Rosy Picture of Fire Administration Painted by Speakers at 51st FDIC
Strong notes of optimism for the future of the United States Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy were voiced by two speakers at the 51st Fire Department Instructors Conference in Memphis March 19-22.
The FDIC, which conducted general sessions and a host of workshops at the Cook Convention Center, also heard discussions of the increasing attention by municipal administrators to the level of fire service desired, the need for instructors to adapt to the new generation of fire fighters, and the education and training required to develop a fire prevention bureau that meets the needs of today’s world.
Optimism about the role of the United States Fire Administration in the newly-organized Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) was voiced by George Jett, general counsel for the President’s Reorganization Project. Jett characterized the fire administration as “a kind of sleepy program” in the Commerce Department and commented, “I think there is a good basis for optimism” about the fire program in FEMA.
Rosy future seen
Jett explained that the reorganization program presents a forum for the fire service message to be “in a more compelling form than ever before” and he predicted, “if it’s a compelling program, then I think the program has the rosiest future of any of the programs coming into FEMA.” On the other hand, he warned that if the fire program is not compelling, it will be under harsh scrutiny and dropped.
The first two agencies to be placed in FEMA, which was officially activated on March 25, were the United States Fire Administration and the Federal Insurance Administration, which manages flood insurance and hazard reduction programs in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jett explained that these two agencies will bring about 500 employees into FEMA and there will be a delay in bringing in three other agencies, including the Civil Preparedness Agency, with a total of 2000 more employees.
In discussing the location of the National Fire Academy at Emmitsburg, Md., Jett explained that he expects the Civil Preparedness Staff College might be located on the same campus but “the fire academy will be much the largest program—much the largest facility—at Emmitsburg.”
Recalls previous talk
Jett made reference to his talk a year ago at the FDIC about the shift of the fire program from Commerce to FEMA and conceded that the reactions he received in Memphis at that time resulted in some important changes in plans. For one thing, some ideas of the Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations were included in the transfer conditions.
Jett explained that most of the conditions proposed by the Joint Council were accepted, first as a matter of political reality and secondly because a broader approach was taken in regard to the management of emergencies. Jett explained that President Carter accepted the idea that FEMA would not be limited to major disasters but would include a wider role in which the fire service would play a part.
One of the important Joint Council decisions that was accepted was that money appropriated for the fire administration will not be diverted to any other FEMA activity.
Jett added that fire service support was “very instrumental” in Congressional acceptance of the reorganization plan.
More optimism for the USFA was voiced by Joseph Moreland, at the time its acting administrator. (Gordon E. Vickery, some years ago chief of the Seattle Fire Department, was confirmed as USFA administrator by the U.S. Senate on March 21. He took the oath of office two days later. President Carter then named Vickery acting administrator of FEMA, effective April 1, for an indefinite time while continuing as USFA administrator.)
Moreland predicted a “new dynamic emphasis” on the fire program with the transfer of the USFA to FEMA.
Allaying fears that the USFA might be overshadowed by other members of FEMA, Moreland said, “We see an expanded mission in this agency” (FEMA) for the USFA and “we see a very real opportunity for the fire administration to provide resources and technical support to other members of FEMA.” Moreland listed the four priorities for the USFA as establishing the National Fire Academy at St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg, Md., attempting to reduce the residential fire loss, attacking the arson problem, and improving efficiency in providing fire protection.
Level of service stressed
California fire service reaction to Proposition 13 was discussed by Chief James Shern of Pasadena, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, who emphasized that the level of service provided is becoming a major topic of discussion.
“The level of service may become the number one topic” in the fire service, Shern commented, adding that it “may be the number one issue facing the fire service in the 1980s.”
In meeting the problem of establishing a level of service, the chief explained, it is necessary to define fire protection, to develop measurement techniques, and to evaluate trade-offs and cost effectiveness. He pointed out that these three areas form the basis of a fire protection master plan.
To reduce the cost of fire service, Shern saw more consolidation of separate fire departments to achieve economies and the sharing by fire departments of the cost of service delivery.
The fire service can act to achieve economies and obtain the desired level of service by the community, Shern declared, or experts can do it and “shove it down your throat.” The IAFC president asserted that that “we in the fire service must decide—not only in California but in the nation—which way we go from here.”
As a result of Proposition 13, Shern reported, California fire service leaders have recommended that exempt properties, such as schools, pay their share of the fire protection cost or else put built-in fire protection systems in their buildings. Shern also said that it might be possible through the enactment of legislation that California fire department could be authorized to charge for certain services, but he saw this as an interesting concept that appeared to be a long-term alternative.
Assistant Chief Carl Holmes of Oklahoma City challenged the instructors to teach company officers and candidates for promotion how to supervise people. He pointed out that instructors stress technical skills in recruit training and now they must teach supervisory skills to those who are about to become officers as well as to those who already are.
Holmes challenged the instructors to adapt themselves to the changes of the last few years, which he said have brought in fire fighters “who really don’t want to be fire fighters” and, he added, “We have chief officers who won’t ‘chief.”
Holmes also reminded the instructors that if they cannot answer the question, who’s being paid to do what?, “you are in a world of trouble.”
He questioned, “What have we done to prove how many men are required to do a task?”
He declared that without this information about the manpower required for accomplishing various tasks, we will have to accept cuts imposed on the fire service by municipal administrators.
Holmes declared that fire service trainers “must clearly define” roles for members of the organization and that minimum levels and standards of performance must be established. He urged the instructors to look at their programs and “see if your training program meets the needs of your department.
Holmes also urged them to “see if you are truly training your company officers.
Challenging changes in the viewpoints for instructors were outlined by Edward W. Bent, California state supervisor of fire service training, who stressed the rise of the individual and education in the fire service. He saw the fire service changing from a systems-centered organization to a human-oriented organization and noted that the fire service structure is moving “from authoritativeness to participation.”
“The days have gone when management knows all the answers,” Bent commented.
Fire instructors, he stated, will find that they must change their their viewpoint from “just knowing to searching” for the reasons things are done as they are. He added that they will have to change “from just learning facts to learning how to learn.” Bent saw a change in philosophy from basic education provided just in the first few months of a fire fighter’s service to a career-long education process in which the materials and subjects studied must be constantly updated.
Bent challenged doing something tomorrow just because it was done yesterday and advised, “There are alternatives that each one of us should be seeking.”
He saw competition in work changing to cooperation as part of a general change from independence to interdependence throughout the world.
Fire prevention challenge
Linking the effectiveness of a fire prevention bureau to the development of modern, intelligent codes, James Dalton, chief of the Division of Fire Prevention, Montgomery County, Md., Fire and Rescue Services, commented that no effort is successful that strives only to maintain instead of improving fire safety in existing buildings.
At the same time, Dalton warned that retroactive codes must be applied reasonably and that a dictatorial approach will only bring reaction leading to failure.
Dalton declared that “fire prevention must first be sold to the fire service,” and the fire marshal and his staff must understand this.”
“We must come to the realization that fire prevention is everyone’s job,” the speaker stated, adding that each one of us must accept responsibility.
Dalton advised that specialized education and training, including even social studies and salesmanship, are necessary for the development of a modernized fire prevention staff. He added that the men must understand that they will be working with a “society that resists regulation.”
Problems of professionals
As the fire service seeks to acquire the more formal trappings of professionalism, it may also acquire the the creditation problems of other professions, warned Dr. John Cragan of Illinois State University. He pointed out that “when you start standardizing formal credentials,” you have to realize that those credentials don’t necessarily denote competency.
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Professionalism can be attained either formally or informally, Cragan explained, and fire fighters have the advantage in that “not only do you pass on the skills of professionalism, but you also pass on the attitudes … That’s just not happening in other professions.”
Cragan gave credit for the fire service’s professionalism to the existence of a master craftsman-apprenticeship relationship among its members and commented that artistic creativity is greater than normal among fire service educators.
Awareness for survival
‘In oil refineries and petrochemical plants, the ‘key to survival’ is awareness” of the fire protection systems advised Gene Allen, a fire protection engineer with Starr Technical Risk Agency of Houston. He remarked that the problems that lead to major incidents are product-release, human error and mechanical failure.
Allen stated that major losses are the result of a chain of events that may include a “poorly trained or poorly organized fire department.”
“Attitude is a big problem in fire safety,” Allen commented, and he advised that in inspecting such plants, checks should be made to determine the locations of manual control stations as well as whether automatic fire protection systems are working. He cautioned that excessive heat of a fire may cause emergency shutdown valves to fail.
In talking about liquefied petroleum gas bullet tanks and spheres, Allen explained that the ends generally blow out of bullet tanks but there is no way to determine what area of a sphere tank will blow out. He also commented that floating roof tanks have reduced the problem of boilover in crude oil storage.
Standardized coupling sizes
The teaching of the metric system exclusively in Canadian schools has spurred the fire service in that country to move toward metrification, Alan L. Dupuis, chief of fire services in the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal, told the FDIC. A committee formed to make recommendations on the changeover from the standard system to the metric has recommended, Dupuis reported, that all couplings from 1 ½ inches on up be the hermaphrodite type. Furthermore, the committee urged that the same size couplings be used for 3 and 3 1/2-inch hose and that the couplings for 1 1/4 1 1/2 and l 4-inch hose also be the same size.
Dupuis commented that hermaphrodite couplings tend to tighten in use and are less easily damaged.
He said that a target date of January 1, 1981, has been set for converting all gages on fire apparatus to the metric system and “our feeling is that it will be easier to work with once we get use to it.” He added that Canada is not being forced to convert to anything.
A different way of training Fire service officers for their responsibility was described by Chief Ron Coleman of the San Clemente, Calif., Fire Department. He reported that the course conducted in California for staff technology and formulating fire protection, known as STAFF-P was based on the assessment laboratory process and was designed to learn if officer candidates have decision-making capabilities.
“We can’t afford to gamble on a person to whom we give responsibility,” Coleman commented.
The week-long STAFF-P class studied management practices in fire departments and used management texts so that the students could be prepared to better cope with people in government who are putting pressure on the fire service, Coleman explained. He said that some classes were taught by simulation, and levels of service were considered and evaluated by groups of students. He pointed out that city managers are now measuring the levels of performance and fire service leaders are constantly being asked to consider productivity.
Students in the class took tests and rated themselves and then discussed “each type of leader we have in the fire service because there is no perfect type of leader.”
Coleman also commented, “Leadership is not a function of rank, it is a function of human behavior,” and the STAFF-P class considered more effective use of people’s skills and abilities and sought a greater sensitivity.
Mandatory SCBA rule
In a discussion of the mandatory rule for using self-contained breathing apparatus in his department, Chief Clarence Nimmerfroh of Minneapolis reported that the rule went into effect in 1964 and “compliance has been good.” The chief said that in 7 ½ years, not one incident of failure to v;ear a mask that resulted in smoke inhalation has been brought to his attention. He stated that there are about 15 inhalation cases a year, but all are the result of unanticipated toxic gases in non-fire-smoke atmospheres.
Each man in Minneapolis has his own facepiece, the chief said.
Nimmerfroh cautioned that the fire service “often forgets it is not immune from the charge of negligence” and may face a suit because men entered a smoke atmosphere without breathing apparatus in violation of department rules. Therefore he advised that mandatory breathing apparatus rules be enforced by appeals to common sense and, if necessary, the imposition of extra duty or time off.
In a panel discussion of the national fire fighters certification testing program, Carl McCoy, head of the Division of Personnel Standards and Education in the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, commented that the “validity and reliability of examination instruments is extremely difficult.” He cautioned that content validity must be maintained by making certain the questions refer to the referenced material.
William Quirk, training director of the Minneapolis Fire Department, commented that in setting up his training program to fulfill the obligations of NFPA 1001, the standard for fire fighters, in some areas his program exceeded the standard while it lacked content in other areas.
Martin Grimes, of the NFPA, who is secretary of the National Professional Qualifications Board, told the FDIC that certification is now being tested and that the board is not going to force on any state organization a testing program that has not been previously tested. Grimes said that the board has changed its philosophy and was now willing to accredit a training agency or an agency formed by fire service groups to conduct certification testing in any one state.
Still on defensive
Noting that “not much has changed since the ‘America Burning’ report,” Howard Boyd, retired fire marshal of Nashville, Tenn., commented that “we are still on the defensive,” in the area of fire prevention. He said that a growing number of people in the fire service are challenging the emphasis on suppression and declared that “we must develop skills far beyond those needed to hold a nozzle.”
Boyd said that the fire problem first must be defined so that the problem areas can be located and resources can then be sought from anyone who can provide them. Boyd declared that fire fighters must be trained in doing public education work before sending them out to meet the public and added, “We need to make the message suit the need.”
Boyd questioned whether his audience was really dedicated to fire prevention and asked what their city managers would do to the fire service budget and manpower if they reduced fires by one-third.
The development of a basic fire apparatus concept, yet to be built, was described by Dr. Ulrich Bez of the Porsche Auto Manufacturing Company in West Germany. The vehicle has two axles and can tow a single-axle trailer. Bez explained that the trailer could serve several functions, including that of mounting an aerial device. The fourwheel-drive chassis, Bez maintained, is highly maneuverable and covers the entire operating range of paid and volunteer fire departments except in “rare special cases.”
Although he conceded that “the boss is still the boss,” Harry Carter, an instructor from Adelphia, N.J., urged group decision-making to attain a high level of performance in an organization. His version of the effective supervisor was one who asks a worker’s opinion when it really counts and creates a mutual trust with his workers. Carter described the system for modern management as the implementation of participative and supportive needs at every work level.
In discussing non-verbal communications, Theodore Szymanski, an instructor from Ithaca, N.Y., reminded his audience that most messages are subconscious and body language plays a role in instruction. He explained that the left or right side of the brain is predominant in controlling the actions of people. Those who are, as he called it, right-brained, may give attention to the left side of the class at the expense of the right side. Instructors should be aware of this and work to avoid neglecting either side of a class in teaching, Szymanski cautioned. He urged them to use the input into the brain of all five senses if they wish to attain a more effective teaching level.
At the ISFSI election for directorsat-large, John W. Hoglund, director of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and Lee Hustead, director of fire training in West Virginia, were reelected.
The ISFSI annual meeting conducted during the FDIC, approved two resolutions endorsing federal matching fund programs. One endorsed the cooperative forest fire control program and urged the reinstatement of deleted appropriations in the 1980 federal budget to bring the level of matching funds up to $30 million as in the past. The other resolution called for the restoration of deleted appropriations in the 1980 budget to restore the $3.5 million under Title 4 of the Rural Development Act for the benefit of rural fire departments in areas of less than 10,000 population for training, purchasing, protective clothing, breathing apparatus, communications and other equipment.
The fire control program under the Clarke-McNarry Act, provides money for state forestry agencies to be used for planning, training and providing fire protection equipment in forest and watershed lands outside incorporated cities and towns.
ISFSI Vice President Roger McGary reported that the society now has 2643 members.
Edward McCormack, ISFSI secretary, reported a conference attendance of 1873 paid registrants, 239 speakers, coordinators and recorders, and 175 exhibitors, making a total of 2287 persons. the inclusion of wives, the total conference enrollment was 2638.