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Guest blog written for Action Training Systems by Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) Since the early days of the Republic, volunteer firefighters have played a key role in providing fire protection in communities across the U.S. The last several decades, however, the number of active volunteer firefighters has continued to decline as older members retire and are not replaced by younger members. According to the most recent NFPA estimates, of the approximately 1,056,200 local firefighters in the US in 2017, volunteer firefighters numbered 682,600 (65%).    
Guest blog written for Action Training Systems by Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) By now, most of us are familiar — or should be — with using our emergency vehicles as a shield against oncoming traffic to protect first responders and civilians while operating on a roadway. In addition, we use emergency warning lights and other items such as road flares and traffic cones to capture the attention of oncoming drivers.  Despite these efforts, we still see far too many stories such as this one that came out of Hanover County, Virginia: On October 11, 2018, forty-three-year-old Lt. Brad Clark with Hanover County Fire-EMS was killed, and three other firefighters
Guest blog written for Action Training Systems by Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) Pop quiz: What is signified by the low-pressure alarm on your SCBA sounding? If you answered, "I have 5 minutes of air left," consider yourself to officially be a fire service "dinosaur." That low-air alarm—official name is the End-of-Service-Time Indicator (EOSTI)—has been a feature of SCBA in the fire service since the first units appeared on fire scenes more than 5 decades ago. But it's now "caveman" technology in the world where the current generation of SCBA is more a "Land a Rover on Mars" technology. Today's SCBA provides firefighters with more than just a supply of breathing air. Most units on the market today have: * Head's Up Display (HUD) that visually displays information and system condition status to the SCBA's user (e.g., available air pressure or current
Guest blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec Much is being written about and talked about regarding post-traumatic stress and its effect on firefighters. The job has always been physically and emotionally taxing, but an increasing awareness of the adverse effects of post-traumatic stress is "shining a light" on the difficulties that many firefighters have coping with those stresses. From behavioral changes to alcohol and substance abuse to suicide, too many firefighters are unable to cope with those pressures. How our brain handles stress Figure 1. Source: Your Brain on Stress and Anxiety. https://vimeo.com/78895649 The amygdala or "reptilian brain" is where the body's "fight, flight or freeze" response capacity is located. The hippocampus or "emotional brain" is where we get our ability to feel emotions, have a sense of our environ
Guest Blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec What's one of the most critical operational issues that many volunteer fire departments struggle with? Knowing who's available for emergency responses and knowing who's actually responding when a call for service comes in. Volunteer fire departments have historically relied on sign-up sheets or boards located in the fire station; ad hoc scheduling at its best (or worst). And not always accurate as plans change for individual members, changes that too frequently don't get made on the schedule. In this article, I'm going to explore some options that volunteer fire departments can use to better ensure that they have the people they need when someone in the community needs their fire department. What is NFPA 1720? NFPA 1720 is the Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fir