Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... September 2017 Issue Number 206

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

The IAFF Human Relations Conference will be held January 28-31, 2018 in Orlando, FL.

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.


In the News

Leading by Example

The chief of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, recently gave an interview where she stated that she has been receiving mental health counseling following the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people. "It’s really important; it’s something that people need to talk about and work through to try to stop them having problems in the future."

Firefighters experience bad things in the course of their time on the job. It's the nature of the work to show up on the worst day of someone's life. Most of the time, they can deal with these experiences all right on their own, or by debriefing with their coworkers. Most of the time, even the bad calls don't linger long enough to cause lasting harm.

But then there are the really bad calls. Sometimes these are mass casualty events, like the Grenfell Tower fire. Other times they may be calls that have significant impact on a particular firefighter, such as running on a dead child the same age and sex as your own.

Emergency calls have lasting psychological effect for a couple different reasons. First, there is just seeing things that no person should ever see, and seeing such things on a regular basis.

But more than that is the sense of responsibility that goes with emergency response. As Chief Cotton said, "One of the things I felt on the night was the overwhelming sense of responsibility because I was in charge and it was my firefighters at risk in the building." There was tremendous risk allowing firefighters to enter the building to search for survivors. There were limits on what was reasonable under the circumstances. And Chief Cotton had to make that call.

Sometimes firefighters need help in dealing with experiences on the job. Fortunately, the fire service is recognizing that providing this type of help is a necessary service rather than a sign of weakness. And Chief Cotton's willingness to go public in seeking help is the best kind of leadership by example. Once mental health is recognized as being as important as physical health, the fire service will be a better place for its members and those they serve.

Source: The Guardian, August 21, 2017


News Brief

The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Section have released a Yellow Ribbon Report exploring emotional and behavioral health issues in the fire and emergency services. The report includes both general insight and specific guidelines for improvement in the area of behavioral and emotional health.


Sexual Harassment Update

Selfie Madness

One Florida paramedic could soon be headed to jail following a no-contest plea in what is being characterized as a "selfie war" that took place between him and another paramedic in 2015 and 2016. The other paramedic involved was recently sentenced to two years probation for her part in the scandal.

Specifically, the two used their personal cellphones to photograph or videotape themselves with 41 people who were intubated, sedated or otherwise unconscious while being treated on the scene or in an ambulance. They then traded the images between them as they tried to one-up the other. The charges included both felonies and misdemeanors such as interception and disclosure of personal information, and battery.

Following an investigation into this incident, the county has changed its policy, and no longer allows personal electronic devices in the patient compartment of any ambulance. It also disabled the camera and video capability of all county-issued devices.

These are technical solutions but the underlying problem goes much deeper. These were two adult, certified, experienced paramedics, who chose to take grossly unprofessional actions not just once, but dozens of times.

What were they thinking? Did they think it didn't matter? Did they think they would not get caught? Were they so callous toward their patients that their privacy meant nothing to them? Were they completely ignorant of the law?

It is good that the problem was detected and remedied. Still, that remedy took six months. How many people were aware of what was going on during that time? What environmental or organizational factors were in place that made this type of outrageous behavior seem okay?

One person commenting on the situation said this: "They are both now convicted felons, both lost their licenses and careers, may very well have lost other civil rights (like voting and gun ownership), and for what? Selfies with unconscious patients? WTF were they THINKING?!?"


Source: August 5, 2017 and




© Linda F. Willing, 2017