Friday, August 28, 2015

Who We Are and What We Do

Well, it was bound to happen! So, before too much damage is done, let me lay it all on the line....
Our company, Dalmatian Productions, Inc. was founded back in the mid-1990's with one purpose in mind - to produce quality television programs that highlight the efforts of nearly one million men and women who put their lives on the line every day - firefighters. Whether you're career, on-call, or volunteer, we thought it was about time the American viewing audience saw what who we are and what we do.

It was a great our minds. The TV networks that were busy with a new type of television programming, called "reality," didn't agree. They liked cop shows, court shows, pilot shows, fishing shows, lumberjack shows, dancing shows and singing shows. They did not like fire shows. No matter what premise of a show we brought to them, they were not interested. Well, that's not exactly true. We were told that if we could produce a show that had cross-dressing firefighters, who used drugs and frequented hookers, smoked dope and tried to make-out in the back seats of taxis - that show they liked!

You would think that after all that rejection we would give up, right? Well, we almost did. But something kept nagging us. Maybe it was because of the four of us, three had been or were volunteer and/or career firefighters and our fourth had been in law enforcement. And we all agreed that our show, or at least the people we wanted to highlight in our show, deserved to be on television. 

So, several years ago, I was angry, upset and depressed. We could not be the only ones who wanted to see a television show about firefighting. I started looking around online, searching for that one thing, that one topic, that would catch their attention as much as ours. And after several months, I found it. A topic that was so good because it is so bad. Just the mention of the word brought fright to bear. A topic that was so scary because you never know when it may spring up. That subject was arson! And with that, our new dramatic series was born.

However, there is a lot to tell about us, you, me, firefighters. There are a lot of facets to who we are and what we do and we agreed that it was important that these topics be included in the show. So, our show will deal with firefighter health and wellness; what happens when the middle-age guy, who's got 12 years on the job, can barely climb a flight and a half of stairs? What about the firefighter who suffers a LODI (Line of Duty Injury) and is forced to put in his/her papers and DO (disable out).

We also had to include junior firestarters and programs for them; teaching them that the only mystery about fire is one of danger. What about the strains that "the job" puts on a relationship or marriage? Or how do we cope (or maybe we don't) with all the horror we see day in and day out? If you prick our skin, do we not bleed? Do we not cry? What happens when the pressure pushes us over the edge? Just as our brothers and sisters in the military return from overseas completely lost and estranged, do we not reach the breaking point? How many of us shrug off a scheduled CISD seminar because we're "bigger" than that? How many of us say, "I don't have any stupid PTSD! I'm a firefighter for God's sakes!" But inside, your guts are in a know and you hardly ever leave your home on your days off?

And that's just the first episode!, I'm just kidding. But we feel that all of this must be told in a series (even if it is a scripted drama) that shows the viewers what we really go through.  And we didn't even touch the problems our unions face every day or our volunteers when they need to replace a 28 year-old pumper!

All of this, we hope and pray, will be featured in our show, "Cause & Origin," which will be based in Philadelphia, where both the Greater Philadelphia Film & Television Office and the Philadelphia Fire Department are on board with us.

On top of this, I personally, have fallen back on what I used to do in my prior vocation as an administrator in non-profit organizations: Motivate my listeners. And for those of you who are kind enough to follow us on Twitter (@DalmatProd) you know of what I speak. I speak a great deal about safety, about health and wellness, about how to treat people, how to motivate yourself, continue to learn, make an effort to teach, etc. 

So, if I'm not talking specifically about the show, please know that I'm talking about the second most important aspect in my life, behind my, the brave men and women who bravely give up parties, birthdays, dinners, dances, partners, plans, etc., just to protect the citizens of your district. Why? Because YOU deserve it!

Let's make sure everyone goes home and stay safe!

Steven S. Greene
President and Executive Producer
Dalmatian Productions, Inc.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What About Now?

All too often as we glide through life, we hear about this unfortunate circumstance or that one and quite quickly, it disappears from our thoughts. Why? Usually it is due to the fact that whatever it was, had no bearing on the observer. So why bother, right? Wrong!

For our regular readers and followers on Twitter know, we take the concept of firefighter health very, very seriously. It's a subject that were are very passionate about. Why? That's a valid question and it's also a tough one to answer. 

Your author has been disabled since 1992 when I work up one morning with, what I thought was a run-of-the-mill backache. After seeing several doctors, I finally had an MRI and found out that I had a herniated disc at L4-L5. The question of how was more difficult to answer. I had been out of active service with a fire department since 1985. I was in a relatively sedentary job and was not required to move or life heavy objects. Today, 23 years later and after five back surgeries, too many injections to count and having a medication pump surgically implanted, the consensus of my doctors is that the underlying injury occurred in June 1978 when one leg fell through the floor of a house being used for fire training. At the time of that fall, I blew out my left knee, but I had no idea about my back. However, that was an on-the-fireground accident that could happen to anyone. So, no - my passion does not come from that occurrence. 

Even though I have been out of the fire service since 1985, it has and always will, have a role in my life. And I read Firehouse Magazine every month.And each month, the first column I read is the list of LODD's. A recent report regarding the LODD's in 2014 indicates that nearly fifty-percent (50%) of firefighter LODD's are caused my preventable health conditions. PREVENTABLE!!! No, I did not know any of these firefighters in any way, nor did I know any active firefighter with serious health risks...until this past week.

One of my neighbors is a career firefighter for a department about an hour north of where we live. He's a real nice guy, loves what he does and was working to put his "20" in, with just a couple of more years to go. However, my friend, whom we'll refer to as "Tom," is a big man, both height-wise and weight-wise. So each time I'd see him outside and wave or stop in to chat for a few, I never said a word to him, but inside, my guts were churning. Before me stands a guy who loves what he does, is good at it, but not taking care of himself with the same passion he uses to fight fire.

Two weeks ago I got a cal from his wife to come over to help them with a computer problem. I saw Tom's car in the driveway and assumed he was on an off-day. When I got inside, he's walking all bent over and I asked what happened. He said he threw his back out on a call a few days before, but he wasn't that concerned as the next Monday, he was going to have knee replacement surgery. I fixed the computer, wished them both good luck and told him I'd check in on Monday night or Tuesday morning to see how the surgery went. 

Early Tuesday morning, I get a call from his wife and I asked her how the surgery went. She said, "It didn't!" She then explained to me that when he went for his pre-op clearance, the doctor observing his EKG saw traces he was not happy with and scheduled him to undergo a supervised stress test that Monday (the day before her phone call) with a pair of cardiologists. Tom was upset, but more about missing the knee surgery than anything else.

He underwent the stress test and suddenly, the doctors told him to stop. They sat him down and helped him through the recovery phase. The doctor came over to him and asked, "Tom you're a firefighter, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir," he answered with the pride he had in his work.
"Not anymore, you're not!" the doctor said. "You're firefighting days are over."

Stunned by the news, Tom asked for an explanation. The doctor told him that his cardiac output was in the mid-30% range, where normal for someone his age should be in the 60's. There was evidence of ischemic damage, most likely caused by a silent MI. Finally, they were concerned about the condition of part of the septum.

That was that. Of course, as I said to his wife, the good thing is that these conditions were caught in advance of a non-survivable incident. He had an angiogram on Tuesday and came through it well. Moreover, he is beginning a course of medication and lifestyle change to get him healthy again. No doubt, it's going to be a long, slow road. None of us gain a great deal of weight overnight and we are not going to lose it that way either.

So, when's a good time for YOU to take stock of your personal medication condition?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Are We Taking Two Steps Forward and One Step Back?

Have you ever thought about the meaning of the words in the title of today's post? No? Well, try it. Pick two points in your home, in the firehouse, anywhere you choose. Now, walk with your regular gait and time how long it takes to travel from point A to point B. Easy, right? Now, do it again, but for every two steps forward, take one step backward, and time your journey again. Not so easy, eh? What was the difference in your times? Now, imagine living through your entire day, all your tasks, all your errands doing the same thing. For every two steps forward, you must take one step back!
The August 2015 edition of Firehouse® Magazine notes that seven firefighters died with the classification of LODD. Each and every one of these deaths was classified as an LODD. Not one was a fireground or apparatus/vehicular occurrence. The magazine also has an article about the NFPA’s latest report of LODD’s from 2014. All together, we lost sixty-four brothers in 2014. This made 2014 the third year in the last four where LODD’s were below sixty-five and it was a significant reductions from 2013 where we lost ninety-seven firefighters.
As good as that news is the problem lies in the fact that over half of the deaths in 2014 were caused by sudden cardiac/health events. This was the highest number of health-related LODD’s since 2008.
We have been on our Twitter account (@DalmatProd) for approximately six months now. And we have made firefighter health one of our top priority topics that we look for and write about. As a matter of fact, we are so concerned about this that the subject will play an important role in the television program that we are currently working to sell in Hollywood. Moreover, if you have read this blog before, you know how important it is to us and how often we write about it.
The question remains if we are doing enough to prevent these types of LODD’s. I have no doubt that each and every industry magazine addresses this issue from time to time. Many departments have taken the issue to heart (pardon the pun) and developed excellent fitness programs for their firefighters, both current and future. However, many of those departments are larger, urban and suburban companies that may have a fitness line item in their budget or perhaps, they applied for and received a SAFER grant specifically for this purpose.
Yet two key issues remain. The first is the difficulty in promoting this health initiative in smaller, more rural departments, most of them being volunteer departments. As it is, they are having a difficult enough time just recruiting and retaining volunteers. Now, we push this health initiative on them and they back off because they simply do not have the resources to do so.
The second issue is how do we “encourage” the firefighters, mostly on-call and volunteers, who have been members of their departments for several years or longer and over the course of time have gained significant weight or developed other health issues that could lead to a morbidity level? And what about officers and command staff, who sometimes feel that since they are not performing any physical exertion at calls, their health is not of concern and they should not have to abide by a department’s health standards.
The issue of firefighter health is well publicized; there is no doubt about that. And we have some of the best leaders in this country working their tails off to bring this message to the masses. So, the question remains how we raise the level of attention of our target audience?
As I thought about this very question, the proverbial light bulb went off. How bright it is, well, that’s for you to decide. Every fire department in this country is well aware of the NFPA, its purpose, its mandates, etc. While we all realize that some departments are financially unable to employ each NFPA mandate, they do try to do their best. Why? Because they know in their hearts and minds that the NFPA is working to keep firefighters as safe as possible. Whether it is the semaphores on apparatus, PPE, standards for SCBA, etc. they are looking out for the safety of every one of us and the citizens we protect.
What if we can find a way to create a union of the NFPA and either an existing organization or a new one, even a new sub-department of NFPA to carry this health message to the boots on the ground, so that they see it as the same way the majority see the other safety mandates from the NFPA. Perhaps if we can create a Committee of Firefighter Health & Wellness as an offshoot of the NFPA, our messages will stop falling on deaf ears. Or, at the least, find a larger audience.
However, I sincerely believe that this must come from us, the firefighters, current and former, the departments and our own organizations. I do not want to see governmental bureaucracy involved in this endeavor. We have the experience, we have the knowledge and we have the influence that we can put to work to save our lives.
The goal is simple: let’s give the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation the least amount of work to do. Let’s do our best to live by our motto: #EveryOneGoesHome.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

"LUCKY THURSDAY" Has Returned (Even if it came on Wednesday night!)

Thursday - August 6, 2015

Finally, we have some news of a couple of fronts. As some of you know, last evening we held a company conference call, as the partners in Dalmatian are from Florida, Delaware and California. With everyone's schedules it's not always an easy task to do and we managed to have a successful one last night.

STUDIO NEWS - Our L.A.-based partner brought us up-to-date with where the project is floating out there. One excellent contact at one of the larger talent management/production companies, did indeed receive a promotion, in title. He's still awaiting the company to make good on the financial side of his deal. Whether he stays there or moves, the fact is that he loves the show and will take it with him to present to anyone he may get to listen.
In the meantime, our partner and his associate are sending the script to two large and very well-known production companies.  However, as we have come to learn (and as I wrote about recently) those wheels in Hollywood turn very, very slowly. 

COMPANY NEWS - The main reason for our conference call last night was to discuss the possibility of turning to crowd-funding (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc.) to raise funds for us to produce a elongated "trailer." A "trailer" is a preview that you seen online, in commercials on TV and "COMING SOON" previews at the theater. We initially talked about producing a 6-8 minute trailer that would provide the viewer with a few key elements of what the show would be about. 
Our show has been designed to be what's called today a, "limited series." For example, shows like "Under the Dome," "Proof," and "Falling Skies" only air 8-12 episodes for their season. Currently, it is a very popular way for many networks to air programs, they're less expensive that shooting and air a full season of 20-22 episodes. However, right now, we have already drawn up a three-year plan of the direction the stories will go, keeping the main theme and mystery alive throughout.
There's another important point we want to make sure everyone knows about. First, all of us either are, or have been emergency first-responders. We just regular belly-crawling, snot-nosed nozzle-jockeys like everyone else. We're not big Hollywood producers or moguls looking to make a buck off of firefighters.
Two - We are dedicated to show only the best of the fire/rescue service and EMS. If we didn't stick to our guns about that, we could have had several shows on TV already. But we refused. We will never do anything that doesn't show the best of who we are and what we do.
Three - Besides the main theme of the show which is XXXXXXXXXXXXX, we also have several others that are very important to us, i.e., juvenile fire starter education programs, LODD's, the National Fallen Firefighters' Foundation and more. Moreover, we're going to show that sometimes, we make mistakes. Certainly not on purpose, but they happen and how we have to deal with them. Mistakes in our lives, our tactics, our abilities, etc. Also, we'll try to deal with the public's perception of the fire service, what's true and what isn't. 
All of this is part of what we will bring to our show.

THE "HOW WE'RE GOING TO DO IT" PART - Well gang, this might be the most important part. As I said, we initially were talking about producing a 6-8 minute trailer. After some discussion one of the guys said, "Well, if we can raise enough to produce a trailer, why should we not be able to raise enough to shoot the entire PILOT!!?!?!!?!?!
There was a long pause before everyone chimed in, "You're right!" "Good idea!" "We didn't think of that before!" As it turn out, it was unanimous. We all agreed that instead of just a trailer, we're going to shoot for the whole thing, shoot the pilot for the show. The script is written, which is one-half of the two largest tasks. The second large task? Finding the "scratch" to put it together.
To that end, we've decided to take a long and serious look at crowd-funding. Some of you may have heard that when fans of the former TV show, "Veronica Mars," wanted to see a motion picture to help tie-up all the loose ends that occurred when the series was canceled, they went on KickStarter and in less than a day, they raised over $2 Million!
We would have to set a goal, which two of the guys are working on, that would cover all the costs involved for shooting a 46-minute show. "Forty-six minutes? I thought it was going to be an hour show?"
It is an hour show. Any hour show today is only 46 minutes of programming. The rest is used for commercials and previews. Nevertheless, it will require a significant budget and a great deal of work. 
We also looked at this fact: There are nearly 1,000,000 firefighters in the U.S. and Canada (career, volunteer & on-call). Then add in their spouses, significant others, parents, etc. Now add to that all the EMT's and Paramedics, and Rescue Squad members; then add their families to it. 
If every member of the broadly defined fire-rescue-EMS services donated one dollar ($1.00), we would have over a million dollars!! And that's not even including all the "buffs", the people who belong to CERT programs, and viewers who like firefighters and firefighting quality shows! 
 Now wait! Don't start opening your wallets or writing checks yet! This is not a certainty yet. As I said, two of our guys are going to work to develop a budget and present a strong argument which way we can go. We've scheduled another meeting in two weeks. We'll see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed. Remember, Stay Safe.