Recognizing 5 Common Fire/Life Safety Issues [PODCAST]

Listen to our inaugural podcast! In this episode I discuss the top 5 most critical fire/life safety violations, that can be spotted by any firefighter (not just inspectors) as a routine pre-fire plan is being conducted.  The five areas to watch out for include:
  1. Exterior concerns
  2. Exits/egress
  3. Extinguishers
  4. Sprinkler systems
  5. Fire Alarms
Question to consider:  How is your relationship with your fire prevention bureau?

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If you have any questions, comments, or something you would like discussed, please post in the comments section below or contact me.  You can also call in live on May 12  when, as part of  Arson Awareness Week, we will be discussing youth firesetting and intervention programs.

How does your department view youth firesetting?  What are some intervention programs that your jurisdiction utilizes?

A Sustainable Life

This past weekend I was in St. Petersburg, FL attending, A Sustainable Faith conference.  The over all theme of the conference was what is the responsibility of people of faith to the environment, and how is that made practical.

I was deeply impacted by a panel session.  The panel session, moderated by Doug Pagitt, was between Brian McLaren, Silvia Perez, and her interpretter.  Silvia Perez represents the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. More than 90% of our country's out-of-season tomatoes come from Immokalee (located on the west coast of Florida).  These tomatoe farms are worked by immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.  The conditions faced are bleak.  The workers are paid sub-poverty wages, $.45-.55 per 32lb. bucket of tomatoes.  One worker would have to pick 2 tons of tomatoes to make $50 a day.  This price base has not been increased in nearly 30 years.  The workers are only paid for when they pick, they are not compensated for the time they spend working the land or doing any other farm activities. There is no vacation or sick time.  If one of these workers misses a day because of sickness, his job will most likely not be there for him the next day.These workers often times live in farm housing, where there wages are deducted to pay for rent in this substandard housing.  On these farms, just so we can have tomatoes, modern day slavery still exists.

The only way to describe how this experience has humbled me is to say that I am embarrassed.   I live in a 2,500 square foot house, I have two cars (neither, more than 3 years old), I get more than 4 weeks of paid time off annually, and 11 paid holidays, I enjoy my job, I make $40,000 a year (combined family income is nearly $80,000).  And yet, I complain because I haven't had a raise in 4 years.

I am not the only complainer. I hear many in our profession complaining.  Complaining of not getting pay raises, forfeiting "step-pay", losing kelly days, not getting special team/incentive pay, cutting tuition reimbursment from the budget.  Who are we to complain? We are in this profession by choice.  If we don't like it, we can make another choice.  But, perhaps we should just reflect on how good we really do have it.  Perhaps we should just be thankful that we have been given the opportunities that we have.  Our lives really aren't that bad.  I, for one, have been changed.

To combat the unfair labor situation of these Immokalee farm workers the CIW created the Fair Food Program.  The Fair Food Program is a collaboration between farmers, workers, and retail corporations.  Corporations sign onto the program stating that they will only work with farms that treat there workers humanly, provide a fair wage, and support a healthy work environment. Corporations that have signed on include McDonalds, Subway, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and ten others.

Publix is one of the largest retailers of tomatoes. For the last 3 years, Publix has refused to sign onto the Fair Food Agreement. They have refused to pay an additional $.01 per pound of tomatoes (yes, that is 1 penny).  We, the consumer, would not even notice a one penny price increase, or stop buying there tomatoes.  One cent may not seem like much, but that one penny translates to a 64% raise for the farmworkers, an increase of this magnitude would improve there quality of life in a major way!

Understanding Autism - for First Responders

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Here are some things to consider when working with individuals with autism.

  • May be non-verbal or have limited verbal skills.
  • May not respond to your commands or questions.
  • May repeat your words and phrases, your body language, and emotional reactions.
  • May have difficulty expressing needs.
  • May display tantrums or extreme distress for no apparent reason.
  • May laugh, giggle, or ignore your presence.
  • May be extremely sensitive to lights, sounds, or touch.
  • May display a lack of eye contact.
  • May have no fear of real danger.
  • May appear insensitive to pain.
  • May exhibit self-stimulating behavior, such as, hand flapping, body rocking, or attachment to objects.
When interacting with persons with autism keep the following in mind:
  • Display calming body language; give extra personal space.
  • Speak slowly, repeat, and rephrase your questions.
  • Use concrete terms and ideas, avoid slang.
  • Allow extra time for response.
  • Give praise and encouragement.
  • Seek advice from others who know the person with autism.

7 Questions for Recognizing Target Hazards

A target hazard are those areas of a community that stand the greates risk of fire and life loss (both, to the community, and emergency responders). Target hazards can change based on the community you live in, the population, and the amount and types of business/industry/education facilities in your area.

Here are 7 questions to ask in identifying target hazards in your community and, more specifically, your response area:
  1. What is our department's definition of a target hazard?
  2. What do we do with a target hazard that we do not do with a normal building/facility?
  3. How many licensed care facilities do we currently inspect?
  4. Are we inspecting these facilities on an annual basis?
  5. How do we track and add to or delete from the current target hazard list?
  6. Who is in charge of the target hazard program?
  7. What do we need to do to make this system better?

For more information read, Are you off the mark in finding target hazards?, from Fire Chief magazine.

Other resources:
Sample Target Hazard Analysis:

The Station - Learn. Remember. Heal.

Filmmaker David Bettencourt, is embarking on a project to create a documentary film adaptation of the book, From the Ashes, Surviving the Station Nightclub FireThe film will highlight stories of survivors of The Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in 2003. This Rhode Island fire is the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in the U.S.

The film is titled, "The Station - Learn. Remember. Heal." Bettencourt is currently raising funds for this project through Kickstarter.

Related Posts:

How to Properly Apply FireStop Material

Optimized fire protection includes detection, suppression, and compartmentation.  To effectivey slow the spread of fire within a compartment,  the room must be properly built to the required fire rating per UL Listing.  This listing includes the proper application of firestop materials at all penetrations. 

The educational video below was developed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and the International FireStop Council to show the performance of properly tested UL Listed firestop products and the importance of following a precise combination of components and conditions that have been assembled and tested as a system.  The video features real life scenarios, created in UL‘s facilities, designed to simulate realistic room configurations and fire progression.

For more information on the use and application of firestop materials check out these resources:

Public Criticism by Brenda Berkman

Prior to 1977, New York City had a quota for women firefighters. The quota was zero.
—Brenda Berkman

FDNY Capt. Brenda Berkman, leader of New York's first women firefighters, shares on what to do with public criticism.  This clip offers a lot to think about, not only on how to handle criticism, but also something to think about before dishing out criticism.

For more on Brenda Berkman and women in the fire service:

Arson Awareness Week Theme for 2012

The United States Fire Administrated introduced its theme for the 2012 Arson Awareness Week, which will be observed May 6-12. The theme, Prevent Youth Firesetting.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires started by children playing accounted for an average of 56,300 fires with associated losses of 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries, and $286 million in direct property damage per year between 2005 - 2009.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program report states that juveniles (persons under age 18) accounted for roughly 46% of arson arrests in 2005-2010. In 2010, 40% of arson arrests were juveniles with 47.6 % of those children under 16 years of age.

"Fire in the hands of children is devastating - regardless of a child's age or motive," said Ernest Mitchell, Jr., U.S. Fire Administrator. "It is imperative that we do everything possible to prevent youth firesetting to protect the nation's most valuable resource, our children."

The official Prevent Youth Firesetting Arson Awareness Week site and resources is located at,

Posts related to Youth Firesetting: