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

Author: Scott Orr

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The weekly podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, 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. Show notes at
253 Episodes
Practically every study – not to mention common sense – says the fastest way to get a fire out is to get water on the seat of the fire. Modern day fires that burn hotter and faster demand the ability to rapidly select, deploy, advance, and start flowing handlines. What’s the best way to get that speed? My guest today will be talking about The Engine Company’s Need for Speed at Firehouse World 2020. Jonathan Hall is a captain with the St. Paul, Minnesota Fire Department. He’s been in the fire service for 20 years and serves as a lead instructor in the department's Training Division. He’s the co-owner of Make the Move Training, and teaches Engine Company operations around the country.
By now, it seems like just about every fire department has at least one thermal imaging camera. They’ve become a valuable tool. The trick, of course, is to be able to interpret correctly what the TIC is showing you. To be able to do that, you need to train with the TIC, matching an understanding of what a TIC does with experience reading it. Today’s guest writes extensively on how to use thermal imaging equipment, as well as what it can and can’t do. Manfred Kihn is a 19-year veteran of the fire service. He’s served as a firefighter, captain, and fire chief as well as an ambulance officer. He has been a member of Bullard’s Emergency Responder team since 2005. Manfred is the company’s fire training specialist for thermal imaging technology. He is certified through the Law Enforcement Thermographers’ Association as a thermal imaging instructor and is a recipient of the Ontario Medal for Firefighters Bravery.
Truck company operations are an important part of fireground operations, even when you don’t have a dedicated truck company available. That’s why, whether you’re a truckie or not, you need a thorough knowledge of truck company operations, tools, and equipment. This show's guest will be presenting at Firehouse World 2020 in Las Vegas on the topic of Top Tips for Effective Truck Company Operations. Sean Eagen is a 20-year veteran of the fire service. He’s a captain with the Buffalo, New York, Fire Department. He is also a part-time instructor for the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control Special Operations Branch.
The ultimate in mutual aid has got to be the assist Australians are getting from US firefighters. These are wildland fires on a massive scale: more than 25 million acres have burned in fires that have raged since September. Thirty-one people—including seven firefighters – have been killed. Thousands of homes have been lost. Those statistics describe a fire the likes of which the US has never seen. And even though the weather has cooperated with heavy rains, it still hasn’t been enough. But about 240 US firefighters have travelled to Australia to lend a hand in the past weeks. It’s a unique experience, from the landscape to the fuels involved … to the culture shock. My guest today, by phone from Australia, is among the US firefighters currently in-country. Rick Young is in his 30th fire season for both the Forest Service and National Park Service. He’s a Type 1 Incident Commander for California Interagency Incident Management Team 5. And he’s the Deputy Interagency Fire Chief of Operations for Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National Park.
The two things firefighters hate the most are change-and the way things are now. You’ve heard that quote from Alan Brunacini before. But it’s still true and will remain true as long as there’s a fire service. Because this profession is so steeped in tradition, it’s hard to accept some of the changes that have come along. The helmet debate is just one of them- and it’s still raging. Yet, no one really argues in favor of the old-style rubber hip boots. And a lot of firefighters would like to be able to keep their turnouts grimy-it’s a badge of honor. But now, some departments don’t even put on their clean turnouts until they arrive at the scene. Here to reminisce—and talk about the positive changes we’ve seen—is Daniel Shoffner. Daniel is the PIO and strategic initiatives manager for the Burlington, North Carolina, Fire Department. With 25 years’ experience in the fire service, he’s also a volunteer with the Mt. Hope Community Fire Department in Guilford County, North Carolina. There, he follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were charter members. He has served with several other fire and EMS organizations in North Carolina, as well. He’s also on the faculty of the Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services Departments of Guilford Technical Community College.
Firefighters are well aware of the pain of PTSD. They’re also often familiar with the stigma that comes with it.We’ve talked about PTSD and the stigma that comes with it on this show before. It’s maybe twice as hard to endure when the firefighter suffering from it is a woman. PTSD has been seen as a sign of weakness, and, to some degree, it still is. The judgment can even come from firefighters who are experiencing PTSD themselves. Today’s guest is a woman who left the fire service after she experienced severe PTSD. She even considered suicide as a solution. Christy Warren is a retired Captain from the Berkeley, California Fire Department. She has 25 years of service as a paramedic, with 17 years as a firefighter. She was diagnosed with PTSD in May of 2014. Now, Christy serves as a peer at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat.
By now, most departments have adopted social media in some form. Here in LA, as in many larger cities, Twitter is a great resource to learn where agencies are responding to various emergencies, 24/7. In fact, in many cases, Twitter and other platforms have taken the place of press releases. That came about as news outlets realized that official social media accounts gave them much faster access to details than even a phone call. So—are you using social media to its fullest? Maybe you’re on Twitter and Facebook, but what about Instagram? Here with some suggestion on how to best use these platforms is Rob Reardon. Rob is a captain and PIO with the Duxbury, Massachusetts Fire Department, where he has worked for the past 17 years. He is an EFO and a CFO graduate. He’s also PIO for several other agencies. Before he joined the fire service, Rob worked for 10 years at television stations and major newspapers as an award-winning photographer.
When you arrive on scene of a medical emergency, do you talk with the patient? Sure you do. In fact, if you’re still fairly new at EMS, you likely practically interrogate them. Questions like, “When was your last oral intake?” or “What were your events leading up to this incident?”…are laughable, when heard outside a run.How about, “When did you last have something to eat or drink?” or “What happened just before you passed out?” A real conversation will get you farther faster than trying to act like a doctor—who, if he has experience, knows better anyway. Here to explain some of the things we can learn from just talking to a patient is Tim Nowak. Tim’s the founder and CEO of Emergency Medical Solutions, LLC, an EMS training and consulting company. He's been involved in EMS and emergency services since 2002, and has worked as an EMT, paramedic and critical care paramedic. He’s also been involved as an EMS educator, firefighter and HazMat technician throughout his career.
Firefighting has always been about survival. But now, we are recognizing that fire isn’t the only danger. Whether it’s occupational cancer, cardiovascular events, or behavioral health injuries, the threats are constant. A new book, Surviving the Fire Service, contains information about cancer, cardiovascular risk, medical exams and screening, nutrition, managing heat stress, and a whole lot more. It explains how to manage and reduce risks in the fire service. Here to tell us more is Todd LeDuc, the editor of Surviving the Fire Service. Todd LeDuc retired as assistant fire chief for Broward County Florida Fire/Rescue after a 30-year career. Todd is the Chief Strategy Officer at Life Scan Wellness Centers. Life Scam provides NFPA 1582 compliant early detection physicals to some 35,000 firefighters and law enforcement officers. He’s also Secretary of the IAFC's Safety, Health & Survival Section.
This edition of Code 3 may make you a little uncomfortable. It’s about racial bias among EMS providers. And while that bias may be unconscious, it affects patients all the same. My guest today led a comprehensive study of nearly 26,000 EMS encounters in Oregon over two years. The results are disturbing. The data showed that medics were less likely to do a pain assessment on Hispanic and Asian patients than whites. It also found that black patients were 40 percent less likely to be given pain meds. What’s going on here? Certainly, no medic goes on a run thinking that a minority patient’s going to get different treatment. Jamie Kennel is the director of the Paramedic Program, a joint program between Oregon Health and Science University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology, where he’s an associate professor. He’s also a co-founder of Healthcare Equity Group – they help EMS organizations improve the equity of their care.
Okay, here’s an idea that’s guaranteed to divide opinions: The Cosumnes Fire District, near Sacramento, California, is using virtual reality technology to train firefighters for structure fires. Officials say the VR goggles are a cost-effective way to train on a variety of scenarios that would otherwise be expensive to create. The company that makes the system is loaning it to the fire district for evaluation. I have a lot of questions and I’m sure you do, too. Today, I’m talking with Cosumnes Fire District Battalion Chief Rick Clarke about what he thinks of the idea so far.
Lots of departments require you to be a paramedic as well as a firefighter, but that can lead to conflict. In some departments, this cross training means firefighters are assigned to ambulances. Many of them end up wanting to get out of otherwise excellent work environments because they don’t want to deal with an EMS role as their primary job. How you view this situation is largely a matter of attitude, of course. Ben Thompson wrote an article on firefighting from an ambulance a while back for He’s a lieutenant for the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service. He’s been the coordinator of the department’s mobile integrated health program, Birmingham Fire and Rescue C.A.R.E.S., since 2016.
After many years of being called “firefighters”, there is a small but persistent group pushing back. They want to be called “firemen” again. Perhaps surprisingly, some of those people are women. They also want to be called firemen. It comes from an attitude that says women should strive to be a part of the team, not to ask that the team change for them. Also important here is a feeling that, in past years, women in the fire service have been excessively accommodated…that they’ve been given unnecessary special treatment. Today’s guest says women in firefighting should not expect nor be given any specific accommodations just because they’re female. Got your attention? Let me introduce you to Alexis Shady.She’s a fireman—not firefighter—and EMT with the Bellefontaine, Ohio Fire Department. She wrote an article for Fire Engineering called, “I Am the Problem.”
If you’re listening to this edition of Code 3, congratulations! You made it through the 2010s. It was a turbulent decade for first responders of all kinds. And the ride’s likely to get even more bumpy into the next decade. What were the trends that made the 2010’s a challenge..and where are we going? Greg Friese, Editor-in-chief of took a look back at the lowlights and has some predictions.
You may be a TRT specialist in your department. Or you might be a novice. Either way, you’ve probably realized that rope rescue gear has become very technical. NFPA 1983 is very specific about the details required to make rope suitable for various tasks. And then there’s NFPA 1670, and others, too. With the bewildering number of choices out there how do you pick the right rope material, or friction device, or even carabiner? Here to explain which is best for what situation is Dale Stewart. Dale owns, a company that supplies rope equipment and training to the emergency services community. He’s worked with Phoenix Fire as an instructor in their mutual aid program as a consultant for rope and water rescue since 1987.
Technical rescues are high-risk/low-frequency incidents, and that means training on them is critical. One slip, and you could have a very bad day. If you know NFPA 1006, you know the minimum KSAs are tough. But departments routinely face problems with training when they have a shortage of really good instructors, current equipment, and funding for adequate training time. Back with me on Code 3 to offer some solutions is Dalan Zartman. Dalan is a technical-rescue expert for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security. He serves as regional training program director and advisory board member at Bowling Green State University. Dalan is a member of the Central Ohio Strike Team and the Washington Township Fire Department. He’s founder and president of Rescue Methods.
One of the most important roles of a leader is to take care of their crew. That means if you’re a company officer, you need to be aware of your crew members’ emotional state.We’ve all heard that the job can lead to PTSD, and I certainly hope that you accept that. It’s proven, and it’s a fact just like falling from a ladder can cause a broken arm or leg. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to be looking for signs of emotional trauma. Then, you can take steps to help. My guest to explain how to do that is Jared Meeker. He’s a fire chief in a combination fire department in upstate New York, and has over 30 years’ experience in the fire service. He teaches incident command skills for fire officers and career survival skills for all first responders.
If you’ve listened to this show for any length of time, you know realistic training scenarios … and sometimes the lack of them … are my thing. Learning the fundamentals is always the key to later skill-building. So it’s important to get focused on training for bread-and-butter operations.. those common skills that sometimes are taken for granted. How do we develop a program that covers this ground when we’re working with multiple different generations that all learn differently? Today, we’re talking with Lt. Stephen Rhine about how to accomplish this. Steve’s been with the FDNY for 17 years. He’s also the Training Coordinator and former Captain of the Roslyn Volunteer Fire Department. He’s a certified New York State Fire Instructor and a Haz-Mat Tech Level 1. And he’s a PIO with the FDNY Incident Management Team.
If you’ve been in the fire service long enough, you probably remember when firefighters with a trade skill were highly valued. These were the guys who came into the job knowing things like engine repair, or electrical, or even plumbing. But these days, it seems those skills are not valued much anymore. Now, hiring and promotion are based largely on test scores and education. How did we get here? And is this okay? Or are we missing something? My guest to discuss this is Chad Costa. He’s a battalion chief with the City of Petaluma, California Fire Department. He has two decades in the fire service, and he’s worked in some pretty diverse situations, from a rural department to a city as well as CAL FIRE. Chad is the technology and communications battalion chief and a division group supervisor on California Interagency Team 5.
Are you an engineer? Or maybe a chauffeur? Or perhaps an MPO? Regardless of the name, if you operate the pump panel on an engine, you need to know a lot of technical stuff to be any good. And the guys on the other end of the line depend on you to know it.So how well do you know the way your apparatus operates? Many people with technical jobs are satisfied to be able to do well when everything’s working. But you don’t really earn your pay until you come through when the situation goes sideways. Here to talk about what a great engineer knows is Paul Watlington. He’s a battalion chief with the Burlington, North Carolina Fire Department.
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