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John K. Murphy's Blog (58)

Intolerance, Discrimination and the Heart of the Fire Service

I am a white male, born in America, enjoying the rights and privileges afforded to me by circumstances. In hindsight, I was born lucky. I have not been discriminated against, as far as I know: I have not experienced segregation, treated as inferior, objectified, regulated, persecuted, nor denied entry or re-entry into my own country. I have white male privilege.

My ancestors immigrated from Ireland, Canada and Germany.…


Added by John K. Murphy on March 16, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments

Surviving a Leaderless Environment

We’ve all been there, working in an organization that seems to be leaderless as you rarely see the Chief or members of his or her immediate staff and you respond to a series of Directives or Policies that make you scratch your head.

I have worked for Chief’s that bury themselves in seemingly meaningless activates, sitting in their offices emerging only when there is a major crisis or attending a Board or Council meeting and are seriously out of touch with their…


Added by John K. Murphy on February 26, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments

Inspection Liability

Question: Is your department performing inspections in your respective jurisdiction and under what law, ordinance, policy or assumed responsibly provides the reason and authority to conduct these inspections?

Inspection Liability – Facing the large loss fire in Oakland (CA), the fire attorneys have discussed the advantages of routine fire inspections of high hazard facilities, special…


Added by John K. Murphy on January 21, 2017 at 11:39am — No Comments

Fire Service Legal Issues – 2016 Review

This year has certainly been interesting related to the legal issues facing the fire service. We continue to see the fire departments in the news for many high profile fires, rescues, service calls and the other good things we do on a daily basis.

Interestingly enough, in spite of the fact there has been a plethora of information from your favorite fire service attorneys (Murphy, Varone, Comstock and Pinsky) in…


Added by John K. Murphy on December 28, 2016 at 11:26pm — No Comments

Challenge of Leadership

Shakespeare writes, “all that glitters is not gold” expressing the idea that shiny things aren't necessarily precious things. How does this apply to our leadership in the fire services?

Gold signifies those in a leadership position are high on the leadership ladder. Gold badges, provided to the chief officers in the organization is indicative of the achievement: often hard fought with years of training, education,…


Added by John K. Murphy on November 26, 2016 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Title VII and Consent Decrees

When teaching my classes on High Risk Legal Issues for the Fire Service, a topic that continually arises is how a ruling against a department for a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is enforced against a department. Notwithstanding an outright judgment against a fire department that involves a lot of money to resolve the issue along with resignations, terminations, demotions and other adverse actions, the term I frequently use is the application of…


Added by John K. Murphy on October 29, 2016 at 10:02am — No Comments

Religious Freedom

Question - When I arrive for my shifts at the fire station the duty battalion commander requires the crew to assemble in the apparatus bay to say a morning prayer. I do not practice any particular religion or have any particular belief system and walked away from the morning gathering not desiring to participate. I was called into the battalion commander’s office and placed on notice the morning prayer was a “requirement” and the next time I…


Added by John K. Murphy on October 1, 2016 at 8:00am — No Comments

Ballistic Vests– false sense of security?

The increase of violence against American law enforcement and firefighters has presented a new and not so innovative way to prevent damage from violent events from turning into a fatal event. The current panacea is the plethora of bullet or knife resistant vests now being issued by the various fire departments across the country. No vest is bulletproof so I will refer to them as ballistic vests for the remainder of this article.…


Added by John K. Murphy on September 20, 2016 at 11:30pm — No Comments

FDIC - Time To Pass It On

The recent notifications of the FDIC 2017 instructors places a great responsibility to those chosen to pass on your acquired knowledge to others. Knowledge gained through experience, education and probably a failure of some sort that may have had you rethink what you were doing and how you were you doing it is the knowledge we need to pass on.  It is my understanding that over…


Added by John K. Murphy on August 24, 2016 at 10:11pm — No Comments

Why do Fire Ground Duties Trigger Sudden Cardiac Events in Firefighters? Author Thomas Hales

Fire suppression involves physically demanding work in hot, dangerous environments with

heavy encapsulating protective gear while being exposed to toxic chemicals and

particulate matter in fire smoke. Thus, it is not surprising that firefighters have high rates

of injuries and illness. Approximately 85–100 firefighters die each year on duty with

approximately 35–45 being caused by sudden cardiac events. But these on-duty sudden



Added by John K. Murphy on July 26, 2016 at 9:05pm — No Comments

NFPA 1582 - not a return to work standard

In my passion for law and medicine as a practitioner of both professions, I often see individuals injured on the job arriving in my medical clinic for a return to work evaluation, most notably firefighters. Many times they are accompanied with the instructions from the department to use NFPA 1582 as the medical standard for the injured firefighters return to work. I will tell you in my humble opinion, this is not the standard to use for the reasons to follow.

NFPA 1582 is an entry…


Added by John K. Murphy on June 27, 2016 at 10:30am — No Comments


Tragedy has a strange way of clarifying a tough issue especially with the tragic death of Nicole Mittendorff, paramedic/firefighter from Fairfax County Virginia. We will never know the true reason she took her life, but the pressures must have been unimaginable for her to take this action.

The tabloids and media are speculating that her suicide is linked to cyberbullying, bullying and harassment by members of her department and…


Added by John K. Murphy on April 29, 2016 at 1:30am — No Comments

Who am I - Identity Crisis?

You have spent the last 30 years in uniform, serving your country and your community as a firefighter. Today you retire; hopefully in good health and financially stable.  Now what?  You do not have to get up in the morning to report to your station; you have to make a decision as to what to wear for the day as you do not have to wear a uniform; you do not have to drink bad coffee and hear horrible jokes with your crew. You do not respond to calls yet your ears…


Added by John K. Murphy on April 4, 2016 at 9:00am — No Comments

Legal Series – Suspensions from duty

Question – I have been recently suspended for transporting a patient in my fire engine. Is this legal?

Response – Suspension is one application of a discipline process and is generally used to take personnel off the line to investigate a policy violation, wrongdoing or some other act or actions committed by an employee. Suspension must be in a discipline policy and the conditions under…


Added by John K. Murphy on March 7, 2016 at 11:00am — No Comments

Legal Series - For Cause Drug Testing

Question – my department wants to start random drug testing. Many of the members have refused and have been threatened with termination. Our Union indicates it is a good idea, but cannot articulate why. Can you help?

Response – drug testing in the fire services has created one of the greatest controversies in our industry. With the emergence of recreational use of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, it compounds an almost impossible job for…


Added by John K. Murphy on February 12, 2016 at 7:30pm — No Comments

Legal Series - Constructive Discharge

Question: My Fire Department is trying to fire me or force me into resignation with unfounded charges, frequent transfers to other Divisions and other similar harassment behavior. I am a Battalion Chief, caucasian male and 54 years old. I want to retire when I am 62 and I am not sure I will be able to do that. What can I do?

Answer: There seems to be a recent trend with fire departments forcing older firefighters…


Added by John K. Murphy on December 28, 2015 at 10:30am — No Comments

The Night before Christmas at the Fire House - Legally Speaking

 Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property in a wintery municipality (hereinafter "the Fire House") a general lack of stirring by all firefighter and creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking,…


Added by John K. Murphy on December 9, 2015 at 7:33pm — No Comments

Progressive Discipline

Question – My department is disciplining me for a charge that an alleged comment on the training ground offended a probationary firefighter. The charge was that I was “too tough” on the candidate requiring him to repeat certain basic firefighter skills that he had a hard time completing. The alleged comment was related to his performance and not directed as him as a firefighter. The penalty assessed by the department was 15 days off without pay, a letter of reprimand and I…


Added by John K. Murphy on November 23, 2015 at 9:00am — No Comments

Cop with a law degree running the Fire Service

The Mayor of Detroit has appointed a former police officer with a law degree and Director of the City’s Building Department as the fire commissioner after the retirement of Commissioner Edsel Jenkins. Let me say right off the bat, I have nothing against cops or lawyers or building officials as some of my best friends possess some or all of those qualifications. 

Mayor Dugan stated in his nomination presentation that,…


Added by John K. Murphy on October 15, 2015 at 4:30pm — 2 Comments

Hair Raising Tales

Question. I am a firefighter with a ponytail. Can my employer make me trim it or cut it off?

Answer. The short answer is the employer can create a grooming standard and create an exception based on gender. There has been a lot of controversy related to the “right” to display tattoos, piercings, beards, hair length, coloring your hair a bizarre color and other personal displays of…


Added by John K. Murphy on September 29, 2015 at 9:00pm — No Comments

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