The Action Training Systems Emergency Responder Blog

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 "rep...

scene safetyGuest blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec

In August 1979, I was a new EMT working my first job in EMS as an employee of the private sector ambulance service that had the contract to provide EMS to the city of Richmond, Virginia. On one of my first tours of duty, my partner and I responded to a reported shooting in the Fairfield Court projects in the east end of the city.

Like many urban areas in the late 1970s, Richmond was seeing the fallacy in project housing for low income families; the people were still poor, the buildings were deteriorating by the day, and the sale of street drugs was quickly becoming the #1 job in the neighborhood.


stopwatch fireGuest 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 ensur...

Making Training MeaningfulGuest blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec

Training and preparation should be a significant part of every firefighter's career, whether it is their chosen profession or they volunteer their time to their community. First, it's the only way they'll have the required knowledge, skills and abilities to be a safe, effective and efficient firefighter.

Secondly, training done with one's peers is a powerful means for developing teamwork and camaraderie, both important qualities for firefighting (After all, it is a "team sport"!).

So, whether you're a company officer in a career or combination department, or you're a traini...

Blog Creating a safer environment for your crews and your communityGuest blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec

Where to start? Tackling such a broad topic in your fire department might seem like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose, no? Well, how about we take that water flow down to water fountain-size and get a good drink!

Let's start with us

Firefighters and fire officers can be their own "worst enemy" when it comes to safety. In his outstanding book,

Guest Blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec

Create an environment that doesn't just support their individual motivation, but makes their motivational fire "grow"! How do you do that? By creating an atmosphere that supports "combustion."

Firefighters learn early in their training on the necessity for fuel, heat, and oxygen to combine in the proper measures for the chemical reaction that we know as combustion or fire to occur. That process has been represented by the fire triangle:

Fire Triangle

I believe the same principle—combining elements to create a chemical reaction—can be applied by volunteer fire service leaders in creating...

Guest blog written by Robert Avsec for Action Training Systems

FirefighterThe fire service continues to evolve, and so do the communities that volunteer fire departments serve. Many of these changes have had a direct impact on volunteer fire departments and their ability to recruit and retain members. Just a few examples are:

• Population growth in rural and suburban communities—the types frequently served by volunteer fire departments--add to number of calls for service.
• Changes in the economy, and the way America works, requires more volunteer firefighters to work outside of the community they serve; many volunteer firefighters must work more than o...

Fire Instructor smallGuest Blog written for ATS by Robert Avsec

Kind of a misleading title, don't you think? Because as we continue to venture forth into using on-line platforms to deliver fire and EMS training, don't you need to be more than an instructor?

Certainly, in the traditional sense of the word, instructor. And most certainly in the context of instructor-led training. Previously, instructor-led training meant having an instructor physically present before students in a classroom. We now have an expectation that those sam...

Guest Blog for ATS by Robert Avsec

Taking Advantage of TechnologyThe training of firefighters and officers has come a long way since I began my career in 1981. Back then, 8 mm movies, 35 mm photograph slides, and transparencies (or overlays) were the only off-the-shelf training products available for instructors. And training had to take place in a physical location, such as, the fire training center or the fire station.

For ad hoc "graphics" in the classroom, the instructor's options were a chalkboard or clear vinyl sheets (transparencies) that the instructor could draw or write on and have it projected on the screen on an overhead projector...

Guest Blog for ATS by Robert Avsec

The Essentials of a Successful Training Program image only"Training teaches what Operations does, and Operations does what Training teaches."

That's the Training and Safety Division's motto for the Chesterfield County (Va.) Fire and EMS Department where I served for my entire 26-year career. The motto is on a large banner that hangs in the main hallway of the Fire Training wing of the County's Eanes-Pittman Public Safety Training Center.

From my experiences, which included serving as the Chief of the Training and Safety Division for 3+ years, such a motto should be the ...