in Hungary with that of the United States. The chief also presents a flow chart of the ways hazardous materials are released and the consequences.

John K. Murphy, Esq., and Beth L. Murphy, MA, write on a problem that all U.S. departments face. In “Firefighter Arsonists: Stopping the Problem at the Door of the Firehouse,” the authors define the act of arson and then closely look at a profile of the typical firefighter arsonist. The article concludes with steps you can take to design hiring practices that will help you identify potential problem candidates before you hire them.

In “Going with Your Instinct,” Battalion Chief Daniel P. Sheridan of the Fire Department of New York describes a fire he responded to in a seven-story loft building in New York City. Reports from first-arriving firefighters didn’t “feel right” to the chief based on his past experiences, and he went with his instinct instead of firsthand advice from others on the scene.

Gregory Havel has two “Construction Concerns” columns that deal with building construction issues firefighters face. In one, he discusses the value of a thermal break installed between a steel roof deck and the combustible roof insulation and combustible roof membrane in preventing rapid fire spread inside the building from dripping molten asphalt, plastic, or rubber. In another, he discusses how building codes and National Fire Protection Association 101, Life Safety Code, require that door latches and locks open with a single action from the inside, even when locked and deadbolted, in commercial, assembly, and some residential occupancies. However, inexpensive door locks that do not open with a single action are still available at hardware and home-improvement stores for household use and can easily find their way into other types of occupancies. With today’s rapid fire growth and short time before flashover, Havel argues that we should be promoting the use of single-action door locks even in single-family residences.

Steven De Lisi’s “Hazmat Survival Tips” column discusses a request he received from a reader to clarify how to interpret readings from an atmospheric monitor. Atmospheric monitors can be useful in making decisions that influence the health and safety of firefighters and citizens, but the information provided by these devices is often just numbers that firefighters must interpret to incorporate into their decision making.

You can find the latest installments of both “Construction Concerns” and “Hazmat Survival Tips” at the bottom of the homepage at www.fireengineering.com or in the Building Construction and Hazardous Materials sections, respectively.




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Name: John Stafford.

Department: Lansing (MI) Fire Department.

Title/rank: Training chief.

Years of public service: 23.5.

Agency structure: Paid fire department.

Top issues in your department: Budget, budget, budget!

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