Your Behavior Comes from Ben Franklin's DNA: Fast, Close, Wet, Risk, Injury, Death

When I was a rookie fireman in 1970 at the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD) Company 33, Prince George’s County Fire Department, (PGFD) MD, an old timer (he was 35, I was 20) told me, “The next call you go on may be the biggest fire in your...

When there is a firefighter LODD, the root cause is rarely, if ever, a technical problem. The underlying cause can be traced back to one or more firefighter genes that drive our behaviors resulting in the ultimate loss. We have accepted this for the past 275 years. If we continue to justify our behavior based on our firefighter genes (FCWRID), more of us will be injured and killed.

Dr. Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, inventor, printer, author, statesman, businessman and educator. As a founding father of the American Fire Service, Ben would be disappointed in us today if all we inherited from him was FAST, CLOSE, WET, RISK, INJURY, DEATH.

Changing your DNA and genes is difficult, but you can change your behavior if you choose. Why should you change? Because “The next call you go on may be the biggest fire in your career, so you must be ready, if you want to survive.”

You and I cannot change fire service culture. But, as a firefighter, what one behavior can you change? As the apparatus driver, what one behavior can you change? As the company officer, what one behavior can you change? As a chief officer, what one behavior can you change? Good questions for your next drill. Your answer may help save a life…including yours!


  • Brunacini, A.V., 2008. "Fast /Close/Wet: Reducing Firefighter Deaths and Injuries: Changes in Concept, Policy and Practice." Public Entity Risk Institute, Fairfax, VA.
  • Kunadharaju, K., Smith, T. D. and DeJoy, D. M., 2011. "Line of Duty Deaths among U.S. Firefighters: An Analysis of Fatality Investigations. Accident Analysis and Prevention." 43, 1117-1180.
  • National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, 2004. “Everyone Goes Home: 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives.” NFFF, Emmitsburg, MD.
  • Schein, E.H., 2004. Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA.

DR. BURTON A. CLARK, EFO, CFO has been in the fire service for 41 years. He was a firefighter in Washington, D.C., Prince Georges County, MD and assistant chief in Laurel, MD. He has served as Operations Chief for DHS/FEMA and is now the Management Science Program Chair at the National Fire Academy and a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy. Burt has a BS is in Business Administration from Strayer University, MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Catholic University, and Ed.D. in Adult Education from Nova Southeastern University and he writes, lectures, and teaches fire service research, safety, and professional development worldwide. View all of Burt's articles and podcasts here (