From the Editor
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R o d e n I n my opinion, there are perfect storms on a daily basis in the fire service—metaphorically speaking, that is. Every day, we see tragedy and misfortune at every level happening to individuals and organiza-
tions. What I tend to see are the cumulative effects
of poor planning, judgment, and choices that go
relatively unnoticed because we’re always looking for
the perfect storm that comes once in a lifetime.
There are always storms brewing within individuals,
organizations, and our environments. Knowing how
to forecast them with accuracy is nearly impossible.
Individuals always have internal and external influences, misfortunes, and demons that they contend
with—sometimes all at the same time. They process
these with varying success and sometimes lose the necessary logic and judgment to see themselves through.
Unfortunately, we don’t often come into work broadcasting our personal problems and issues for the rest of
the crew, so we tend to discover these when it’s too late
or others are at their worst.
One of the most common problems on the individual side, sans work ethic and ethos, is the everyday,
common person’s struggle with alcohol and substance
abuse. Firefighters are just as susceptible to these vices,
and there’s not one of us who hasn’t seen the storm
front right before our eyes or this problem and its
occupational consequences at its worst. But there’s
more hope than ever for firefighters and first responders to tackle this issue ourselves. This month, meet
Battalion Chief Dan DeGryse from the Chicago (IL)
Fire Department. A few years ago, DeGryse decided
to tackle this problem head on and instituted the
Rosecrance-Florian program. This program has seen
tremendous success in helping firefighters overcome
this sometimes-insurmountable problem. I’ve seen this
program’s success first hand with members of my fire
department. See for yourself with my profile of the
When it comes to storms brewing within the
organization, understanding the schematics of your
organization’s complexity to find asymmetrical links
between success and failure is a great forecaster of its
outcomes. A lack of this understanding will put you
on a ship in the fog headed into the perfect storm.
Discovering points of potential should be marked
with “red flags.” David Mellen discusses these flags
and how your organization will have a clear passage
through any storm that it will face.
Speaking of storms, Seth Barker brings us one in
the form of a wildland-urban interface fire that was
dubbed “The Roaring Lion.” Even the best of plans
and intentions can be overwhelmed by an event of
unforeseeable magnitude: Consider any national or
local tragedy that we had the equipment and personnel in place for but discovered that we forgot to ask
several important questions regarding our readiness.
Barker reminds us to ask: What is the plan? How
much time do you have? How much time do you
have to evacuate your home with everything you need
and love? How much time does your fire department
have? What are the capabilities of your fire department? These are the tough questions that need to be
addressed when facing any storm—or lion.
How about when it all goes down the storm drain?
Well, we’ll at least use the pun to bring you a great
story about the six-hour rescue of a manatee from
such a drain in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a story with
the message of the importance of multiagency and
coordinated efforts. Coordinated efforts are just what
are needed to keep the aforementioned storms at bay.
Whether it’s your department’s culture or leadership,
we’re all part of the plan and need to realize our roles
and responsibilities. Perhaps the greatest role the
company officer has is ensuring that the plan includes
courtesy, professionalism, and responsibility. Jamie
Howarth discusses how she got her crew’s buy in on
this plan through the principles of her organization’s
approach to cardiopulmonary resuscitation. And when
it comes to principles, we often find barriers, whether
it’s the individual or organization’s vetting of policy,
procedures, and culture. Jeff Rothmeier asks us to look
at who’s doing the vetting of our policies and habits to
ensure that it’s the right culture to follow.
Remember that we must take care of ourselves, in
the sense that we bring our demons, issues, and
problems to work with us, whether we think we do
or not. We must see ourselves as part of any
cumulative problem that will impact the company,
organization, and community, in that order.
Organizations will always do their best to navigate
the storms that are constantly brewing. If we take
care of ourselves and each other we can steer the ship
through any storm and between the red flags in front
of us. It’s just up to us to know that they’re there.
A Perfect Storm
Taking care of ourselves and each other
to survive the squall