Staff Problems Studied In Maryland Course
The many problems that beset the fire chief, ranging from operations control and planning to labor relations and compliance with federal regulations, were discussed during eight lecture-packed days of the National Fire Service Staff and Command Course at the University of Maryland.
The course, from July 20 through July 27, was presented by the Fire Service Extension Department of the university and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The program was directed by Dr. Leonard G. Marks, visiting professor with the Fire Service Extension Department.
How a fire department developed a master plan for improving fire protection and providing better control of operations was described by Captain Victor Subia of Huntington Beach, Calif. The work started in 1968 by identifying problems before developing a command and control plan.
A study of the disaster potential in Huntington Beach indicated that the fire department would be unable to cope with the smallest disaster until 1972, Subia said. The goal was full implementation by 1980 of a master plan that would last for 10 years.
All research, Subia explained, was done within the fire department, and organization, training, fire fighting procedures and facilities were all included in the planning. He pointed out as an example of the coordinated planning the fact that the training center that came out of the project was designed also to serve as an assembly point for mutual aid.
A decision was made to go to computer-aided dispatching and, as project manager, Subia found that the police administration had the same needs as the fire administration.
In addition to Huntington Beach, the master plan developed included Fountain Valley, Seal Beach and Westminster. These four municipalities have a total of 14 fire stations with 19 companies protecting a population of 290,000 in an area of 75 square miles.
A central address file of 4300 street names in the four communities was developed for the computer-aided dispatching system. In addition to street names, the address file contains fire, police and water department data. Setting up a computerized address file, Subia pointed out, “is not worth the dollars and cents if you don’t merge it with other systems.”
Although the dispatching system could have been entirely automatic, it was decjded to provide a manual option for the dispatchers. Subia explained that after an alarm is typed into the system, a dispatcher looks at the computer-suggested assignment of companies on the cathode ray tube (CRT) readout. He can then press a button to transmit the suggested dispatch or he can override the system and dispatch different companies. The computer provides hard copy of dispatching activities for a daily log and the dispatch CRT readout of the fire department for structural fires automatically goes to a CRT readout in the police department for its support activities, including traffic control.
Each fire vehicle has a radio teleprinter for an alternate means of communication and a digital status entry unit in each vehicle transmits signals to the alarm room to indicate the vehicle status. Also, every time the microphone on a vehicle is keyed, the number of the apparatus or car appears on a CRT readout in the dispatching console.
The development of master plans for fire protection and their effect on changing fire department goals from applying water to preventing fires was described by Battalion Chief Vince Clet of the San Jose, Calif., Fire Department.
“The fire chief should decide what should be protected by tax dollars and what should be protected by built-in fire protection,” Clet explained.
Clet remarked that fire prevention has been the basic objective of fire departments and logically the bulk of the budget should go for fire prevention. Realistically, Clet declared, this cannot be done.
He referred to master plans as part of the transitional process needed to change the expenditure accent from fire suppression to fire prevention without first burning down the town.
“Fire fighters squirting water after fire has taken place is not the way to handle the fire problem,” Clet said.
ISO standards criticized
Clet criticized the Insurance Services Office standards as fine for fire suppression under existing conditions, but failing to consider the economics of the prevention approach. He suggested that building codes can establish fire areas which ultimately will control the size of the fire department through limiting the fire areas or requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in buildings with larger fire areas.
Clet pointed out that occupancy hazards requiring more fire service than is available or than the city will provide must develop better built-in fire protection. He felt that the transfer of fire protection costs to the private sector from the public sector is the right way to go. He added that he believes it will take many years of the transitional process to change the fire protection system accent from suppression to prevention.
In discussing master planning, Clet said that the fire problem first must be defined through a survey. The required fire flow and rescue potential can be estimated and the conditions of the city, what can burn, can be defined. From this, a statement of need for fire protection in terms of the quantity of water, the time of response, and the quality of service can be developed to define the fire service needs, Clet explained.
In labor relations, there’s no substitute for arbitration in the United States at present, unless you want a work stoppage, Dr. Robert Formhals, a labor arbitrator and negotiator from San Jose, Calif., told the group. At the same time, he said, “the side that is best prepared will lose the least” in labor negotiations.
Formhals declared that a “public agency can never win over the unions” unless the municipal governing board makes a stand and gets public sup. port.
“This isn’t likely to happen,” Formhals commented.
He said that the facts must be fully documented and arbitrators “tend to split the differences,” that is, a split of 60 percent for the employees and 40 percent for the employer, generally.
The chief of department, Formhals cautioned, should not be a negotiator because it puts him in a position of arousing resentment and becoming resentful himself. This can be damaging to a chiefs status. However, the chief should be part of the negotiations, although he should not participate in them, Formhals said and added that it is wrong to keep a chief in the dark about something he is going to have to live with.
Formhals said that the city council or other governing body also should keep out of negotiations because the negotiators must have someone they can go back to. Therefore, it is highly undesirable for even an individual city councilman to be on the negotiating team.
Formhals said that in a large city fire department, staff officers can be used to negotiate or people from the personnel department of the municipality, or a professional negotiator.
Formhals said that management can help negotiators by agreeing on demands that must be rejected, and he advised that negotiators don’t have to consider demands that are not documented.
A data portfolio, containing figures on such things as economic trends, assessed valuations, the department’s budget, and incidents and problems under the present contract, is essential for the negotiators to take to the table. He said he had found the use of charts showing the rise in the share of the dollar paid to personnel and the concomittant drop in administration, supply and other costs to be effective in negotiations. This, he explained, makes more pay require more appropriations and it is a political move to get you off the hook.
Discrimination in hiring
Federal government efforts to end discrimination against hiring members of minority groups was discussed by Peter C. Robertson, a staff member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
He pointed out that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that if an employment practice operates in such a way that blacks are excluded from the work force and the employment practice cannot be shown to be job-related, then that practice is prohibited.
The employer, such as a fire department, bears the burden of proof to show that hiring practices are job-related. When an inequality situation appears to be developing, the speaker said, a fire department should develop its own program to recruit fire fighters in such a way that employment balance is attained while maintaining department standards for job performance. If fire department statistics show exclusion of minorities from employment, then the courts will order “affirmative action” to change the situation, Robertson declared.
The main question, he asserted, is whether you can “find a way to get blacks and women in your department without a court imposing it on you.’
“The goal of the entire process is to include a group of people that has been excluded in the past,” Robertson explained, and added, “the courts are going to get blacks into the fire fighting profession and the courts are going to get women into the fire fighting profession.”
Noting that there is no pat formula for leadership, Chief George H. Paul of Boston told the staff and command students that the first requisite for leadership is to “know your job” and be able to impart this knowledge to subordinates. He pointed out that although books have their place, leadership basically must be learned through experience and by asking questions of officers you respect.
Paul pointed out that the fire service is based on a semi-military command authority, which he declared “is something we have to fight very hard to keep and we shouldn’t abuse it.” He emphasized that this semi-military authority for issuing orders on the fireground is vital to controlling operations for the safety of the fire fighters.
The Boston chief said that an officer is expected to exercise initiative “but you must be right when you exceed your authority under the rules and regulations.” He warned that this type of initiative must be used carefully. An officer, he added, has a “primary responsibility to promote good morale” and, “most importantly,” must show enthusiasm for his work.
Discipline comes not from fear, but from understanding, Paul stated and he advised his listeners to think about discipline so that they will know how to act when a disciplinary situation arose.
He said that a leader is “responsible” to the feelings and needs of his men, but this doesn’t mean he has to sacrifice his position as leader. An officer should know his men well enough to deal with them on a personal basis, but he doesn’t “have to be a pal or buddy.” Retain your “posture as an officer,” Paul cautioned.
“I believe respect both of your superiors and your subordinates is the most important quality of a good officer,” Paul declared.
Speaking about the delegation of authority to attain efficiency by officers, Ray A. Simpson, a senior instructor at the University of Maryland Fire Service Extension Department, asked, “When you delegate, do you also give the authority with that job so the man can reasonably get it done?”
He stressed that the man at the top cannot make all the decisions and that a team effort is vital. He also advised that the people in the organization like to know when they make the man at the top look good and the man at the top should make them aware of their good work.
In the delegation of authority, Simpson explained, responsibility must go with the delegation, the man must receive sufficient authority to carry out his responsibility, the man doing the delegating must inform his subordinates of the objective of the operation in immediate terms as well as the long-range goals, he must explain how the objective is to be reached, although not in detail, and finally, he must check back on the progress being made.
Simpson criticized the system in which “we promote the man and then we train him.” He referred to this as putting the cart before the horse. In answer to doubts whether all men or certain men on the rear step will go up the ladder to promotion, Simpson suggested training everyone for promotion because the question of who will be promoted is a good reason for training everyone.
The most important question that a fire department faces in regard to establishing a command and control system, is whether it should be done at all, William P. Person of the San Francisco office of PRC Public Management Services, Inc., told the staff and command students. If the decision is to go ahead, he commented, it should be done “very, very carefully.”
The first step in developing a command and control system is an analysis of a fire department’s operations, Person said. Then goals can be written for executive review. When equipment is selected, what the equipment is expected to do—not how it does it—should be emphasized, Person advised. If a computer is to be used, the tasks it is to handle should be defined.
For the system for assignment of fire equipment and resources (SAFER) that is being developed by PRC Public Management Services for the San Francisco Fire Department, some 120 computer tasks were defined. Among the objectives of the $2.4 million San Francisco system that is due to be in operation in November 1975, Person stated, are improved response time and high activity control, increased assignment accuracy, better field information, incident reporting and expansion capability.
Vital to any computerized command and control system, Person declared, are dual computers, a communications link with fire stations that is independent of the computers, a status board update capability, and a microfiche file that can be updated. If by any chance both computers should go out of service in San Francisco, the microfiche system will provide the backup safety.
A note of caution about hiring operations research consultants was sounded by Joseph A. Swartz of the National Fire Protection Association. He advised looking around in your own area for qualified advisers before calling in a consultant trom the outside, and he added that he wouldn’t want to use a consultant unless he could have an opportunity to judge the consultant’s work.
Swartz described operations research as a systematic way of looking at data. In this work, models are set up to test the data, and the speaker warned that the “application of the model should be clear to you. If it isn’t, ask for the explanation again.”
The fire chief and his staff, not some analyst, should make the policy used in designing models which represent the system under study—such as a fire department response system.
“You’re the policy maker and I think the fire chief should be involved and the union should be involved. Everybody should be involved, not just the analyst,” Swartz declared.
Characteristics of groups
In discussing characteristics of different types of small groups, Dr. John P. Cragan of Illinois State University pointed out that fire companies also are small groups and commented, “There is a lot the fire service can learn about small groups in the firehouse.”
The establishment of an identity and the development of pride in that identity can be expected with the formation of a group, Cragan stated, adding that this happens in fire companies. While pride in identity can raise a company’s morale and make it a more effective fire fighting unit, “there’s a point of diminishing returns,” Cragan warned.
He referred to the busiest engine and ladder companies or the outstanding rescue company that display their pride of identity through special insignia painted on their apparatus. Or the men may wear shirts with their company number and insignia.
Cragan warned that while these things have some good effects on the company using them, there is a danger that other companies in a fire department may become resentful. This is when a chief has to establish the line where the department will obtain the maximum benefit from group identification and avert resentment in other companies.
In another talk to the staff and command students, Cragan cautions that they “can’t afford to mess up” when they speak before the city council because their appearance translates into jobs and money. In a discussion of public speaking, he advised, “Don’t write everything out” and practice by talking in a room all by yourself.
“Never have more than five major ideas in any presentation,” Cragan advised.
He suggested that an oral rough draft results in the speaker using his own language. At the same time, the speaker should determine the basic tone of his talk, whether it should be happy, serious, or angry.
The question of “how are you going to get the job done if you cannot communicate effectively,” was asked by Robert C. Byrus, a consultant and former head of the Universiy of Maryland Fire Service Extension Department, now in Sun City Center, Fla.
“When there is a failure in communication, the fault lies with the speaker or writer,” Byrus declared.
“People want to be treated with dignity,” Byrus commented, and advised spending time on preparation to get the audience on your side. Have a good opening, a good closing, “and keep them close together,” Byrus advised.
An expanding phase of fire service activities, emergency medical service, was discussed by Charles W. Garrett, associate director of emergency medical services in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“In Maryland, we strive for an overall systems concept,” he said, that is concerned about the well-being of a patient from the time of the emergency to the day he is rehabilitated as fully as possible.
He described the Maryland emergency medical services system as an integrated system, consisting of five EMS regions that operate with the philosophy of getting voluntary agreements for all participating services to work together. There are adult trauma, pediatric trauma, burn and natal centers in the state, and plans call for the establishment of psychiatric and drug and alcohol centers. The centers now in operation back up local hospitals by accepting transfers of patients requiring special care.
Each of the EMS regions has emergency operations councils that have a good deal of autonomy. The councils have about 35 members who represent hospital administrations, emergency room physicians, fire departments, rescue squads and ambulance operators.
The emergency medical service has four helicopters available for taking the most seriously injured patients to hospitals. The copters are flown by state policemen and are used 90 percent of the time for law enforcement. Garrett pointed out that use of the copters for police work made their use for emergency medical service economically feasible. However, a medical mission gets priority over law enforcement use of the helicopters to the extent that the state police will even interrupt a chase of a law violator to turn to a medical mission, Garrett said.
New York TIPS system
During the last two days of the course, the staff and command students spent Friday at the training center of the Baltimore City Fire Department and Saturday at the New York Fire Department training facility.
In New York, Deputy Chief Lucien P. Imundi stressed the need for information and the importance of communications on the fireground. He explained how the operation of the New York Fire Department’s TIPS program (tactical information about perilous situations) supplies the officer in charge with information about a fire building and exposures that cannot be readily determined upon arrival at a fire.
Details about buildings, occupancy conditions and other facts affecting fire fighting tactics are obtained by fire companies making surveys. Under the supervision of a battalion chief, the information and a building plan are prepared for entry into the TIPS system.
Imundi explained that when a battalion chief reports a working fire, the central communications center checks a microfilm file. If the building is in the file, an aperture card is placed in desk-size viewer/printer. Then if the fire goes to “all hands,” the center radios basic information about the construction of the fire building and the exposures. The chiefs aide switches his radio to the citywide band to receive this information, leaving the tactical channel free for fireground use. When more structural details and suggestions relating to fire fighting operations are requested, the TIPS system continues into phases 2 and 3.
At the same time, Imundi said, a battalion chief is special-called to act as a communications coordinator. He notifies all chief officers to switch their walkie-talkies to the primary command channel while company officers and chiefs’ aides monitor the tactical channel. The communications coordinator also stays on the tactical channel and his aide uses the command channel to relay the coordinator’s messages to the chiefs.
Imundi also showed a command and logistics board developed for use on the fireground to visually maintain information about the location of all companies. Magnetic tabs representing engine companies are spotted on a building diagram on weatherproof, plastic-coated paper that is over 20-gage steel. As companies change positions, the tabs are moved.
In discussing response to alarms, Deputy Chief F. J. Ronan told of pilot programs of the New York Fire Department that showed the response of two engines and one ladder had proved to be adequate to carefully selected boxes. He said that in responses to 31,702 alarms, only 1.5 percent required any additional companies. Her expected that the larger responses now being made would eventually be phased out.
Ronan pointed out that an earlier assignment of more companies to the most active fire alarm areas didn’t materially relieve the work load of the busiest companies, although periphery companies got some relief.
During the visit to the Baltimore City Fire Department, Battalion Chief Thomas J. Baginski, the department training officer, stressed the need for adequate manpower at high-rise building fires so that men doing the actual fire fighting can be relieved frequently. Pre-fire planning is done by fire companies as they inspect buildings, Baginski said.
He also explained that the fire department has a helicopter rescue plan for people who go to the roof of a burning high-rise building. Military copters are available for this purpose and the decision as to whether a roof landing is feasible is up to the copter pilots.
After JBaginski’s talk, a helicopter demonstration of transporting an injured person was conducted at the training center by the 247th Medical Detachment, U.S. Army, from Port George G. Meade.
Fire department efforts to reduce the number of false alarms and to work with youths in trouble areas were described by Captain John R. Frazier and Lieutenant Cleveland Gillis. Frazier said that the fire department’s false alarm unit conducts programs in junior high schools, “where we feel the problem is.” The unit works with the police in investigating false alarms and by playing tapes of phoned false alarms to informers in the field has identified some of the culprits. Baltimore pays a $100 reward to civilians for identification of false alarm perpetrators and awards certificates of appreciation to fire fighters and policemen who assist in identifications.
The community relations work done by four black’ fire fighters, Gillis stated, is aimed at reducing false alarms and harassment of fire fighters. The community relations men keep in touch with children from day-care age through their teens and conduct an athletic team program to keep the kids occupied.
In pointing out that the community relations program depends on the attitudes and working activities of the city’s fire fighters, Gillis declared, “I find the best program is only as good as the individual fireman. The man on the apparatus can hurt a program more than anyone else.”
The community relations men work mostly in civilian clothes, Gillis explained, because this “seems to go over better with kids,” who see a fireman’s uniform as too much like a policeman’s.
All men in the ambulance service of the Baltimore City Fire Department must have emergency medical technician certification and before they can use defibrillation equipment and take electrocardiograms, they must pass an examination by the Maryland State Board of Medical Examiners, James L. McLhinney, acting battalion chief, told the students.
He described the department’s major medical disaster plan that is designed to get large numbers of physicians and nurses to an emergency scene. McLhinney said that the plan has not yet been used in an actual emergency, but participating physicians and nurses respond to any fire greater than six alarms to test and become familiar with the plan.
The fire department ambulance service also has an arrangement with four hospitals to send a physician to an emergency scene when necessary. Upon being alerted, a designated physician in a participating hospital goes to the emergency room, where he is picked up—usually by a police car— and taken to the scene.