Monday, October 26, 2015

The SLICE - RS Side Show

THE SLICE – RS Side Show
  Since our tax dollars seem to be continually doled out to private corporations that are driving the fire training agenda, I thought I would give some of my own personal opinions on where this well intentioned program is helping fire departments, and state fire academies take the easy way around fire training.

  After I was invited to audit a beta run of the Modern Fire Behavior class I began considering all of my previous conclusions and instincts of the current ISFSI steps to fighting building fires. I have been studying and practicing the basics of this subject for the last 20 years and my conclusion is that this new way of doing business is missing more than it is contributing. In addition the public relations campaign from ISFSI is a disaster. The continued inference that if you disagree with them, then you are a dinosaur and a zealot against science is harmful to the job. Examples also exist of the fire industry wagging the fire service for new gadgets and gizmo's that are conveniently available and marketed with the backing of SLICER science.

  More context of the bigger picture includes a couple details concerning the funding of these programs. Nothing nefarious there but something worth noting. $618,000 was awarded to fund the Spartanburg South Carolina live burns as well as cover the 100 classes made available to the 50 state fire academies. I don’t know what the cost for the live burn exercises were but the rough math leaves at least $10,000 per state academy for this 30 some slide power point and other UL content. Hmmm. The state academies have the prerogative to add to the ISFSI PowerPoint but there are the core must have’s such as the SLICE_RS video and description.

  Next, If you have written for a grant then you know the hoops to jump through to get a grant can be many. One of which is having your proposal pass the Criteria Development Panel (CDP).  If you look at Appendix B - Application Guidelines and Program Priorities, The members of this panel include the NFPA, IAFF, NAFTD, and the ISFSI. I’m wondering if the ISFSI recused itself on the recommendation of them receiving the grant money. Hmmm.

  The slide show is a side show. Back to one of my earlier point’s considering the ISFSI hostile attitude towards those who do not share their view point. A Paul Combs illustration was used 3 different times in the less than 40 slide presentation. The picture shows 3 “traditional Firemen” speaking negatively of the Modern fireman writing on a white board. His notes include “Exterior streams don’t push fire, coordinate ventilation, and SLICE –RS”. This in your face approach came after the first slide which listed the “sponsors” of the program, The DHS-AFG, ISFSI, the Ohio Fire Academy, Honeywell and Blue Card. The next slide was the disclaimer we have been seeing everywhere from UL which reads “we aren’t telling you to change the way you do things, but you should see the scientific evidence.” So here is the double speak and the epicenter of the mixed message from the ISFSI.

Image from Google, Paul Combs
  The next slide of content included a mention of the NIST study regarding the benefits of the proper size firefighting crew, and how appropriate manpower make all the difference for efficiency and safety. ( )
 Funny how that study doesn’t get the airtime that ISFSI/UL one does. I wonder why that is?

  Next up was the video series of a guy with a UK accent explaining how smoke is fuel. Ya thanks, but I would rather listen to Dave Dodson explain it “chap”. There was no mention of Jerry Knapp’s work on nozzles moving air or the pending interior attack study. May I suggest you look at Knapp's work in this month’s Fire Engineering…

  I wonder if the ISFSI will get a grant to teach us how to flow and go if it is found to be better for the survivability of people in a burning building? Hmmm.

  After another reminder from Paul Combs I was shocked at the outright arrogance of this presentation. Pictures of F/F Louis J. Matthews of Engine 26 and Anthony Phillips from the Cherry Hill fire in DC, 1990, are shown with the title: “These men died doing what they were trained to do”. This is fear based propaganda using the persuasion of loss and scarcity. No specific detail listed of course, and if you look at it on the surface then yes they were firemen that were working a fire, but to indict them and the DCFD as negligent or reckless is in poor taste to say the least. 
  If that wasn’t insulting enough, the description of a flow path was illustrated with a vented miller lite can. That image was titled as the fireman definition. Very classy Columbus…. Well done.

  There was much missing from the presentation and I will get to all of them by the end of this editorial but as far as the overall message there was 1 glaring omission. It is one that is missing from every conversation concerning UL, SLICERS and hitting hard from the yard. That little fact is that none of these have brought attention to the fact that 80% of fire fatalities are due to inhalation injuries, and lowering the temperatures from an exterior stream has not been proven to improve survivability for trapped occupants. The overriding message is that the lower temperatures are “SAFE for firefighters”.

  Another notable “update” from the original message @2010 was the quote from Mr. Buchanan that “This is all about hitting it hard from the yard.” I was happy to see that gem missing, but the inference that the “safe location” to cool the fire area is only from the outside is loud and proud. There was no qualification or example shown of a stream being played from an approach hallway, stairway or adjoining room. The only visual example was exterior hose streams. Some were deployed past the front door, and the side door, to the rear of a house and then played into a second floor window. Don’t be confused though, the next slide says you don’t always have to do this from outside! My slide would say “Ladders go outside, hoses go inside whenever possible gentlemen.”

  My vocabulary was re aligned to include “Flow Path” rather than air tract. The recognition that high pressure systems look for low pressure areas, kind of like smoke lifting and pushing out of an opening, and that there is a “neutral plane” you know, where hot and warm air is not mixed yet. Kind of like thermal planes or balance, I don’t know it is complicated…

  In a general summary I would conclude that this application of science is to weaken your mindset when going to a building fire. The emphasis is not on expecting victims or difficult fire situations. The first arriving company using this model as an operating platform will be flat footed when the fire is not obviously showing or if the victims are demanding to be thought of first. All of this in the context of a federally funded program that is being force fed to the fire service culture that varies widely from urban to rural makes me wonder if the tail is wagging the dog.
  My Next Posts will be tackling the acronym on where it robs it’s users from embracing the basics of the job. Of course those are predicated on putting the civilians and their stuff at a high priority so some may differ in opinion on their sequential merits. Stay tuned.
 Image from Google, ISFSI

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


“We have science on OUR side, who are you listening to?”

If you have been paying attention to the fire service social media conflict regarding the IFSI curriculum of SLICE –RS, then you probably seen or heard this question. Set in the context of refuting a premise that the initial actions of the 1st engine according to the ISFSI, are not consistent with the practices and principles set by our American fire service.

Perhaps you have seen a few different expletive “Rants” on the issue. My personal loss of dignity on this subject received some attention several weeks ago. (See it here: ). As a rule I try to keep emotions and intellectual issues separate but the TFT fire Appliance Company continues to disappoint and perpetuate products committed to nothing more than making a buck. In marketing that tactic is called product differentiation. 

The ISFSI instructors that are rolling out this “new” science are not to be painted with a broad brush as the responsible agents for the discomfort between “legacy firemen” and “modern firefighters”. They are just be the agents of change that are compartmentalized. With the good intentions of improving their co-workers safety and increasing workplace efficiency, this benevolent group seeks to be consistent and congruent with the fire services and their own personal values. They do this by referencing the proclaimed authority on fire behavior, that being the Underwriters laboratory. This authority is now one of the most sought after organizations to be a part of. For reference one could look to the UL’s panel of names associated with any of their fire studies.

So what is going on here? In my opinion it is consensus science with reciprocity in association.  Essentially, if you can get on the UL’s study panel then your name and reputation is then elevated to the reputation of the organization. You are now part of something bigger (and smarter?) than yourself. This gives you a bit more credit on the subject matter as you may now be considered an intellectual on the issue.

Following the needed steps to further the progress of the “new” way of firefighting there needs to be an external motivating factor. In psychology it is called scarcity. The motivation is the fear of loss. People are more motivated by the idea of losing something rather than the idea of gaining that same thing. This is where firefighter safety is held up as the only goal for this curriculum. Which at the heart of the instructors, is true. I am not making the statement that the ISFI is at all interested in solely making money on this… see the definition of compartmentalization. This all leads to the result of Consensus. There are 6 principles that lead to a consensus. They are noted after this article.

Which type of investigative science are you referencing comparative, experimental, investigative, or descriptive? It is important to know so we can understand what the mission is of your grand standing. By inferring that you have the sole authority to understand and disseminate information I hope you have a good understanding of the surrounding factors that make you think that you can preach from your intellectual mountain. Just to be fair I will tell you exactly who I am listening to. The names are those that have been the very basis for understanding fire behavior in the largest test lab ever conceived. The lab is the streets of the American cities, towns and rural jurisdictions. The variables are infinite but the experiences have allowed for hundreds of years of documented procedures that have allowed us to try new technology and figure out what really works towards our mission. Our mission is to save lives and property.

So to answer your question I am listening to William Clark, Vincent Dunn, John Norman, Dave McGrail, Ted Corperandy, Andy Fredericks, Sulka, Brennan, Shupe, Fields, and Comella. Collectively over 400 years of experience in different time periods using different technology in different settings. So pardon me as I scoff at your self righteous insult to the very scientific artists that framed the job into the modern era. Your arrogance is enough to turn me from engaging you for your own professional benefit.

 These men studied and rebuilt the fire service with the benefit of snail mail and monthly periodicals. This allowed for more time testing versus rushing to conclusions and generating reputations overnight. A national consensus took years to happen as the pendulum swung much slower. Detailed observation and study was accomplished in the heaviest fire duty on earth during the war years. From the early 60’s to the early 80’s more technology poured into the fire service for trial and error. The pumps, the hose, the clothing, breathing apparatus, and the construction all changed right before our eyes. There was a new way of doing almost anything every year, yet the tried and true principles of the job remained. Today’s social media context is as good for the service as it is bad. From overzealous fire instructors trying to make a name for themselves to appliance manufacturers trying to make a buck, the instant proliferation of “fact based opinion” can accomplish either one.

This new science argument is not about science at all. The UL group has not mixed it’s words but the ISFSI has. The argument is about marketing and propaganda to result in the profit of a mindset change in the brains of the American firefighter. The campaign appeals to the short on experience and long on narcissism generation. This shift in principles is only possible by re-founding the basic practices. Just as history is revised by the victorious, the new fire service academy texts give weight and legitimacy to the SLICERS program. As the ignorant cadets try to get their pro board check off sheets done, they are missing the creative and experienced based tactics that are true for that specific area of the country. I call it the common core for the fire service. The same algorithm of teaching with data and numbers only, and the same motivation: make money on texts and curriculum changes. If you would like to conduct your own scientific study about the shift in priorities may I suggest you go talk to a new academy graduate. Ask what the initial action would be for a single family dwelling with fire showing from a bedroom window as they arrived with an engine. 100% have answered me with stretching a line under the window and resetting the fire.

With that as a backdrop where do you suppose the fire service will evolve too? Is it possible that interior firefighting will be abolished as initial tactic? Will the ridiculous saying of “risking a lot to save  a lot” be qualified as there is no risk worth taking? The betrayal of our fire service history to homogenize the training will also lead to the standardization of what is a legitimate fire attack. Currently, the NFPA 1403 addresses fire attack as a charged hose line taken into the structure to extinguish fire. When that standard is rewritten to reflect the curriculum of the state academies, then the exterior stream will be an essential part of the standard. As with most of the NFPA (Not For Practical Application) the industry manufacturers will be well prepared for the next mandate with all the gadgets you will now have to have. If you don’t think so may I suggest you review the large reduction in the requirement for ground ladders on a ladder truck from the 60’s to now, or how the Bourke eye shield finally became safe enough to use.

Back to the surrounding factors of the situation I am writing on. I have made a few attempts to engage others on social media to help them recognize what is actually going on with the marketing and instruction surrounding the “new” science. It is worth noting that the ISFSI as a whole does not propose to attack every fire from the outside first regardless of situation. However; the syllogistic reasoning used throughout much of the lessons is obvious. The step of “C” in the SLICE RS acronym is for cool from a safe location. Most instructors would agree that that would mean from the interior hall or adjoining room. To use the reach of the stream and not use your turnout gear as your line of defense against injury. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement but what is being shown in every example of cooling from a safe location is an exterior stream playing into a window. This is the inference that is setting the tone for our more junior and less experienced firefighters. It is planting the seed for the default action to be taken. That is flat out wrong!

Another consequence of a rewritten priority is the potential litigation that will be brought to bare on any of the “traditionalists” who experience any injury or tragedy on the fire ground. Just as the ambiguous reasons listed in NIOSH reports like lack of ICS, accountability, modern equipment, and communications, so too will be the neglect of using “the modern tactic of fire control from the exterior”. The real reason most tragic things happen is because our training regiments do not reflect our reality nor our principled reasons why most of us get into the job.

Most could go 10 – 20 years following this silly acronym but eventually a fire will present you something very important and out of your usual order. When a tragic event happens you will not have the mental history to draw on for a creative solution. You have not been applying principles to deal with unusual circumstances, therefore you will retreat and self preserve to only regret and never forgive yourself for not being someone they expected you to be.

So before you discount what has been done for us in generations past, or fully embrace those with a marketing team, industrial sponsorship or federal grants, I suggest you get back to the basics and understand why principles and practices must have the first seat at the table.

 6 principles of consensus science

  • Robert Cialdini defines them as follows:
  • 1) Reciprocity: we are always more willing to say yes to someone who has already said yes to us. If someone invites us to a party or has done us a favor in the past, we feel obligated to reciprocate. Robert Cialdini gives the example of a restaurant where a small gift (a mint or a sweet) by the waiter increases the amount of the tip left by a customer. If we want to use this principle to influence others, we should be the first to give, we should personalize the gift and the gift should be unexpected. Simply put, we should give before we expect to receive.
  • 2) Scarcity: People are more motivated by the idea of loosing something rather than the idea of gaining that same thing. Robert Cialdini mentions the case of the work he did with US Hi-Fi equipment manufacturer BOSE where by changing the marketing message from one which emphasized newness of the product to one which emphasized what the customer risked loosing if he/she didn’t opt for the new product, Bose increased the sales by 45%.
  • 3) Authority: we are always more ready to follow the advice and say yes to people recognized as experts in their field. Doctors and dentists have long known this and usually post their diplomas in their consultancies to remind patients of the legitimacy of their expertise. Cialdini gives the example of how a real estate agency applied this principle to its business by instructing its receptionists to mention to callers the length of experience of its real estate agents before putting them through. This simple technique reinforced the confidence of callers and future customers and led to significant increases in business.
  • 4) Consistency: a basic fundamental trait of human psychology is that we constantly seek to be consistent and congruent with our own personal values when we make decisions. This means that we seek to ensure that future decisions are congruent with previous commitments. So the challenge is to get people to make small commitments in writing if possible which will then lead them to make further commitments later on down the line on bigger issues.
  • 5) Liking: we are more likely to say yes to people we like and Cialdini points out that there are three factors which lead us to like other people:
    – We like people who are similar to us
    – We tend to like people who pay us compliments
    – We like people to seek to cooperate with us to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes
  • So when we are seeking to influence someone and get to yes, establishing a sincere and positive bond with the other person by bringing to the surface shared values, behaviors, experience, interests will help us build confidence and trust with the other person.
  • 6) Consensus: when trying to persuade others, we don’t always have to rely on our own powers of persuasion but we can seek to demonstrate what similar others are doing. We are all indeed influenced by what our peer group are doing and how they are deciding. Especially in situations where there is uncertainty as to what to decide (how to vote, what product to choose, etc.), if we can show to someone that people similar to him/her have already said yes to our proposal, we increase our chances of getting to Yes. 
  • Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.
  • Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized self states.[1]

·         Syllogistic Reasoning - Changing Minds syllogism (Greek: συλλογισμός syllogismos, "conclusion, inference") is a kind of logical argument that applies deductive reasoning to arrive at a conclusion based on two or more propositions that are asserted or assumed to be true.

  • Marketing Smith's "differentiation and segmentation strategies"
    "In product differentiation, according to Smith (1956, p. 5), a firm tries 'bending the will of demand to the will of supply.' That is, distinguishing or differentiating some aspect(s) of its marketing mix from those of competitors, in a mass market or large segment, where customer preferences are relatively homogeneous (or heterogeneity is ignored, Hunt, 2011, p. 80), in an attempt to shift its aggregate demand curve to the left (greater quantity sold for a given price) and make it more inelastic (less amenable to substitutes). With segmentation, a firm recognizes that it faces multiple demand curves, because customer preferences are heterogeneous, and focuses on serving one or more specific target segments within the overall market"