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Mark vonAppen
  • Male
  • San Jose, CA
  • United States
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Mark vonAppen's Page

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Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

A Long History of Short Memories

By: Mark vonAppen I don't care much for fictional accounts of fires, so whenever I sit through an after action review it is interesting to me to hear what happened according to the stories that are told.  Most don't sound anything like any fire I have ever gone to, yet all of them sound exactly the same.  I get angry at the thought about having my time wasted as the players indulge in half-truths, and out-right lies.  These outstanding learning opportunities are often lost to fear and ignorance.  I usually withdraw mentally and emotionally as lie piles on top of lie.  I retreat into my own reality I think,…See More
Aug 27, 2015
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Crew Expectations

Gentlemen, I am anxious to begin the new bid with all of you.   Attached is a list of mutual expectations that I need you to take a look at.  Please take the time to review The BIG4, as well as the 10 for you, 10 for me leadership pact.  When you have the time, please write down a few thoughts about what each of the 10 & 10 means to you and we will discuss them on an individual basis (hence the name, 10 for you, 10 for me) during our first few shifts together.  We will discuss your goals and objectives and develop a plan for how to achieve those goals together.  This is a pact between you, me, and the rest of the crew.  It is a way of holding each other accountable to a standard.  We will discuss tactical responsibilities as a group tomorrow. I look forward to an exciting and productive future for 61…See More
May 18, 2015
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

We Don't Need to Whisper

By Mark vonAppen Let's be real.  After all, that's what this whole Fully Involved idea is predicated on - honesty and trust. Without it, we have nothing.  Put it out there where we can't take it back. Stop whispering in the shadows about our way of doing things and get things out in the open.  Shine the light on what works and slam the door - once and for all - on what doesn't.  What we have fought hard to create has taken root and is reviving moribund cultures all over the country (and the world) by forging an atmosphere of accountability through belief in each other. We've accomplished this with a dogged adherence to our standard.  We must focus on what we can control.  Our standard of performance (The BIG4) is reflected in our homes, in the firehouse, the drill grounds, and on the…See More
May 14, 2015
Mark vonAppen is now friends with Bryan Altman and Dave LeBlanc
Mar 16, 2015
Mark vonAppen's blog post was featured

Disappear

By: Mark vonAppenA well-intentioned co-worker took me aside as I prepared for a promotional exam, placed his hand on my shoulder and asked, “What’s your deal?”In return I offered a puzzled look as the conversation stumbled awkwardly down a familiar path.He continued,  “You need to tone it down. People are saying you're a bit over the top.  If you want to get promoted, you need to disappear."Disappear?I stiffened inside as I listened to his words.  What was wrong with me that doing things my way went against what was socially graceful, safe, or right?  It was the part of myself that I despised, but I had always seemed unable, or unwilling, to change it. What had made me such a misfit, living my life with my head lowered, so dead-set on testing limits, permanently at odds with the world around me?  Why was I forever…See More
Mar 12, 2015
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Disappear

By: Mark vonAppenA well-intentioned co-worker took me aside as I prepared for a promotional exam, placed his hand on my shoulder and asked, “What’s your deal?”In return I offered a puzzled look as the conversation stumbled awkwardly down a familiar path.He continued,  “You need to tone it down. People are saying you're a bit over the top.  If you want to get promoted, you need to disappear."Disappear?I stiffened inside as I listened to his words.  What was wrong with me that doing things my way went against what was socially graceful, safe, or right?  It was the part of myself that I despised, but I had always seemed unable, or unwilling, to change it. What had made me such a misfit, living my life with my head lowered, so dead-set on testing limits, permanently at odds with the world around me?  Why was I forever…See More
Mar 11, 2015
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Measure

By Mark vonAppen There is a difference you can find in those who stand apart from the crowd, those people of character who just seem to get it. The seemingly intangible quality that sets them apart is something completely tangible.  You can feel it when you touch a book, when you pick up a tool, or when you wipe your brow when it is slick from sweat.  It's called work, and it is the oft forgotten element on the journey to building, or rebuilding a culture. How do you measure people?  How do you measure progress?  How do do you measure yourself?  Too many times we give accolades for simply showing up.  Commendations are handed like participation ribbons.  We talk change, talk about improved performance, and we go no further. Changes are made by those who take action.  Activity should never be confused with achievement.…See More
Feb 26, 2015
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Get Smart

There is an ongoing devaluing of the fire problem from within our industry which leads to a lack of education among firefighters.  As individuals and as a culture, we seek the easy fix, the next distraction, or the short answer because we don't have the attention span to sit and read (I'll keep this short, I promise), watch a video, or get out and train. We are losing the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.We have to take enormously complicated tasks and reduce them to simple concepts, apply them to the correct circumstance and do it all without forgetting the what and why.  All of this has to occur in a condensed time frame while our body fights our mind's (I know they're connected) ability to process information.  It's a complex balancing act in an immediately…See More
Nov 7, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Be Prepared

The Boy Scout motto is, "Be Prepared".  We admire the people who seemingly can show up and simply figure things out on the fly.  It simply isn't true.  If hope and luck are what you operate on, you are asking for trouble.  Eventually the clock will strike midnight, your engine will turn into a pumpkin, and your luck will run out. Hope and luck don't create success, training does. The nature of our business is to respond to chaos.  The manner in which we prepare should never be.I'm not sure if Lady Luck exists, but if she does she has children and she shows them great favor.  She dotes on those who sweat a little more and fuss over the details than others do.  Those who thrive in high-octane environments are those who can anticipate changes in the environment and adapt accordingly.  It's not an innate ability to fly by…See More
Sep 1, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Morale and Excellence

It is impossible to strive for excellence and forget about the well being of your people. You cannot neglect morale. Morale is a choice in the sense that everyone must work tirelessly to protect it because we all have stake in the well being of the company.  It is particularly important that the leader have a finger on the pulse of their people's emotional state. When morale falls so does effort. Without effort, we might as well forget about excellence.When morale falls so does effort. Without effort, we might as well forget about excellence.You can't strive for excellence and neglect morale.  High morale takes effort to achieve and to maintain. It is fragile, and it must be intact for people to feel comfortable being uncomfortable. When it exists, it allows the team to defiantly surpass the minimum standard and reach…See More
Aug 24, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Compromise

We cannot go through our career throwing our hands in the air and giving up when things don't go our way.  Time has a way of rendering jagged edges supple.  It also has a way of softening our perspective, making us less prone to impulsive decisions.  The courage and perseverance that it takes to drive positive change and influence a cultural shift is much less spectacular than the story of one who quits in a fit of passion.  The long road to change is not the spectacle of the former, but is nonetheless a mix of triumph and tragedy.I am quick to anger, motivated by passion, I have my principles - we all do - and there have been many times when I have been tempted to ring out from being monumentally frustrated and exhausted from jumping through hoops and over hurdles.  I don't know what the keys to success…See More
Aug 8, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Measure

There is a difference you can find in those who stand apart from the crowd, those people of character who just get it.  The intangible quality that sets them apart is something completely tangible.  It's called a work ethic, and it is the oft forgotten element on the journey to building, or rebuilding a culture.  You can feel it when you touch a book, when you pick up a tool, or when you wipe your brow when it is slick from sweat.  Too many times we give accolades for simply showing up, keeping a seat warm, or holding down a spot.  Commendations are handed out like participation ribbons.  We talk change, talk about improved performance, but we go no further.  Changes are made by those who take action.  Activity should never be confused with achievement, and just because you exist doesn't mean you deserve.  The privilege…See More
Jul 24, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted photos
Jul 14, 2014
Mark vonAppen is now friends with Chris Piepenburg, Jeffrey Cotten, Grant Schwalbe and Tony Carroll more
Jul 14, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

Talking To Myself

If I could sit down with myself as a new officer and talk about what's important to remember, here is what I'd say.   This is an excerpt from a speech I wrote for a recent promotional ceremony: As you prepare to move into a riding position that the organization recognizes as a leadership spot, try to keep a few things in mind.  There are shiny things that accompany this new riding position; namely, a badge, a bugle or two, and possibly a glimmer of respect.  Remember that you got to where you are in life because of who you are.  If you've been leading, they'll follow, if you haven't, then you have a lot of work to do. If you've been leading, don’t change who you are because you changed riding positions on the rig. Respect is found in who you've always been, you earn it with your every interaction.  If you have given…See More
Jul 14, 2014
Mark vonAppen posted a blog post

The Bottom Line

By Mark vonAppenIn this time of transition in the American Fire Service, due to mass retirements and paradigm shift in how we do business, the unfortunate, and sometimes dangerous, side-effect is that there are individuals who are thrust into leadership roles out of necessity (somebody needs to get promoted, right?) that do not possess the tools necessary to lead effectively.   It’s hard to make up for 15 – 20 years of rubber-stamping, pencil whipping, and showing up late for class.  As a result, we have seen members of the service catapulted into high level positions that never learned the jobs five or six ranks below them.  The bottom line is that when numbers and personal agendas come first, the fire service loses its heart.  If you're only looking down the road, or cruising at 30,000 feet, claiming to have an eye…See More
Jun 27, 2014

Profile Information

Lives in:
California
Department:
Palo Alto Fire Department
Title/rank:
Captain
Years of public service:
16
Agency structure:
Paid fire department
Top issues in your department:
Budget
Topics you provide training for:
Leadership, Survival, Thermal Imaging
Areas of expertise:
Leadership
Bio:
MARK vonAPPEN is a captain with the Palo Alto (CA) Fire Department. He is a committee member for California State Fire Training and has contributed to the development of the Firefighter Survival and Rapid Intervention curriculums. He is an instructor for the Santa Clara County (CA) Joint Fire Academy and the South Bay Regional Fire Academy, a recruit instructor for Palo Alto Fire, a Fire Engineering blogger, and a contributor to Fire Service Warrior.
Web site:
http://www.mark-vonappen.blogspot.com

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Mark vonAppen's Blog

A Long History of Short Memories

By: Mark vonAppen

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Posted on August 27, 2015 at 1:30pm

The Long Road

By Mark vonAppen

 

Most all of us enter into our career in the fire service blind with ideology; thinking that we can master the learning curve and become difference makers.  We seek to augment growth, foster…

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Posted on June 22, 2015 at 8:23am

Crew Expectations

Gentlemen,…

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Posted on May 18, 2015 at 12:26pm

We Don't Need to Whisper

By Mark vonAppen



Let's be real.  After all, that's what this whole Fully Involved idea is predicated on - honesty and trust. Without…

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Posted on May 14, 2015 at 3:30pm — 1 Comment

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