Monday, July 3, 2017

"Does the United Kingdom Have the Fourth of July Too?"

The title of this blog is an old, old joke, going back in time to when I was a kid; you know, when dinosaurs still lumbered around and we rode our pet pterodactyl to get anywhere from our cave! The answer: of course England, et al, have a 4th of July. However, to them, it's just another day on the calendar. And of course, the same holds true for every society that follows the Julian calendar.

A lot of time has passed since then and many things have changed, whether we wanted them to do so or not. However, there is one singular item that stands out; its value does does change with time. Moreover, it is a precious commodity that is valuable to every single person on the face of this, "Blue Marble," no matter where they live; be it in the Arctic all the way south to and Antarctic. That item is freedom. 

As I write this entry into our blog, it is July 3. 2017, the 241st anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. As we all know, it took a bloody and fatal Revolutionary War against the British Crown to win our freedom, paid for by the death of many soldiers and civilians on both sides.

While in the good ol' US of A, tomorrow means cookouts, beer, fireworks and more beer, I've have always wondered how many of those that celebrate the holidays this way, give a thought of the price this country has paid to provide us with this precious commodity over all these years.

For me, personally, I look at it through World War II for a couple of personal reasons. First, my father served in the Army during the War and was stationed in the Pacific Theater. He was at many of the islands that are listed for intense battles, such as Iwo Jima, Kwajalein Atoll and Guadalcanal. He was not on the front-line, but the third-line. What is the "third-line?" According to him, this was the support group. Once the majority of fighting was over, these men came in to set up sleeping quarters, cooking tents, latrines, etc. My dad was a cook, which served him very well all years after the War was over, as he took over the kitchen in our home each weekend. 

Second, one of my uncles served in the European Theater, but for a very short time. He served in a tank brigade and was about to participate in the D-Day invasion. After their ship brought them to  France as close to the German lines as possible, they used the night to move close to the border. 

At dawn, the order was given and the battle was engaged. Before my uncle's tank could fire their first round, a German round hit his tank. He was blown clear out of the tank, landing quite a distance away, severely injured with broken bones and severe burns, but he survived. The same could not be said for his for his three comrades.  Medics arrived relatively "quickly" for the times and treated him as best he could. Eventually, he was air-lifted to England and then back to the States. He was my "closest" uncle in two ways; first, he and his wife, who was one of my mother's sisters, always lived very close to our family. My Dad and my uncle got along famously and no matter where we moved, they settled there, too. And I suppose it was the constant proximity and all the time the families spent together, that truly endeared him to me. His injury recovery had to be good, as we only lost him five and a half years ago, when he passed at the age of 104.

The third personal reason why I attribute freedom to World War II, is due to the Nazi regime's planned and deliberate extermination of the Jewish population of Germany, first, to be followed by every country that Germany conquered and, in Hitler's maniacal mind, the world, once the Germans would have attained world domination. While most people connect the word, "Holocaust" with the six million Jews who were put to death in one manner or another, they forget that another three million Germans were murdered due to disease and disability. They did not fit in Hitler's definition for the perfect Arian race!

And closer to home, my beloved wife's parents were both interred in concentration and work camps during the war, while many more relatives were lost to the German hate machine. So yes - I do see the sacrifice that are both our civilians and our soldiers perished or were severely injured, through World War II, but also in very battle, skirmish and war they found to give us freedom, all the way back to the Revolutionary War. 

Tomorrow, I hope you will take a moment to remember every single civilian and military militia member, soldier, sailor, flyer, marine and special forces, who lived and died so that we can continue to celebrate July 4th.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July and
 God Bless the United States of America

 Stay Safe and let's make sure that Everyone Goes Home.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reaching Out to Another First Responder

One thing is for sure - whether it's the excitement of the job or the stress of that job, firefighters know how to kick back and have a good time! If there's a call for a celebration, say a birthday, marriage, anniversary, even a promotion, if there's a party to be held, we often hold the best! So, what's the matter with that?

In general terms, nothing; it's fine. There are times though, when the stress of the job plays a heavy-handed role in how much we celebrate at the "racket." And sadly, there are those who continue to celebrate after the party is over. 

If you've been on the job for more than a few months, you may have already seen a colleague who may not have been fit for duty. Whether there are problems at home, on the job, whatever...some of us look for a way to ease the pain or let go of the stress. Some turn to alcohol, some to drugs and others find their own way. No matter what they choose, if they are under the influence, they do not belong on duty.

However, there is help available. On our next podcast on "5-Alarm Task Force", (available this weekend) you will hear Mark Lamplugh, Jr. discuss this sensitive topic. We discuss many of the issues that one first responder may face when noticing that a colleague is troubled. "Are you budding in where you don't belong?" is an important question we address, as is "How do I reach out to a friend without it looking like I'm sticking my nose in his/her business?"

Mark is not a therapist or clinician. However, he is well-experienced, recognized in  Crisis Stress Intervention through the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Mark also hosts his own radio talk show called, "Firefighter Wellness Radio," through Fire Engineering.

Here are some links that Mark wanted to make available to our readers and listeners:

1. To reach Mark directly, email him at mark@360wellness.radio. He will respond to you as quickly as possible and after speaking with you, help you find assistance within your own community.

2.Advanced Health & Education - www.advhealth.com

3. Frontline Responder Services - www.frontlinerehab.com  

On Social Media:


2. Twiiter: @ResponderTX


4. YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCgSyP7U0lVwEwCNYhKj_ow  (I hope we have that right!)


If you have any problems with these links, feel free to reach out to Mark at his email, noted above, or drop us a line at DalmatProd@Outlook.com.

As always, we welcome your comments on our podcasts.

And we thank our "partners" who help promote our podcast, "5-Alarm Task Force:"


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NEW PODCAST - EPISODE 16 6/21/2017
"Five Alarm Task Force: News & Issues for Today's First Responders"

Firefighter Chris Tobin with the St. Louis Fire Department asks if the American fire service has lost its "true grit" approach to firefighting.
Is the word "aggressive," a no-no?
Have we taken a "sit back and see" approach?
Listen to the show and let us know what you think.
5-Alarm Task Force: News & Issues for Today's First Responders 

Brought to you by our partners:
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Calling All Cars! Calling All Cars!! Where is Everybody???

If you're either over the age of 50 or an aficionado of old, black-and-white crime series and movies, you'll probably recognize the title of this blog entry. In these well-aged television programs and movies, one would hear someone on the police radio reaching out to any vehicles on the department's frequency. While it might sound somewhat comical today, its reality is all too real for the fire service and everyone involved in public safety. Here we are, well on our way into the 21st century  where we can send and receive radio signals from our satellites, billions of miles away and we still need to deal with inferior radio communications for first responders.

In his "Fire Politics" column in the June issue of FIREHOUSE(R), Kevin O'Connor (who serves as the Assistant to the General President of the IAFF) explains that the actual "creation" of the FirstNet program, is not much of a program after all. If you're a relatively young and new firefighter, you may not know that as far back as 1982, leaders of the fire and police services have been requesting, simply put, a radio band allotment, dedicated to voice and data communications for first responders. You might be thinking,"Radio band? Every one of us has a radio with our frequencies!" However, FirstNet goes further by providing interoperability between departments and agencies. Imagine, after a major incident in your response area that required numerous mutual-aid agencies, you have the ability to turn to a frequency that enables you to hear commands and other information directly from the incident commander.

Think of it this way, on 9|11, the FDNY could barely communicate with the NYPD. This led to another call to the government to build, "a national, interoperable communications network exclusively for public safety"* In 1992, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Miami-Dade County Fire-Rescue and Police units were barely able to communicate with like agencies responding from Broward, Palm Beach, and other agencies, to assist. FirstNet could have precluded those difficulties.

Mr. O'Connor goes on to explain that while the government provided certain bandwidth for the project, it is for data only, no voice. Moreover, the program will be managed, not by leaders in the fields of Public Safety, but by former "bigwigs" in the telecom industry and non-public safety executives; leaving a very small representation (sic "voice) from Public Safety officials who truly know and understand what is needed. And to add insult to injury, the bandwidth is not exclusive to Public Safety; rather it is "shared" and can be used by commercial users.

Pretty disappointing, right? Now ask the most important question, WHY? Why did this effort to provide public safety a strong radio spectrum to use on major disasters, fail? It appears that many of us were the cause. "What? Us? What did we do? I didn't do anything! I didn't do anything! Oh...I see...I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!" Too many of us did not do anything to lend our support to the effort. 

As current and former firefighters, LEO's, EMT's and Paramedics, we can no longer afford to leave issues as important as FirstNet, on the shoulders of just a few of our great leaders. We must begin to play a role in guiding public safety to its very best and most professional level that we can. Additionally, all of us, whether career, volunteer, on-call, etc., can participate.

How? Visit this link to the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. Keep abreast of what the government is doing for or to us. Be sure to read Mr. O'Connor's  "Fire Politics" column in the June issue of FIREHOUSE(R) Magazine. If you're a career firefighter and IAFF member, be sure to read and discuss the news and issues at the local, state and federal levels that effect the fire service. If you're a volunteer, you're able to interact with the Congressional Caucus mentioned above. And all of us can contact our congressional representatives and request their assistance in improving public safety for all. 

Remember - if we are unable to protect ourselves, how are we expected to protect those we are sworn to serve?

*Kevin O'Connor, "Fire Politics," FIREHOUSE Magazine, June 2017, p.18.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Where Do We Go? What To Do? - The Tragedy Call

This can be a very rewarding job. And, it can be a terrifying job, as well. There's nothing like showing children the apparatus, watching their excitement when we turn the lights on or sound the siren (hope it's a Q!). When they're excited like this, we can slip in some safety information like, "stop, drop and roll, E.D.I.T.H., etc. And when they leave, they leave with fun in their eyes and having learned some safety in their brains. However, most of us know that this is a terrifying job as well. Not in a personal sense that we fear what we do; rather, we fear what we might see and/or have to do. And this has nothing to do with being a rookie or probie, nor does it deal with our chores.  

This "fear" is rooted in what we may have to see on the job. No doubt, the two worse sights would be any death that involves a child and anyone that is found subsequent to extinguishing a fire and finding the victim complete burnt. While there is no doubt that this job would force us to come to terms with someone's passing, there is a big difference between these calls. That's why I refer to these terrible instances as, "tragedy calls." Strangely, in my short eight-year volunteer career, when my injury took me of the "line," I had dealt with both instances and sadly, a couple of times with each one.

On a normal call, when were' finished we pack up the hose, ladders, ropes, etc. and had back to the barn. Upon arrival back to our station, there's a lot of back-and-forth cajoling and boisterous story-telling. However, when returning from a "tragedy call," we return and go about our chores without the joking and boisterous chatter. And for those of us who have answered several of "tragedy calls," we may say differently, but in reality, it never hurts any less.

This one aspect of our chosen vocation or avocation can carve a very deep chasm in our personal psyche; sometimes to the point where it affects who we are as a person and of course, as an effective fire-rescue member. Yet, far too many of us who have gone through this change, have buried it deep and far away. We don't want to talk about it with anyone. Not our spouse or partner, not our chief, captains or colleagues.It sits there, eating away at us like a cancer.

In researching the material for my book, "Fish Out of Water: Two Jewish Guys in a Deep South Firehouse," I found that the term post traumatic stress disorder was first used by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. For the next five years or so, it was used to describe how many of our brave men and women who had been returning from service in the Far East, were suffering. Family members and friends were saying things like, "He's not the same as he sued to be," or "She wakes up screaming at night from nightmare she's having about a bombing in a small village."   

As I've stated above, we too have seen many terrible things. However,in 1979 one incident eventually led to how the reality of what we see can chage us. On May 25, 1979, American Airlines Flight 191, a DC-10, took off from O'Hare Airport on its flight to Los Angeles.Within minutes, it had come apart and crashed in a fireball, killing all 258 passengers, 13 crew members and 2 civilians on the ground. As one firefighter put it:
"We didn't see one body intact, just trunks, hands, arms, heads, and parts of legs. And we can't tell whether they were male or female, or whether they were adult or child, because they were all charred. Another first responder on the scene stated, "It was too hot to touch anybody and I really couldn't tell if they were men or women. Bodies were scattered all over the field." (From Wikipedia.com)


From my book:

Then on May 25, 1979, the Friday before Memorial Day, that all changed due to a single, tragic incident. American Airlines Flight 191 crashed into a trailer park just off the perimeter of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, killing all 270 passengers and crew on board and at least two individuals on the ground. The airport’s ARFF58 responded as did several local departments, such as Des Plaines. At first, they were told it was a cargo plane that had crashed, but as soon as the first responding units arrived on scene, it was clear that this has been a passenger plane.

The scene has been described as a “valley of death,” with human remains, much of it charred by the massive fireball from the fully-fueled jet. However, like most of us, with the adrenaline coursing through their systems, they quickly got down to business, initially to subdue the remaining fires and then to take stock of who and what remained.

In an article I read online, within 24 hours, several people who had been on the scene early on, began to suffer emotional disturbances. A now-retired Des Plaines firefighter who had been a lieutenant at the time, said he was alright until the next morning, when he climbed into his truck to drive to work and just sat there and cried. By Sunday and Memorial Day Monday, dozens of workers reported many symptoms.

Whether it was due to the reality of the size of the accident (it still holds the record as the most lethal U.S. aircraft accident) or the large numbers of people claiming problems, counselors were finally brought in to help anyone who felt that they were experiencing some sort of post-traumatic ramifications. Thus the reality that first responders of all types i.e. firefighters, police officers, EMT’s, paramedics, etc. have feelings too, was born. (Fish Out of Water: Two Jewish Guys in a Deep South Firehouse," 2016, Steven S. Greene)

So, we return to today. And today, beyond the tragedy calls, there are many, many more pressures on us. There are marital/relationship strains, financial, medical and social strains, all culminating in psychological changes to many of us. Sadly, many of us try to bury the pain and anguish in a deep, dark place in our minds. But it doesn't always stay there. It comes out to taunt and torture us. And sadly, it has taken its toll in both a significant rise of PTSD diagnosis and, even worse, fire-rescue suicides.

Listen, if we can do the job we do, we can find a way to deal with this personal pain and beat it before it beats us. Talk to a comrade, officer or even the chief. Seek out your religious leader. Ask to see the fire surgeon. And remember, whatever you tell the your religious leader or the fire surgeon is confidential. They cannot divulge this information without your express, written consent. 

As we watched the videos of 9|11, we watched our colleagues march into a building thet they knew for sure, that there was no way to squelch that fire and perhaps, the real possibility of not returning. But forward they went. And yes, there were some who just couldn't go. They asked a chief and received permission to stay on the ground level.

We can and should learn from their courage and bravery. There are many tasks that we cannot do alone; we must have a partner. The same is true when you feel that what's inside you pychologically speaking, is too much, Find someone you trust.

There is no reason to go it alone. Just as we're partners on the nozzle, on the truck company, on the heavy rescue, we are partners in this as well. Talk. Do not be a statistic. Every single comrade in the fire service, whether in your department ir anywhere else in this country, loves you too much to see you do anything rash.Talk Talk TAlk TALk TALK!

Stay safe and let's make sure everyone goes home.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah..."When Life Gives You Lemons,,,,"

We've all heard it dozens of times, right? From our parents and other family members, former bosses, spouses (or is that spices?) and of course, our closest of friends, who've probably never tasted a lemon in the last ten years because they're too busy drinking their frappa-lappa-miko-apo! And as tired as we are of hearing the phrase, it does have a ring of truth and the Wikis and other online files can deliver plenty of true tales. Sometimes though, you can't jump directly from the lemons to the lemonade; you just have grab the lemon and bag of sugar and move towards the new action. And that is exactly what we (Dalmatian Productions, Inc.) are doing. 

First though, a word of thanks to those of you who read this blog, follow us on Twitter (@Dalmatprod & @CAUSE_ORIGIN) and/or listen to the podcasts. Without your understanding and support, we probably would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. So please, keep it up!

Here's the story - As many of you know, we have working for over 20 years to bring a quality program about our great fire-rescue services to television. First we tried early reality TV; the days of "Rescue-911,"  "On Scene: Emergency Report," and several others. That didn't work.We tried again when "reality" grew up a little bit like, "COPS." That worked - only a little bit and only outside of the U.S. or Canada. 

"What else can we do?" we would repeatedly ask ourselves. Here you had four first responders who only knew about the "real" in reality. We didn't know anything else. That brought us to around ten years ago or so, when I was just browsing the Internet, just to browse, not looking for anything in particular. I found a fire story that I liked, read that and it led to a few more. I was just reading some reports of working fires, rescues, etc. Then, after almost two hours, I came across an article about the Philadelphia Fire Department. This I liked. Why? Because my wife's sister and her family have lived in that area for over 40 years and we had visited often. And during almost every visit, I would visit firehouses all over Montgomery County and the City of Philadelphia. However, in reading this article, I learned something new - the structure of their Fire Investigation Office and how unique it was.

Besides the Fire Marshal, there were some unique investigators in with he mix; a firefighter who had also been trained in investigative and forensic work, a full-time detective with the Philadelphia Police Department, who was assigned to the Fire Investigations Office, an agent from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) and his dog, who were assigned to the city and others. 

"WOW!" I thought. "This could be a great show!" Then I reconsidered. They'd never let us do a "ride-along" with them for a reality show. But....what if it wasn't a reality show? What if it was a drama? Initially, I didn't share my idea with my partners. I just tossed it around for a while, writing a page here, a page there.That was the birth of "CAUSE & ORIGIN." (and yes, we understand that today, the more common phrase used is reversed to "origin and cause," but that just does sound as good as our, older version!) Yet, with no leads, we didn't know what to do next.

The rest of the story until now, is history, as they say. We have tried for the last 2-1/2 - 3 years to get this TV show picked up for the production of a pilot episode. But that hasn't happened either.

Thus, about three weeks ago during one of our conference calls, our L.A.-based partner told us interesting news about some of his immediate past work on a movie, some people he had met and some others who had re-entered his life. And he pitched the idea that with no progress on the television front, let's try to produce a feature film-length movie. Whether it played in a theater or through a streaming service, wasn't important. We would do it. 

That is what we announced yesterday. We are going to produce a film about the fire service, by firefighters, hopefully, supported by firefighters, for firefighters and all other interested parties.

Interested? Good! Stay tuned!

Be safe and let's make sure every one goes home!



 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Our Personal Health - Who is Really In Charge

We're living in a time when we seem to be fighting about the rights we are accorded by our Constitution. Some argue that our Founding Fathers knew all they needed to in order to create a constitution which would forcefully and clearly demonstrate that we had thrown off the mantle of Colonial rule and that our citizens would be free and equal. OK, maybe free. OK, maybe mostly free.

Two hundred forty one years later, it appears that we're using the amendments as weapons of war - against each other, more than we use them to actually secure the rights and freedoms I believe our Founding Fathers intended. There are the arguments about the First Amendment that is supposed to guarantee our freedom to speak...about any topic we choose, other than outright treason, and even then, to just talk about it, might be protected too!

Then there is the constant bickering over the Second Amendment - the right to bear arms. Some argue that we have the right to bear any arms we want, because the Constitution did not outlaw any weapons. Still others want to forbid anyone except for the police and military to have arms. And we are no closer to working on a solution that we are for a manned expedition to Saturn's sixth moon, Enceladus.

Now I come to the crux of the matter - who is in charge of our health? Since we all agree that we use the possessive pronoun, "our," the answer should be perfectly clear, each person is in charge of their own health! But ask yourself, "Is that really true?" Let's say you are an accountant. Would your employer have any need to assure that you are in peak physical condition? Other than wanting you healthy so that you may do your work, we would probably agree, "No."

What if you are a teacher in a middle or junior high school, teaching math? Would you agree that what applied for the accountant, applies here? What about an attorney? A mayor? A refuse collector? A computer programmer...and so on?

But what about a firefighter, a LEO and/or an EMT/Paramedic? Forget what you feel; would you still claim that you are in charge of your personal health? If you, then I believe you are in the wrong profession. Because these three professions need you to be at your very best physical condition to perform your assigned tasks. And there is the very real risk of a domino effect if you aren't!

In any of these three professions, besides all else, you have taken an oath to protect the lives of others. We all know the saying, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." So what happens in the middle of an emergency situation in which not only a citizen's life is depending on you, but your partner and/or colleagues are depending on you, and you give out? Now the dominoes begin to fall.

The victim is in more trouble, your colleagues have to stop what they were doing to cover for you. And now, either instead of or besides the initial victim, your colleagues have to start taking care of you. You mumble beneath the oxygen mask, "Oh, I'm OK, I'm just a little tired" as you try to sit up, but find you have less strength than a piece on linguine. You're not OK. 

Now, one team is rushing you to the nearest ER. To hell with the scene of the emergency, they are focused on you, taking your vitals, administering medications, driving quickly, but carefully to the hospital. You realize for the first time that the siren you hear is not getting you to the emergency, you're the emergency it is screaming for.

When the initial emergency is over, instead of going back to patrol, the firehouse or the rescue base, most of your coworkers make their way to the hospital. They are going there, because of you. They are waiting for news about you. And as they wait, slowly at first, then more quickly as the info gets passed around, they realize that  your emergency was not due to an accident, fall, burn, collision at the location, it was because  you were ill! As they realize this, they pause for a moment and look inwardly at themselves. 
"Geez, could that happen to me?"
"Wow! We're about the same size - we switch clothes all the time. Am I like that, too?"
"Damn, I can't remember the last time I really looked at myself in the mirror!"
"I've been meaning to stop smoking, really I have!"

And then silence. Everyone stands a bit taller, but looking down. No one knows how to look directly at your spouse as he/she quickly walks up to the sliding doors of the ER, carrying one child in his/her arms and hold the hand, almost dragging a second one. The doors close. All is quiet.

And then, the scream.

The rules and regulations of your job will tell you what your physical requirements are. And when you signed up, you met most, if not all of them. But today is now - not then! You don't meet those  requirements any more. You've stopped trying. Or you say, "I'll start doing some exercises next week!" Yet, strictly interpreted, you do not meet the departments qualifications any longer.

Could you be threatened with being docked a couple of days? Sure, but what difference will that make. You'll stay home, do a few chores, then do exactly what you've been doing for ages, that got you written up in the first place!

YOU...AND ONLY YOU CAN BE IN CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH! IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH, THE DEPARTMENT ISN'T GOING TO DO IT FOR YOU, YOUR DOCTOR ISN'T GOING TO DO IT FOR YOU,  YOU have to be in charge of your health. End of story.