In their Sights

A recent EMS run in suburban Atlanta, GA, turned into anything but normal. A resident who called in a request for an ambulance took five firefighters hostage and held them at gunpoint when they entered the structure after responding with an engine company and an ambulance. One firefighter was released to move the apparatus from the front of the house. After issuing demands for several hours, the gunman was killed by police. The firefighters suffered minor injuries. Apparently, the gunman called in the medical run knowing firefighters would not be armed.

Last year in New York State, two responding firefighters were shot and killed after they arrived on the scene of a house fire that a gunman had started; when they took shelter, the gunman was hiding right near them. We respond to millions of EMS calls nationwide every year. Hopefully, these are isolated incidents, but please exercise extreme caution.


Recently, social media had a role to play in resignations, suspensions and investigations among fire personnel. Maybe someone sent out information that seemed inappropriate. Maybe someone held a grudge. Maybe someone sent information to a newspaper at an inopportune time.

The vast majority of the people in the fire and EMS community play by the rules, do what is right and abide by what they are told to do. But a story in a newspaper about official misconduct can lead to even more bad press.

For the past several years in Firehouse® Magazine and at Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World, we have conducted numerous seminars regarding social media – “a blessing or a curse?” We also have presented classes titled “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” straight out of courtrooms and timely seminars we called “Chief, I Was Never So Surprised When…” Learn from the experts about the ramifications of what you say.

People have a right to say whatever they want to, as long as they play by the rules and don’t cause harm to others. I would never tell anyone what to say or how to feel; as long as it doesn’t bother me, they can do whatever they want to do. But when there is a problem and you were the cause because you said or did something out of line that went out on the Internet, all you have to do is look in the mirror. It’s common sense!

We salute three friends who are making news. Syracuse, NY, Fire Chief Mark McLees has retired. Mark has written articles and taught classes for us, has served as judge in our Heroism Awards program and worked with us when we started reporting about close calls. Fire Chief Richie Bowers is retiring from Montgomery County, MD, and will be the fire chief in Fairfax County, VA. Richie also has written and spoken for us, and has been on numerous boards of inquiry dealing with firefighter line-of-duty deaths. The Congressional Fire Services Institute Board of Directors has selected Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, to receive the 2013 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award at the 25th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on May 9 in Washington. Congratulations to all.


HARVEY EISNER is editor-in-chief of Firehouse® and a retired assistant chief of the Tenafly, NJ, Fire Department, which he joined in 1975 and served as chief of department for 12 years. He also was a firefighter in the Stillwater, OK, Fire Department for three years while attending Oklahoma State University. Eisner is an honorary assistant chief of the FDNY and program director for the Firehouse Expo, Firehouse World and Firehouse Central conferences. He has covered many major fires and disasters and interviewed numerous fire service leaders for Firehouse®. He edited the book WTC – In Their Own Words, published by Cygnus.