Saturday, October 13, 2012

Television - Is It the "Great Wasteland" for the Fire Service?

For many years, there were several occupations that were/are depicted on television and , for the most part, were pretty safe bets for shows, i.e. cops, doctors, and attorneys. So, who's missing from this picture? How about firefighters?

Sure, there have been a few shows about firefighters, such as, "EMERGENCY," from NBC, back in the 1970's. Though Johnny Gage was occasionally set-up to look like a womanizer, its original executive producer, Jack Webb, of "DRAGNET" fame, was dedicated to representing the profession, plus the new vocation of, "paramedics," accurately. Sure, there was some dramatic license taken, but for the most part, it never insulted the intelligence of most firefighters who watched the show, and it actually contributed to many people choosing to become firefighters, paramedics, and/or EMT's. To me, that is a contribution to society.

There were a few others dramas as well, including, "Firehouse" and "Code Red," neither of which had a major impact on their ratings or the industry. Most recently, there was, "Rescue Me," by Denis Leary. In the beginning, the show was decent, but somewhere in the first or second season when Leary's character raped his ex-wife, the show's credibility dropped dramatically.

And now comes, "Chicago Fire," produced by Dick Wolf, of the various, "Law & Order" franchises. As noted above, shows about cops and lawyers have proved a good formula, on the most part. And Wolf certainly brought a great deal of "street cred" to this production. Unfortunately, he must have left his credibility back in the office when he arrived on-set to producer, "Chicago Fire."

I recorded the premiere of  "Chicago Fire," the other evening and just watched the first twenty minutes. Now I am the first to admit that I've been out of the active service since 1985, thus I'm not sure if what I saw on this show are new SOP's (standard operating procedures) for most departments today, or were just Hollywood "make-believe."

Here are three major weaknesses to the fire service credibility that I saw in these first 20 minutes: 

1. Working House Fire-White smoke showing from the first floor, with a strong orange glow being seen from the cab of the first arrival apparatus in the first floor interior. Fire had not vented yet. Chief's size-up report to Central is as he exits his vehicle, with no 360 assessment. First crew approaches front door and without any looking, checking, etc., punches in the door with a Halligan, enters without a hose. When the Chief is told that a victim's brother is upstairs & had not exited the building, the aerial is raised and two firefighters approach the window. The closest one takes his Halligan and punches in the window without knowing if the fire has been vented. The firefighter behind him tried to stop him. The window breaks and the first firefighter says, "See, it must be vented," and enters the room. Suddenly, the firefighter on the 1st floor says there's no vent and the upper room backdrafts, killing the firefighter in that room. 

2. At an MVC, (Motor Vehicle Collision) they find a couple of victims in the car, but no driver. Then, one firefighter looks at the river and declares the driver was ejected, over the railing of the bridge, into the river, below. Two rescue firefighters suit-up and as they're making their way into the river, someone else yells that one of the people looking on is the driver, and another firefighter runs over and tackles him. 

3. In the firehouse, one of the EMT's passes one of the lead character firefighters and hands him a vial of some medication. He moves to a private area and shoots up. At that point, I hit the stop button. So, I ask you, is this a fairly true representation of the CFD (Chicago Fire Department) and/or where firefighting in general, has gone since I retired? 

In my mind, while I understand the drama and the need for conflict, whether it be on-the-job or through-the-job, I believe that my brave and dedicated colleagues of the Chicago Fire Department are some of the best in the business and even with a well-experienced, Deputy Chief as the technical advisor, these three scenes did an injustice to the men and women of CFD. Why is it that most shows about doctors, cops, and attorneys are fairly true to the profession and its only us, firefighters, who are thrown under the proverbial bus?

On the off-chance that you may agree with me and believe that it is time for a program to present and accurate and true representation of America's fire service, by the men and women who actually serve every day, please visit Dalmatian Productions, Inc.

 Be safe and let's make sure everyone comes home!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Experience - Your Safety

Besides keeping you posted on our progress with our production, we also see our obligation to keep you posted on home fire safety. As it happens, being in October, which is recognized as National Fire Protection Month, I have to very important items to share.

Thanks to Congress and their attempts to manipulate our lives, (for a change!) we now turn back our clocks to revert to Standard Time at 2:00 AM on the first Sunday of November. With that, there has been a strong push by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), fire departments, and other safety organizations, to associate changing our clocks as a reminder to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.("Change Your Clocks-Change Your Batteries") If you live in a private home, most often the choice of whether there are smoke detectors in your home, and where they are located, are up to you. There is no dearth of sources to help you learn where to place your smoke detectors. You can even take a short trip to your local fire house and ask them for their suggestions. Not only will you get excellent information, but you also add a bond and very well, could start a friendship with these wonderful men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect you and your family.

Recently though, NBC Night News ran a very interesting and important story about the two different types of smoke detectors on the market and how each one works. What makes this story stand out, is that the difference in how they work just might make a difference in whether or not someone survives a smoldering fire in their home. 

It is important to note the both detectors work, as long as the battery is installed properly and it is mounted in an appropriate locations as advocated by the many safety organizations, and even the manufacturers, on their instruction/installation sheet. 

The safest "victim" is an educated victim. Just like reading the emergency exit and safety card on an airliner, it is very important that you know how your smoke detector works optimally. So I urge you to visit this link, and watch the report. Then, make it your business to assure that:

1. You have working smoke detectors in your home.
2. You have a fresh battery in your smoke detector. Live by the safety promotion: "Change Your Clocks-Change Your Batteries"
3. If you cannot afford a smoke detector, drop in at your local firehouse. Not only with they most likely provide you with at least one free detector, they will mostly likely volunteer to come your home and install it correctly for you!
4. Have an emergency exit plan for your home! Don't rely on your front door or your garage door. Your children have probably learned the "E.D.I.T.H. - Exit Drills in the Home," at their schools. Review it with them and make sure you set up a safe place where everyone will meet after evacuating your home.
5. If you live in a multi-story home, evacuation ladders are available at reasonable costs. For most, there is no installation at all. They hook on the window sill and have stand-offs to make it easier to climb down the rungs. Both both two and three-story versions are available.

6. In the event of a fire or emergency:

     ***** CALL 911 FIRST!!! CALL 911 FIRST!!! CALL 911 FIRST!!!

How does that old proverb go? "An ounce of prevention is with a pound of cure!"

And on a personal note, I just learned that we at Dalmatian Productions, Inc. must bid a fond farewell to our partner and good friend, Joel Connable. Joel has been a vital member of the "resurrected" DalmatProd and was great to work with. His experience as a NYC paramedic, a volunteer firefighter, as well as a television news report and anchor, made him an integral member of the team. If you live in the Northwest, Joel is heading for Seattle and KOMO-TV. We wish him and his fiance, as well as his lovable dog, Lola, safe travels and a wonderful new life in Seattle.