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John K. Murphy's Blog (72)

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 — No Comments

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

Fentanyl – Clear and Present Danger to First Responders

An extremely dangerous drug is on the street is affecting first responders including EMS, police and firefighters making a dangerous job all that more dangerous. This is not related to the prescription strength medication if taken in the wrong dose or administered erroneously creates its own danger.

A recent event in New Jersey involved a police detective searching a home and found a bag of white powder. The officer removed a scoop of powder for testing. When he was…

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Added by John K. Murphy on June 19, 2017 at 10:00am — No Comments

Human Resources - Not necessarily your friend.

Many fire organizations have Human Resources (HR) departments that deal with many of the issues related to the needs of firefighters and staff. HR deals with recruiting and hiring new firefighters, providing information about medical benefits and compensation, ensuring compliance with laws and ordinances, providing a pathway to local EAP Programs and responsible for employee development and firefighter training supporting your training division. HR is…

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Added by John K. Murphy on June 9, 2017 at 4:10pm — No Comments

10,000 hours  - Art of Leadership

While teaching leadership classes over the past several years, I often wonder how long it would take my students to master the Art of Leadership. Is it one or two classes; experiences in the field as a leader; higher education at the Bachelors or Masters level; boots on the ground or a combination of all aforementioned?

Then I wonder about the amount of time it takes to become proficient at our leadership skill…

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Added by John K. Murphy on May 11, 2017 at 4:30pm — 1 Comment

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.…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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

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