Archive for June 6th, 2016

What is a first responder …

Isn’t it about time to educate the public and the media about … a commentary that is near and dear to the admin

Excerpts from

The term first responder was born out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was coined for very good reasons.

First, it was hard to be all-inclusive when reporting on the hundreds of firefighters, paramedics, and police officers who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. While we remember the over 3,000 who died that day, we also have to remember that the safe evacuation of over 20,000 workers in the World Trade Center was by far the largest successful rescue operation ever undertaken by the fire service.

It was also hard to express the diversity in the rank structure of those killed — literally from a deputy fire commissioner and the chief of the department down to probationary firefighters, with no rank left unscathed. There were also police officers killed from multiple agencies: the NYPD, the Port Authority, and the Transit Police all suffered losses.

Finally, it was also difficult to try to remember, let alone name, all the local, state, and federal agencies that came to assist in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa.

Hence the first responder was used as a badge of honor for all of those who slugged it out under extremely difficult conditions to rescue, treat the injured, and to recover those murdered on that day.

My objection to the continued use of first responder comes from my belief that it has been hijacked by some and grossly misused by others. The most glaring of this misuse comes from the media and from some public officials.

On the media
Many who work the media were in elementary school when the attacks of 9/11 occurred. Too young to really comprehend what happened that day, their recollection is mostly what they have seen from the collection of videos and photos that are archived where the term first responder is used.

Many of those reporters are now employed in small- to medium-media markets, and their goal is often to use their current position as a stepping stone to a much larger media market. So they fail to take the time to learn the diverse responsibilities of their local fire, EMS, or law enforcement at scene of an emergency.

Hence they use the all-encompassing first responder term as a catch all.

Also, the combination of two recessions since 9/11 and the disruptive force the internet had on the publishing industry’s business model left many newsrooms woefully understaffed. And those fewer reporters and editors were and are working against a growing demand for 24-hour news.

But a bit more ominous are those reporters who use the term as a cover for their reporting certain items as fact when they haven’t been verified either in writing or by two independent sources.

Use of first responder also covers their virtual lack of understanding of which agency was in charge or would have the responsibility for mitigation of the incident.

Agency having responsibility
Some local, state, and even worse, federal officials, are equally clueless in their understanding as to who is in charge and who is assuming a support role at critical incidents.

Look at the press conference held after the next big emergency and see who is there standing behind the speaker or who is identified as part of the response team. Is the fire chief among them? Is he or she dressed so to be singled out as the fire chief — in turnout gear or an appropriate uniform designating their authority?

Chances are the mayor, governor, or federal bureaucrat will also use first responders in their comments because they weren’t there in the early hours of the incident and neither realize, nor in some cases care, who did what to mitigate the pain and suffering.

For example, they missed seeing the firefighter/paramedics who slogged it out in the trenches — extricating then triaging and treating victims, before transporting them to an appropriate medical facility while using a mass-casualty protocol that keeps track of the injured or dead and where they can be found.

And too often they also don’t realize the roles of our co-workers in law enforcement are to first secure the perimeter, keeping out unauthorized people, and then begin their criminal investigation after the victims have been handled.

First responder blurs the line in these responses and has almost taken on an air of political correctness that discredits both of our noble professions.

Facts be damned 
Most recently, however, I’m really annoyed at the Hollywood-style recruitment advertising used by the National Guard. Don’t get me wrong, the Guard has a strong supporting role in natural disasters, civil emergencies, and when federalized, our military.

But they are not firefighters or police officers.

The ad that specifically annoys me is where a new guardsman talks about going to her first call-out as a member of the Guard. The ad focuses on a forest fire while the guardsmen don regular firefighting turnout gear and ride up to fire lines inside a 2½-ton military transport truck.

Now let’s stop a second at what this ad is inferring.

First, they are incorrectly using structural firefighting gear, giving the impression they have the same training as most of us. Second, they imply anyone can fight a forest fire.

And third, they mention nothing about the hours of advanced training that a forestry firefighter must take, including an annual recertification, to maintain their Red Card. And that just gets someone to a base camp, let alone to the fire line.

Corrective action
The fact is this ad is a blatant distortion that anyone, including the National Guard, is a first responder. The ad screams how badly the term first responder has been corrupted.

What’s the solution?

It’s time that both the fire service and law enforcement politely remind our civilians, media representatives, and public officials that we are the thin blue line that separates order from chaos on a day-to-day basis.

We need to remind them that we both have different roles but are part of the same team that protects our community from mayhem — and that while separate and distinct, virtually one cannot exist without the other.

Next time someone uses the cavalier term first responder to describe what you do, kindly but firmly ask them to nix that term and remind them who does what on the incident scene and how they should take the time to learn what it takes to fill your shoes.

thanks Drew

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Carpentersville Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Fire Chief John Schilling, Cedar Falls’ (WI IA) fire chief since January 2009, is resigning effective June 23 to become fire chief in Carpentersville, Ill., a city of almost 37,000 people in Kane County.

“He’s been a good fire chief, and we hate to see him leave,” said Public Safety Director Jeff Olson, also the city’s police chief. He noted Schilling has been extensively involved in an overhaul of Black Hawk County’s public safety radio communication system.

Schilling, with nearly 30 years in the fire safety profession, came to Cedar Falls from Ankeny, where he had worked for a decade as deputy chief and interim chief for a time. He had previously worked eight years as a lieutenant in the Eufala Fire Department in Eufala, Ala.

thanks Dan

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Peoria Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

The turf war between Advanced Medical Transport Inc. of Central Illinois and the Peoria Fire Department, dormant for many years, could be heating up again.

Nearly a decade ago, the two sparred over which entity would provide paramedic service and patient transport within the city limits. AMT reached an agreement with the city in which it was to pay $85,000, adjusted annually for inflation, for exclusive patient transport in Peoria. The agreement was modified in 2009 to allow the fire department to have three advanced life support engines.

Now the department wants a fourth ALS engine for House 19 on the city’s northwestern edge, which is near the new Louisville Slugger complex and The Shoppes at Grand Prairie. The cost is about $5,000. But [some] say … Peoria is fine with the services it has now.

Both Peoria Fire Chief Charles Lauss and Rick Waldron, president of Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50, said this is not an attempt to replace AMT

We have an agreement in place. … We cannot get into transport. There is a five-year notice that the Peoria Fire Department has to give to AMT to say we are getting into transport. We want to enhance our services and enhance what we are giving our community,” Lauss said.

Peoria firefighters can provide basic life support, and at present, only the three paramedics assigned to the ALS engines and AMT are at the ALS level. The union and the chief think adding a fourth ALS engine is a benefit for everyone and actually strengthens the relationship with AMT.

“We believe it is the best service possible for our citizens. It comes down to whether we get there first or AMT. As long as we get a medic there, that’s what counts,” said Waldron, who is a firefighter-paramedic.

But officials from AMT, a not-for-profit company that has provided ambulance service to the Peoria area for years, disagree. They say having too many paramedics can actually degrade services as there simply isn’t enough work to keep everyone proficient.

“Doing the best for the community isn’t doing everything, it’s doing the right things,” said Andrew Rand, AMT’s executive director.

He and others at AMT point to two letters written by the head of the Peoria Area Emergency Medical Services system last year addressing the so-called saturation of paramedics.

“Peoria currently has a paramedic saturation level of around 6.4 paramedics per 10,000 population, which is much higher than many other cities in the United States,” wrote Dr. Matthew Jackson last July in a letter to former Fire Chief Kent Tomblin. “It has been well studied and documented that increased paramedic saturation can actually lead to overall worse patient outcomes in key clinical situations such as cardiac arrest. The reasons for this primarily revolve around skills and knowledge degradation due to dilution of experience.”

Lauss disagrees and said the department’s 40-odd paramedics are well-trained.

“Our paramedics are getting all the training hours and the exposure that is required, for one thing. And even beyond that, a lot of these guys work for other agencies on their off days so they can practice some of those skills,” he said.


The request is pending before the PAEMS director and, after that, the City Council will likely take the idea up at a future meeting.

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Worth Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa:

Remembering the Worth Fire Department.  This is a 1978 Hendrickson/Pirsch 1500/500.  Engine #6703.  Just wanted to share,
Thank you,
Mike S.
Worth Fire Department Hendrickson Pirsch fire engine

Remembering the Worth Fire Department. This is a 1978 Hendrickson/Pirsch 1500/500. Engine #6703. Mike Summa photo

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