Welcome to the June Newsletter

June is National Safety Month, and we at the Center for Public Safety Excellence wanted to take this opportunity to get our stakeholders’ insight on this important topic. In this newsletter, you will find articles on how accredited departments, designated officers, and our consortiums engage with this issue.

As we can see from the FESSAM, Designee goals, and Consortium accounts, internal and external safety is a vital part of the mission of the fire service industry. The industry is fraught with safety concerns, and ensuring safety requires everyone to come together.

Safety in the Community

Summer safety will quickly become a priority as the weather gets warmer and as summer holidays approach. For information from our partners, visit NFPA.

Following Criterion 7F and 7G: How Departments Promote Safety Department-Wide

When you hear “safety,” what do you think of? Personal safety as you run into a structure fire or arrive on scene at an incident? Safety is a broad term, and it covers many different aspects of the industry, from physical fitness to cancer prevention. Chief Todd Leduc, MS, CFO, CEM, FIFirE, Assistant Fire Chief of Broward County Sheriff Fire Rescue, walked us through some of the ways his department addresses safety.

“As a peer reviewer for professional credentialing and a peer assessor for agency accreditation, I am acutely aware both processes focus on employee health,” Chief Leduc stated. In fact, Category 7, Criterion 7F of the Fire and Emergency Self-Assessment Manual (FESSAM) recommends agencies seeking Accreditation have Occupational Health & Safety and Risk Management in place, and Criterion 7G recommends those agencies also have Wellness/Fitness programs in place. In addition to the Criterion, the FESSAM also includes a crosswalk between the CFAI Accreditation Model and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, which include medical and physical fitness, psychological support, and apparatus design and safety.

Broward County Sheriff Fire Rescue currently has in place a Division of Health & Safety for firefighters, and they employ a Wellness & Safety Coordinator who is an exercise physiologist and a registered dietician. “The focus has been on the triad of preventative occupational risks that are unique to firefighters,” Chief Leduc explained, “cardiovascular strain, carcinogens, and behavioral health stressors.” The department has funded and implemented NFPA 1582 physicals and added health screenings. Comprehensive medical screenings have also allowed for early detection of controllable risk factors, such as cardiovascular concerns and high cholesterol.

In addition to these strategies, the department has chosen to focus on obesity reduction by creating an Obesity Weight Loss (OWL) Program. Chief Leduc explained “this incentivizes firefighters to maintain healthy weights, thereby reducing the potential for cardiovascular events, cancers, and muscular skeletal injuries.” How is this done? “Through a joint labor management approach,” Chief Leduc said, “and in partnership with our Joint Occupation Safety Health committee, Risk Management Division, IAFF Local 4321, and numerous community partners.” A number of department members have also been trained as IAFF Peer Fitness Trainers. The Department also contracted with the O2X Human Performance Program, which is a group of U.S. Special Operation force veterans and human performance experts to work with their firefighters. “This team focuses on the five pillars of human performance,” Chief Leduc explained, “nutrition, stress, sleep, conditioning, and resilience.”

However, fitness is not the only safety concern firefighters face on the job. “The process [of Accreditation] focuses on continuous quality improvement and pushes agencies to ensure health and wellness programs are robust,” said Chief Leduc, “and the work locations are as environmentally safe as possible and personnel are afforded the highest level of safety and protection from occupational risks.”

“The Department has also made significant advances on the occupation cancer prevention front,” Chief Leduc said. Through the implementation of multiple systems to ensure safety, from exhaust extraction systems, which assist in removing harmful and contaminated diesel exhaust fumes from apparatus bays, to issuing skin decontamination wipes to allow for immediate cleansing of skin after exposure to toxic environments, Broward County Sheriff Fire Rescue shows their dedication to employee safety.

They didn’t stop there, though. “The entire department has been trained in occupational cancer awareness and prevention by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN),” Chief Leduc explained, “and the department has partnered with the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.” They participate in annual cancer screenings, preventative studies, and annual medical screenings for male and female cancer concerns.

The Department went one step further. As Mental Health Awareness Month has just passed, it is important to remember that even mental health is considered in personnel safety.

“The Department has partnered with Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Department of Psychology to assist in addressing behavioral health,” Chief Leduc said. This partnership has allowed graduate-level university interns to work with the Department’s Health and Safety Division in conducting research, which has identified behavioral health risks among firefighters. “The entire Department was trained in Behavioral Health Awareness,” Chief Leduc said, “so each member has enough information on occupational behavioral health risks, as well as their signs and symptoms, for early recognition and intervention.”

All of these safety concerns can come together in one instance: scene safety. “The department has trained numerous members with the National Fire Academy’s Incident Safety Officer,” Chief Leduc said.

They will also host the Department Safety Officer Association’s certification course this year.

“As Secretary of the International Association of Fire Chief’s Safety, Health, and Survival Section, I am keenly aware of the work going on at the national level to ensure firefighters are protected from preventable occupational risk,” Chief Leduc said. He also expressed the importance for agencies who are leaders in the field to be quick to embrace safety practices.

So what should agencies take away from this message about safety?

Chief Leduc offers some insight: “I would encourage all agencies to focus on the three most preventable occupational risks of firefighting, which are cardiovascular strain, cancer, and behavioral health issues. Each of these can be addressed through regular and early preventative screening appropriate to firefighters.”

Designated Officers and their Developmental Goals for Safety

The Accreditation Model isn’t the only program to acknowledge the importance of safety. Through Designee Development Goals, all candidates seeking designation through the Commission on Professional Credentialing must address how they would implement certain NFFF Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. These initiatives include: defining and advocating the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels; and advocacy must be strengthened for the endorsement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers. Chief Scott Kerwood, CEMSO, CFO, FM of Hutto Fire Rescue explains how he incorporates these initiatives into his work.

In addressing the first initiative, Chief Kerwood quotes Harry Truman: “the buck stops here.” “That is how it is when it comes to making a change in how safety is viewed in our fire department,” he said, “it all rests on my shoulders.” He explains he has to be the first one willing to change if he expects his department to change. “I hold myself accountable to provide a safe and healthy workplace,” he stated, “and I hold the rest of the organization accountable to make sure it stays a safe and healthy workplace.”

And a safe workplace also incorporates risk management. “Risk management in general and crew resource management in particular are an integral part of our emergency operations,” Chief Kerwood said. New hire orientation is the first step in training personnel on these subjects, which are then institutionalized throughout daily operations.

As both the initiatives and Chief Kerwood illustrate, safety is a vital piece to not only the programs and services CPSE offers, but also to the fire service industry as a whole.

For more information on the initiatives, visit the initiatives website.

“Safety Third” and the Charleston Fire Department Safety Program

Mike Rowe, host of the successful television series “Dirty Jobs,” upset the homeostasis of many safety-minded individuals when he filmed an episode of “Dirty Jobs” in 2009 called “Safety Third.” The inspiration of the show was a realization that his work group, camera operators, producers, assistants, and Mike himself, had experienced an increase in injuries and near-misses, all the while surrounded by the “safety first” theme prevalent in nearly every workplace. The episode shed a fresh look into a mindset that has unintentionally bred complacency, fostered an absence of personal responsibility, and, in Mr. Rowe’s opinion, actually discouraged safety. Mike’s novel observations about a management climate that has “checked the box” on safety by posting signs and monotonously stating “safety first” at every opportunity give anyone engaged in risk prone occupations to take serious pause to consider his message. The Charleston Fire Department (CFD) is no exception.

The CFD’s increased focus on safety, revised operational benchmarks, and new organizational goals is a decade old and were instigated by a seminal event. Its impetus was the tragic loss of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store on June 18, 2007. The department dealt with an entire tear down and rebuild of its organization and culture provided by several independent and outside reports as well as some well-intentioned and strong-minded members. The initial plans were laid out by an independent report (colloquially known as the “Routley Panel Report”) and OSHA report. Mayor Joe Riley directed that the department work to adopt all recommendations outlined in the reports. The roadmap was revisited and new destinations set through the pursuit of accreditation and an ISO rating improvement. Both of these goals were achieved in 2015 when the department was awarded CPSE’s internationally accredited status and a rating of “1” by ISO.

Safety played an integral role in the achievement of each recognition. However, the organization’s current approach to safety is still rooted in the Sofa Super Store tragedy and a commitment the department made to honor the memory of the Charleston 9. This approach translates into three components:

  • Internal safety programs;
  • Community safety programs; and
  • Constant vigilance for safety concerns.

Internal safety programs set the tone for the department’s risk tolerance. A variety of standard operating procedures (SOPs) focus on member safety. The overlying reason for a more intense development of SOPs was based on federal, state, and local mandates. However, the underlying, and infinitely more important, reason for a more directed focus on member safety was establishing and infusing a mindset about the value of our members. One of our core beliefs is the CFD is an organization of talented and highly trained people. This rich and invaluable resource is worthy of extensive protections to ensure survival in an unpredictable, high risk environment. Mike Rowe’s “Safety Third” philosophy formed the underpinning of establishing a higher level of personal accountability in the department. Safety is every member’s responsibility. Supervisors at all levels might be required to ensure safety, but the basic requirement for all members is to assess risk before entering into a hazardous task and be aware of mundane scenarios where injuries could occur. A wholesale culture shift was driven by the tragedy of the Sofa Super Store Fire, and that shift was reinforced with some frank discussions and, in some cases, swift action when there was compliance resistance. We are now operating in an environment where risk assessment is expected as part of every decision-making process.

Some examples of the department’s internal safety programs include:

  • Mandatory seat belt use when vehicles are in motion.
  • Mandatory use of high visibility safety vests when personnel are operating in or near roadways.
  • Mandatory SCBA use for the duration of a fire event, even when personnel are operating in the overhaul phase.
  • Air monitoring in the post fire environment and a philosophy of, “When in doubt, use your air. There is no charge.”
  • A post fire decontamination program that includes an on-scene flash hood swap program and cleaning wipes provided to all crews to reduce carcinogen.exposure. Recommendations for activities after returning to quarters are also included.
  • Mandatory periodic PPE inspections and cleaning by certified in-house technicians.
  • Periodic station safety inspections.
  • An apparatus preventive maintenance program that is rooted in vehicle safety.
  • Mandatory NFPA 1582 compliant physicals for all members.
  • Frequent after-action reviews of incidents that incorporate a review of best practices and focus on a combination of incident performance and review of safety pitfalls.

The CFD is an all-hazard agency. Firefighting (active and passive) is still the department’s primary mission, but the reality is today’s fire department is responsible for much more than extinguishing conflagrations. There are several efforts underway with the goal of “preventing the 9-1-1 call.” These efforts are coordinated by the department’s fire marshal division (FMD) and supported by fire operations personnel. The efforts include:

  • The “Fire in the Streets” (FITS) Program. Companies and FMD personnel conduct door to door visits periodically in their districts to pass out fire safety information, offer smoke alarm checks, and service or install smoke alarms.
  • Investment of time and talent to certify firefighters and FMD personnel as car seat technicians. This group of department members participate in periodically scheduled car seat install checks and are available to conduct unscheduled checks while on duty.
  • Youth league standbys. During the city’s youth league football season and an annual soccer tournament that draws approximately 10,000 attendees, CFD crews provide a standby presence to address injuries or other medical emergencies that may arise. A passive safety statement is projected by the department’s presence, along with messaging relayed by the crews through their interaction with the public.
  • The FMD serves as the lead for communicating the CFD’s community safety messaging and programs. Two of the more notable programs FMD personnel have embarked on include bar and nightclub inspections and the restaurant hood inspection program.

Despite all of the initiatives and efforts outlined above, the Charleston community and its fire department still experience fires, injuries, and property damage. Data, spurred by the requirements of accreditation, will provide additional information the department can use to identify causes and promote strategies to further reduce the problem. The biggest internal and external safety concern is complacency. Every human, whether immersed in safety or safety-averse, is subject to performance deviations. We take a shortcut that has no negative outcome. Whether it is a seemingly simple act like not pulling down helmet earflaps before entering a structure fire or skipping a hood cleaning cycle, the lack of adverse impact tips the scale in favor of repeating the act. Each successive omission without issue leads to the omission becoming the norm. This phenomenon, known as the normalization of deviation, is the leading contributor to mishaps of all scale. Professionals at all levels are in a constant struggle against the normalization of deviation. As long as humans are involved, it will be a constant threat.

Safety is the net that ensures survival of all species. If the department and the community ignores this premise, neither can endure. The statement is not made to be hyper-dramatic, but is a fact. If the community and department ignores any of its risks, or becomes too complacent about safety through a failure to accept personal accountability, the results are nothing short of disastrous. The Charleston Fire Department’s focus on safety is an everyday labor requiring constant attention, reminders of personal responsibility and retooling by all members to avoid the pitfall of normalizing deviation. There is no more important mission than protecting the community and our members. “Safety First” has lost its impact due to the “pass the buck” environment it created when it came to safety accountability. “Safety Third” instills a requisite stop that resets accountability for safety where it belongs: on everybody.

Consortiums and Safety: How Consortiums Have Gotten Involved

Some consortiums have chosen to engage with the theme of safety. The Michigan-Ohio-Indiana consortium, for instance, has presented an in-depth internal investigation that arose from a January 2014 apartment fire in Toledo, OH that resulted in the death of two Toledo Fire-Rescue Department firefighters three times at Consortium meetings. Dave Dauer, the Michigan-Ohio-Indiana Consortium Coordinator, said the eight-month investigation sought “to both explain how and why this incident ended in the death of the two firefighters, as well as identify lessons learned.”

“The presentation itself serves as a summary analysis of the incident and an in-depth discussion of lessons learned,” Dauer explained. The investigation was developed from a strategy and tactics standpoint.

The lessons learned were safety-related and ranged from enhanced coordination of efforts to specific incident-related concerns. The NIOSH report, released in April 2015, listed some safety concerns as contributing factors and key recommendations, which included enhanced risk assessment and the fire department assigning a single, full-time safety officer early in the incident. Although all officers in the department had been trained as safety officers, Dauer said this “led to looking into safety officers,” and even the examination of the potential for having a full-time trained incident safety officer as well as training all officers as incident safety officers. This illustrates the department’s dedication to ensuring the safety of all personnel.

What lessons learned does Dauer want to pass on to others? “The safety sector is immediate with the incident commander responsible for adequate safety procedures,” Dauer said. In addition, he said, it is important to ensure a safety officer is assigned as soon as possible.

Commission on Fire Accreditation International Welcomes New Commissioner

This month saw the appointment of a new Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) Commissioner. On June 1, Chief Steve Dirksen of the City of Fargo, ND Fire Department began his tenure as a CFAI Commissioner. He will represent the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) for populations 100,00 to 249,999.

Chief Dirksen began his career as a firefighter in 1989 when he joined the Rock Valley (IA) Volunteer Fire Department. In 1994, he was hired by the Sioux Falls (SD) Fire Department and was promoted to Captain in 2005. In 2006, he was promoted to Battalion Chief, and he served as the Training Battalion Chief for three years. From 2009 to November 2011, he served as a Shift Battalion Chief, until he became the Fire Chief for the City of Fargo.

Chief Dirksen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Sioux Falls. He is an Executive Fire Officer (EFO) graduate and holds the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation with the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC).

Chief Dirksen also serves as a member of FEMA Region VIII Regional Advisory Committee. He has been a member of the EFO Symposium Planning Committee since 2013 and serves as the Chair of the Executive Leadership Outstanding Research Award Review Team.

Chief Dirksen is married and he and his wife have two children: a son and a daughter.


It’s that time again…

Do you have a program idea you think would be great for our Excellence Conference? We are looking for excellence, and the call for presentations is open!

The 2018 Excellence Conference theme is “Lead in the Present, Transform the Future.” Programs must be educational in nature and focus on solutions and outcomes. While we prefer original presentations, references must be cited if the material is not original.

Submissions are due no later than July 25 by 5:00 pm ET. Incomplete submissions will not be considered.

For the full requirements for submission as well as the evaluation process, please see our Call for Presentations on our website.

We look forward to seeing your submissions.

Coming Up

CPSE has several workshops scheduled over the next few months. Register today to reserve your seat at any workshop that meets your needs. Please pass these dates and locations on to colleagues at adjacent fire departments to help us promote these excellent learning opportunities.

For course details and registration, go to our Workshops & Events page.

July 12, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Blue Springs, MO

July 18, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Goodfellow AFB, TX

July 31, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Ft. Leavenworth, KS

August 7, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Ft. Greely, AK

August 14, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Ft. Gordon, GA

August 14, 2017
CFAI Peer Assessment Webinar

August 21, 2017
CFAI Peer Assessment Webinar

August 29, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Indian Head, MD

September 5, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Scott AFB, IL

September 18, 2017
Nurturing Fire Service Leaders Through Mentoring
Charlotte, NC

September 19, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Dayton, OH

September 26, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Kingston, ON