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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Self Improvement must be driven from within to have an effect. Outside influences may affect one’s ability to improve but for change to last, one must change for them self.
The Fire Service, by our virtue, has a culture to improve. The tools we use to complete emergency scene tasks are an example. Even today, companies modify tools based on issues unique to their first due. Improvement goes well beyond adding a bend or an edge to a hand tool; self-improvement is finding new and better ways to perform our mission of community service.

Without turning this into a retrospective of my time at FDIC, let us quickly evaluate what the conference is. The Fire Department Instructors Conference is an opportunity for Fire Instructors and Trainers to converge on the Training ground and classroom. These sessions teach the students the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to complete various fire ground activities. However, the training is not for the students own skill set, but for the department they serve. The intent is to disseminate the latest techniques and advancements to a small, qualified group that aims to pass the information on. The concept is phenomenal. The level of experience that the Lead Instructors have is amazing. The goal of the students in the courses should be to exemplify those instructing. Does this model a Culture of Self Improvement?

Since this is an editorial piece, I must point out that the second half of the weeklong conference certainly has a higher attendance. Is this because of “the show”? Please attend a couple of the classroom sessions if you come down for the show. The level of talent, the variety of courses and opportunity to learn from the best in the business is not to be missed.

How do we define a Culture of Self Improvement? Each one of us, no matter what rank, must have a desire to improve our knowledge, attitude and skill set. Although there may be various degrees of improvement relating to multiple skills, they all have to be measureable. To establish your improvement process, a list of standards, goals and expectations must be set. The organization should have a dynamic, living excellence plan. The plan should be developed and complied by members of all levels. As improvements occur, the plan is re-evaluated to ensure an enhancement upon the current progress is made. From time to time, a deficit may be identified and actions should be taken to correct these behaviors and abilities. All members seek and embrace changes designed to improve organizational objectives. On the management side, this should already be established. Policy and procedures include expectations and the means to meet them. Where the typical plan fails is at the street level. Management must be open to feedback from those who make the SOPS/SOGS live and breathe on the fireground and the firehouse. Most gaps in excellence are identified within this spectrum. What works on paper may not work on the street. From my personal point of view, this is the responsibility of the Company Officer and Training to fill the gap. The Officers should report issues that are found between the written documents and the actions that are taken on scene. Having a plan to evaluate procedures and actual actions may show problems with the rules, the interpretations of those rules or an issue with training. As the old saying goes, “Failure to plan is a plan for failure.”

Do you already have a Culture of Self Improvement? Can you see elements within yourself or your crew? A few significant indicators are:

• Members desire to attend training and seek out additional training.
• Staying current on trends and evaluating your own practices to see if your organization could see the same gap. Using resources like Firefighter Near Miss can enhance your own skills.
• Maintain a low threshold on error/problem identification. When issues arise on the fireground, you take proactive steps to correct them before they escalate. This relates to safety and tactics. Most importantly during training. Do not let things slide. Train to the expectations of the Fireground.
• Company level training. Does your company work on self-identified gaps in excellence? Most of our fireground issues relate directly to our own actions.

Our effectiveness on the fireground has a direct correlation to our willingness to improve. During my career, I have worked with very few people, if any, that did not want to do to a good job. However, there are many who feel they know an adequate amount and how they perform is acceptable. Personally, I have a very difficult time with that mindset. Fire Service Professionals should have a strong desire to continuously raise the bar and consistently improve. This posture includes skills, knowledge, health, fitness and performance.

An all too common practice is the “Armchair Quarterback”. This position has a negative effect on a Culture of Self-Improvement. Surely years ago a crew gathered around the kitchen table and pointed out the flaws of another crew or department. With today’s instantaneous video and ability to sling mud, we need to have more self-control. Use these resources to improve your skills not to bash others actions, especially when you do not have all the facts or understand the circumstances. A recent video showed the misuse of a hose stream into a quality vertical vent opening. Instead of snood remarks from behind your screen-name, use the video to demonstrate why the tactic is not properly applied. That is a trait of a Self-Improving Culture.

Desire, a key element of overall performance, is a personal belief and feeling. Yet, those around you can stoke the fire of desire; the passionate FDIC attendee knows this sensation. Take the lead to create a Culture of Self-Improvement, if you are one that aspires to improve. Culture seems to be a hot topic or even a “buzzword” these days. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on of the other conversations, culture is an important aspect of the Fire Service. A Culture of Self-Improvement is a culture change we all can agree on.

THIS IS A FINAL PAPER FOR MY FIRE PREVENTION COURSE, IT IS A COMMENTARY NOT A TRAINING ARTICLE. Please take a read and let me know what you think. I have 22 hours to turn it in along with my final presentation. Thanks -huston

Theories of Modern Fire Protection – Christopher Huston

Man’s relationship with fire is one of great passion and torment. Without the simple
chemical reaction, our world would look very different. Fire has helped sustain
life, yet is ever on the verge to destroy. The progress of humanity has
included the means to create and contain this very natural process. As we
evolve, we must design and implement new methods to gain control of the rapid
oxidation event we call fire.

The early days of Fire Prevention were primitive. Contain the fire to the area of our choosing.
This seems likes a simplistic point of view, but look at what was accessible to
burn. Man lived in caves or make shift huts, surrounded only by naturally
occurring combustibles. What ensured fire behaved, was respect. Fire was
regarded with much more reverence and appreciation. The effort to create this
source of heat, light and life was considerable. Early ancestors would not
squander this labor away by allowing flames to go unchecked. In the event of
escape of embers or loss of control, the results were disastrous. When it
became too much, man would control the burning with whatever means were
available. A last resort move was to run from the inferno, when it threatened
his life. Total loss of camps, food and belongings would occur. Just as the
means to create fire were limited, the availability of resources to extinguish
the blaze was scarce. People of these times had cultural influences such as the
fire giving away their camp location. Security was a priority, so only enough
fire was created to provide the needs of the time. Fire was a necessity for
life. Fire prevention of the time, provided through admiration.

Flash forward to the industrial age. The threat of conflagration was imminent. Fire was more prevalent
and was used in every home, on every street corner and in every industry. As
man’s use of fire increased, the level of complacency that fire destroys
spread.  How and who would combat the threat of fire? Those who had the most to lose, the investors. Mill owners banded together to create a mutual fire insurance company. This first organization, created by Zachariah Allen, was
limited to only the best textile manufacturers. This strategy would prove to be
advantageous; both financially and through the standards, it created. Mutual
insured companies would conform to new standards of operation concerning fire
protection. Inspections and construction requirements would set the stage for
modern Fire Protection and Risk Reduction methodology. Although these early
days of Fire Prevention, aimed at cost savings, carried over the results that
would serve the basic mission of the Fire Service, the good of the people.

When the public thinks about fire, in the modern environment, they envision the Fire Department.
Where the Fire Department can better assist the community they serve, is to
educate. Public Fire Prevention and Education is really the most aggressive
method of fire suppression we have. When Firefighters think about “aggressive”
fire attack they imagine making a push down a dark, smoky, hot hallway and
putting out the fire. The tragedy of this misconception, we as the fire service
have failed our mission. We should desire to perform manual suppression as a
last resort.

Fire Suppression starts at the code process. Standards, regulations and codes lay the groundwork
for every process that the Fire Department should serve. When too many lives
and property were lost due to effects of fire, someone had to step up to the
challenge. In the late 1800’s D.W.C. Skilton of the National Board of Fire
Underwriters called for reducing risk by improving fire safety. Skilton quoted
“The old theory of risk being written as found is becoming obsolete. Great
industries are aiming to secure improvements in construction, introduction of
automatic and other appliances for the prevention and extinguishment of fire,
to greatly reduce the rate for lessening of hazard.” In this same year, a new
hazard would enter industry that would forever change our world, electricity.
To manage this, the NBFU formed the National Board Electrical Code. Later this
code became what we now know as NFPA 70, National Electric Code. Codes set the
do and don’ts, or best practices. To gain headway on the national fire problem,
we must first ensure we are all on the same page. Codes benefit the system
two-fold. First, the code establishes how to create the structure. When a
building is constructed or a detection system installed, a code regulates the
execution. Various codes are required and enforced during the building
construction process. Ensuring the model codes and regulations are upheld falls
to several groups. For Fire Prevention purposes, several codes are enforced
during the construction phase.  During
some projects however, code trade offs can be made. For example, the
installation of a fire suppression system allows for materials of a low fire
resistance, to be used. Other common trade offs are increased height or reduced
means of egress. The Fire Service should keep a questioning attitude when
allowing for trade offs. A sprinkler system may fail if not maintained. Other
complications such as sabotage and water supply failure could cause major
problems for the fire department response. There is no substitute for fire
barriers. Construction using nominal lumber that has fire resistance is the
preferred method. Constructing buildings to fail under fire conditions is not
the path we want to take. The second way codes ensure safety from fire is in
the routine maintenance and inspection. An example of how this works. A model
code may dictate that a sprinkler system be installed as a trade off incentive.
Once the building is ready for occupants, the standard for the system takes
over. The International Building Code
or NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, depending
on local adoption (other models may be used as well) will require the
sprinklers, but NFPA 13 Installation
of Sprinkler Systems outlines how they are to be installed. After the
installation and initial service test, then NFPA
25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire
Protection Systems
will be adhered to for the life of the system. These codes
and standards typically are bestowed to the building owner to either hire a
contract employee or if local code allows, Fire Department testing and
inspection. The work of Skilton, NBFU and early codes laid the foundation to
correct the fire problem before a fire is the problem.

Codes go beyond regulating how buildings are constructed and maintained. Fire Prevention Codes
also outline how jurisdictions operate pertaining to fire and other
emergencies. Michigan
enacted Fire Prevention Code Act 207 of 1941 to provide for this very subject.
Critical elements of this code are the definitions and delegation of authority.
With any organization, a clear set of definitions is crucial for understanding
what is meant by key terms. Leaving any gray area or “up for interpretation”
opens the door for major loss or severe consequences. All parties will be
reading from the same set of standards and work together to meet the common
goal. Delegation of Authority, another key element, ensures all parties know
who is responsible for what particular area. One of the most important
components under this rule relates to the local Fire Department, more
distinctively the Fire Chief. Key players in reducing the American Fire problem
are the men and women with “boots on the ground”, American Firefighters. Those
who serve have access to the people on a daily basis. Not only is this access
vital, Fire Service Professionals have a great reputation and have the trust of
the public.

Fire Investigation is exceedingly imperative to Fire Prevention. This author
believes investigation is the most signifigant element. When a fire does
transpire, our duty as Fire Service Professionals is to guarantee a proper and
thorough investigation takes place. The investigation is needed to identify how
the process failed. Even when a fire ignited due to accidental means, the
investigation will collect data that aids in the prevention of future
occurrences. These investigations may identify a faulty product or new trends
in malicious behavior. In recent years Juvenile fire setter programs have been
put together to combat the growing problem of children playing with ignition
sources and having destructive tendencies. Developed by the USFA, The Five-Step Process for Public Education cites
identification as the start of the
planning process. This system uses records and statistics to determine current
problems and trends. Although not all problems end with a fire, the
investigation process plays a critical role.

Since the first lighting strike that started a fire on the land or hot magma that flowed from a
volcano, fire has had the power to nourish and take life. Once man was able to
harness its mighty energy there has been no stopping the possibilities of
invention. Fire is still a simple equation, fuel, heat and oxygen. Even though
its antagonist is water, which has been around just as long, will still control
its growth and spread. Man chose to bring fire into their lives without the
full appreciation of its destructive powers. Only after a catastrophe do we see
the proper means of control implemented. To prevent destruction and loss of
life by fire, we must learn from our past, perform quality risk reduction
planning, create and enforce codes that reflect modern construction methods and
trends, and lastly prepare for future problems. To truly suppress fire, the
fire service must aggressively participate in Fire Prevention activities.

As to not overload anyone with daily blog post, I am going to just update this thread. FDIC 2012…what more can you say. This is the place to be if your passion is the Fire Service. My trip started Sunday with the drive down. Right when I arrived I met up with my brother John Shafer, We headed downtown for dinner and to talk shop. After getting a full belly, we met up with some familiar faces at Tilted Kilt. Christopher Brennen,, Forest Reeder, Paul Enhelder,and a few other comrades for more shop talk. While there we ran into Chief Bobby Halton, Mike Ciampo and Ray McCormack Awesome!

My first class Monday morning was Preparing for the Hard Environment with Anthony Avillo. Great class! On a side note, he will be receiving the George D. Post Award in a few days….The big take away from his class, for the Company Officer, is set your expectations. If your crews do not know what you expect, how can you blame them if they fail? So many other nuggets, but I will save it for my final recap.

My lunch break was spent with The Hose Jockey! Check his stuff out at Great guy with some great material. He is newer to the social media game, but has a great perspective and love for the job!

After getting another full belly, I was off to be tormented by my good friend and brother Christopher Brennen. As soon as I realized I was going to have to sit in the front row, it was over. He only called me out a few times, but its all good. Excellent class! Mr. Brennen is certainly in my top 5 Instructors. Not really sure why and what it is, but he just makes things click in my head. It might be because I follow his work so close and buy into the FSW model, but its just great stuff. Of course we both are sarcastic and have the same attitude…..whatever.

The night was capped off with a great burger with my brother Jason Hoevelmann Jason has been such a great mentor, friend and brother. Please if you are here Friday morning at 0830 please take his class. This is the last year you can, 3 and out! So yea, I hung out with Jason and some great guys from the greater St. Louis area. Good times, Good times!

Gonna call  it an early night, ready to do it again tomorrow. So Eddie Buchanan and Rich Gasaway classes tomorrow, then off to the ISFSI party…which rumor has it Fire Engineering Radio may interview ECo22 and Green Maltese…..we’ll see.

More to come….hit me up on TWITTER @engineco22 if your here or send me an email if ya wanna meet up, hang out or grab a bite!


Tuesday Update: WOW! WOW! WOW! What a great day of classes! I want to revisit these later in another post. Too much to discuss. After a day of classes I spent a few hours at HOWL AT THE MOON, ISFSI Social. Saw so many old and new friends. Great Time!

Wednesday is going to be another great day, I can already tell…..

Wednesday update: If you were not at the Opening Ceremony, then you missed the most inspriring speech by Chief Bobby Halton, WOW!! Blew the place away! First class was Engine Co. Emergencies with my brother and good friend, Robby Owens. Great stuff brother! The rest of the day was a little more low key. One class was Attack from the Burned side, ehh kinda already knew this stuff since we already roll that way. The last session was Tactical Leadership with a great instructor Frank Ricci. A few points he made I disagreed with…but hey we are all different in how we roll. The night ended with the FSW Meet up and FOOLS BASH. I got a bit of a stomach ache and came back to my hotel room a little early…but I wanna be good for tomorrow. See you in 7 hours!!!

Very excited to announce a partnership between and You can find the brand new BASEMENT FIRES training module by either visiting or

This is just the beginning in vital Firefighter training information taught today and used tomorrow.

Updated 4/9/2012 – Today started with great news! Circumstances have changed and my trip to FDIC will begin on Sunday! All 7 days of the greatest week on earth, I will particpiate in. Last year I was able to do the same, and any less is not acceptable.

Sunday – Arrive, Check in and meet up with friends for dinner.

Monday AM - Fireground Officer Development, Anthony Avillo

Monday PM – Applied Fireground Decision Making, Christopher Brennan

Tuesday AM – Leading with Attitude, Eddie Buchanan, ISFSI

Tuesday PM – Mental Management of Emergencies, Rich Gasaway

Tuesday – 1800 Howl at the Moon, ISFSI Meet and Greet….this is the place to be!

Wednesday – 1030 Engine Company Emergencies by Robbie Owens @averagejakeff

Wednesday – 1330 Attack from the Burned Side by Fire Engineer Sean Gray

Wednesday – 1530 Tactical Leadership with Frank Ricci

Wednesday – 1600-1900 Fire Service Warrior Meetup – The Ram Brewery, 140 South Illinois Street

Wednesday – 1800 – 2200 “Bash” Invite only at Claddagh Irish Pub, Hosted by FIRERESCUE1.

Thursday – 1030 Adaptive Fireground Management for Officers by Christopher Naum @buildingsonfire

Thursday – 1330 Ventilation Principles and Practices by Brian Brush

Thursday – 1530 School Bus Extrication by Paul Hasenmeier @paulhasenmeier

Thursday 2000 – ??? “Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll” NFFF Event….they are kinda my boss, so I guess I should be there. LOL!

Friday – 0830 A Firefighters Own Worst Enemy by Jason Hoevelmann @jasonhoevelmann

Friday – 1015 Modern Roof Considerations by John Shafer

Friday – 1230 FDIC Speaker Intro course Room 138-139

Tons of other great looking classes, please help me fill in some of the blanks. Also make sure to stop by one of the NFFF or EGH booths, I will be working one of the them as much as I can. We’ll see you in a few weeks hopefully!

VEIS and Primary Search HOT FDIC 2011, met some great guys from Hollywood FLA at this course.

The Ride Backwards crew and me during the NFFF Stair Climb FDIC 2011…thanks for all your support Mia!

Running the FFCC during FDIC 2011, It ended up being a single run, just me and the clock. Damn it was cold that day up there!

Lawrence FD just outside Indy for TIC HOT good class by SAFE-IR.


Best one of all – That’s me in the window during VEIS page 20 of your FDIC Preliminary Event Guide.

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