It is sad to hear of what the Roanoke Firefighters think now that the budget cuts have been confirmed.

Mostly, the firefighters believe they have lost the backing of their Fire Chief. I think it is obvious, others needed a little more time to come around to the realization.

It is funny though, you hear Council Members and others say things like…well that is what he is paid to do…and he is just doing his job…and his hands are tied.

I am calling shenanigans. That is right. I think it is just the opposite. He is the Fire Chief. His job is to manage the Fire-EMS Department. His job is to make sure that Myself and my Brother and Sister Firefighters get to go home to our families after every shift. His job is to ensure the Publics Safety related to Fire and EMS Services.

I do not know any other way of explaining it other than to say that EVERY firefighter thinks this is a terrible idea and no good can come of it.

I have heard what some of the Council Members have to say and they are standing behind the notion that “well the Fire Chief said so”. That can mean only one thing, that they will remember when we cry foul…and they have their scapegoat.

Hopefully, in the future I will be able to getting some entertaining things on here again to brighten your day. However, today is not one of them.

Watch Channel 10 and 13 tonight, they both covered the events of today.

Hey all,

Amidst one of the worst weeks of my life, I managed to enjoy the phone calls and comments related to the Blog coming to an end. After all, it was April 1st. Some of you all got it right away, others it was a little tougher. The best phone call was someone calling to complain about it, then the next day realizing it was April 1st the day before, calling me to admit I had got him. He even said that he was frantic in trying to think of someone else to take over the blog.

I had a “Cowboy” Captain call up and bitch me out about it, only to realize it was April 1st at the end of his sentence and promptly say something like “Oh I get it, April Fools you asshole” – I don’t even think I got a word out of my mouth. Damn did I get him good. His guys called to tell me how pissed off he was.

Others just told me of firefighters who thought it was BS that I stopped the blog. However, several of you saw right through it.

I must say that my April Fools joke got a lot more mileage than I imagined it would. I will be back to work tomorrow, still homeless after having trouble closing on our new house. Tomorrow, I think I will try some new pump training, courtesy of C.J. Schaffer (Salem Fire Department):

Hey guys,

I had word of a couple of rumors today, however I don’t have the time to investigate them right now. I am busy with several things.

However, this is a long time coming and I am sad to say that the blog will end with this post. It has been fun. Almost 1200 posts in all over a span of 3 years almost to the day. The truth is that I just don’t have the time like I used to.

All in all,the blog has been very fun. Bringing the news to all the firefighters who care to read. So many readers from across the Nation and even outside looking in to see what the Roanoke Firefighters are doing. I think that in the end, so many more people know about Roanoke’s Bravest, who we are and what we are about. The courage, dedication, and professionalism is testament to the men and women we are. Especially considering some of the conditions we work within.

Everyone look out the window and you will notice that there aren’t any fires still burning, noone still trapped in cars, and nobody still on the line with 911 waitin for us to respond. After all, this is all the bosses care about. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit to the way we do our job, the excellence we provide on a daily basis, or the compassion we provide to our citizens.

So long, and farewell. The blog will still be on the internet for all to see. I will just stop updating it. I will be around, and stories will still be told, just not in this forum.

Thank you all very much for giving me the opportunity to tell your stories for all the World to see.

God Bless and Stay Safe.


One of the things that I really like about the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department is the use of committees within the department to have buy-in by our members. This provides sense of ownership over decisions made which effect our health, safety, and operations while doing our job. The use of committees has been effective in getting us the tools, equipment, uniforms, and vehicles which we rely on to do our jobs effectively, safely, and efficiently.

While there is still a veto power by the Chief over the committee decision, this veto power is not used all the time. Usually the biggest issue that creates a need for veto is budget constraints. All in all, veto over committee decision has not been detrimental in our health, safety, and operations. The one veto that comes to mind as being an outright catastrophe is when a former Chief overruled the apparatus committee on the purchase of two ladder trucks. His decision to purchase vehicles that the committee could not entirely stand behind ended up being cheaper for the City originally. However, over time with the increase in maintenance, out of service time, and repair has cost the City well over the cost of the trucks originally. The firefighters saw up front that it was a bad decision, and have had to live with it since. Ultimately, it will cost the City more money because the trucks will not make it as long as ladder trucks should. The trucks longevity was cut short because of its poor design.

Other committees have made breakthroughs in testing which ultimately had the manufacturers change the design. Our turnout gear and airpack committees did really hard work in finding equipment and gear suitable for us. In doing so, they found flaws which were pointed out (some were even fixed due to our recommendations).

These committees are formed by members of our department who want to make change. These members should be commended for the time they put in and the hard work and dedication they have to their fellow firefighters.

Currently, committee members are testing leather fire boots as well as various turnout gear. To me it is a no brainer to go with leather fire boots. We will see what comes of it. Below, you will see why rubber fire boots are a poor decision and a waste of City money. This is what can bee seen above the gear lockers at Station 13.

I was contacted by a reader who is a graphics producer in Roanoke. He apparently enjoys reading the blog and decided to touch up the photo to the left that I posted the other day. Thanks Patrick, I always appreciate the help. You can certainly tell the difference.

Hey guys. As always, it has been a trying time for Roanoke Firefighters after losing a solid and committed member of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Family. David O. Rich was damn near an institution in the department. Along with Donnie and Jimmy, I always enjoy seeing one of them come in the door to the station. They are the biggest supporters of the Department, they are the pipeline to information and supplies every day of the week. David will be missed, by myself and all I am sure.

I will get back to regular posting soon. I like to keep important posts up for several days. David deserves it.

Now to a little issue I have. I put a lot of time into this blog. I don’t do it for me, I do it for the readers. It is basically part of my life as a firefighter now. Like it or not, it is the blog. Some of you check in daily to see what the new posts are, and others check in to see what Rhett has to say.

What I don’t get is why there weren’t 250 comments on the last post? I know that everyone can relate to David. It is so often that when readers don’t agree with me that they comment. But what about when they agree with me, or if there isn’t an issue? Is it so hard to comment? It isn’t for me, but for his relatives, his grandchildren and others. This blog will be here for a while and the comments will live on.

Mike Overacker has some pictures of the Roanoke Electric Steel fire up at

On a side note, apparently DC Tartaglia told Roanoke City Police to ban Mike Overacker from future fire scenes. I am not exactly sure what is going on with this, but I think that Fire Photographers do a lot to preserve history, document incidents, and offer Firefighters with proof of a job well done or not as a training tool and/or pat on the back. I have seen photos taken by fire photographers used for investigations, slideshows, hung on walls, in presentations, and on websites. Some of which are Mike’s photos used by the City.

I don’t think that the sentiment displayed today towards Mike is the same outlook that many others have towards him, even in Administration. However, I cannot speak for them.

I would like to say that I appreciate the work Mike has done over the years in photographing incidents. As a matter of fact, the RFFA plans to submit some of Mike’s work in the IAFF Media Awards Contest this year.

If it isn’t broke…then don’t fix it. Over 150 firefighters in the City of Roanoke subscribe to AFLAC insurance – either cancer, long term disablity, or Intensive Care (I believe those are the three offered). The firefighters like the coverage, as do hundreds of other Roanoke City Employees.

Recently, AFLAC was given the boot and the City brought in BCI to “communicate” the new insurance coverage. When the 5 individuals came to my station they stated they worked for BCI and/or Empower and were only there to “communicate” the insurance to us.

I am not taking this time to talk about the fact that the Human Resources openly handed out our information, I will do that later.

What I would like to do is offer you some insight as to what I have found on the Internet about Unum, Empower, BCI, and whoever else is related. I might add that these are internet articles and I have no way of knowing the credibility of the articles.

Unum aka Unum Provident – The website states “We are a company of people serving people. When you choose Unum as your employee benefits provider, you’re in the hands of 10,000 people dedicated to providing better benefits to organizations of all sizes and their employees.”

On Wikipedia, it states “Unum garnered media attention in 2002 after attorneys who had sued the company went to national television outlets claiming the company had quotas for closing claims.”

Here is another article on Unum – “Unum was recently forced by state regulators to reopen 290,000 disability insurance claims that had been rejected, including a case where ‘Unum insisted that a man who had quintuple bypass surgery was fit to go back to his job at a stock brokerage firm, even though his doctors said the stress might kill him’ and where Unum ‘refused benefits to a man who had had multiple heart attacks’[7].”

Here are some personal experiences with Unum.

Empower – The domain was recently purch

This article talks about Empower purchasing BCI. “The Empower Group Ltd., the global organization and performance consultancy founded in 2000, today announced that it has acquired Bowker Consulting International (BCI), one of the world’s leading strategic compensation and benefit practices.”

BCI – Bowker Consulting International – The domain is not registered.

Really and truthfully, this whole thing is a mess. The City hired Empower to figure out what insurance would be the best. Empower did that and is now signing people up for the insurance.

Unum was the chosen insurance along with Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual had a local rep deliver the product and a lot of us already had the insurance.

The fact of the matter is that the City had a benefit that the employees were happy with. Of all the benefits, this one was adequate unlike so many others. So what does the City do? Get rid of it and replace it with a less than appealing alternative.

You can only take a beating for so long before one of two things happens, you fight back or you are beaten to death.

I think that most employees of Roanoke City are nearing a concussion.

This week the City tried to roll out a new voluntary insurance plan. Unfortunately for us they dropped the AFLAC program. WTF?

I remember taking my own time to fill out a survey not too long ago about various voluntary insurance, health care, child care, pet insurance, etc. Really it was all kinds of stuff. Fluff more like it. Some of the stuff was just plain absurd. However, I don’t remember anything about the City dropping our AFLAC.

At the time of the survey, there were many attempts to make sure a large portion of firefighters filled out the survey. Guess what. The FD had the largest percentage out of any other department in the City.

This is a voluntary insurance plan with several different options. The plans are used by countless City employees including a large percentage of Roanoke’s Firefighters. After all, Firefighters have an increased chance of getting nearly every kind of cancer.

Guess what. Poof, it is gone. On top of that, the City then turned around and just gave our information out to another company…again.

Let me be extremely serious for a minute. What the hell is going on?

I know that some of you boot lickers are probably saying “Rhett, Rhett, Rhett, why don’t you just leave it alone. It is for the better. They are looking out for us. Promotions are coming up. I don’t like the blog. You hurt my feelings. Leave them alone. Boo Hoo Hoo.”

The truth is that I am vested. This is my job, my career, my life. I don’t appreciate being treated like this. Nor should you. I love my job. I love being a firefighter. I bring up these issues to make it better, to make people aware, and to help my fellow brother.

Everyday the rules change.
Everyday we lose something else.
Everyday something costs more.
Everyday we have to spend less.
Everyday the call volume increases.
Everyday there is something more they want from us.
Everyday we perform at our best. Lives depend on it.
Everyday we work, we leave our families with the understanding that one of us might not come home.

Lest I remind everyone about the Core Values of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department
You can view the entire Mission, Vision, and Values here.
The core values are below. They are all important, however the ones outlined are the ones which seem neglected.


* The employees of this department are our most valuable resource. Only through them will our mission be accomplished.
* The residents and visitors of Roanoke are our customers. We will constantly strive to provide them with the highest quality of service possible. We will consider every customer contact an opportunity to demonstrate our mission and values.
* Employee and customer safety will affect our approach to the services we provide.
* We uphold a philosophy of participative management that involves employees in issues that affect them, encourages open dialog, teamwork, trust and shares ideas among employees and management.
* We will maintain department integrity and longevity through fiscally sound and proactive planning and budgeting.
* Through research and development, visioning and creativity, we will constantly strive for better ways to fulfill our mission to serve our customers.
* We will promote the attributes of leadership, service, pride and respect in a secure, diverse workplace.

Did anyone read the paper today?
Did anyone get the email about not spending any money?
Did anyone read the paper the other day about the $880k given to a private developer?
Did anyone get the memo on the FD having to cut the budget by almost $500k?

What is going on in Roanoke?

The City Council just voted to hand a private developer $880,000 to build apartments in the old Grand Piano building under one stipulation; they have to offer 17 low income apartments. What a joke. Define low income. Do you really think that someone paying $2000 a month for an apartment downtown will want to have people paying $300 for an apartment underneath them? Or is low income more like only $1500 a month? If you ask me, it is a waste of money when the City, much like every other facet of government from local to Federal, is having money problems. Read the whole story here.

Money problems? That is right. Once again, the FD has to cut the budget…again. I would imagine that the FD budget is probably about 95% salaries.

I will tell you about two people who do not have money problems: Scott Graeff and Ed Walker
Read about Scott here, whereas Ed Walker, a Roanoke redeveloper, owns the Colonial Arms building and has created condominium spaces on the top floors.

But you can’t blame them. The City is practically giving away money. Money that they cannot afford to give away.

Do you know where that $880k could have been better spent? Purchasing one of the two much needed replacement ladder trucks in the City.

So you have to ask who is making the decisions? City Council and the City Manager right? Well sure, but what kind of decisions are they making? One Council member spent over $15,000 last year on meals and travel. Compare that to another Council member who only spent $123. That is right, only One Hundred and Twenty Three Dollars.

The best part of the article is this:

“It seems to me that if he had decided to take that challenge on — to go to lunch with everybody in Roanoke — he should have at least run it by council,” Wishneff said.

That is freaking hilarious.

But what is it being spent on? Read this from one of his friends:

But Michael Ridenhour, a Roanoke audiologist, had a different take on his lunch with Dowe in July at Wildflour, which came to $23.

“We mainly talked about his golf game. He hadn’t been playing as much as he wanted to,” Ridenhour said.

Dowe did ask his opinion about a proposed amphitheater project, Ridenhour recalled. But he said much of the conversation consisted of Dowe, who is an agent for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, asking Ridenhour if he could be his agent.

“I had high hopes that this was just going to be a friend-to-friend meeting. But as it turned out, he was trying to sell me something.

“I love Alfred; he’s a great guy … but I thought it was a Northwest Mutual lunch,” Ridenhour said.

Dowe said he remembered the amphitheater being a bigger part of the lunch conversation. But he also acknowledged that it’s not unusual for his full-time profession to come up during a meal over city business.

You can read the entire article here

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.

Hey all, I have been a little busy lately. I have a lot of stuff to post. Here are some of the things coming soon:

  1. Superman at #5? just wait it is funny.
  2. The Crow saga continues…or ends…or begins again.
  3. Pictures from the banquet. If you have some to share, send them in.
  4. A thought about the comments…again. Yes, some of you all still don’t get it.
  5. Supplemental Life Insurance at the tip of your fingers. This is a decent deal at the tips of your fingers.
Also, feel free to take a minute to let me know about what else is going on. Just comment on things in general, ideas for the blog, or news I am missing.

Most of all, Stay Safe

Recently, there was a clash in the House of Delegates between the Republicans and Democrats. I was not particularly fond of the reasoning or outcome. However, what really set me off was the fact that in my view of the events, Morgan Griffith made a mockery of us wanting simple rights for Public Safety. Those simple basic rights are that of bargaining for a decent contract by abolishing the prohibition on Collective Bargaining in Virginia. Apparently, Griffith does not feel as though the Public Safety Officials in Virginia deserve the same as in other States. I wonder if he would feel the same way if he were exposed to some of the strong armed, retaliatory, and otherwise unchecked Management styles of some Fire and Police Departments in Virginia.

Read about the clash between Ward Armstrong and Morgan Griffith here and here.

Hell, all we want is a seat at the table, a fair shake, and some checks and balances on policy.

Below are some of the videos related to the articles linked above. If anyone knows of any links to other videos related to this let me know.

I must say that I stand behind the IAFF when they speak of Bipartisan Politics. I will support any delegate of any party as long as they support me. However, it is hard to do when you have all of the House Republicans allowing this conduct to occur.

Furthermore, Griffith told Ward Armstrong (A strong supporter of Firefighters) that he (Armstrong) was either for the Commonwealth or for Unions. So I guess that makes us 2nd Class Citizens.

As with anytime we come across someone who doesn’t appreciate us; I always like to remind them that we don’t care who you are, where you came from, what your views are, or if you like us or not… WE WILL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU IN YOUR TIME OF NEED.

I have posted on the need for more defined SOP’s, SOG’s, Guidelines, Memos, Emails, etc. Once again the unwritten rule strikes.

In a world of digital media, we the firefighters find ourselves out in the dark without a flashlight. Most Fire Departments are para-military. Meaning we have rank and follow the rank. We understand our role and follow orders.

Recently, as in a few years ago, the department went to SOP’s online. The SOP book in the station was not maintained after that point. Therefore if you were looking at the SOP book, you had to go online to make sure nothing had changed. This is not a huge deal, however it seems as though memos and emails have taken the place of updated SOP’s and it has created a problem. Now, when you want to see what the rules are you have to get the emails, memos, and SOP’s and put them in chronological order and put them together like a jig-saw puzzle.

However, there is one more thing you have to take into consideration…the unwritten rule. What is the unwritten rule? Well to be exact, it could be anything. What weight does an unwritten rule have? To me, nothing really.

I know the SOP’s, I receive email, and I know where the Memo board is. So I guess it is up to me to know what is going on and what rules to follow. If indeed I fail to follow the rules, I will pay the consequences. That is the way it works.

Unwritten rules? Well don’t expect me to know them.

But it could be better. It is very simple actually. All we have to do is update the SOP’s to common practice, discontinue the practice of using emails as policy because not everyone uses it, and get rid of relying on unwritten rules.

I would be happy to be on a committee to clean up the SOP’s and make them more understandable. After all, it would be beneficial if I could go to one place to know what is expected of me, other than the City POP’s.

Like many things in the fire service, you cannot please everyone. Many issues are debated in the firehouse and differing opinions are offered. However, most often the guys/gals in the firehouse are not the decision makers. The decision makers have ideals set forth by budget, higher up management, and governing standards. The firefighters mostly want the best understandable because it makes their job easier, more efficient, and their lives may depend on it. After all, if a deficient piece of equipment is purchased it will not likely effect someone sitting behind a desk. That same piece of equipment may effect a firefighters ability to operate on the fire ground.

Back in 1997/1998 a decision was made to purchase two 75′ quints to replace other trucks in the fleet. The trucks were designed with one rear axle, which is not a popular fire service ideal. The need for two rear axles is due to all of the gear that a ladder truck has to carry. The ladders were shortened from the 95′-100′ average to 75′ in order to have the weight low enough to place the truck on a single axle. The trucks are smaller than other ladder trucks, have pumps, a tank, and hose which take up a considerable amount of room while still having to carry all of a ladders equipment.

A couple of years ago, Ladder 2 was replaced. The old ladder was a 121′ ladder truck, the new one is a 95′ platform – a first for Roanoke. The 121′ was placed in reserve. To picture the reserve ladder is looks like a crane painted red. It is huge.

Now take into mind all the things that firefighters have been told.

  1. We need a new station to fit state of the art equipment.
  2. Fitting state of the art equipment in the old station 1 is like putting a 36″ waist in 34″ pants.
  3. When the reserve ladder do a 3 point turn just to get into the new bay at the new station that was designed to fit state of the art equipment we were then told that tight is good.
  4. The state of the art equipment that was reported to not fit in the old station will also not fit in other stations.
So the saga continues. The maintenance garage put a new suspension on the reserve ladder. They did not realize that the new suspension actually raised the overall height of the ladder truck by a couple of inches. Normally, this would not be a problem, but Station 2 was altered to fit the reserve truck when it was new and it had 1 1/2″ room between the top of the truck and the ceiling. So imagine the look on the firefighters faces when they wedged the reserve ladder truck into the bay at station 2 after the new suspension was put on. They reportedly had to let the air out of the tires to get the truck out of the station.

So what are we left with. Our reserve ladder cannot fit in station 2, nor can it be used to replace ladder 7 because ladder 7 is run as a quint now. So whenever Ladder 2, 7, or 13 is out of service the guys at 13 have to play musical chairs with the ladder trucks because that is the truck they need.

There is an immediate need for purchase of a new ladder truck. I understand that the Chief has already put in for a new one. The Chiefs plan on replacing trucks seems to be working quite well so far. It is too bad that we are still suffering the consequences of bad decisions in the past. The same decisions that firefighters stood against and the decision makers made anyways.

Unfortunately, it takes about 10 months to build a ladder truck.

This is only one example of things the Fire-EMS Department needs. The list is long.

I know how tight money is in the City. We have shelled out millions of dollars to the Art Museum and for building condos downtown.

Hey guys. I have been talking to a lot of you all recently and thought I would jot down some random thoughts that have been the topics of discussion.

  • No matter what kind of tone is given, it is an emergency for someone. Even though a “nose bleed” may not seem like an emergency to us at face value, if it made someone call 911 it is an emergency until we arrive on scene to access the situation and mediate. I was discussing with someone today how some of us take several extra bites of food at dinner, finish a conversation, or just casually walk to the truck. Why be so slow to get to the truck just to race through traffic. These are fundamentals.
  • Furthermore, maybe EMS Prevention isn’t such a bad idea (first brought to my attention by Chief Manuel).
  • No matter who the person is, you HAVE TO respect the Rank.
  • Most would agree on the biggest problem in our FD, but what is our greatest accomplishment – That is easy: putting up with the biggest problem.
  • Don’t lose sight of the good by all the bad. It is real easy to dwell on the bad stuff that goes on, sit back and think of all the good things which have occurred.
  • Somebody was telling me about the new ambulance planned to be put in Station 8. My thought is this: Isn’t a medic truck needed elsewhere prior and what engine company will be taken out of service this time to put a medic truck into service.
  • If there is fire, it is a working fire right. So what if you don’t need any more trucks, tell dispatch that units on scene can handle.
Most of all, enjoy your job. We are public servants. We are put on a pedestal when things go good, and drug through the mud when things go bad. We are usually only recognized in times of need. We got into this job to help people and we are given that opportunity several times each shift. All we can do is pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and hold our heads high.

Recently, I have witnessed another wave of comments on the blog. Some are great…constructive and professional. Others are childish, rude, and unnecessary.

I get a lot of people who say things like the blog is becoming the rumor mill, or that it is not doing any good.

I know the people who make certain comments. I have known them for a long time. I don’t mean that I know each person who has made each individual payment, however I know the type. Remember the rumor mill. I know who was making most of the comments. Everyone knows I was a part of it, but no one knows to what extent. It doesn’t matter.

My point is this; As long as you let it bother you, they will continue to do it. It is just like in the company. If you give your brothers material, they are going to have fun with it. That is our nature. The wheel chock…that was priceless. I can’t believe that person wasted the time to type that comment.

As for the comments on training and certain incidents that have happened recently, I will say this:

  1. Everyone in this department needs to train more, especially on the basics.
  2. We will always have room to improve.
  3. We will continue to learn from our mistakes.
The Roanoke Fire EMS Department has many committees. For the most part, the committees are very effective. In the more recent years, the recommendations of the committees have been agreed upon by Administration. The most common reason for non-compliance with committee recommendations has been budget constraints. Usually, this is taken care of up front when Admin. gives certain criteria for the committees to follow. This criteria is usually budget driven.

It hasn’t always been that way. I won’t delve deep into the certain issues which committees have been rendered useless due to veto by Administration, however the Quints is one issue where the committees were backed into a corner and were uncomfortable with the outcome.

Examples of Roanoke’s committees are the turnout gear committee, uniform committee, apparatus committee (two actually – one for fire and one fore ems vehicles), training committee, airpack committee, and many others. Some meet regularly, others like the airpack committee were kind of a one time thing to decide on new airpacks.

The Charleston Fire Department (SC) is facing the very worse for the newly formed committees which were suggested by the panel overseeing the reformation of the department. These committees have been overruled by their Chief. Chief Thomas, who has been identified as the root of many problems in the department by many inside and outside of the department, went along with the recommendations for forming committees. However, when given the recommendations by the committees, Chief Thomas has decided not to implement the recommendations and do whatever he felt like. Basically, the committee members felt as though Chief Thomas had wasted their time and according to some; returned to the dictator role he had been posturing for the past 16+ years in the job.

This is not healthy. The system we have is healthy. Although we cannot have everything we want, the firefighters in Roanoke have figured out that through committee involvement we can compromise on what equipment we have to work with. This system has been very beneficial to the firefighters, giving them a sense of worth in the department and offering them the input into equipment which could mean the matter of life or death while on the job. The flip side of the coin would be Administration deciding on this key equipment while being removed from the day to day operations in which we use them. What does it matter to an Incident commander, who is standing outside, of what airpack we have on. It doesn’t directly effect them. Just as the firefighters don’t order office supplies equipment for Administration because we don’t use them.

There are issues on the committee level too though. Many believe that a lot of the committee members do it for one reason only (to make themselves look good). I cannot say that is not true. There are some who appear to be in that situation. However, for the most part it seems as though the firefighters who are involved in committees do so for the simple reason of understanding that they can be part of the solution. The other issue with committees is that many firefighters have been unable to get involved in certain committees due to some firefighters being involved in more than one. All I can say is the next time there is a sign up for a committee, have your company officer put in a good word for you.

As for Charleston, from my point of view I think that there is one simple answer to reform. That answer is to get a new Chief. I am not saying it will be a cure all. But from what I have read, and I have been following it since the tragedy, it would be a great place to start.

The City is doing away with documenting crimes and fires in specific quadrants of the City. Apparently, the City Manager feels that it “could fuel negative racial and socioeconomic perceptions about certain areas of the city.”

Honestly, I don’t really care anymore about this. The City has been using tactics like this to spread out certain statistics. The Fire Department sees this all the time when territories are changed to make an engine, ladder, or medic truck seem less busy in order to prove a point.

However, if they removed the NW, SW, SE, and NE designations from CAD, this could cause a big problem. How many streets do we have that share the same name? Including the same block.

Yesterday, there were two fires…one in SW and one in NW.

Below is from the Roanoke Times (Read the entire story here)

Roanoke residents who want to know if crime is happening in their neighborhood could have a harder time getting complete information from the city’s Web site.

City police earlier this fall removed a list of crime incidents from their Web site. They re-posted it last week, but without the quadrant designations — Southeast, Southwest, Northeast and Northwest — that had specified where the crimes happened.

It is the latest example of a reluctance by some city officials to provide the most precise information about where crimes are occurring. And it could cause confusion in a city where numerous streets cross quadrants and where one street may have two 600 blocks.

Under a directive from City Manager Darlene Burcham, officials are not allowed to provide quadrant designations in news releases reporting crimes or fires.

One issue at the forefront of firefighters minds is staffing. Roanoke is no different. I have gotten a lot of feedback since posting Staffing in Roanoke, Part II, and Part III. I get phone calls frequently about trucks being out of service. It is unfortunate we cannot have at least the minimum staffing met.

Roanoke’s firefighters have continued to see the staffing reduced for many years. More recently, we have seen staffing get moved around like Engine 12′s crew get reassigned to Medic 4 and Roanoke County Clearbrook Station to staff an engine and medic unit. This was done when engine 12 was disbanded. This year, engine 7 was taken out of service and its crew was reassigned to a medic truck at station 7 and to staff ladder 7 with 1 more additional firefighter (minimum staff on ladder 7 is 4 now).

Rarely a day goes by that an engine isn’t out of service for half the day. Engine 2 or Engine 13 most commonly, but others are as well. I can imagine it is not easy for the Battalion Chiefs to figure out who will be marked out of service when because they don’t have enough firefighters to staff them all of the time.

Today, Engine 2 is out of service for most of the day. It appears as though two of our EMT-Intermediates are riding as a third on two of the ambulances to be precepted. However, if you look at red alert it seems as though there are three other firefighters available riding as a 4th person on trucks. This is at the face value of red alert and how accurate the information is. If this is the case, that there are 3 extras, then shouldn’t we move around some ff’s so we can staff engine 2?

I realized when writing an older post that by marking units out of service for any length of time, we are not meeting the minimum staffing.

The fire service has a history of realizing needs after disasters. Not the firefighter necessarily, but the ones writing the checks. What is it going to take here in Roanoke for us to realize that we are playing with matches when it comes to staffing. Most of the reason why we mark trucks out of service is because we are short staffed. Basically, if a Battalion has more than 6 firefighter positions unfilled (vacation, holiday, light duty, extended illness, vacancy, etc.) then we have to call in for overtime. That is not a large threshold for calling in overtime. Obviously it is cheaper to call in overtime than it is to hire more firefighters. But we don’t always call in overtime because it is too expensive. Basically, unless there is a need for a firefighter for an entire shift, we don’t call in overtime. That means if we have a firefighter, making a crew of 3 and no extras in the City, who needs to go to training or whatever for 8 hours then we mark the truck out of service until the firefighter is back from training. Why don’t we just fill the position with overtime. I know…because overtime is too expensive.

Rest assured, eventually it will catch up. I hope it doesn’t, but the wrong persons house will burn, or someone will get injured or killed and the first due engine will be out of service because they don’t have enough manpower. What is going to be cheaper then? The overtime.

The post titled “Things I need to get off my chest” has gotten a lot of comments. Comments that I am glad to see. I enjoy the dialogue and learning what you all think about various issues.

Jay, at Firefighter Hourly commented on it and on Scooter’s incident on his most recent podcast as well. However, he identified an issue, which I believe deserves a little clarification. Jay perceived my comments on the tact of a certain individual to incorporate all of Administration as a group. That isn’t the case. Listen to it here.

The truth is that due to one person’s lack of tact, it was perceived that it meant all of Administration. Kind of like the comparison of one bad apple spoiling the bunch. All of the Roanoke Firefighters should know and realize that Chief Hoback and other members of Administration acted promptly and professionally during and throughout this incident. From what I saw, I cannot complain about them as a whole. I am proud of the way the entire department acted in this event which we never could have seen coming.

Perception is everything. Jay didn’t put a spin on the information; he just perceived it a little differently. Maybe I am the one who inaccurately wrote the information in the first place. Either way, what was meant isn’t what was perceived. This is not a new problem. I use the term “Administration” loosely on the blog, just as I refer to the rank and file as the firefighters. Us against them. That is just the way it is.

I have some control over how someone perceives what I say, unless they are trying to put a spin on it. Just as Administration has control of how they are perceived.

This flows right into one thing I left off of an earlier post. What is the deal with SOP’s, SOG’s, POP’s, memorandums, and emails? What the heck are we supposed to follow? POP’s are policies set by the City. The department sets SOP’s and SOG’s. At least that is how I understand it. It seems as though we now have standards set by email, memorandums, and whatever some people feel like at any given time.

One person is told this, another that; One person is reprimanded this way, and another that for the same offense; One person is reprimanded, another not for doing or not doing the same thing; One person does one thing and another that and both think they are right in their own mind. Standard Operating Procedures or Standard Operating Guidelines are simple Company Officer level ideals in which we learn in Officer I, II, and III. Classes I took as a Firefighter with other firefighters up to the rank of Assistant Chief. These SOP’s and SOG’s are put in place to define our actions when we work. This is one of the most basic ideals: Rules, Regulations, Standards, and Guidelines so that we understand our jobs and what is asked of us without much interpretation. The lack of these creates havoc in the workplace as well as unfair and inequitable practices.

I don’t see how anyone could complain if we had fair and equitable SOP’s or SOG’s. However, without them we find ourselves at the mercy of whoever feels whatever at any given time. This creates unfair and unbalanced management which in turn creates discontent among the ranks.

Why can’t we get back to the basics and see reform from the ground up. Correct the issue with the lack of SOP’s and SOG’s where needed. End the misuse of memos as SOP’s. End the use of emails as the only form of communication, not everyone uses email.

We have a great department, ask most any firefighter. It could be so much better though.