Chief Ron Kanterman -- April 2014
In 2004, Chief Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) invited 200 fire service professionals (250 showed up) to Tampa, Florida to discuss line of duty deaths and injuries and asked us to come up with a national action plan to curb the trends and shrink the numbers. The Sixteen (16) Life Safety Initiatives (LSI’s) were developed as well as the Everyone Goes Home program and Courage to be Safe (CTBS). We were on our way. For ten years, a group of dedicated volunteers have moved the ball down the field, teaching and preaching in fire houses, in fire academies and fire schools, at seminars and just about any place firefighters congregate and are willing to listen. The NFFF set up a system of state advocates and 10 regional advocates to keep an eye on things all over the country and they’ve done well for us. More advocates were recruited along with more instructors to deliver the gospel. The numbers started to fall. The low hanging fruit appeared to be seat belts, driving, and road protection. The numbers fell in that category. Things started to take shape. More research (LSI#7) has been conducted towards the safety of our firefighters than ever before, more empowerment to speak up has been bestowed upon our members (LSI#4), there is discussion now more than ever before regarding near misses, accidents and line of duty deaths (LSI#9) and safety has become a primary concern of today’s fire service leadership. The Chairman of the NFFF, Chief Denis Compton is quoted as saying; “to say nothing bad will happen to firefighters is almost an insult to the system however the vast majority of our line of duty deaths can be prevented.” He was right 10 years ago when he appeared on the first edition of the EGH/CTBS program videos and he still is.
During the week of March 10, 2014, we re-convened in Tampa, Florida for “Tampa2.” This time Chief Siarnicki invited 350 of his closest friends including a cadre of “young and up and coming” fire personnel from around the country. Along with the “next generation” (who Ron said would be back for Tampa3 and most of us who were here for Tampa 1 and 2 would probably not be) came a parade of fire service knowns. Sal Cassano, Billy Goldfeder, Bobby Halton, Harvey Eisner, Tim Sendlebach, Vina Drennan, Bill Jenaway, John McGrath, Tom Wilbur, Dave Paulison and list went on and on. The Monday night opening brought us key notes from Sal Cassano and Vina Drennan who set the stage for the rest of the week. Other key noters during the week were Tim Sendlebach, Kelvin Cochran, David Griffin and Ernie Mitchell. The 350 folks were split in to 10 groups of 35, each group having 2 facilitators, a scribe and a staff member. I had the privilege of working with Group 8, along with Billy Hayes, my fellow facilitator and Rick Best from the NFFF Advocates group. All groups started out reviewing the 16 LSI’s, what’s working and not working, etc. Each group then had a target issue to tackle, from behavioral health, to firefighter survivability, to company officer development to leadership. Group 8 had “thermal assault.” We had a great mix of folks including Sal Cassano, the FDNY Safety Chief Steve Raynis, the FDNY Safety Battalion Dan Melia, Chief Charles Hood from San Antonio (TX) and the NFFF Board, Chris Naum, (Command Institute) DC John Sullivan from Worcester (MA), Dan Madrzykowski (NIST) Steve Kerber (UL) and a host of Lieutenants, Captains, Battalion Chiefs, college professors, fire equipment manufacturers and others. Two days of nose-to-the-grind-stone work with full participation of all involved. Each group reported out in general session to show all others what we’d accomplished. (Stand by. The final report will be out soon.)
As we parted Tampa, we had a good feeling that we took a good hard look at the program and are helping to prepare the current and next generation of American firefighters to go forth and yet come home.
As I close this journal entry, I want to make note that my thoughts and prayers are with the families of FF Kennedy and Lt. Walsh of the Boston FD and the BFD members just north of here. Stay the course brothers.
Take care, be well, be safe,