(Editor's Note: Firehouse will be providing coverage of new innovations and products introduced at the 2013 FDIC Exhibition starting Thursday afternoon.)
INDIANAPOLIS – Today’s firefighters have to stand up for themselves, try new things, train like their lives depend on it, and never forget they are the beacons of hope for the nation.
Those were the inspirational words spoken by Battalion Chief Anthony Kastros, Sacramento (Calif.) Metropolitan Fire District during his keynote address at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) during Wednesday’s opening ceremonies.
It was the 85th show and Penwell Corporation, the sponsors and organizers of the event dedicated the entire week-long training experience and exposition to the fallen responders in Boston and West, Texas, recognizing the tragedies that bent, but did not break the fire and emergency medical services.
Kastros, who has 26 years in the fire service, published articles and a book and taught numerous training sessions on leadership and command, made three points in his address which was titled “This Is Our Time.”
“How many times have you heard that the latest generation of firefighters will never see as much fire or work as hard as the last,” Kastros asked. “It’s sort of the comments the engine company asks the truck company every day.”
The first point Kastros made was this is the fire service’s time to restore hope to America. He explained today’s firefighters stand on the shoulders of all those heroes who have gone before and it’s the firefighters’ obligation to carry on the traditions and service.
“Heroes don’t just save us, they shape us,” Kastros said. “…We are the ones who bring calm to the chaos and we do that one run at a time, every single day.”
Kastros said that unlike police officers people don’t run from firefighters because they know they’re there to help and restore hope in chaos.
“We bring hope to the scene when we pull up,” he said. “When we’re there to help save a loved one, it doesn’t matter if you’re paid or volunteer, or if your certified or not, or what the department’s ISO rating is. The only thing that matters is that you know your job.”
The second point Kastros offered was the need to prepare leaders for the future of the fire service. Kastros pointed out the extensive training that a paramedic has to take and the testing required to provide care for patients – hundreds and hundreds of hours of didactic training, some with preceptors.
He then compared that to a fire officer’s training. All it takes to become an officer in many departments is a one-day testing process and they “get thrown into the sea,” Kastros said.
“A paramedic can kill only one patient at a time,” Kastros quipped. “But a poorly trained officer can kill a whole crew. A poorly trained battalion chief can kill a whole company. And a poorly trained chief can kill the soul of the department.”
Ironically, Kastros said, departments will spare no amount of money for a funeral, but some will balk at training that may have saved firefighters.
He suggested that the fire service doesn’t need any more “white powder decontamination” training, but far more leadership training.
The third and final point Kastros made involved the statement “it’s time to never give up.” Training is the way to never give up and to never stop trying to be better and improve oneself.
He warned against “recliner snipers” – firefighters who try to shoot down all new ideas and have comments about any unconventional training or tactics.
“Just shut up and train,” Kastros said, noting that it’s more important for individuals to pay attention to their needs and training goals than it is to worry about what the chief is doing or what an officer isn’t doing.
“When you are in a building, it doesn’t matter where the chief is or what he or she is doing,” Kastros said, noting that individual firefighters must know their jobs and be prepared for whatever happens.
“Training saves seconds and seconds save minutes and minutes save lives,” Kastros said. By way of example, Kastros related a scenario in his own department which occurred in 2010 where a 4-year-old boy was trapped in a heavily involved apartment fire.
With surgical precision, crews executed a vent-enter-isolate-search (VEIS) tactic and saved that boy who suffered no adverse lasting effects from the fire, despite having gone unconscious and pulse less during the rescue.
In four minutes 32 seconds the boy was rescued from the building and placed on a gurney and started receiving care immediate. That, Kastros said, doesn’t just happen by chance, it comes from training and firefighters who are willing to make the commitment to learn and practice.
He also said training is good for the morale of the department and the more realistic the training is, the better it is.
He said every firefighter has that rush after a “good” fire call and that’s because of a release of endorphins, a naturally produced analgesia, which produces a feeling of exhilaration and of well-being.
“Training is what really makes a difference,” Kastros said.