Running a Productive Meeting – Good Read!
**Running a Productive Fire District Meeting
Ask any commissioner what their favorite part of the job is, and never – and I stress never – will they say, “Going to meetings.”
A few years ago, I did an informal survey among fire service leaders regarding why they disliked meetings so much. The responses were consistent across diverse departments. “It’s frustrating. Nothing ever gets done” was a common sentiment. “Nobody ever really listens” was also a frequent observation. The most common response about meetings? “A waste of time.”
But meetings are not going away any time soon, even if they happen virtually (where the only saving grace for some people is that they can multitask out of the camera’s view). Plus, when done well, meetings can be a positive forum for sharing information and ideas and problem solving.
MEETING PLANNING IS KEY
Many things get in the way of having productive meetings: inadequate preparation, lack of focus, poor time management. Lack of attention to any of these elements can cause meetings to go off the rails.
Have an agenda: Every meeting should have an agenda that is sent out to all participants prior to the gathering. This agenda should include any background materials for discussion, and it must be emphasized that all participants are expected to have read those materials prior to meeting together as a group.
Stay focused: Meetings should also have a specific focus, as outlined in the agenda. While having some brief time set aside for general discussion can be useful, the meeting itself must stick to the stated purpose.
Respect attendees’ time: Time limitations must be respected. Of course, people need to be heard, but personal issues, off-topic discussions, side conversations and general rambling must be kept to a minimum. Many business leaders believe that meetings should never last longer than one hour long. In fact, some think they should be much shorter than that.
Facilitating group dynamics
The bottom line is that meetings must be managed to be successful, and this means that someone must fill the role of facilitator. This job often falls to the highest-ranking person in the room, though that is not necessarily the best approach. Among groups that meet regularly, it can be a good practice to rotate the facilitator’s job among all attendees.
Facilitators are responsible for the business of running the meeting – the preparation of pre-meeting materials, notifying all attendees and tracking attendance. Perhaps most importantly, facilitators have a role in guiding discussion, including paying attention to who speaks first. The fire district board chairman is a facilitator with one vote, no more, no less.
Studies show that people in groups, either in person or virtually, are disproportionately affected by the first opinion expressed on any given topic. Psychologists call this the cascade effect, (I call it mob rule) – if the first person speaking on a topic is favorable toward it, there is a greater chance that the next person who speaks will agree rather than disagree. Each subsequent speaker then has increasing pressure to go along.
There are many reasons why this happens; people may genuinely agree, or they may not have a strong opinion and find it easier to just go along. They may feel pressure to fit in with the group and not appear uninformed or disagreeable. Whatever the reasons, the effect can be premature agreement and cursory analysis of situations or problems.
A good facilitator can mitigate this effect by being deliberate about how members participate. Instead of allowing a free-for-all atmosphere where anyone (and usually the same few people) speak first and most often, a facilitator can call on people, or assign topics where everyone has the chance to have the first word.
Everyone should have the opportunity to speak during a meeting but creating this norm can mean changing current patterns regarding how things happen. Such change is possible but must be handled professionally. Leaders must explain how they intend to alter the format of meetings and why these changes will benefit members and the organization. Such changes must be framed in a positive light – how the new format will benefit everyone, not that one member is talking too much.
Committing to change
Meetings will never be anyone’s favorite activity, but when managed well, they can be a productive part of the workday. Taking steps to overhaul how your organization runs its meetings is work that can and should be shared among all who participate, but as with most positive change, it will come down to leadership setting the tone.
New First Responder Tool for Reporting Transportation Struck-By Incidents
The Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) has just launched a new nationwide platform that collects detailed information directly from first responders about incidents on the roadway where responders or their equipment were struck by a vehicle while operating at a scene.
By improving first responder reporting, this new tool will help ERSI track and analyze struck-by incident data, gain a better understanding of exactly how and why these incidents are happening, and help prevent future incidents.
The new incident reporting tool at ReportStruckBy.com:
- Accepts reports from all roadway responders, including fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire police and special traffic units, safety service and freeway service patrols, departments of transportation, public works, and towing and recovery.
- Allows any first responder involved in a struck-by incident to report the incident from any device, whether in the field or at the station.
- Accepts all reports on struck-by incidents of any type, including incidents resulting in death, injury or property damage.
- Takes approximately 3-4 minutes to complete. All fields are optional so you can report as much as you know and skip what you don’t.
Important Record Management News from State Archives
The New York State Archives has changed how it delivers advisory services to New York State local governments. For the past thirty years the Archives has delivered these services using a regional model; each region served by a Regional Advisory Officer or RAO.
As of January 1, 2022, advisory services are delivered by government type. Each government type is assigned a Records Advisory Officer (RAO).
One advantage of the new model, it will allow RAOs to develop a deeper understanding of each government type and the records it produces, enabling each RAO to provide even better service than they did before. Here is our list of RAOs and the government types they cover:
Cities, Fire Districts, and New York City Municipal Agencies
Maria McCashion, Records Advisory Officer
Cultural Education Center
222 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY 12230
Villages and Cornell Cooperative Extensions
Lorraine Hill-Campbell, Records Advisory Officer
Suffolk State Office Building, Room 2B-41A
Veterans Memorial Hwy.
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Michael Martin, Records Advisory Officer
Senator John H Hughes Office Building
333 E. Washington St. Room 230
Syracuse, NY 13202
SEE THE LATEST LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD FOR 2023
March 10 Scorecard
If you see something, say something. If one of these pieces of legislation lights your fire (no pun intended) pick up the phone and tell your local elected representatives be part of the solution!
New York State Fire Service Alliance Legislative Issues for the 2022 Legislative Session
The members of the NYS Fire Service Alliance met in Troy, NY on December 4th to determine the 2022 Issues of United Concern. These are the legislative priorities that were decided upon:
- Fair Play Cost Recovery for Fire Departments – Empowers the authority having jurisdiction which provides emergency medical services to have the option of establishing fees and charges for services. During the 2021 session, this bill passed the Senate. It moved from the Assembly Local Governments committee to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee where it will start for the 2022 session. [S.7186 Brooks/A.534A Jones]
- Recruitment and Retention Task Force – Make a chapter amendment to the legislation which created the Recruitment and Retention Task Force to move the date a report is due on its findings to December 31st, 2022, rather than the now unattainable date of April 1st, 2022. [S.7589-B Gaughran/A.9779-A Thiele original legislation; S.864 Gaughran/ A.968 Thiele already passed chapter amendment]
- Reckless Endangerment of an Emergency Service Person – Amend the penal law by adding a new section creating the crime of reckless endangerment of an emergency service person in the second degree. A person is guilty when they knowingly alter or convert a building that impedes egress, and an emergency service person is injured or dies as a result. This would be classified as a class D felony.[S3741 Gaughran/A6087 Zebrowski]
- Timely Adoption of Updated State Fire and Building Prevention Code – Would require that a new building code as published by ICC would be adopted by the NYS Codes Council within two code cycles (6 years). [S.6210-A Skoufis/A.3559-A Hunter provides a framework to accomplish; support amendments to extending the timeline of enactment from 12 months to 72 months]
- Restoration of Dedicated Code Enforcement Funding – The funds in Section 54g of State Finance Law provide state assistance to local governments for support of activities related to fire prevention and building codes. This money has been swept into the General Fund and not used for its intended purpose for 29 years. [S.6970 Kavanagh]
- Pre-Budget ad hoc committee efforts to:
A.) Return local control for use of the cellular 911 communications fees to the counties
B.) Provide state-based funding for books used by the students of the basic fire education courses, specifically BFO & IFO courses and
C.) Provide state funding to offset the cost of the NYS Firefighter’s Cancer Benefit Program to the AHJ paying the premiums
- If The Family & Firefighter Protection Act, which prohibits the sale of mattresses or upholstered furniture that contain intentionally added identified flame retardant chemicals to individuals or households for personal use in residential spaces, gets vetoed this year, the Alliance organizations will reintroduce the measure for the 2022 session. [S.4630-B Kaminsky/Harckham/A.5418-B Englebright]
As these measures work through the legislative process, the Fire Service Alliance will reconvene to strategize and/or identify additional measures to be considered by the Legislature.
The Future of Turn Out Gear to be Decided
Jeffery and Grace Stull
Every five years or so, NFPA standards undergo a review and revision process to ensure they accurately reflect fire service needs and emerging technology. This is the case again this year, as NFPA 1971 on turnout gear, NFPA 1975 on station/work uniforms, NFPA 1981 on SCBA and NFPA 1982 on personal alert safety systems (PASS) formally enter their revision cycle, with the updates expected to be finalized in the summer of 2023.
What makes this revision cycle unique? There are transformative issues confronting the fire service within these standards. Plus, all four standards are going to be consolidated into a single volume – a big shift for the industry.
THE BANE AND BENEFITS OF CONSOLIDATION
NFPA decided that there were too many individual fire service standards to manage, and thus began a process two years ago to merge many standards that had similar topical areas. The ultimate goal: Reduce the approximately 130 fire service standards to one-third that number.
In the realm of PPE, this has included some sensible consolidations, like NFPA 1990, now home to all the hazmat PPE information – no longer spread among NFPA 1991, NFPA 1992 and NFPA 1994. In that case, a single responsible committee endeavored to update and streamline the requirements for the full range of hazmat and CBRN. The result was harmonized requirements and test methods that established a more manageable 143-page document, instead of the combined 236 pages of the preceding editions.
Specific to turnout clothing standards, the immediate benefits of consolidation remain to be seen, as this process is just starting.
The current plan is that the new replacement standard, NFPA 1970 (a newly numbered standard to prevent confusion with prior standards), will have a shared introductory chapter, reference list and set of definitions, but otherwise will have the separate chapters for each of the existing standards, including certification, labeling, design, performance, and test methods separately sequenced. This is intended to preserve the separate identity associated with labeling products to the existing standard. Products will still be identified as being certified to NFPA 1971, for example. This is also intended to ease the transition to a more comprehensive standard. After all, the new document will be the result of four separate technical committees trying to integrate a significant amount of content into a comprehensive specification on a complex group of products.
However, this approach may not achieve the potential benefits of consolidation where the entire ensemble – everything a firefighter wears for structural firefighting – is covered in one document with full harmonization of requirements at this first juncture. Moreover, the new NFPA 1970 will become an encyclopedia-like document, estimated to be over 300 pages long.
It is possible that the NFPA technical committees involved may attempt some harmonization in bringing the individual turnout clothing system standards together. Some possibilities include ensuring that the certification process used to qualify product and allow labeling to show compliance be made fully uniform among products. This aids the manufacturing industry, particularly for companies that make products addressed by multiple standards. It may also finally be possible that some of the common tests will truly be common, making it less expensive to test and certify products.
There are also some interesting opportunities that may occur as part of this consolidation process. Consider that station/work uniforms could be permitted, under special circumstances, to be part of the overall insulation provided by the turnout clothing system for purposes of protection. Consolidation of NFPA 1971 (turnout gear) and NFPA 1975 (station/work uniforms) could possibly make that conceivable.
Another possibility is to finally address the system as a whole, again with all the equipment in place. There is now the basis for full ensemble testing for garments, helmets, hoods, gloves, footwear, SCBA and PASS collectively to be evaluated for different forms of protection, interface effectiveness and interoperability. A new NFPA 1970 platform can permit this approach. Moreover, it also could lead to better consideration of integrated products, particularly for emerging electronic sensors and related equipment, to become part of the overall ensemble for future fire service use.
In this revision cycle, it is also expected that many new issues facing the fire service and PPE industry will be up for debate, with the potential for various updates to change the look and availability of turnout clothing-based products. For example, criteria related to contamination resistance and cleanability is now a central topic as well as improvements in demonstrating durability and finally addressing restrictive substances, such as PFAS, in meaningful ways. We have covered some of these issues in recent columns – “Gear expectations: Firefighters expect more from their turnouts” and “Is the fire service ready for a PPE shake-up?” – but there are also other key areas of debate coming up during the less-than-two-year period where decisions will be made on minimum requirements for turnout gear.
One example is whether particulate-blocking hoods should become mandatory. Optional requirements were introduced as part of the 2018 edition changes in NFPA 1971 for firefighter hoods to provide for particulate blocking, especially since ample evidence had become available about firefighter neck and face exposure to smoke particulates coming through the normally two-layer porous knit hoods. A large part of the fire service has moved to these types of hoods, and additional research, including that conducted by North Carolina State University as part of a federal grant, has added to the information for the utility and performance of these products. The question is whether the fire service should shift to these newer products, now available from a wide range of manufacturers.
Further, there has been a decades-spanning debate about eye and face protection provided with helmets, typically part of face shields, goggles and various forms of retractable or flip-down visors. There are many opinions on this issue, but some advancements are being made in understanding product utility and protection, so it is expected that this issue will come up again with new angles and new proposals for attempting to mirror the true needs and preferences for firefighters.
Another controversial area is the mandatory requirements for drag rescue devices (DRDs) installed into the protective coat. This feature has been a mainstay of the NFPA 1971 requirements since it was introduced in 2007. Since that time, there have been few, if any, reported instances where the DRD has been used for the rapid extrication of firefighters. Many firefighters complain that under emergency circumstances, the DRD simply is not readily accessible and that there are easier ways to accomplish removing a downed firefighter from the fireground. In fact, the last edition of NFPA 1500 on general fire department occupational safety and health recognized in one of its use requirements that organizations should have standard operating procedures (SOPs) specific to rapid firefighter extrication, and the DRD was only one of the approaches that can be established. Still, there are others in the fire service who believe that unless the DRD is mandatory, it simply won’t be available to firefighters under emergency conditions. The question here is whether the DRD should remain mandatory or become an optional feature for which requirements are applied when present in the clothing.
Finally, there are some who argue that new metrics are needed to judge thermal insulation for protection as balanced against physiological stress imposed by the clothing. To this end, proposals for supplementing both thermal protective performance (TPP) and total heat loss (THL) are expected to change how the industry defines these characteristics. There are some firefighters who argue that the current system does not need to be changed, yet the TPP test itself is over 35 years old and the TPP requirement of 35 has remained in place for that same time. Despite that, fireground conditions have been shown to be evolving with more modern material and their consequent hazards, and there still a need to better balance heat insulation and physiological comfort.
There are many, many more areas of change that will be considered in the next edition of NFPA 1971, soon to be under the NFPA 1970 umbrella standard. How these changes are considered will be determined over the next 18 months, but it is very likely in our opinion that some significant changes will occur, fundamentally changing how we think about PPE.
The fire service should not sit idly on the sidelines waiting to see what emerges from this process. It is important for individual organizations to weigh in on turnout clothing-focused standards. Change can be difficult, but transformation through increased awareness and new technology is a way of life, particularly when it comes to ensuring that firefighters receive the best possible protection at the lowest possible cost – in terms of both risk and money.
Why Would A Fire Union Try to Extinguish Volunteers? (good read)
By Frank Ricci
Volunteer firefighters are critical to many of America’s communities, donating time and labor worth billions of dollars each year, but the country’s biggest firefighters union apparently is trying to extinguish them. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) represents more than 325,000 professional firefighters and paramedics across the United States and Canada. If their goal is to replace volunteers with dues-paying members, it would place a significant burden on taxpayers in many communities.
Shortages of willing volunteers have reached a crisis level affecting areas in several states, including Virginia and California. There likely isn’t a volunteer fire department that is immune from recruitment and retention issues. These issues can affect departments’ abilities to respond when people call 911, and they can have a direct impact on local property taxes.
The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association says the shortage of volunteers has hit a critical level. Seventy percent of Virginia’s firefighters are volunteers, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention are compounded by the constitution and bylaws of the IAFF, prohibiting career firefighters from volunteering. These bylaws were codified in March and include “volunteering” in a list of serious charges such as embezzlement, assault of an officer, or membership in a terrorist organization. The penalty for a career firefighter donating his time to help a child who is having an asthma attack, or to respond to a car accident or participate in saving a neighbor’s home or business could be a “reprimand, fine, suspension from office, or suspension or expulsion from membership.”
In states and jurisdictions with collective bargaining laws, the IAFF’s ban against volunteering is expanding past its bylaws with recommendations that are highlighted in the union’s “Model Contract Language Manual,” to prohibit a career firefighter from volunteering regardless of union membership. If this language is codified into contracts, it could have a devastating impact when a person calls for help. What if a call goes unanswered?
Many communities rely on career firefighters who choose to give back to their hometowns by augmenting training programs, fulfilling command roles or operating complicated fire apparatus. Obtaining certification and clearance to drive a firetruck is a difficult requirement for a volunteer to obtain. It is not uncommon to have a qualified crew ready to respond to a call, but left waiting for a driver. Or, in volunteer departments with duty nights — in which volunteers commit to staff a shift — some are unable to staff all the apparatus in the station because of a lack of drivers.
Most career firefighters started as volunteers, bringing vital experience to their departments. Volunteer departments typically have robust training budgets and provide quality training opportunities.
A 2020 report from the National Volunteer Fire Council states that volunteers comprise 67 percent of firefighters across the country. Of the 29,706 fire departments in the United States, 19,112 are all-volunteer; those agencies protect communities of 10,000 or fewer residents. The report found that the number of volunteer firefighters hit an all-time low in 2017 — underscoring the need for volunteers.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, time donated by firefighters who are willing to volunteer can save localities an estimated $46.9 billion combined. Career firefighters have been volunteering since the establishment of the career fire service. Isn’t this a tradition that is worth embracing?
Volunteer firefighters represent the best in America — neighbors helping neighbors. Individuals are willing to answer calls, even knowing that they could make their spouse a widow and their children parentless by helping the community they serve. It’s a shame to see a labor union try to place limitations upon the volunteers.
What You Need to Know About the Proposed Revisions to the OSHA Fire Brigade Standard
OSHA has proposed a revision to 1910.156 Fire Brigade Standard Attached) that would have significant impacts on how we do business as NYS Fire Districts. This is not a new initiative (been around since at least 2016) but it recently came off the sidelines and is trucking full speed ahead.
DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED OSHA FIRE BRIGADE STANDARD
QUICK SYNOPSIS OF WHAT THE STANDARD COVERS
SMALLL BUSINESS ADVOCACY REVIEW PANEL – SMALL ENTITY REPRESENTATIVES
Contact your federal representatives, congress person and senator!!
Letter Templates available here for those in the immediate Capital Area.
If your Congressperson is different just substitute their name where appropriate.
Letter to Congressman Paul Tonko, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Tonko-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Kirsten Gillibrand, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Gillibrand-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Charles Schumer, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Schumer-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Elise Stefanik, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Stefanik-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Cancer Benefit Program State Reporting Requirements
Please read and responds appropriately related to the deadlines for the Cancer Benefit Program from OFPC.
Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program Information You Need to Know
New York State Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program by The Hartford
Cancer Protection Designed by Firefighters for Firefighters
Thank you for your membership in the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program. FASNY, NYSAFC and AFCSNY partnered with The Hartford to create a program that offers eligible volunteer firefighters cancer protection as required by GML 205-CC effective January 1, 2019. The coverage will automatically renew on January 1, 2022.
The Program offers two different cancer coverages. The basic program covers the specific cancers listed in GML 205-CC.The enhanced program covers more types of cancer including lung cancer.
IMPORTANT CHANGES Effective January 1, 2022:
- 15% Rate Decrease
- For 2022, the cost of the Basic Program will be $132.60 per firefighter per year
- For 2022, the cost of the Enhanced (all cancers) Program will be $169.15 per firefighter per year
- Contract Change Regarding Eligibility for Coverage:
The definition of Eligible Volunteer Firefighter has been amended to allow for easier determination of eligibility per OFPC guidance:
A volunteer interior firefighter who has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer; and, has submitted or is able to submit proof of five years of interior firefighting service by providing verification that he/she has passed at least five yearly certified mask fitting tests as set forth in 29 CFR 1910.134 or the applicable National Fire Protection Association Standards for Mask Fit testing; or, for firefighters who entered fire service prior to January first, 2020, documentation identified by the office of fire prevention and control in rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to subdivision seven of this section which shall include, but not be limited to, training or certification records, health care provider records, internal fire department records, or any combination of official documents capable of evidencing that the firefighter meets the aforementioned requirements
- Contract Change Allowing Optional Coverage for Exterior Firefighters:
The definition of Eligible Volunteer Firefighter has been broadened to include exterior firefighters that meet the definition below. You can now include exterior firefighters on your census, should you wish to purchase this benefit on their behalf. GML 205-CC does not mandate the purchase this benefit for exterior firefighters. Eligibility Description: A volunteer exterior firefighter who has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer.
In preparation for 2022, we will be reaching out to you for roster updates beginning on October 25, 2022. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at:
(833) 531 1959
NEW YORK CANCER COVERAGE BY VFIS
Everything you need to know about adding or renewing VFIS Cancer Coverage to help better protect your organization and volunteers
STATUTORY CANCER COVERAGE
Who needs to be covered? What is Class 1 and Class 2?
Class 1: All active volunteer firefighters, who meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $137 per member
Class 2: All formerly insured inactive volunteer firefighters, who meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Formerly insured inactive volunteers must be covered for 60 months after leaving the fire service. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $123 per member
NEW OPTIONAL CLASSES AVAILABLE
Class 3: All active exterior volunteer firefighters who have five or more years of exterior service and do not meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $137 per member
Class 4: All formerly insured inactive exterior volunteer firefighters. Formerly insured inactive volunteers will be covered for 60 months after leaving the fire service. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $123 per member
OPTIONAL ALL CANCERS ENHANCEMENT AVAILABLE IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR 2022
You can provide coverage beyond what’s required for ANY type of cancer. In additional to the statutory cancer coverage required by the legislation in New York, VFIS has an All Cancers Enhanced Rider which can be added on to an existing policy.
Classes 1 & Classes 3 – for only $51 more per member. | Classes 2 & Classes 4 – for only $47 more per member
Would You Like to work On State Fire Service Legislation?
Have you had enough? Would you like to get involved? The Capital Area will be putting together a more formal discussion group on fire service related state legislation with representatives from the fire districts in the Capital Area, and beyond if interested. Not sure of the structure of the group just yet but we will be having regular conversations concerning fire service-related legislation and communication efforts with the various state representatives from the eight counties that comprise the Capital Area Association. We envision this group to meet virtually most of the time so that there is no travel involved for anyone and we are interested in focusing on the legislative issues confronting our fire district operations at the state and local level. Please drop me an email at email@example.com if you are interested in participating in this group. Looking forward to hearing from you since we would like to get this off the ground for the next legislative session beginning January 1st.
COMPARE THE 11 REGIONS OF THE STATE ASSOCIATION
There are many inequities and questions to be asked and answered. Ask your regional directors John Meehan and George June.