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Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Roanoke City is the best

The other day, I was talking to a Captain about certain issues in the Department. As usual, we talked about many different issues that pertain to the day to day lives of firefighters on the job in Roanoke. Some of the issues were positive, others negative.

The thing that caught my attention was that while talking about the loss of Engine 7, and how the "Quint" Ladder 7/Medic 7 has been operating, he said that the reason why it is working is not because of anything other than "The guys (firefighters) make it work".

How true that is, not just about #7 but about everything that isn't peachy in the department. We push ourselves because it is our job. We make the job what it is. We make it as good or bad as we want to. In the face of all the issues surrounding our job, we do what we can to make it the best department around. If only we didn't have to always put on a fake smile to make everything look great at face value.

Not everything in the department is bad, actually far from it. However, the truth is that we work for decent wages, increasingly expensive benefits which could be better, on some great firetrucks and others that are terrible, in stations which are average or better, with rules that span from fairly straightforward City POP's to unwritten rules that shouldn't matter, in a City where the Citizens (most of them) love us, yet powers that be just want us to show up to work and keep our mouths shut and be happy.

The initiatives of the Department aren't all that far fetched. The direction the department has taken in the past few years has good merit, but the planning and implementation is missing a key ingredient - buy in from its members.

You can come up with the best plan, but if you don't sell it to your constituents it is worthless. For example, by removing Engine 7 you can easily change the numbers to make your point whichever way you want it to go. Statistics and Analysis are used to prove that point. However, the guys on the street running the calls are effected. We make due with what we have to work with.

In the fire service, tragedy dictates policy.
FDNY - everyone gets self rescue rope after two firefighters die jumping to their deaths to escape fire.
Charleston - A potential full system overhaul after 9 firefighters die tragically fighting a sofa super store fire.
Prince William County - several initiatives, one big one being staffing after the death of Firefighter Kyle Wilson.
Lairdesville - numerous initiatives, most notably NFPA 1403 after a senseless training death.

However, those are more recent than some others. A lot has been done in the past after historic fires resulting in improved building and fire codes.

The most progressive Fire Departments learn from other Departments tragedies, mistakes, misfortunes, Firefighter deaths, Civilian Deaths, and otherwise lackluster policies and operational procedures.

We have reaped the benefits of some of these changes following others tragedies, but not all. We follow 1403 very closely, one of many NFPA Guidelines that are strictly followed by the department. There are so many other NFPA guidelines which we fall a little short.

What about the self escape ropes? I carry one, because I have taken the time and money to put one together - but it is not issued to me. I carried it before the FDNY tragedy because I felt it was a necessity. Why aren't we issued them? Will we have to see a similar fate before we see them.

What about staffing?
What about a fine tuned set of SOP's to follow?

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department is the best because of its Firefighters, nothing more nothing less. Without as much adversity, we could be so much better.


Anonymous said...

the sad thing is we can not do a bad job because the higher ups put us behind the eightball. We have to do a good job because the people we protect and our lives deppend on it. And because we must and do the higher ups think they are the reason everything is running well. I think that it will take the death of one or more of us to open their eyes.

MikeyRo said...

Hey Rhett,

How about personal charcoal filters or some other type for each Firefighter since we use high pressure hoses tight up to our masks??

No more putting the hose dwn your coa if you run out of air.

The answer I got when I asked...

Because we can't put people in an IDLH atmosphere to test them, we are not getting any.

Wonder if that might have made a difference to the guys in Charlston that were trapped / lost and out of air?

I have thought about getting my own as well and have not found any real good information on what is the best "all around," "cover my butt in the event of an air emergency" filter to get.

Anonymous said...

Rhett i would agree,we would go to a fire in hell, with a garden hose if its all we have and not fuss while we are their. When we get back to the station KATIE BAR THE DOOR !! FYI a county FF tonight at a resturant w/ his family in uniform that said. he had not been home but 3 hours in 3days. fighting fires on city property. He stated that every fire trail they went on today had a sign posted property of city of roanoke. He said the county chief is pretty hot that city admin has not helped out with fires on city property i guess we can't afford overtime..But what a way to show regional cooperation between 2 departments

Anonymous said...

RE: the last comment. It is interesting that the Green Ridge Mountain Fire is in Roanoke County, but the Cove property that it spread to is Roanoke City's, hell half of that property sits in Botetourt Co. Go figure. How much Brush Fire Equip does RFD possess? Has the City run mutual aid for the County while they've been on the Fire? I'm just curious. I can see half of the Co FF's gripe, but someone should have reminded him that the 42 houses they "have protected" all have County addresses. Sounds like an interesting topic...

Anonymous said...

Where was this county guy when medic 10 was running 5 to 6 runs a day in to hollins?? did he cry then?? Where was he when engine 11 was putting out their fires in the county??Did he cry when the city put 2 engines and a bat chief to run their calls while they sit on a line watching a fire burn?? Did they cry when we gave them 6 men at county 7 so they could have their FIRST 24 hour engine?? Screw Burch and what the county guys think!!!!!!We dont do brush fires!!!! county or city land!

Anonymous said...

Rhett, Good rant I enjoyed reading it. With the comments the County FF deserves a break and it's a shame he hasn't gotten much of one until recently. I do know that the city provided mutual aid through personelle and by having our ladder trucks (the ones in service anyway :( ) run county calls if necessairy. I also saw where Burch gave us and other departments credit for assistance given, during a county counsel meeting. Just my little bit.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken the property in question is owned now by the Western Va. Water Auth. but regarless, it is owned just like any other county property, and protected by the same organization as any other county property.

The guy that ran his mouth was tired and overwoked at the time, let's give him a pass on that one.

Job well done on protecting the homes in the fire zone.