New Book: Dr. Burt Clark – I Can’t Save You, But I’ll Die Trying

BurtClark

https://www.facebook.com/FireCultureBook

Dr. Burton Clark Is a passionate professional and cares about our noble profession.

Moreover he cares about people and those who will risk their own lives to save them.

From solid factual information or training reluctant firefighters to call a May-Day;  Dr. Clark has been a wealth-spring of knowledge.

All the best…

P.S. – Received my copy this weekend, can’t wait to finish it!

The Chameleon Fire Officer

Mentor, Menace or Mediocre…Make Up Your Mind!

by John Alston

 ChameleonA chameleon is defined as any one of numerous Old World lizards of the family Chamaeleontidae, characterized by the ability to change the color of their skin, very slow locomotion, and a projectile tongue; or a changeable, fickle, or an inconstant person.
Having worked with Firefighters and Fire Officers from several departments, over many years, I continue to hear the same complaint and praises.  The issue is consistency.
The Chameleon Fire Officer: (The one who changes and blends with his/her environment as a defense mechanism.)  Is slow to react.  They can be characterized as fickle, moody and unpredictable.  They may display one aspect of their character as Firefighters; then a different one as a Fire Officer.  At best, they will make one change and you have to live with it; or at worst be one way today and another tomorrow.  I hear this assessment, over and over and over again.  Indecision and inconsistency in the fire station is bothersome yet tolerable.  It can be deadly on the fire-ground.
Let’s look at the three: Mentor, Menace or Mediocre.

MENTOR:

Graphic by Malcolm Alston

Have you adopted the character traits, persona and practices of a mentor.  Someone who is approachable, learned, intuitive, genuinely concerned for the positive growth and development of others?  Are you a good listener?  Do you constantly strive to stay at the top of your game (by study, taking courses and by information sharing); so that you are a valuable and knowledgeable resource to subordinates, colleagues, your superiors, and the public?  Do you help, aid, and assist all members of your service, where-ever you encounter them?  Do you seek genuine opportunities to encourage others?  Do you attempt to turn negatives into positives?

Being a mentor is a selfless act.  It is a continuous process. It is a transparent process. It takes a strong commitment and a lot of work!

MENACE:
Have you adopted the character traits or persona of a Menace?  Are you perceived as one? Let’s face it –many members of our profession are “Type A” personalities. That is a good thing, at times and a horrible attribute at others.  I have met officers that bring hidden and no-so-hidden agendas to the workplace.  Why?When this happens, it clouds their judgement in all aspects of the work environment.  It causes other members of the service to shut down and avoid them.  One of the problems with that is many times those Menacing Officers are in key positions in the organization. LOL.  There is not enough couch time to unpack the psychological “issues” that created this “character”; just know that they are out there.Now, when I say a “Menacing Officer”, I don’t just mean the type that is always lewd, crude and obnoxious.  I don’t even limit that monicker to the one that is “in your face”.  I have met some of the quietest menaces you could find. Their modus operandi is calm, cool and just as menacing as officer who is “out there”.  These quiet, nondescript, “Closet Menacers” (<–poetic license, instead of “Menaces”) have their own way about harassing coworkers and subordinates.  They apply discipline and work assignments, disproportionately.  They play favorites and the “ends against the middle” (Classic divide and conquer).  Some of whom you would think stepped right out of the pages of General Sun Tzu’s, “Art of War” or Niccoli Machiavelli’s, ” The Prince “.  Cold, quiet and calculating.  Yet, a Menace, none the less!
MEDIOCRE:

Have you adopted the attitude, character traits and/or persona of a mediocre officer.  Status Quo is sufficient. It’s the Guy or Gal at the top who caused these problems and only they can fix them.  “Morale is low!”  “You really can’t change things, anyway.”  “Why Try?”  “There’s no benefit or penalty for attempting to improve things.”  “People are people.”  “This new generation of Firefighters are the worst ever!”  “You just have to go along to get along (and get ahead).”  “Things are just fine the way they are.”  “I set my expectations low and that way I am rarely disappointed.”  “Same Circus, Different Clowns!” “I’m just here for the paycheck.”.  Sound like anyone you know?

The Mediocre Officer is indecisive or, at worst, nonchalant. They are not engaging.  They skate by, with everything.  This person takes on the personality trait that they have already arrived or have risen as high as they can.  His/her characteristics are “Laissez-faire” (indifferent, hands-off or do the bare minimum).  One definition of laissez-faire is literal, “let it/them pass”.  Meaning let it along.  Don’t get involved.  Don’t interfere.  Don’t make changes.  Don’t make decisions.  Do you know someone like this?  Is it you???

 Which One is Worse?

Please use the comment section to explain.

Copyright 2015 John Alston. All rights reserved

The Mississippi Fire Academy

This video will give you an aerial vantage point of the Mississippi State Fire Academy. You will see our campus and many of our live fire burn props. Portions of this video were filmed with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision +, a UAS we use used to capture reconnaissance and aerial size-ups.

Box vs Out-of-the-Box Thinking

box        John Alston

Box Thinking

A few years back, I had a great opportunity, during one of our planning sessions, to take notice of a particular “world” view held by a facilitator. The session was an emergency management development group.  It was sponsored by a dear friend and was facilitated by two other individuals.  These persons were not from our agency or group.  They were not familiar with its culture and underpinnings. They led us on different approaches to arrive at some of the decisions that we had to make.  That was the great part!  I like learning new methods and challenging some ideas that may have outlived their usefulness.

However, the not-so-great part was that, as the days went on, I got a sense that one of the facilitators may have been harboring a little negative, possibly condescending, attitude.  It was noticeable, in his comments and gestures.  I tried to shake it, because anyone can have a bad day (theirs or yours).  First impressions, although are usually “spot on”, can sometimes be misleads.  You have to give presenters a chance. People who make presentations to others know that you have to warm up the room, get a read and then proceed.  You may have to change methods, tactics and directions to get your room to “buy-in”. But I digress!  Okay, this guy bothered me. The feeling I had just wouldn’t go away.  As the days went on into multiphase sessions, that sense increased.   I thought, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know us.”.

Then, it happened:  One of my colleagues made a suggestion.  It was a great idea, by the way. It was based on sound past practices. It seemed feasible.  It was succinct.  But the response from the facilitator was, “Well, you’re just not an “Out-of-the-Box thinker”.   I then saw my colleague retreat and shut down.

You’re just not an out of the box thinker? I thought to myself; the way that statement was delivered was condescending. It seemed as if he was saying to the person, “You’re not that creative”, ; “You’re not that bright!, “You’re not intelligent enough.”, “You’re not that flexible.” You’re rigid. You don’t know what we know.  YOU’RE NOT THINKING!   I took umbrage to that and I didn’t like it either. 😉

When you tell someone that they’re not an out-of-the-box thinker,  it shouldn’t be a negative.

I find that “Box” and “Out-of-the-box” thinkers are both needed in planning situations and emergency management.  In our day-to-day situations, Box Thinkers are very clear on their roles and responsibilities. They are clear on the “space” they occupy.  They can prove to be invaluable, under many circumstances.  They have full knowledge of their position in the organization and are detail oriented.

If you’re going to be a “Box Thinker”, though, be sure to handle everything within the box.

I know it may seem like an abstract analogy but follow me for a little while.  Be clear on where your box fits into the entire operation.  Know the relationship and responsibilities that your box has to the other boxes adjacent to, below and above your box.

EXAMPLE: If you’re a company officer and your “box” is being on the Ladder Company; “Handle everything within your box!  If your task, that day, is to perform search & rescue then handle everything in your box!  If you’re assigned to be the supervisor, on the third floor or division three of the building, then you are responsible for everything within that box.  Fire suppression, search and rescue, ventilation, salvage, pre-&post- control overhaul, etc.  Know the  authority, resources and tools that are necessary for the box, completely.  If your box is ventilation; then you should know everything there is to know about Ventilation: positive pressure, negative pressure, hydraulic, mechanical, natural, vertical, horizontal.  You need to know when to apply what and at what appropriate time.  Handle everything within that box.

When you’re an out-of-the-box thinker it means that you have the ability or the wherewithal to step outside of the norm; or you just decided to think of things in a different way.  That doesn’t make you a better thinker than the people who do think within the box.

EXAMPLE:  If your box is OPERATIONS, at an incident, and you are the Operations Section Chief…handle everything within your box.  Assign the necessary tasks, establish the correct groups, place them in and on the proper divisions.  Call up the appropriate resources.  Provide for accountability and safety measures.  Monitor progress.  Be clear on your communications, directions and requests.  Staff all required positions.  Use checklists.    And…and…and…

MASTER YOUR BOX!

Additionally, to be an “Out-of-the-box” thinker means that you can take the conventional methods, the tried and true methods and apply them in a different way.  You may have the ability not use the conventional methods at all and still realize a successful outcome.  You know the standards.  You just look at the situation in a different way. You may want to come up with a different or alternative means to perform the same task.  You may very well look at things completely different.

In Emergency Management, when you think outside of the box you are still utilizing box thinking to formulate your idea.  You have to.  Think of it as a Stringed Quartet vs. a Jazz Quartet.  It’s still music.  One is very structured and the other more improvisational and yet they still utilize some of the same instruments, chords and notes to produce the final sound that they desire.  It can even be the same song or piece of music.  Very often the stringed quartet can make improvisations or perform different interpretations to the classical pieces.

“Out-of-the-Box thinking” is no greater than “Box thinking”, when it’s done completely. It just means that we have different approaches to achieving a successful outcome..

I think they’re both great and I that any individual can possess both characteristics of a “Box or Out-of-the-Box thinker.

Which one are you and why do you think so?

FDIC: Visit the Smoke Coalition Booth

I’m asking all of my friends, colleagues and those who say that they care about Fire Fighter Safety to support:

Fire Smoke Coalition & FDIC:  Visit booth # 1042.  They’ll be there with everything you want and need to save your life!

Don’t miss out!

13 Career Crushers

No Matter the Industry!
No Matter the Industry!
The 13 Career Crushers are universal indexes.
My take:
  1. Revenge is a dish best served cold or not at all…
  2. Treat others better than you want to be treated
  3. Use lists, take notes and a calender (planner)
  4. Keep your personal business “PERSONAL” – Manage
  5. Understand and practice your organization’s mission and goals
  6. Take care of your self; work, refresh and rest
  7. Stay current with industry and technology trends
  8. Stay trustworthy and transparent not C.Y.A.
  9. Respect your superiors, if not the person the position
  10. Truth crushed to earth will rise again
  11. Aggressive and/or Vociferous alignment or posturing is never good.
  12. Cutting corners is still cutting something
  13. Stay on your “A-Game”.  Know your job and everyone elses.

What’s your take???

The Art of Leadership

True Leaders:

Many aspire to Leadership, but few understand its true nature.  Leadership is not an ego game.  True leaders have vision and place the goals of the institution above their own interests.  True leaders realize the importance of the people working with them.  True leaders are not only open to good ideas, but also have the courage to implement them. j. donald walters

 A few years ago, I (@j_alston) read a book by J. Donald Walters titled, “The Art of Leadership“.  At the time, I thought it was a short and simple read.  Oh how wrong that turned out to be.  Since the first time I picked it up, I have been carrying it with me for about 11 years.  It continues to yield great insight and confirmation.  It has also been published under the title, “The Art of Supportive Leadership“; How very telling that title appears to be.  It tells me that, being a leader, is not always the idea of getting support from the people you work with; but moreover being supportive of them as well.  It is reciprocal. Their is a flow of energy, ideas and support; that is continuous. Symbiotic, as it were.

There are so many books on Leadership and Management.  It is sometimes hard to choose the right ones.  There are books that are specific to Fire and Emergency Management Services; and then there are those like this one that provide those critical nuggets of wisdom; those bursts of clarity that guide us, ever so gently, towards the right path.


Some of what I got from it:

  • Understand the Nature of Leadership (It’s about people, “DUH”!)
  • Lose the Ego (Easing God Out)
  • Have Clarity of Vision (Knowing who you are and your purpose)
  • Never lose sight of the goals of your institution or organization
  • Recognize the importance of the people working with you (Collectively and Individually)
  • Be Supportive
  • De-prioritize your own personal ambitions, as they relate to others and your organization
  • Be open and receptive
  • Give value to the opinions of others
  • Have the courage to implement action and change course when necessary

WHERE THERE IS RIGHT ACTION…THERE IS VICTORY.

– Sanskrit Proverb

more to follow…

Pass It On!!!

passit1

Got the tremendous opportunity to share some things with an incredible Fire Chief, Billy Goldfeder.  He put them in a book with the addition of some other fire and emergency personnel.

Click here for more: Pass It On

IMG_0055

Be the Thermostat…Not the Thermometer

 thermo

by John Alston

(podcast “PLAY” button below)
 When talking to Fire Officers I find that many, sometimes, fall into two basic categories:
“Thermometers” and  “Thermostats”
Sometimes they find themselves, in one of two of these categories, through no fault of their own.  Through discussion at meetings and by gauging the types of questions that they ask; or positions they assert; I wonder how they arrived there.  Is it the “climate” where they work?  Maybe the orientation or initiation they received.  I surmise that  long before they rose through the ranks, their indoctrination, association and/or training dictated their category… and they can’t shake it. Was it osmosis???  The old nature-nurture debate???  No one can give a definitive answer.A more pertinent question: Is there a system or process in place to move Fire Officers into one of these two categories?  Is there a process to change them from one category to the other?
Thermometers:
Thermometers (definition – an instrument that reads or measures temperature) read the temperature in the room and display there findings. They do not initiate their own actions.  They wait until something happens and then display themselves. They change constantly, based on other conditions.  Thermometers are sometimes fickle or, at best, just register/report/represent the “ambient” temperature.  In other words, you don’t get a true read.  Sometimes there is a delay in their response. They do not initiate anything.  They react and respond to outside influences.
Thermostats:
Thermostats (definition – an automatic or manual device for regulating temperature), on the other hand, are changers. They have the ability to effect and affect their environment.  They can cause us to become warm or cold.  They can alter the atmosphere.  They can make us/others uncomfortable or motivate us to change.  They can have a negative effect, at times. But if they are set right, they continue to do their job correctly.  Thermostats can handle the heat and the cold, seamlessly.  The good ones do their job efficiently.
Which One Are You?
more to follow…

Copyright 2015 John Alston. All rights reserved.

MayDay and Mask Confidence

Take a look at this simple but effective Mask Confidence and May-Day training evolution.  Many times firefighters find themselves in trouble, when they lack situational awareness.  They panic or even call for help too late.

Notice the importance or air management and communication.  These two issues, along with others (teamwork, situational awareness and practice), aid the entangled or trapped firefighter to participate in his/her own rescue.

Rigorous and routine training in mask confidence will build up the attitude and skill set needed. Calling the MayDay, when MayDay parameters are encountered, will aid greatly in more positive outcomes.

I, recently, had a super session with some firefighters on just talking through the basics of safety and survival.

Questions like: How do you orient yourself, while moving through a building?  How do you communicate with each other?  How do you navigate additional hazards?  How do you maintain accountability and crew integrity; when the fecal matter hits the ventilation system???

Which Way is Out???? 

_DSC0011 _DSC0013Bumps to the Pump!

It was a productive and informative session.  (and I hope they got something out of it too….LOL).  #fireofficertrust

TIME to ACT:  Review your agency’s MayDay procedures today!  Update them, if needed.  Train on them until you know them cold!

The firefighter you save could be you!