Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wanna Bet?

     I'm used to being lied to. It comes with job.  Everything from a life long 2 pack a day smoker who now has COPD and is on home O2 lying about smoking, when I can smell the smoke and see the cigarette in the ashtray.  Of course you weren't smoking that was somebody else and they just left right?  To politicians and management lying about how much they support us, while at the same time selling us out to keep themselves in a job.  I'm a cynic at heart, so Tuesday's news about firefighters getting physicals and being forced to complete a physical agility test to stay on the job rings all kinds of alarm bells. The article can be found here

     I support mandatory annual physicals for all firefighters.  Firefighter's have a significant increase in the rates of cancer's, hear attacks, strokes, heart stress are typically the number 1 killer of firefighter's every year accounting for over 50% of LODD reported. Annual physicals have proven their worth in cities all across the nation by alerting firefighters to potentially life threatening diseases at an early stage allowing for a greater chance of survival.  The department and the commision is now suddenly concerned for our well-being.  I don't think so.  It's an agenda, plain and simple.  The department provided physical a couple of years ago through an Assistance to Firefighter's Grant (AFG) that was intended to be a yearly physical complete with nutritunal and physical fitness support.  What happened to that program?  Oh, yeah it cost money. Scrap that plan. 

     Now we have a new plan that purports to include all "certified firefighters"  I hope this means all personnel who hold and maintain their certification.  This would include many in Administration and the Fire Prevention Bureau.  I'm not holding my breath. I'm sure they will find a way to weasel out of it and dump the entire program on the backs of us in suppression.  It's the nature of the beast, I suppose.  The more I read this the more this sounds like a rant. In a way it is.  While I support physical and to a degree the physical agility test.  What I want is physicals designed for fire fighter, not some physical you got in high school so you could play sports.  I want a support program in palce that is supported by the department and the county government that not only provides support for healthy nutrution/diets but actually "supports" the program. How about a physical fitness program that is designed to address issues specific to firefighters (flexibility, core strength, endurance) and tailored to each firefighter.  I'm not daydreaming.  I'm simply saying that if we are to mandated to do this then support it. 

     We are the only department that this applies to. Why is that?  Is is because we demanded it?  Not that I recall.  Is it because our leaders have our well being at heart?  Not based on past experiences.  Then why?  An agenda, plain and simple. Politics at its finest.  What about the Sheriff's department, the Marshal's department.  They are public safety, they represent the goverrment and interact with citizens. They are called on to confront life threatening situations. Yet they are not being mandated to confrom to this policy. Why? Because their bosses are elected and can do what they will as long as the voters keep putting them in office.  So the burden falls to the FD, because we have no recourse.  Beacause there is a political power struggle taking place (shocking I know) and we are caught in the middle.  I will support this program for the simple reason that some good can come of it. All I ask is that the program be done fairly and be fully supported by the county and the FD admin.  That means getting a physical and completing the physical agility test.  Set an example. Be a Leader.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

U.S. Fire Administration Firefighter Fatality Notification - Augusta, GA

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has received notice of the following firefighter fatality:
Name: Antonio E. Jones
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 44
Gender: Male
Status: Career
Years of Service: 20
Date of Incident: 01/29/2011
Time of Incident: 1413hrs
Date of Death: 01/29/2011
Fire Department: Augusta Fire Department
Address: 3117 Deans Bridge Road, Augusta, GA 30906
Fire Department Chief: Howard Willis
Incident Description: Firefighter Jones became ill while on duty at his duty station and requested to leave in order to see his personal family physician. While enroute to the physician’s office he collapsed at the wheel of his personal vehicle causing a minor accident.  Firefighters responding to the accident immediately began advanced life support and continued treatment to the ER where Firefighter Jones passed away from a cause still to be determined.
Incident Location: 3400 block of Wrightsboro Road.
Funeral Arrangements: Visitation for Firefighter Jones will be Wednesday, 02/02/2011 from 1730–1830hrs at W. H. Mays Mortuary, 1221 James Brown Boulevard in Augusta.  The funeral will be Thursday 02/03/2011 at 1400hrs at Gilbert Lambuth Memorial Chapel, Paine College, 1200 Druid Park Avenue in Augusta. Interment will be at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Appling, Georgia.
Memorial Fund Contact and Address: In honor of Firefighter Antonio E. Jones, c/o Augusta Fire Department, 3117 Deans Bridge Road, Augusta, GA 30906.
Tribute is being paid to Firefighter Antonio E. Jones at
To date, 14 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2011; 12 from incidents that occurred in 2011 and two from a previous year’s incident.  Year-to-date monthly and annual USFA firefighter fatality reports are posted online @

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Silent Service

Americans are addicted to TV. At any time day or night millions of Americans are tuned in to be entertained and/or informed. Millions more are wired into the internet 24/7 through twitter, Facebook, and other social media. These two outlets provide the vast numbers of americans with the information they use to form options about the world araound them. What does this have to do with the fire service you ask? Simple, really. We have fallen behind. Missed the bus. We've been left in the dust. With the exception of a few forward thinking departments the fire service use of the internet has been to share information amongste its members primarily and the public is a distant second. Locally the use of the internet and TV by the fire service to not only inform the public is nearly nonexistent. We are the silent service. Quietly going about our jobs while the public and its opinion is informationally ignored. How many citizens really know what they are paying for? How many know the issues that face the modern fire service? How many care? Its our fault. The tools have been provides but we choose not to utilize them and insulate ourselves from the public unless we actually have to interact with them. Why? We should be taking a proactive approach to our citizens safety with weekly PSA announcements on local TV stations and social media. Providing up to date information on working incidents not only allows citizens to avoid those areas effected (the flip side is that some will be drawn to incidents ) it also provides citizens with the knowledge that their Fire Department is working. Training to provide a new or enhanced service such as technical rescue or advanced life support to your citizens? Announced it. Informing your citizens is the only way to keep them in the loop and the only way to ensure that when tough budget decisions have to be made citizens will demand that their fire department be funded to the level that they demand. Its time we stop being the silent service. It's time for us to heard.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Staffing and Expectations

It would seem that today's leaders in the fire service would have a better grasp on staffing than in years past. Today the fire service is blessed with irrefutable scientific evidence, provided by NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) that adequate staffing and timely response by fire companies make a significant difference in the outcome of structure fires. NIST has just finished a study on EMS staffing and provider level on patient outcome. Their report is expected to be released later this "year, initial findings show that again that staffing matters. Staffing and company distribution are key factors in a successful fire suppression plan. Unfortunately many "leaders" in the fire service either unknowingly or willfully mislead the public into thinking that the Fire Department is providing adequate service with inadequate staffing and/or "browned out" fairs companies. Citizens have a right to know that when a company is closed or staffing is inadequate then efficiency can fall as much as 22%. This translates into longer times before the fire is extinguished and victims are found and removed. The current state of the economy has effected nearly all of America and we are having to make some hard choices. The expetations of the citizenry must be matched with the funding levels provided to the fire department. Fire Chiefs should make it clear that inadequately staffed fire companies or companies that are out of service to save money will cost citizens more property loss and poswsibly there lives.
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

And We're OFF!!!!

Why in God's name did I start this blog.  I've committed myself to another project that will either demand too much of my time (success) or that I will ultimately quite updating (failure).  I'm hoping for success myself, but that's just me.  A gluten for punishment.  I've struggled for some type of idealistic first blog, one that would stand out and let the world know who I am.  Then it occurred to me, I might as well jump in feet first.  So on that note and with a Happy New Year! Here we go.

2011 looks to be a year full of trials and tribulations for the fire service in general and the Augusta Fire Department in particular.  The economy doesn't look to be recovering anytime soon and the continued leadership problems plague a once proud department.  The economy is forcing more furloughs on all employees for 2011. This includes two 24 hour shifts for fire fighter's.  The county has been benevolent though, they have decided to spread the pain throughout the year with what amounts to a 1 1/2% pay reduction from February to December.  This is simply the cherry on top for what has been a demoralizing and stressful year at the AFD.  It seems as though the AFD or more accurately its fire fighters have become the favorite whipping boy of many in the county.  2011 looks to bring physicals (a good thing) and some type of yet to be shared physical agility test for incumbent fire fighters.  I don't mind the physicals, they are a good thing, and could care less about the agility test.  It irks me that no other department is being singled out for this, just the FD.  Aren't we part of public safety, doesn't public safety include the RCSD, the marshal's department, corrections, and the airport FD?  I'm pretty sure it does.  I mean they get the same retirement benefits as we do, the get the same public safety raises as we do (which to be fair was only 6 years ago).  So where are their physicals?  Where are their agility test?  Why isn't anyone crying about how they need to be in shape?  Oh, and why the HELL isn't our fire chief asking these questions?  And on that note, why isn't he answering ours?  Pay reductions and furloughs are simply adding to the weight that is dragging the department down.  Morale is at a record low,  communications between the administration and suppression is non-existent, apathy is running amok, a pay disparity within and among the ranks, and the complete and utter lack of leadership is killing us. The FD is truly experiencing "the death of a thousand cuts"  We will be bled dry before too long. 

Many times I myself criticize people for bitching about problems but when asked for solutions they stare at you closed mouth with wide eyes like you slapped them.  Coming up with a solution didnt' even cross their mind. In the interest of not being one of those people I have a list of suggestions to fix some of the many problems.

1.  The local aka "the union" needs to do a better job of communicating with its members, the news media, and the public about the problems and present solutions to these problems.  In the very least we (yes, I am a member) need to do a better job of actually being involved in our local.

2.  The entire county should be placed under the "fire tax"  as it currently stand the "county" residence pay for approx. 75% of the fire protection budget, the "urban" or old city contributes 25%.  The cities contribution is also the portion of money that the county administrator can withhold in order to off set budget shortfalls elsewhere.  A fire protection district that encompasses the entire county would be fair and equitable for all citizens and provide a revenue steam that would be untouchable by the administrator.  The fire department operates within its means, why can't other departments.

3.  Clean out that snake pit of an administration.  I don't care how.  I don't care why.  The majority of the problems facing the fire department can be traced right back to administration.  Clean house and start over.  Get somebody in their working for the department and not themselves for a change.

4.  Fix the pay.  I'm not looking to become rich on this job but the pay disparity is become obscene.  I don't understand how a firefighter can make more than a driver, a driver more than a lieutenant, or a lieutenant more than a captain.  Each rank has inherently more responsibility than the last, yet the pay doesn't bear this out.  I know that this an expensive fix but it needs to be fixed.  Instead of trying to fix it all at once, do it bit by bit.  Maybe a 2-3% a year until its corrected.  Might take awhile but at least its progress.

5.  Leaders.  We need them, we have to find them.  We have to create an atmosphere were leadership is cultivated and allowed to grow.  It seems now that as soon as its found its beaten down in order to maintain the status quo.  We have to change that way of thinking.

Well my first blog is done.  It wasn't terribly difficult.  I hope that if you take the time out to read this that you find it informative.