Reflection of 9/11 Responders

It is hard to believe that it was a little over 15 years ago that our country lost 2,996 unsuspecting souls on a clear morning.  I hesitated writing this blog entry.  What could I say that hasn’t been said before? How can you write about something that moves you to tears at the mere thought of it?  I don’t know, but for some reason I am driven to write this entry.

I, like all of you, remember where I was at the exact time that I heard America was under attack.  I remember talks of 50 other planes making their way to all of the state’s capitals and how people were frantically trying to get in touch with family and friends to make sure they were okay.  I remember the phone lines being down, the horrifying pictures on TV on the live feed, the feeling of wanting to throw-up as warm tears rolled down my cheeks, and the question of, “Why?” in my head. I remember that all. I am sure you do, too.

I remember talking to a dear friend of mine a few days later about what happened that day. I wanted to know how he saw things, as he was and is one of the bravest who serves in the Tallahassee Fire Department.  As we spoke over a campfire on a cool Fall evening with beers in our hands, we discussed human nature  – the good, the bad, the evil, and the unthinkable.

In true fashion, my friend saved me from thinking the worst of people.  This self-proclaimed misanthropy told me never to give up hope in people.  While he will deny he said that or inform you that he was really ignorant back in the day, as he smiles, he is right.9:11.jpg

This conversation has stuck with me throughout the years and perhaps paved the way for me to become interested in ethics and morals, which is a class that I teach now.  Since 9/11, I have often wondered about the morals/ethics of those so few who took the lives of far too many.  How could anyone truly believe deep down that it was alright to commit an act of such severity on those who had not taken arms against anyone, but rather were going about their daily routines?  Following the attacks darkness fell upon the bright shining beacon of hope known as America.

But, I believe in that old saying that even in the darkest of times there is light, if you just look.  Sure, there are always lost souls that will never turn around and see only darkness and hate, but there are so many more that do not.  It is so easy to latch on to hatred and fears and it makes great headlines to sell newspapers or to watch on our 24/7 news feed; however, there is still a great amount of good in the world.

Those first responders and citizens who went to help on 9/11 showcased this light – this  goodness – this hope.  The fact that people are driven to enter the emergency services fields – whether firefighter, EMT, police, dispatch, etc. – supports the ethical theories that people are good by design.  While it can be suggested that everyone’s morality and ethical principles are different, the fact that there are people who still run to assist when disaster strikes, whether manmade or not, demonstrate that in the end people will rally around each other in order to support and comfort.

Many of the first responders to 9/11 gave the ultimate sacrifice and in doing so elevated those in the positions to a more seen societal moral compass.  It is those within the field that provide an ethics of conduct for society.  It is those within the field who are sought to be viewed during times of need, because they provide a comfort that even in the worse of times, when the sun is blocked by the debris of terror, is needed.  They represent a beacon of hope to never give up on each other.

This 15th anniversary of 9/11 was another day that passed when I reflected on my thankfulness for those first responders.  It was the year that I showed my son, approaching his 10th birthday, more vivid images of what occurred that day.  I want him to know, understand, and remember those that left us, those that sacrificed, those that are scarred, but continue to live.  I want him to know that there are heroes that walk among us.  I want him to be thankful for such people.  My involvement within the emergency services industry, with a great deal of it happening within ARFF,  allows me to demonstrate my appreciation to those who put their lives on the line every day for public safety.  Albeit it a small gesture, it is my way.

I am often reminded of the below quote from Mr. Rogers.  He is my first memory of someone who brought together ethics/morals and first responders in his attempt to teach right from wrong and the Golden Rule to those of us who were far too young to know the difference or how bleak the world, at times, can appear.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.” 
To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

-Fred Rogers


Dogs Helping Firefighters

I attended ‪#‎FDIC2016‬ in April and noticed tons of service dogs walking around.  After one went past our booth, one of my neighbors leaned over and told me how happy he was that the dog didn’t jump on him.  “Of course, he won’t jump on you,” I told him, “it is a service dog!”  He quickly informed me that these were a specifically trained dogs – ones that detect cancer.  If you had any cancer within your system, the dog was taught to jump up onto you.

The Sniffing Out Cancer: A Documentary people brought their dogs to FDIC in order to support the work they are doing with theInternational Firefighter Cancer Foundation, Inc. and the Merlin’s Kids / United K9 Professionals!!!!

Wellington & I became quickly acquainted at FDIC.

In addition, Janice Wolfe, founder and CEO of Master of Natural Canine Behavior Rehabilitation, was there. Her sister non-profit organization, Merlin’s Kids, was one of the first to train dogs for disease detection in firefighters and first responders.  Considering the cancer rates with first responders continue to rise at an alarming rate, it was nice to see some attention being given this topic at the largest fire and emergency services conference! Merlin’s Kids’ organization  partnered with the International Firefighter Cancer Foundation to assist with early cancer screening and more can be learned about that here: Disease Detection Dogs (D3).

This news report on these amazing dogs is absolutely mind-blowing because they can detect cancer in the early stages and also assist people through their treatments as therapy.  The training for these dogs is quite extensive. What I found most interesting was that many of the dogs trained were rescued.  Wellington was a rescued dog and I found this out when I asked about his uncommon name.  I assumed he was named for the Wellington rainboots, but it seems his previous owners named him for a city in New Zealand.

Wellington decided I could rub his belly non-stop while he took a break.

I would like to see more of these dogs at the conferences and even for local fire departments to take advantage of them. Leesburg, Virginia, recently had some of Wellington’s coworkers join them for an early detection demonstration: Foundation Urges FF to Reduce Exposure. These dogs can save so many with early detection.

NOTE: I did see where you can sponsor a dog on the D3 website, too.
I look forward to seeing Wellington and his colleagues again next year at FDIC. I’m sure he will have me pick right back up with the belly scratching.

ARFFWG Water Rescue Workshop

It has been awhile since I posted, but I traveled a lot between April and now – including FDIC, Faculty Senate, and the ARFF Working Group (ARFFWG) Water Rescue workshop. For this post I want to focus on the Water Rescue workshop and I will write about something interesting I learned about at FDIC at a later date.

Let me start by saying this was my second workshop that I attended hosted by the ARFFWG.  The first one was last May at the Boeing facility – I wrote a blog about my experience for Embry-Riddle Aeroanutical University’s website and an article for the ARFF News, which can be read here.  As the Boeing workshop was exceptional due to the access to the Boeing facilities, aircraft, and employees ranging from fire fighters to engineers, the Water Rescue workshop maintained this level of professional learning and accessibility.

Held in Boston, Massachusetts, the Massport Fire Rescue were fantastic hosts.  The lecture portion of the workshop was two days and had speakers that ranged from airports and fire and emergency services personnel from various countries, the United States Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, Massachusetts State Police, JetBlue Airways, Boston EMS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, of course, Massport Fire Rescue.  Both days were extremely informative and certainly lent to the advancement of the knowledge level with how other organization’s hand different items and their best practices when dealing with water rescue situations.

In addition to lectures, Massport Fire Rescue had a static display of various rescue boats available to all attendees.  Additionally, we were honored to have bagpipes greet us as we arrived and toured the boats. This was certainly a treat for all of us.


The final half day was dedicated to Massport’s full scale water rescue drill, Operation Ready, that was staged just outside of the harbor. Victims were located on a floating barge and while Massport responded, so did Federal, State, and local mutual aid: United States Coast Guard, Massachusetts State Police, Boston Fire, Cambridge Fire, Quincy Fire, Winthrop Fire, Beverly Fire, Environmental Police.

This sort of environment where professionals from across the globe come together to discuss and assist each other is something that the ARFFWG always does so well.  They coordinated learning with lectures and real-time drills and had sprinklings of networking opportunities with after hour events that showcased the city of Boston so very well.

I always find that I walk away from these workshops with a greater knowledge of the subject matter and I am an outsider looking in. I can only imagine the plethora of information a practitioner gains from such access to counterparts, equipment, and knowledge. Plus, it was in Boston!!!! And I believe that I mentioned Massport Fire Rescue hosted, right? I mean, honestly, how could you go wrong?


NFPA Revisionary Process at Work via Passenger Boarding Bridges

An interesting article caught my attention last week in the American Association of Airport Executives’ (AAAE) Airport magazine: A Clear Future for Passenger Boarding Bridges, by James Doctorman and Randy Pope. They went into details about the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) rather recent change on the usage of glass for boarding bridges.

There was a great deal of information in it that may never have been even thought about by we travelers as we busily jet through the boarding bridges and other areas of the airport.  What I found most interesting was not actually the bridges themselves, but rather the NFPA’s revisionary process at work.

You may be wondering why in the world would that catch my attention.  Why was I not more in awe of how this change will impact travelers who may or may not take notice of the additional natural light they have and openness they feel walking through these bridges? Or that the beauty of nature will allow me to feel less like cattle being herded into a pen?  Well, it was because I have been studying the revisionary process specifically within the ARFF standards.

I am, after all a complete geek…er, academic is the politically correct term.

While you have no doubt read about and seen countless presentations outlining the NFPA standards’ revisionary process, this was a great example of how change comes about.  Below is the process outlined in a slide that I alone have seen published and presented  more than two dozen times in less than two years. Every time I see it, though, I am reminded of how much goes into this process and how very time consuming it is for the members of the committees.




National Fire Protection Association’s Standard Development Process. More information regarding this process can be found at the Standards Development Process website.

We all know that there are experts representing portions of the industry (manufactures, users, labor, etc.) that sit on these committees, but what exactly do they do and how does that actually impact those within and outside of the industry?

These experts literally examine their specified standards and public inputs in order to clarify, correct and update the standards assigned to them.  Initial public comments are taken at the beginning of the update and the suggested alterations are scrutinized. While my research indicates the majority of these comments are generated from members of the committee, there are some within the industry who are also submitting suggestions – albeit a very small percentage.  The term “public comment” literally means the document is open to the whole public for suggestions.  So, those within the fire and emergency industry or an average citizen with no background in fire/emergency services can make suggestions to the document; however, the numbers of actual non-fire/emergency service individuals commenting is minuscule. The whole process of reviewing inputs, first drafts, second drafts, and notices of intent to make a motion (NITMAM) goes on for months.

I digress and so back to the change on passenger bridges…

The above mentioned article discusses how one committee found an outdated recommendation in their standard and conducted research on the topic in order to address and update.  International standards and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards were examined and a report was created by the task group, assigned with this project that exists within the NFPA standard committee.  Their data compelled the NFPA to authorize a third party to examine the use and safety of glass bridges.

This is an excellent example of how the NFPA revisionary process advances standards without jeopardizing safety.  This change will impact all of those working in and traveling through airports in the United States. I applaud the committee as both a researcher and a frequent flyer.  Your comprehensive data collection will brighten my journeys literally and figuratively.

You can read Doctormann and Pope’s article here: A Clear Future for Passenger Boarding Bridges   I highly suggest you take a few moments to learn about the change to the bridges, but also to see how updates impact the traveling public AND how the NFPA revisionary process is successful in achieving an update to a standard.

Infectious Disease Aviation Transportation

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture that was part of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Distinguished Speaker Series.  The speaker was Dent Thompson, who is the Vice-President and Chief Operations Officer at Phoenix Air Group Inc.  Not only is Phoenix Air heavily involved with US military training operations concerning aircraft/UAVs, but they also hold a contract with the Federal government to transport identified US citizens with infectious diseases from foreign countries and back to the United States for medical attention.

Phoenix Air’s involvement in this medical transportation was due to their involvement in the Sochi Olympics as part of a medical emergency transport plan, but more importantly, their creation of the Airborne Biological Containment System (ABCS).  They worked with the Department of Defense and Center for Disease Control (CDC)  to ensure that this containment unit worked properly and own the patent.


An undated photograph of an Aeromedical Biological Containment System (ABCS) from Inside the Flying Quarantine Ward Used to Transport Ebola Patients, Wired magazine.

Thompson provided some interesting facts about Ebola, which was first identified in 1976. 70-90% of cases are fatal that have no supportive care.  With African medical supportive care fatalities fall to 40%; however, if a patient can receive European or United States’ medical care, the fatality percentage falls to 8%.  What was most alarming in the lecture was the fact that until 2007 the CDC’s policies stated that if infected with something, the individual stayed where they were for treatment.  When you consider that these are third world countries with little medical technology,  medications, and properly trained staff, which is why the medical specialists are often there in the first place, it is a scary policy. However, until the development of the ABCS, there was no way to transport these patients back to the United States without exposing more people.

All of the individuals involved in the transportation – from pilots to medical to cleaning personnel – are employees of Phoenix Air.  The company completed over 41 trips for transportation for Ebola patients and never had any difficulty finding employees to volunteer for the trips.  There are extensive protocols that are followed for each patient; however, severity of cases vary.  In a few cases they have had to use two containment inside of each other  – “double bagged,” as Thompson called it.  They have had individuals who could walk off the plane, such as Dr. Kent Bradley (1st case of Ebola patient transported to United States), and some that had to be wheeled off on a stretcher, such as Nancy Whitebol (nurse who worked with Dr. Bradley).   After a trip is completed the entire aircraft is scrubbed and flooded with hydrogen peroxide.  What can be stripped from the plane is bagged and incinerated.

Thompson stated that often times he is asked why they are on contract with the Federal government when the last Ebola case involving such transportation back to the United States was eleven months ago.  He points to all of the other infectious diseases and stated that a week prior (on March 11), they were contacted to transport the first ever Lassa victim from Togo, Africa back to the United States.

The ABCS units work for all hemorrhagic fevers (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola), mosquito diseases (Dengue and Zika), plague, Swine flu, Avian flu, SARS, MERS, and XDR_TB.

Thompson stated because volunteers in these nations know about the aviation transportation (aka air ambulance) it “became a lifeboat for workers because they know they can get to a facility and can be treated; therefore, they stay to do their work and help others.”

For more information about one of the flights, I suggest the following article: Inside the Flying Quarantine Ward Used to Transport Ebola Patients. 



Full Scale Exercise the Lakeland Way

I have been rather remiss on writing blogs lately, even though I have tons of things about which to write.  My time has been actually quite consumed with all sorts of activities. While some of the activities assisted with my knowledge and experience within the ARFF industry, others were academic in nature.  The Emergency Services program, for which I am an Associate Chair, just completed our accreditation process through the International Fire Science Accreditation College (IFSAC) for our Bachelor of Science degree. This was quite a lengthy process and one I will write about in an upcoming blog. For today, though, I want to cover a great opportunity I had with the Lakeland Fire Department (Florida) at their Full Scale Exercise (FSE) at the Linder Regional Airport.

Toward the end of February, the Lakeland Fire Department, in conjunction with local emergency service organizations hosted their airport FSE.  This event involved not only the airport and local fire departments, but TSA, FBI, police, and countless other supporting agencies.  The only entities that were not there that would be involved during such an incident were the local hospitals.

This incident had an interesting twist for an airport FSE.  The scenario had a Boeing 737-400, in route from Lakeland from Atlanta, making the final approach before crashing. Sections of the left wing landed within one of the solar farms located on the airport’s property – actually on the leading edge of the runway.  This was a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI), but the cause was unknown.

0_solar-powered-airport-750x400.jpgThe above picture is of the Canberra International Airport, Australia. To read more about their concerns visit: Canberra Airport raises safety concerns about 4MW solar farms.

Such an exercise is rather forward thinking in my opinion as more and more of these solar farms are popping up around airports.  These certainly add another safety issue when responding to an incident.  As many of you know, the largest solar farm is located right outside of the Indianapolis International Airport.  Since the solar cells gather energy from the sun, they cannot be turned off by a simple switch like other electrical items.  There is a whole process that has to be completed by the power company before it is even safe for individuals to enter the area.  Lakeland’s FSE took this into account and had two power companies involved. While the power company representatives assured emergency personnel that the panels are not collecting power from moonlight or any other sources than the sun, the areas should never be entered without the power company’s assistance.

I found this great article that discusses the concern of firefighters with solar panels: Death Panels: Why Firefighters are Scared of Solar Rooftops.  It is a few years old, but the information is still relevant, as well as the concerns.

I am working on a more in-depth article for ARFF News that will speak more to the exercise itself, agencies involved and the response of the ARFF personnel of the Lakeland Fire Department.  I will state that not only was this an interesting FSE it was also extremely well executed.

Stay tuned to your ARFF News publications.


Write an Article & Conquer Your Writing Concerns

I recently took on a new role that has me thinking about all of the concerns I have heard throughout the years from students and colleagues about writing.  I became the Editor of the ARFF News, the official bi-monthly publication of the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Working Group (ARFFWG). It is a great resource for those within the industry, but each issue is plagued with the same problem -not having articles in reserve and trying to pull together enough material in order to publish.  This certainly makes it difficult and while it is the desire of the ARFFWG Board of Directors and Editorial Board to reverse this problem, we need you to assist us.

Do I want you, the person reading this blog, to submit an article for the ARFF News? Of course I do, but let us first discuss why you may be wary about doing any such writing.

  1. Writing is hard:  It really isn’t.  You write all the time and just don’t realize it. You write reports within your job and a good deal of emails for work and personal reasons.  So, in reality you already are a writer – think about it! While it may seem hard to sit down in front of a computer and pound out an article, it is really just getting going that is the worse part.  Once you start the words will flow from your fingertips. You will be amazed.
  2.  I’m not a good writer:  So, just throw up your hands and not even try? NO WAY! Listen, no one is perfect and we all start at the beginning.   I have problems with typos, grammar, spelling and don’t even get me started on auto-correct.  I write all the time and am now just better at correcting those things as I go along.  It is through practice that we get better.  Plus, we have a great editorial board who won’t change the jest of what or how you are saying it, but make it sharper and cleaner.  No one is passing judgement on your writing, but rather we are here to make your article the best it can be and make sure what you want to say flows fluidly.
  3. I don’t have anything to share:  You totally do, but may not realize it.  There are so many things that you experienced and learned throughout the years.  People love hearing about how other people tackle issues or applied learning to a situation. You can ask your coworkers about what they would like to know/learn about and find something that fits you. Have you made adjustments with workflow? Found a new training method that others could use? Done some sort of research to benefit your firefighters? Had an aircraft or other emergency incident at your airport? Believe me, if I can find things to write about for this blog, then you can find a subject for an article.Every-writer-I-know-has
  4. I don’t have any time: I understand you are busy, but that is an easy out.  Many of us have various responsibilities outside of work that demand a good deal of time; however, writing can be easily broken into segments.  You can outline a possible topic one day, begin filling in sections another day, write some more the next day, a little more another day and before you know it you have an article. Sectioning things always works well with people with busy lifestyles.  You can always go back to correct grammar, spelling, and flow at a later date.  The great thing about the ARFF News is that there are editors to assist you!  We are here to help – I promise! The biggest hurdle, like I said above, is just the process of getting started.
  5. I don’t want to be judged: I can assure you that no one is judging you or your writing. We have a system set up to assist you and want to make you feel comfortable with the writing experience.  There are three of us who review the articles – two subject matter experts (SMEs) and me.  We are reading the article for what it is – no more no less – and if we have any questions we contact the author directly.  To make you feel more at ease you could even have someone you trust – a loved one, friend or colleague – read your article before you submit it.  I often suggest this to my students and am a practitioner of this myself.  Someone else will see where things can be corrected/adjusted that you failed to see.  Why didn’t you see it? Well, you have been so caught up in the writing that in your head you know what you want it to say. That does not always mean that what is in your head translated well onto paper, if you will.
    Honestly, if we let such thoughts stop us think about all the things we may not have done in our lives.  Life is too short to let fears control us.
  6. I am worried about feedback: I understand that, but any of the feedback you may receive would be more phrased in positive assistance or clarification questions.  All of these would be to make the article stronger.  Of course, you probably will receive feedback after your article is read by others as they seek to know more about what you wrote.  While it is always nice to see your name published as an author of something, the biggest compliment you can receive is for someone to respond to your written word.  That is proof that you had something to share and people enjoyed and/or learned from it.

Those are the most common concerns I have heard throughout the years.  All you really have to do is stop thinking about it and, as Nike says, just do it!

The best thing about writing is that you get to put down your thoughts, opinions, feelings on whatever the subject is that you chose.  While finishing an article feels wonderful, I assure you having someone comment about what you wrote and how it made them think or impacted them is a far superior feeling.

The greatest thing about submitting an article to the ARFF News is that you have support, because we are like minded individuals wanting to assist our brothers and sisters within the industry by the spreading of knowledge.

Please consider writing an article for the ARFF News if you are in the fire and emergency services industry or a related field.  There are no restrictions to length or formatting and once submitted you will receive a verification of receipt.  If you do not receive an email about your submission, please contact the ARFFWG directly.  Upon initial review of the article, it will be sent to the Editorial Board and contact with the author will be made for any questions/issues/concerns.  To submit an article visit the ARFF News submit your article link.

Stay safe!