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John K. Murphy's Blog (81)

Leading From the Bottom Up

The fire service has been described as paramilitary organization with a leadership organized in a top down fashion. In other words, one person does the thinking, one person directs the organization and one person takes responsibility. Is that right? Is that how your organization operates?

I was stimulated to author this article based on the belief that we can lead and manage better if we involve all of the personnel…

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Added by John K. Murphy on June 24, 2019 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Avoiding a legal firestorm -- Lawyer911

One of the issues facing fire service leadership is when to call an experienced attorney to assist the department in mitigating a problematic legal issue in their department. Every fire department chief has interacted with an attorney on a routine rather than emergent legal issues facing the department. Those range from labor contracts, policy creation, purchasing fire apparatus or firefighter safety gear, acquiring property and building new station to working on complex legal issues of…

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Added by John K. Murphy on May 19, 2019 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Up in Smoke - Medical Marijuana in the Fire Service

One of the current big controversies in the fire service is substance abuse testing and possibly terminating firefighters within the confines of Zero-Tolerance department policies. Departments with substance abuse policies designed to ensure the safety of the firefighters and the community they serve. Contained within these policies(1) is the testing for reasonable suspicion, the protection of employee’s rights, rehabilitation opportunities, last chance agreements and the ramifications of…

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Added by John K. Murphy on April 19, 2019 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Preventing Legal Fires - Votes of No Confidence

Fire Chiefs all over the country have received votes of no confidence from members of their organizations. Most recently was the Fire Chief of Cleveland whom the Union members indicated that there serious concerns about the public’s safety and according to the local news, the resolution asks the City Council to investigate the unions complaint about those and other safety issues. In Jackson Beach, the fire union, taking a similar vote, says the chief has fostered an atmosphere of "hostility,…

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Added by John K. Murphy on February 18, 2019 at 6:37pm — No Comments

Preventing Legal Fires - Conflict Management

Much of the personnel litigation affecting a department can be prevented with adequate and early communication between the parties in the attempt to resolve an issue of conflict. As you may be directly or indirectly affected, that could mean you are the Chief, the affected member or their representatives.

Conflict refers to some form of friction, or discord arising within a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more members of the group are either resisted by or unacceptable to…

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Added by John K. Murphy on January 23, 2019 at 2:30pm — 2 Comments

Preventing Legal Fires - Not All Speech is Free

As a firefighter or public safety government employee, what are your free speech rights under the 1st Amendment?

As we have seen a number of firefighters have lost their jobs over postings on their social media sites, thinking they had a protected right to say anything or depict otherwise offensive pictures for their shared audiences. The issue of “words matter” when speaking, brings one back to the often quoted but erroneous statement of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” opined by…

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Added by John K. Murphy on January 6, 2019 at 11:00am — No Comments

Preventing Legal Fires 2018 - Year in Review

I always like to review year end legal issues for the fire service, even as I routinely write about them, as an interesting study in firefighter legal behavior over the past year. It is a reflection of where we are and where we are going. The short story is our behavior is not changing as fast as the fire service would like as we still see complaints and litigation popping up every week.

We continue to see patterns of bad legal behavior, in spite of the frequent lectures and articles…

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Added by John K. Murphy on December 11, 2018 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Do Not Resuscitate Tattoos

As pre-hospital medical providers we see a lot of patients in all sorts of medical disrepair. The public and patients expectation is that we put a full effort into doing the best we can with our limited field resources and either take the patient to a medical facility, leave at home, send the patient to their primary care or specialist physician or call the…

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Added by John K. Murphy on November 24, 2018 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Preventing #MeToo Legal Fires

It pains me to have to write an article about this issue, but with the recent widely viewed broadcast of a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault when the perpetrator and victim were both in high school and the current state of affairs related to women and minorities in this country; it is an article that needed to be written addressing the elephant in the room.

As a father of five (5) daughters, all adults with their own families and lives, I feared for their safety as young…

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Added by John K. Murphy on September 30, 2018 at 9:00pm — No Comments

Presumptive Illness – Fighting for your life

It is well recognized that firefighting is a dangerous occupation. In addition to the trauma or cardiovascular events killing or injuring firefighters, a slow and insidious enemy has been stalking firefighters for many years and although the injury is not immediate, the effects appear many years after exposures, are long lasting and may lead to the early demise of the firefighter as documented in numerous firefighter deaths from cancers.



A majority of states now cover…

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Added by John K. Murphy on July 23, 2018 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Cost Recovery for Fire Departments - Heresy or Reality?

Many of us in the public safety business have always believed that through property taxes or other publicly funded methods, the fire service would be able to provide a full range of services in an ever-changing and challenging environment.

There are a lot of hands reaching out for limited pubic money to adequately fund parks, police, parks, potholes and other necessary services provided by government and now is the time to discuss the elephant in the room, cost…

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Added by John K. Murphy on May 25, 2018 at 3:00pm — 2 Comments

Mandatory Duty - Ghost Ship Fire

The Alameda County judge recently ruled that Oakland officials had a "mandatory duty" to ensure safety at the doomed Ghost Ship warehouse, leaving the city potentially liable for a fire where 36 people died. Attorneys for the dozens of victims and their families, as well as reports by Mercury News (CA) have detailed numerous visits by police, firefighters and building officials in the years before the deadly Dec. 2, 2016, fire. The maze-like Fruitvale district warehouse with…

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Added by John K. Murphy on May 6, 2018 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Words Matter

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” in a response to a schoolyard taunt containing hurtful words many of us have probably used when verbally assaulted by the schoolyard bully. That reasoning is generally untrue as words do hurt and I am sure that you were hurt when the bully made fun of your race, clothing, religion or some other verbal and possibly physical assault against you.

In an era of social media, seemingly insensitive comments…

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Added by John K. Murphy on April 16, 2018 at 6:30pm — No Comments

Avoiding High Risk Legal Events

Our mission is to protect the community and our firefighters with all of the training, equipment and protective gear money can buy. Of course there are the smaller and less affluent fire districts barely responding to calls for service or emergencies and all-volunteer fire organizations are equally challenged to place sufficient firefighter resources in the community for response.

One of the common factors for all departments are the laws and statutes that dictate their conduct and…

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Added by John K. Murphy on March 9, 2018 at 10:00am — No Comments

Reasonable Suspicion – 4th Amendment Protections

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches and seizures." In most cases, the Constitution requires the government to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause to search a person. However, when government has a special need for a search, such as protecting public safety, courts have upheld the search(s) if it is found "reasonable" after balancing the physical intrusion against…

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Added by John K. Murphy on January 22, 2018 at 10:24am — No Comments

Fire Service Legal Issues - 2017 Year End 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.

We also continue to see the fire departments bogged down in legal controversies that reduce the effectiveness of organizational cohesiveness and at times polarize our personnel and departments especially in the area of personnel management…

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Added by John K. Murphy on December 12, 2017 at 11:30am — No Comments

Firefighter Concussions

In the sports world there is an increasing awareness of collision induced concussions between football players, soccer players, kids on the playground and others engaged in contact sports other than dancing. There are many other ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or…

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Added by John K. Murphy on October 31, 2017 at 4:00pm — 3 Comments

Diversity in the Fire Service - An important discussion

When you examine the cause of litigation in the fire service there is one important fact that we need to address. We sue ourselves internally as opposed to be sued by outside sources with the following statics obtained from Curt Varone’s website.

  • A fire department is 9.1 times more likely to be sued by a subordinate than by our customers: A fire chief is 12 times more likely to be sued by a subordinate than by a…
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Added by John K. Murphy on September 30, 2017 at 10:00am — 1 Comment

USERRA – Protecting Firefighters Rights

A recent case in New York involving a police officer, taking 10 years to resolve, revives a sleepy law we do not hear much about called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

This case (Wright v. City of Jamestown), involved an Army Reserve officer with the Jamestown (NY) police department initially filed his USERRA claim against the department in 2007 after he was denied…

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Added by John K. Murphy on July 26, 2017 at 12:08pm — No Comments

Opioid Epidemic and the Fire Service

The current opioid epidemic has significantly increased the call volume for departments responding to citizens suffering from drug overdoses. Not a shift goes by without a call to assist someone suffering from an overdose.

When I was a street paramedic, we would receive calls from the public to assist individuals overdosing with alcohol, mushrooms, Freon, airplane glue, Benadryl and cough syrup containing…

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Added by John K. Murphy on July 6, 2017 at 9:24am — 1 Comment

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