Category Archives: Fire Officer

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

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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.

“Congrats”, Dr. Onieal!

Dr. Onieal

Congratulations, Chief!

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Jersey City Fire Chief and native son Dr. Denis Onieal, who is now Superintendent of the National Fire Academy, has been selected by the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s Board of Directors as the recipient of the 2015 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. The presentation will take place at the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on April 16th at the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1998 and co-sponsored by CFSI and Motorola Solutions, the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have been proactive at the local, state and federal government levels to improve and advance fire/emergency services and life safety issues. Representing a cross section of the fire and emergency services, previous recipients include chiefs, instructors, career and volunteer leaders and public safety advocates.

Dr. Onieal has served as Superintendent of the National Fire Academy since 1995, providing leadership to advance the professional development of fire service leaders of today and tomorrow. Through his efforts, the National Fire Academy has greatly expanded training opportunities for fire service personnel and enhanced NFA’s executive, management, and all-hazard community response and risk reduction curriculums. Working closely with State fire training agencies, NFA courses are now offered through every accredited State training agency in the country. Under Onieal’s leadership, the NFA curriculum has been completely revised to include equivalent college credit recommendation and continuing education units for all resident, off-campus and on-line deliveries. For the first time ever, fire degree programs across the nation are following a standard curriculum and syllabi, and work in close cooperation with State fire training agencies. This combination of standardized training and education is the foundation for professional status for the fire and emergency services.

Acting as a catalyst to improve the fire service, Dr. Onieal continues to write articles and deliver presentations across the nation on professional development within the fire service. His work in this regard has reached thousands of fire service personnel, providing them the encouragement to pursue their academic studies in addition to their fire service training. While rising through the ranks of the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, he pursued his own professional development opportunities which eventually lead to a Doctor of Education degree from the New York University in 1990.

“The CFSI Board of Directors congratulates Dr. Denis Onieal on being selected as the recipient of the 2015 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award,” said Bill Jenaway, President of the Congressional Fire Service Institute. “He embodies the passion and dedication that the late-Mason Lankford demonstrated in making the fire service a safer profession. We look forward to honoring Dr. Onieal at the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner.”

For additional information about the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program, visit the CFSI website at www.cfsi.org. This event benefits the mission of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization designed to educate members of Congress about fire and life safety issues.

Contact: Bill Webb (202) 371-1277

Catch a quick podcast I was fortunate to grab with my friend and mentor, Dr. Denis (CHIEF) Onieal.

UPDATE: Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern

Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern
Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern

March 31–Fresno firefighter Pete Dern remains in serious condition and faces skin grafts and weeks of other intensive treatment for burns he suffered Sunday when a roof collapsed at a garage fire and he fell into an inferno, the medical director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center said Monday afternoon.

“He remains stable but in very serious condition,” said Dr. William Dominic. “This is a very serious, certainly life-threatening burn.”

Dern, 49, had inhalation injuries as well as second- and third-degree burns to about 65% of his body, Dominic said. Dern was rushed Sunday afternoon to the burn center, which firefighters helped build in the 1970s.

Dern is on a ventilator to help him breathe. He has had one surgery and is looking at many more, with an operation scheduled for Wednesday to remove dead tissue and do temporary skin grafts. “This could be a very prolonged situation,” Dominic said.

Dern was leading several firefighters across the roof to provide ventilation for the safety of attack crews when the roof collapsed, the fire department said. A video posted on Facebook that captures Dern’s fall into the flames has received national attention.

After falling through the garage roof, Dern was rescued by fellow firefighters within minutes. That was critical to his survival, Dominic said. “No. 1 was getting him out … as quickly as possible,” Dominic said. And the protective firefighting clothing Dern was wearing reduced burning, he said. Without the protective gear: “It’s highly unlikely he would have been alive long enough for someone to help him out.”

Dern’s clothing and gear have been saved, Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis said. Members of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are in Fresno to investigate the work injury, she said. But she also is bringing in an outside team of independent investigators, she said.

A firefighter first and foremost

Dern is a 25-year veteran of the department and has been a captain for 17 years. On Monday, dozens of fellow firefighters gathered at Community Regional Medical Center in support of their colleague. All of them described Dern as a leader.

Capt. Bob Van Tassel, who began his firefighting career with Dern, was chosen to speak for the captain’s family members. They want to thank the community for its support and hospital staff for its care, but they’re “sort of overwhelmed,” he said. “We’re hoping to get them some rest.”

Van Tassel said Dern “is a husband, a father, a firefighter and he’s our friend.” Dern has one daughter “that he’s very proud of,” he said. A firefighting family drove her to the hospital from the college she’s attending, he said.

He’s known Dern for years, and Van Tassel describes his friend as someone good at assessing situations, possibly a trait from his time as an Army Cobra helicopter pilot. But he also has an aesthetic eye. Dern built a house in Shaver, which he sold. He also took an old oak branch on the property and fashioned a mantel for a fireplace, Van Tassel said.

But foremost, Dern is a dedicated firefighter. He’s worked at the busiest fire department truck company for the last five years, Van Tassel said. He could have moved to a less “brutal location,” but chose to stay. Dern stepped out and put himself at risk hundreds of times, Van Tassel said.

A speech at a 1998 Exchange Club luncheon honoring Dern as the city’s firefighter of the year epitomized him: “Pete Dern is the kind of employee who sees a job that needs to be done and does it,” said Capt. Michael S. Gill. “He never complains, and never boasts about his deeds or accomplishments.”

On Monday, Donis said the captain is “a leader among leaders in this department. He’s probably trained every single one of us who have come through the ranks at some point.”

She also praised Dern’s team. The firefighters did everything right in a worst-case scenario, she said.

Donis said the fire likely started in the garage, but the cause is still under investigation. “We haven’t ruled out anything yet,” she said. “There are some avenues we’re pursuing.”

Van Tassel said the team broke the garage door down to get Dern out, got his clothes off, called for an ambulance and continued to fight the fire. “I’m very proud of them,” he said. “They all knew what had happened was very bad, and they feared he wouldn’t make it out alive.”

Firefighters have connection to burn unit

Donis said Dern was fortunate that the Leon S. Peters Burn Center is located at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. “He needed immediate burn attention from the experts,” she said.

Fresno firefighters and the burn center have a long connection going back four decades.

“The center started in 1974 as a result of a Fresno firefighter who was injured,” said Sandra Yovino, the center’s clinical director. The firefighter had to be rushed to San Jose, the nearest burn center at that time, she said.

In the 1970s, burn centers were a new idea, Yovino said. There were only a few nationwide. But Fresno firefighters raised initial funds to help open one, she said. The 10-bed center now admits more than 200 burn patients a year and treats another 500 yearly as outpatients.

For years, the Fresno Firefighters Association has held “Fill the Boot” fundraisers for the center.

The burn center’s hyperbaric oxygen chambers to treat smoke inhalation and hard-to-heal wounds are thanks in large part to fund-raising efforts by Fresno firefighters, Yovino said. “One reason we maintain our hyberbaric department is for our firefighters,” she said.

In the past three years, the burn center has treated nine firefighters, Yovino said. Dern is the first Fresno firefighter among them, she said.

It’s a surprisingly low number of firefighters Dominic says he’s treated for burn injuries in 23 years at the center. “They do a very good job of working safely.”

 Contact Barbara Anderson: banderson@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6310 or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.


Further Update:

Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern returned to surgery Friday morning to prepare his burn wounds for skin grafting.

Surgery once or twice a week is not unusual for patients such as Dern who have sustained major burns to a majority of the body, said Community Regional Medical Center staff.

Dern was burned over 70% of his body March 29 when he fell through a garage roof while fighting a house fire and was engulfed in flames.

Late Thursday afternoon, Dern worked with physical therapists to stand for a short time as part of a regimen important for maintaining muscle strength, said Sandra Yovino, clinical director of the Leon S. Burn Center at the hospital.

During the therapy session, Dern was able to enjoy a hug with his wife, Kelly.

Firefighters from Sacramento and Bakersfield visited the hospital Thursday to support Dern and Fresno firefighters.

Contact BoNhia Lee: blee@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6495 or @bonhialee on Twitter.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2015/04/10/4471309_burned-fresno-fire-capt-dern-hugs.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Copyright 2015 – The Fresno Bee

A Bad Day for a Great Officer.

This graphic video is not to second guess or “armchair quarterback” an incident.  It is, however, a brief snapshot into an evolving incident.  A snapshot that allows all of us, who “are of the cloth” (Blue), to say,there but for the Grace of God...”.

Our thoughts and prayers are extended to our Fresno Family.

There has been a lot of discussion and, as always, that is how we learn and hone our craft.

Anyone with further information…please, respectfully, post in the comment section.         Stay safe out there…

5 Failures of Command

936680_331981183594673_40530468_n  by John Alston
Recently, I had a conversation with a group of Fire Officers about the state of Leadership and Character, in the ranks of the modern day fire service. I stated, without fear of contradiction that the “First-line Supervisor” Rank was the most critical position on the job.  We all agreed.  We went through all of the ranks and discussed them, 1 by 1; their impact on our profession, in all of its aspects. We then began to discuss the effectiveness and/or the lack thereof. We are willing to stipulate that there are so many areas to cover, that we ran out of time. There were so many items that we had to start narrowing the focus.   We got down to 5.
They are:
1) Poor Communications
2) Lack of Accountability
3) Lack of Discipline
4) Lack of Commitment
5) Lack of Training
  1. Poor Communications – As is stated, so many times, communication is the principle method by which we get things done.  At every level in the fire service, when there is a gap in service (both for our External and Internal Customers), the lack of communications or poor communication rises to the top of the list.  Whether in the Fire Station, Headquarters or in the street, poor communications are at the root of calamities, disasters and miscues.   Written orders, guidelines and rules must be clearly formulated and clearly communicated. Public Fire Education and Fire Prevention efforts must take the “end-user” into consideration.  Complete and succinct information can make working with the public, on important issues, so much more easier.  Yet, many Officers are not trained in effective communications and many don’t know when communications have gone awry.
  2. Lack of Accountability – ACCOUNTABILITY: for actions and responsibilities; for crew members, equipment and tasks, particularly at the scene of emergencies.  Lack of Accountability could also be classified as a Lack of Responsibility; members being responsible for their own actions. A few years back, I saw so many classes being offered on Accountability Systems, Rapid Intervention Crews, May-Day’s and Self-Rescue techniques.  I taught many of them.  The prevailing issue that came up was working to keep our people from getting into those situations in the first place. Purposeful and proactive accountability can aid to that end.  When we impress upon our people that situational awareness is paramount, we are telling them to be accountable.
  3. Lack of Discipline – Our service is effected, negatively, not by the exercise and issuance of discipline, but by the lack of the same.  Many members talk about the lack of morale from time to time.  Some attribute it to contracts, equipment, schedules, the person at the top, Officers, etc.  However, I can say that the lack of discipline is a more pernicious element to low morale than any other.  It’s easy to blame the Chief, Commissioner or Fire Director for your woes, however, what is going on in your neck of the woods.  What about the things you have direct control over.  I have found that when discipline is effectively applied and evenly enforced; when members know what your expectations are and you are willing to hold them to the standards, morale and productivity improve.  It starts and ends with you!  Yes, YOU!  Lack of discipline, in your own personal and professional demeanor/deportment, can be contagious.  You wear your uniform improperly, so will your subordinates; come to work late and stay unshaven/disheveled, so will your subordinates; cut corners, they will; break rules, they will.
  4. Lack of Commitment – I am a big proponent of commitments and being sure that you are clear on them. It is a significant character trait for firefighters and fire officers that is severely lacking these days.  I have seen a great shift from a true commitment to the job, your crew, your officer and yourself  to a true commitment to “yourself”.  The number of self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited and narcissistic firefighters is at an all time high.  It permeates every aspect of our service and I don’t see the trend slowing.  There are several reasons why, but commitment stands out.  Look up from the phone, laptop and/or iPAD and see what has happened to our beloved profession.  It’s not pretty.
  5. Lack of Training – How does one get to Carnegie Hall?; Practice, Practice, Practice.  How does one become an Effective Commander in the Fire Service (one that members will Trust)? TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!  You have to train, to acquire the confidence, skill sets and competence to operate in your position. You must read, take courses and network with other more experienced fire officers to stay abreast of emerging technologies.  You must seek a mentor and then be  a mentor to someone else.  Your training must be multi-disciplined.  There are some great corporate management books out there.  There is required reading for our profession and acquired reading.  Be a sponge.  Continue on a course of achievement and education.  It works!

expanded podcast online…

 Copyright 2012 John Alston. All rights reserved.

NFA: Managing Officer Program

National_Fire_Academy
The National Fire Academy

Managing Officer Program

The National Fire Academy’s (NFA’s) Managing Officer Program is a multiyear curriculum that introduces emerging emergency services leaders to personal and professional skills in change management, risk reduction and adaptive leadership. Acceptance into the program is the first step in your professional development as a career or volunteer fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) manager, and includes all four elements of professional development: education, training, experience and continuing education.

How the Managing Officer Program benefits you

As a Managing Officer Program student, you will build on foundational management and technical competencies, learning to address issues of interpersonal and cultural sensitivity, professional ethics, and outcome-based performance. On completion of the program, you will:

  • Be better prepared to grow professionally, improve your skills, and meet emerging professional challenges.
  • Be able to embrace professional growth and development in your career.
  • Enjoy a national perspective on professional development.
  • Understand and appreciate the importance of professional development.
  • Have a network of fire service professionals who support career development.

The Managing Officer Program consists of:

  • Five prerequisite courses (online and classroom deliveries in your state).
  • Four courses at the NFA in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
  • A community-based capstone project.

A certificate of completion for the Managing Officer Program is awarded after the successful completion of all courses and the capstone project.

Selection criteria for the Managing Officer Program

The selection criteria for the Managing Officer Program are based on service and academic requirements.

Service Requirement

At the time of application, you must be in a rank/position that meets either the Training or Experience requirements below. Your chief (or equivalent in nonfire organizations) verifies this training and experience through his or her signature on the application.

1. Training
You should have a strong course completion background and have received training that has exposed you to more than just local requirements, such as regional and state training with responders from other jurisdictions.
This training can be demonstrated in one of many forms, which may include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Certification at the Fire Officer I level (based on National Fire Protection Association 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications).
  • Credentialed at the Fire Officer designation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
  • Training at the fire or EMS leadership, management and supervisory level.
  • State/Regional symposiums, conferences and workshops supporting leadership, management and supervision.
  • Other training that supports the competencies identified for the Managing Officer in the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Officer Development Handbook, Second Edition.

2. Experience
You must have experience as a supervising officer (such as fire operations, prevention, technical rescue, administration or EMS), which could include equivalent time as an “acting officer.”

Academic Requirement

To be considered for the Managing Officer Program, you must have:
Earned an associate degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
OR
Earned a minimum of 60 college credit hours (or equivalent quarter-hours) toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution of higher education.
In addition, you need to pass these courses before applying (available both locally and online through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the NFA):

How to apply to the Managing Officer Program

You may submit an application package at any time during the year, but not later than Dec. 15. The first sessions of the Managing Officer Program will be offered in April and August of 2015. Students who apply by Dec. 15, 2014 will be selected for one of the 2015 sessions or a session offered in 2016 at a date to be determined.
To apply, submit the following:

  1. FEMA Form 119-25-1 General Admissions Application Form (PDF, 337 Kb). In Block 9a, please specify “Managing Officer Program.”
  2. A letter requesting admission to the Managing Officer Program. The letter should include (with no more than one page per item):
    • Your specific duties and responsibilities in the organization.
    • A description of your most substantial professional achievement.
    • What you expect to achieve by participating in the program.
    • How your background and experience will contribute to the program and to fellow participants.
    • A description of a challenging management topic in your organization.
  3. A letter from the chief of the department (or equivalent in nonfire organizations) supporting your participation in the Managing Officer Program. The letter must certify that you have supervisory responsibilities and that all of the information in the application packet is true and correct.
  4. A copy of a transcript from an accredited degree-granting institution of higher education.
  5. A resume of professional certifications including date and certifying organization.
  6. A resume of conventional and online management and leadership courses completed, including title, date, location and host of the training.

Send your application package to:

National Emergency Training Center
Admissions Office
16825 South Seton Ave.
Emmitsburg, MD 21727

Curriculum for the Managing Officer Program

Prior to Oct. 1, 2017, you may take prerequisite courses before, during and after the NFA on-campus first and second year program. Starting Oct. 1, 2017, prerequisite courses must be completed before beginning the on-campus program.
Select a course code below to see the course description.

Prerequisites First-year on-campus courses Second-year on-campus courses
“Introduction to Emergency Response to Terrorism” (Q0890) “Applications of Community Risk Reduction” (R0385) “Contemporary Training Concepts for Fire and EMS” (R0386)
“Leadership I for Fire and EMS: Strategies for Company Success” (F0803 or W0803) “Transitional Safety Leadership” (R0384) “Analytical Tools for Decision-Making” (R0387)
“Leadership II for Fire and EMS: Strategies for Personal Success” (F0804 or W0804)
“Leadership III for Fire and EMS: Strategies for Supervisory Success” (F0805 or W0805)
“Shaping the Future” (F0602 or W0602)

Managing Officer Program Capstone Project

The Managing Officer Program Capstone Project allows you to apply concepts learned in the program toward the solution of a problem in your home district.
You and the chief of your department (or equivalent in nonfire organizations) must meet to identify a problem and its scope and limitations. The scope of the project should be appropriate to your responsibilities and duties in the organization, and it should be appropriate to the Managing Officer Program. Possible subjects include:

  • Lessons learned from one of the core courses required in the Managing Officer Program.
  • Experiences of the Managing Officer as identified in the IAFC Officer Development Handbook, Second Edition.
  • An issue or problem identified by your agency or jurisdiction.
  • Lessons learned from a recent administrative issue.
  • Identification and analysis of an emerging issue of importance to the department.

Before initiating the project, you must submit a letter from your chief indicating the title of the project, projected outcomes, how it will be evaluated or measured, and approval for the project to go forward. When the project is completed, your chief must submit a letter indicating that it was completed successfully.

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/managing_officer_program/index.shtm