DiscoverCode 3 - The Firefighters' Podcast
Code 3 - The Firefighters' Podcast
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Code 3 - The Firefighters' Podcast

Author: Scott Orr

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The podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, in about 20 minutes, through interviews with those who know it best. From Chiefs to Probies, Engineers to Firefighters, and Paramedics to EMTs, award-winning journalist Scott Orr talks with them all.
338 Episodes
How fit are you?If you’re newer to the fire service, say two or three years in, you’re probably still in reasonably good shape. After all, you had to meet minimum standards at the fire academy.But unless you’ve kept up with the physical fitness regimen, you may be getting a little soft around the middle.Or losing endurance.My guest today says it’s time to do something about that.Aaron Zamzow is a firefighter/training officer at the Madison, Wisconsin, Fire Department. He has 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer, for athletes and others. He created Fire Rescue Fitness and lectures everywhere. And he has a podcast, too, called Better Every Shift, on
On this episode, we’re talking with Phil Jose, the expert on reading smoke.As you may know—and as Phil likes to remind us—smoke is fuel.In most cases, it’s just waiting for the right conditions to ignite.We’ll discuss how to keep that from happening. Also on the agenda is a little talk about the relative merits of vertical ventilation. When do you go to the roof and start opening it up? It’s all about coordination.And finally, we’ll talk about when it’s time to change how things are done on your fireground.Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?Phil Jose retired from Seattle Fire Department as the Deputy Chief of Operations/Shift Commander after 31 years of service. He’s had the opportunity to work in the training division as a Lieutenant, Captain, and Deputy Chief. Phil is a popular seminar speaker around the country, a published author, and he also runs Ignition Point Training.
We’ve talked several times on this show about PTSD and its effects on firefighters. It’s a serious problem, one that affects nearly 40 percent of first responders.On this edition of Code 3, we’re going to talk about a documentary available on YouTube that brings the problem home in a very impactful way.It's titled, “The Call We Carry: Confronting PTSD in the Fire Service.” It’s quite a good documentary, packing a lot into just over an hour of screen time, and winning some prestigious film festival awards.The film was produced and directed by firefighter-paramedic Cody Shea. He’s been with the Tacoma, Washington Fire Department since 2018.
This week, we’re going to make some people angry.We’re talking structure fires, risk, and SLICE-RS.If you’re a probie, that’s an acronym for Size-up, Locate the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish, Rescue and Salvage at any time in the process.Today’s guest says that, by following those steps in that order, you’ll have a less risky fireground.But what about those who advocate for RECEO-VS? That’s Rescue, Exposure, Confine, Extinguish, Overhaul and Ventilate, Salvage.That puts “rescue” first, which, while it may not be as safe for the firefighter, suggests that saving lives is the priority in a structure fire.But can using SLICE-RS result in more lives saved? How is that possible?I’ll ask that of Robert Avsec.He retired as a Battalion Chief with the Chesterfield, Virginia Fire & EMS Department after 26 years of service. He’s instructed fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, including 10 years with the National Fire Academy. He writes a blog and is a published author.
Today’s subject may make you uncomfortable. If it does, that’s not a bad thing—so stick with me. You could save your own career.I am talking about harassment in the fire service, both sexual harassment and other types.Now, look, you know and I know that it goes on. And you know and I know that there have been so-called “sensitivity training” seminars. We also know that they usually aren't well received. Go ahead, admit it. You snickered—or groaned—the last time word came down that there was one you had to attend.And by the way, if your department or house doesn't have these problems, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean they’ve been extinguished. Harassment still goes on.My guest on this edition knows all that, too. She’s here to talk about how strong leadership can help eliminate it.Linda Willing is one of our favorite returning guests here on Code 3.She’s a retired career fire officer from the Boulder, Colorado Fire Department, who consults with emergency services agencies and other companies through her company, RealWorld Training and Consulting. She’s also a published author and instructs at the National Fire Academy.
The fire service is often called a brotherhood…or a sisterhood, these days. But how strong is that bond, really? One of the best places to see the strength of the brotherhood in action is when tragedy occurs. A mayday call on the fireground results in heroic efforts…and, if those efforts should fail…then the observances for a line-of-duty-death are truly heartwarming.But what about the rest of the time? When things are routine, how’s your family doing?My guest today says the brotherhood these days may need some work. John Cuomo has nearly three decades in the fire service. He’s worked just about every position you can have in the job. He also served as pension representative for a police and firefighter pension fund for 10 years.He's also written a book, titled "Leadership Refined by Fire".
There’s a lot of talk in the fire service about the culture. It’s important, which you already know. It’s even celebrated in many cities.But one thing that’s more dependent on the culture of your department than you might think is recruiting.This is especially important if you need to recruit volunteers.Luckily, it’s possible to build the culture you want to see, if you address the issue specifically.My guest today has some ideas on teambuilding by developing a positive culture. Jason Caughey is the fire chief at Laramie County Fire District #2 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He’s also been the fire chief of Gore Hill Fire Rescue in Great Falls, Montana.
Large-city fire departments with multiple PIOs have been showcasing their activities on social media for some time. If you have enough people, it’s no problem.But what if you want to try to engage the community without those resources?Social media can be a direct link with the customers your department serves, so it’s a no-brainer that you’d like to be all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and all the others. Even podcasts.Not to mention that your message can be sent the way you want—not filtered through the editors and reporters of your local news providers.How do you do it?My two guests today come from the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, or CAFMA. It’s medium-small career department, covering several small cities and a lot of rural area, populated by about 106,000 residents. They do it with 10 full-time stations and 2 reserve stations.And NO full-time PIO. et CAFMA’s social media program is impressive. And I’m saying this as someone who has seen the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s social media program at work.My guests today are here to explain how they do it.We're talking with CAFMA Chief Scott Freitag, an old friend of Code 3, and Kathy Goodman, Scott’s Community Relations Coordinator, who is the driving force behind this social media campaign.
Just about every area served by fire departments includes a large warehouse or two. If you drive by it, I am sure you wonder how well your department would deal with a fire inside it.But in the last few years, truly massive warehouses have started to appear. These monsters aren’t measured in square feet, they're measured in acres of land covered.If anything—from a fire to a natural disaster—brings you to one of them, your department may well be unable to deal with the situation.That’s why today’s guest says you must prepare well in advance for a mega-warehouse fire.Steve Lohr is the fire chief in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 2014, he retired as chief of the Montgomery County, Maryland Fire-Rescue Department after a 30-year career.
Earlier this month, about 400 members of the fire service-from more than 20 states—got together for the Phoenix Firefighters Symposium.They were gathered to hear about Mrs. Smith.Back in 1996, Chief Brunacini—Bruno, to his friends—came up with the idea of Mrs. Smith. She represents why the fire service exists—she’s the first priority for firefighters, the customer they serve. She stands for all the people who call for any kind of help from the fire department.Bruno left us in 2017, but Mrs. Smith remains as his legacy, with her influence growing. As each class of recruits is taught to remember her, and more members of other departments hear about what she stands for, they carry the message of customer service nationwide.So what was the big deal about this two-day event? It was-and is—about just what the Symposium’s slogan says: Taking Care of Mrs. Smith.
If you do enough training evolutions, you will inevitably come up against a trick scenario.You know, the ones where the instructors design something totally implausible into the scenario.They usually fool the firefighters doing the training…and then that allows the instructor to say something that seems wise.Like, “expect the unexpected.”Sometimes, they’ll simply judge a specific thing with undue emphasis. Like always using a stopwatch, no matter the circumstances.Why shouldn’t instructors use these kinds of tactics? Today’s guest explains what can happen when they do. And why they don’t end up with the real-world results the trainers want to see.Doug Cupp is the fire chief at the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District in Colorado. His company, Doug Cupp and Associates, delivers courses based on his research on critical decision-making, leading to crisis and human error. Doug holds a master’s degree in Emergency Management and Fire and Emergency Services Management.
As a firefighter, you have probably developed some strong opinions on at least a few topics.Some people call them “the hill you’re willing to die on.” But no matter what you call them, you need to pick your battles when it comes to spouting off about these points of view.My guest today wrote an article about his experiences fighting the smooth bore vs. fog nozzle debate. He finally realized, years later, that he wasn’t going to change peoples’ minds, and, more importantly, he didn’t need to. Water will get on the fire either way.That’s when he decided to start thinking about issues that do have an impact, things that should maybe be changed for a good reason.Philip Clark works as a full-time firefighter with the Lincolnton, North Carolina Fire Department. Phil joined the fire service in 2002 as a volunteer and has worked for several volunteer and combination departments since then. He lives in Dallas, North Carolina, and is a captain for the Town of Dallas Fire Department. 
We’re getting close to the end of another year, and this one, like the last few, seems to have been pretty difficult in a lot of ways.Things are looking a little murky as we try to see the future of the fire service.Of course, firefighters in general can be just a bit pessimistic. But is it justified?That’s why I’ve asked today’s guest to give us some insight into next year. I figure, if we have an idea of what’s coming, we can be better prepared for it.Dr. Randall W. Hanifen is an assistant chief of operations for West Chester, Ohio, Fire. He’s also an associate professor at the American Public University’s Emergency Management program, and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati.He's CEO of Hanifen & Associates, a national fire service consulting company.
Do you detect a lack of willingness among your firefighters to take risks? Have company officers –or your department policy—made “2-in-2-out” a hard-and-fast rule? Are they lacking passion for the job? Today’s guest has been noticing that trend, and he’s concerned. Now, let’s be clear: no one is advocating that firefighters freelance or even take uncalculated or foolhardy risks. But whether it’s making entry at a partially-involved structure fire or treating a COVID patient, he’s more than a little concerned that risk-taking is not something firefighters are prepared to do. And, he points out, that’s why you took the oath in the first place, right? Steve Prziborowski has more than 30 years of fire service experience. He’s a retired deputy chief of training for the Santa Clara County Fire Department in CA. He runs Code 3 Fire Training and Education. (No relation to this podcast.) He has written and been a part of articles, podcasts, videos, blogs and published four career development books, with a fifth on the way.
If you’ve been listening to this show for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I talk a lot about realistic training. It’s because there are fewer actual structure fires these days for younger firefighters to see first-hand. That means they need to learn both skills and understanding in training. And to absorb the concepts well enough that it doesn't take thought to do them. They become automatic. So you do it over and over. Because it may take a couple of dozen reps to build muscle memory. A firefighter who is struggling with the ladder is not paying attention to the conditions around him or her. My guest today is an expert on training and the difference between performance and understanding. Fred Kauser is the chief of the Mifflin Township, Ohio, Division of Fire. He runs a career department with 100 members. Mifflin Fire responds to about 11,000 incidents a year. He has a PhD and teaches various topics related to firefighting.
Today’s episode is going to be a little different. It’s a look back at a major learning event in a firefighter’s career. But, as you’ll hear, the lessons taught weren’t necessarily clear. And years later, the firefighter involved is still trying to sort out all of what she should take from the experience. It's not cut-and-dried by any means. But it’s worth hearing about, no matter how long you’ve been a member of the fire service. Returning to Code 3 to tell her story is Kaci Corrigan. She’s a battalion chief at a department in Northwest Pierce County, Washington. She’s also an instructor with First Due Training in Washington State, as well as an adjunct instructor with Fire By Trade.
No matter how large—or small—your fire department may be, it has one house that’s just not as busy as the others. Sometimes, that house is really slow. And it may feel like you’re missing all the action if you’re assigned to it. If you’re new to the fire service career, you may wonder if you’ll ever go on a structure fire run. If you’re an officer, you might worry that your career is stalled. But there are some things to consider before you decide that it’s hopeless. My guest today says being assigned to that station can be like “being sent to Siberia.” Linda Willing has been on Code 3 before. She’s a retired career fire officer. She owns RealWorld Training and Consulting, which works with emergency service agencies. She is also an adjunct instructor and curriculum advisor for the National Fire Academy, and has written a book, titled On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories.
On this show, we’re going to explore some of the unique experiences of a firefighter who is in the minority on two fronts: She’s a woman and she’s Black. Jennifer Osborne is a 16-year veteran of the Clark County, Nevada, Fire Department. They cover an area in and around Las Vegas. She first became a paramedic in Colorado in 1999 before heading to the fire academy. So she’s been around long enough to have gained some perspective on what it’s like to be in a very small minority…in fact, she was just the third black female firefighter in her current department when she finished the academy. Jennifer has enjoyed her career—she’s an engineer now—but, as you might expect, there have been a few struggles along the way.
If you’re about to promote to company officer, this show is for you. Most firefighters want to move up and take charge of the crew. It’s natural to assume you could do it better, right? And there’s the pay bump. But once you pass the test and are selected, you may find it’s a whole different ballgame than you thought. Especially these days, there isn’t a whole lot of fireground commanding involved in being a company officer.It’s a good dose of administrative work punctuated by training evolutions and then…then…you need to be ready for the structure fire when it happens. My guest today is here to discuss what he’s learned about what it is to be a company officer. Jacob Johnson is a returning guest to Code 3. He’s an assistant chief for the city of Pearland, Texas Fire Department. He over has two decades in the fire service.
I started out today’s interview intending to talk about the conflict between fire officers and lower-ranked—but certified--paramedics. It wasn’t long before I got caught up in a discussion about the “state of the Union” of Fire vs. EMS. It’s a hot button issue, for sure.My guest on this edition of Code 3, Wes Ward, says there’s a “ridiculous gap” between the two, one that’s totally unnecessary. And if you don’t know him, Wes has been a battalion chief serving as the director of EMS for Center Point Fire District in Alabama. Before that, he was a fire captain at Birmingham Fire and Rescue. So, yes, he’s been on both sides of the divide, and he believes there shouldn’t even be a divide between Fire and EMS.
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