Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wingspread VI Conference - 50 Years Later 1966-2016

When I first heard the phrase, "Wingspread VI," I thought a volunteer department was holding an annual fundraiser! But I was wrong.....very wrong!

Back in 1966, The Johnson Foundation (an outgrowth of Johnson Wax, for those of you old enough!) invited several representatives from the fire service to discuss the state of the fire service and emergency service in general. If you are indeed old enough, you'll know that the Bronx was going up in flames on an almost daily occurrence and that firefighting was a tough job.

The attending members had discussions; maybe some very strong discussions, about where we were and where we should be heading. It was a touch meeting, but they left with the consensus that they would return in ten years and see what had changed, both in society and for emergency services.

Zoom ahead to the Summer of 2016 and a much larger group of folks from the fire services, EMS, federal emergency management, etc. gathered once again in Wisconsin, to look back at the 1996 meeting and to look ahead towards the 2016 event. As you can imagine, it's not easy to review the past ten years in a single "gulp" so to speak and even more so when looking ahead another decade.

Lest you "assume" that the results are kept hush-hush, you will be glad to know that, if not already done, the complete report from Wingspread VI will be released very soon. You will be able to read the results at the website of the National fire Heritage Center ( This will be the first time that technology has been at a level that could lend itself to this type of dissemination. 

Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Chief Alan ("Bruno") Brunacini and Chief Dennis Rubin, both participants in this last conference and others. You can hear our complete discussion with them on our podcast, "5-Alarm Task Force: News & Issues for Today's First Responders.  Connect here: 5-Alarm Task Force.  Feel free to leave your comments on the discussion and let us know what you see ahead for the fire service in the next ten years.

Stay Safe & Let's Make Sure Everyone Goes Home!

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Is it Really a New Year?

Here we are almost in the middle of the new year, 2017. Now ask yourself, how much of 2017 is new and how much is the same old stuff (being polite) from 2016?
There's a new POTUS. That's for sure!
But what else is new?

For our businesses, Dalmatian Productions, Inc. and Cause & Origin, LLC, the first ten days of 2017 have been pretty good. Not super, not awesome, but pretty good. If you're a regular follower of this blog (and we don't know if you are, since no one ever signs in below to follow the blog), it's been quite a while since we've had any good news about our new TV show about the fire service, "CAUSE & ORIGIN." Thankfully, we do have some nice news to share....but I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself.

First things first: Our podcast, "5-Alarm Task Force," had a very successful launch! Between November and December, we had four excellent shows. Excellent? Am I calling them excellent? Yes, because we had five excellent guests who brought their "A-game" to their discussions.

We started with Capt. Joe DeVito (@joed911). Joe leads his troops for the FT. Myers Beach Fire Control District and his topic dealt with our attitudes; towards the job, the department, etc. I must add that Capt. Joe had been a friend and mentor since we joined Twitter and he was one of those who pushed me to consider doing a podcast. Thanks, Cap!

We were next joined by Lt. Grant Schwalbe who is with Estero Fire Rescue. He discussed two areas. The first deals with primary search; a step-by-step thought process with your search. Grant, along with his partner Paul Capo, have a company and website, "When Bad Things Happen." In it, they teach how to prevent those bad things and, if necessary, what to do when they happen. The "First & Ten" topic is about your requisite actions to perform in those first ten minutes.

Our next podcast featured Dan Kerrigan (@DanKerrigan) and Jim Moss (@JimMoss), two officers who are fully dedicated to firefighter fitness. Most of us are sick and tired of seeing anywhere between 40%-60% of LODD's being attributed to preventable health issues. Call the following a phrase or a motto, whatever, because it rings so true:

"We must not simply survive the fireground, we must be able to THRIVE on the fireground. It all starts with a foundation of functional fitness."

In the fourth show we were joined by Chief Dennis Rubin. Chief Rubin is well-known as one of the foremost instructors in the fire service. In this show, the Chief discussed the topic of leadership; from the snot-nosed, belly-crawling, nozzle-jockey (Editor's phrase) up the ranks to the Chief. Each of us has the seed of leadership in us. However, it's up to each of us to decided what we are going to do with that seed.

As you can see, it was a terrific start to our new idea. And we already have over a dozen new guests already booked for the new year. So keep your eye out for updates on Twitter or on our podcast site,

"And now, to the rest of our story..."

January has indeed been supportive of our project. Just two weeks ago, we re-submitted our story to the Philadelphia Office of Film & Television. There had been a change in the leadership of the Philadelphia Fire Department and we wanted to make an attempt to gain  their support. Both the director of the Film & TV Office, re-read our work and fell in love with it all over again. She took the liberty of sending it to a good friend who is not only a well known television producer, but also, a Philadelphia native. He answered her email quickly in a positive manner and told her that he was giving to his "team" to look at it.

Subsequently, we also send copies of the synopsis and script to the new commissioner of fire and the deputy commissioner. This week, we received positive comments from them. Why is this important? We've learned that when you want to make a "pitch" in Hollywood, whether for TV or film, the more detail you can provide, the better your chances are. Thus, we are able to provide a synopsis, a fully written script for the pilot episode and the fact that the locale where the story is to be based, is already "on board" with the project.

Finally, yesterday I receive an email and follow-up phone call from our partner who lives and works in Los Angeles. At the time of his email, he had just sent two excellent contacts over to another well-known television and motion picture producer, who was looking for a script for a network. That's good, right? Then when we called me, he advised that he just had another contact bring our material to another well known television actor and producer, who is also looking for a script.

Are we set? Are we in the money? No! Not by a long shot. However, these three opportunities are ones we have never been able to find before. We have tried and tried. Most people would have given up and let the dinghy sink. Not us. Of the four of us, we have all been or still are, first responders, most with the fire service. And that is why it is so important to us.

We'll keep you posted if and when there are new details. And we thank you for your interest and support.

Stay safe and let's make sure everyone goes home!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

You Think You're Ready. Do Your Officers Agree?

First, let me express our best wishes to all of you, for a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year. This is a great time for reflection. No, not in order to declare "New Year's resolutions," but to help you set a personal course for the next twelve months.

If you have been following this blog and listening to our podcasts, you will know that a good deal of our conversation has been about leadership. So for this post, I will concentrate of those of you who are front-line firefighters and not officers. Yet, it is quite possible that some or many of you are thinking about advancing your career to become a line officer. However, you must see your responsibilities clearly, if this is to happen.

You may feel that you have the key leadership traits that one needs. Moreover, some of your comrades and/or an officer or two have given you that, for many of us, is that desperately-needed "pat-on-the-back." And from that, you now see the "Yellow Brick Road," ahead of you through "rose-colored glasses." However, to be a leader is much more involved than ordering those under you. 

"What do you mean? I can tell people what to do! Isn't that enough?"

If you even have to ask that question, take a step back. You're not ready to be a leader!

Why not? Because you are being short-sighted. You're not seeing the forest for the trees. Let's go back and review everything that happens when the tones hit. However, I don't want you to look at yourself in this "mental movie." I want you to watch your lieutenant, captain, of any officer that rides in the right seat. Sure, sure, he/she will handle the sirens, airhorns, and even the bells! But that "right seat" demands a lot more than your dexterity with switches, pedals and ropes.

Watch that officer. Record in your mind everything that officer does. Besides managing the emergency signals, he/she is listening to or requesting updated information on your destination and its event. As it turns out, you'll be first on scene. As the officer get the first glimpse, he/she is on the radio with the update that you have a working structure fire. As soon as he/she has that info, they assign each of you to a task. A good officer will also make sure that those in the jump-seats, are properly attired and fully encased in their PPE and wearing/tested their SCBA.

At that very same time, the officer is sizing up the scene in his/her head; preparing for rescues, planning for the incoming apparatus' location and their jobs, assessing the need for mutual aid and additional manpower. And all this is happening in just a few seconds.

Are you ready for that responsibility? Are you mature enough to understand that there is every possibility that you will be burdened with making life or death decisions? Do you have the necessary abilities and inner strength to command such a complex scene as the IC? 

Do you lay-in on arrival or just drop the hydrant package for the next due apparatus. Do you have your firefighters pull a line or begin a search for reported trapped victims? Are you able to set those primary commands in action and leave the safety of the apparatus to do a 360-degree assessment of the property, with the voices of dispatch, incoming line officers, senior officers and your own teams calling you on your radio?

Listen, you may have everything it takes to be a leader and a line officer and perhaps, even a chief officer. However, you must understand that though you think you're ready to the lead the troops, you must first truthfully assess all of the duties and responsibilities of an officer and then, see if you're ready. If you are not sure, ask the person in the mirror. He/she will never lie to you.

You take it from there!

Watch for our next podcast from "5-Alarm Task Force," coming soon!

Stay Safe!