Monday, September 10

Internships, Jobs and Kittenwars

Sorry for the delayed post. My home computer melted down on Friday when the dog (yes I am blaming the dog for this one) spilled my Diet Coke on the keyboard. I am sure it was the dog because she left her ball on the keyboard in the middle of the puddle. I know you are wondering why my dog was drinking a Diet Code and using the computer. Let’s just say she has a strange fascination with and is watching her weight.

Since the “mishap”, my computer will only type the letter n as in nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn and it does it by itself. I guess it would be worse if it was actually typing out messages to me. Now I will need to figure out if it is cheaper to fix it or get a new one. In the meantime, I will only be online during the day- when I’m not in class. I will try to answer all emails within 24 hours.
This is week 3 of the semester, and today is the last day to withdraw from a class without having it appear on your transcript. If you need to adjust your schedule, do it TODAY- there are now penalties for too many Ws Fs & Ds (like the loss of priority registration!)

I want to thank those of you that called me during my office hours last week to introduce yourself. I do enjoy talking with you and learning more about you. I will be available this week Mon. 10-12; Wed 12-2 and Thurs 10-12. My number during that time is 714-564-6860.

I wanted to let you know that we have a new internship available with OCFA in their Fire Prevention Division for current SAC Fire Tech students. We will be accepting resumes and statements of interest until noon on Thursday Sept 13. Six (6)to Eight (8) candidates with be chosen by the Fire Tech Office, and sent on to OCFA to make the final selection to fill approximately 4 positions. Here is the official information:

The Planning & Development front counter position would provide a learning experience in dealing with a multitude of different types of customers who are submitting plans for fire code review. This position would involve waiting on those customers, answering their questions, answering busy phones and data entry. Additionally, they would assist our plan analysts, new construction inspectors and the assistant & deputy fire marshals. This position would provide some “real world” applications of Fire Code in a Plan Review & Inspection setting. Opportunities for riding with a “new construction” inspector or sitting with a plan review analyst will be provided on a when available basis. (THIS STATEMENT OUTLINES THE POSITION(S) FOR PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT SECTION)

The Planning and Development Services Section is working to improve customer service, section efficiency and impact on community risk. Staff is actively participating in Fire Prevention’s transformation to a risk-based focus in order to improve the ability to link resources with targeted community risks. The effort will have a positive impact on community safety once fully implemented over the next several years. Several key initiatives supported during the year include: Aligning Programs to Risk; Ready, Set, Go!; Smoke Alarm Program; and Cooking Fire Prevention Program. These projects and programs are either well into development and testing or in the case of the Smoke Alarm Program, already launched and implemented with ongoing staff support. (THIS STATEMENT OUTLINES THE POSITION THAT WOULD ASSIST WITH THE SMOKE ALARM PROGRAM 4-8 HRS/ WEEK)

Additional criteria applicable to both assignments:
• Good communication skills
• Flexible
• Wants to learn, experience new things
• Enthusiastic
• Understand that assignments may not always be exciting but we can promise them that their work will be valuable to OCFA and others.
Other evaluation criteria that we prefer:
• Any student referred to OCFA must provide a resume along with a statement outlining their interest and qualifications ( no more than 1 page)
• prefer students willing to provide us with a 2 semester commitment
• Second semester students are highly desired
• OK if bi-lingual, but not required ( let us know if they are via resume)
• Prefer fire prevention students (no problem if they have not had 1A/1B)

All resumes and interest statements should be emailed to me at with OCFA INTERNSHIP as the subject and documents (resume & statement of interest and qualifications attached as either .docx or .pdf (preferred). Emailed documents will be printed exactly as sent. (Make sure they are formatted properly! If I can’t open it, I can’t submit it!)

Selected students will also be required to complete an application and 30 min. orientation with SAC’s Service Learning Program. This is really a wonderful opportunity for anyone with an interest in Fire Prevention.

Other departments with internship opportunities in Fire Prevention include (this is by no means a complete list!)
• Garden Grove Fire Department
• The city of Orange Fire Department
• Anaheim\

Almost all fire departments have CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) and/or Fire Corps. These are worth becoming a part of in your own community. Here are a few from around the county. You can do your own search by entering the name of the city followed by CERT.
• Garden Grove
• Huntington Beach
• Costa Mesa
• San Clemente
• Brea
• OCFA Fire Corps

Some of you might be wondering about paying jobs…
• NASA is looking for an Assistant Fire Prevention Officer in Mountain View.
• Chapman University is hiring a Fire Safety Officer.
• A temp-hire Fire Alarm Inspector position is available in Cypress.
• The Garden Grove Fire Department is currently accepting interest cards for the position of firefighter and firefighter/paramedic.

For more jobs openings in the fire service, check out my twitter feed at for the majority, some are also posted on my Facebook page
That is it for today. I promise a second post this week to make up for last!
Remember: "Stop, Drop, and Roll" is not only an effective safety technique, but also a way out of a boring conversation"
Have a safe week!

Friday, August 31

Back to school- did you feel it?

Hello everyone,

Well the first week of classes is over and we are celebrating with a holiday weekend. Nothing like easing into the new semester!

Did you feel the any of the earthquakes this week? I was in my office on campus Wednesday and felt the 4.1 that occurred in Yorba Linda. I was talking with a student when we heard a bit of a bang, the walls and ceiling shook and then we experienced some slight rolling. Of course everyone wanted to continue just going about their business. In fact some classrooms didn’t even evacuate! 
Earthquake Poster

I was at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg MD last May, which is also home to FEMA. While I was there we were evacuated into the basement due to a Tornado Warning. The second Tornado warning, an hour or so later, we stayed above ground, away from the windows (but close enough to look out). The third time, about 7 pm that evening, we moved our beer from the glass walled “garden room” into the masonry pool hall. The fourth time, 11 pm, - we had moved back into the bar- we decided to stay where we were and watch the FEMA Trailers through the glass walls, agreeing that if they flew away we would move. And these were some of the highest trained emergency responders in the country, as well as your humble professor. Embarrassing but true.  Actually I kept my eye on both the FEMA trailers for lift-off and the graveyard next door for…movement. There was lots of lightning and would have been a perfect setting for some zombie action. Just saying. Risks.


We had two cohorts that took shelter for each alarm. They told us they had seen to many victims who said “If only….”, and they didn’t want to be in that position.

The attitude “it won’t happen to me” is persistent in our culture. We are very good at giving up responsibility for our own safety and taking risks based upon false assumptions, “Chimpanzees make awesome pets.”;  Google Navigator doesn’t make mistakes.” “Physics does not apply to fire apparatus or school busses” ”Safety restraints on amusement rides are designed to hold everyone.” “Cats like babies.”   

I was on an airport shuttle when two women, both Professors from a college in Oklahoma entered the van and settled in. One of the ladies turned to the other and said “Mary, be sure to buckle your seatbelt”

“Um, ok, why?”  I kid you not, that was Mary’s response. 

I expected her answer to be “the laws of physics are different in California”, which would have made sense. I would have accepted “because your ricocheting body, in the event of a bad thing, would hurt me- and that odd woman with the dropped jaw sitting behind us and eavesdropping on our conversation.” It was neither.
“Because they have very strict seat belt laws here.”  was her reply.  (“And excellent brain surgeons” was what I thought in my head, because I am quietly sarcastic like that.)

Anyway, my point is that we interpret risk is a little bit warped.  Which is more dangerous- Swimming Poos or Guns? Drunk driving or drunk walking?


The book (and movie) Freakanomics does a good job of illustrating this. (Let me know if you want to read the book or watch the movie for extra credit

Why do you think that is?

The first week of school is always busy and this semester is no exception.

Class enrollment is down, believe it or not. That means smaller class sizes for you. The college has also added new class sections, full semester and 8-week classes, that do not appear on the printed schedule. If you or someone you know need more units take a look online. 

I have heard that the first Physical Ability Test in September has a lot of openings. This is a really good opportunity to a) get it done if you are finishing your core classes or b) give it a try to find out where you are currently performing at.

There are also still openings in FAC 008B the Physical Ability preparation class. It is an 8 week class that meets 2 hrs each week (Wed night or Friday morning) at the Central Net Training Ground (behind the HBFD station on Gothard between Talbert & Ellis). It is only .3 units, so it is cheap. Get added Tuesday (call the fire tech office) and you can work out Wednesday!

If you are currently volunteering your time, as an explorer, CERT member, or – whatever- get with our Service Learning Program and receive recognition for you work. Participants receive a Presidential Certificate for 100 hours of community service.

The Fire Tech Club will be meeting in room W101 on Tues, Sept 4 at 3:00 pm. We will be registering members, selecting future meeting times and dates, nominating leadership roles, discussing the club constitution and selecting projects and goals for the semester.

Leadership roles that need to be filled include President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Publicist; Interclub Council Representative; Interclub Council Representative Alternate; Project managers. Projects already under consideration include the Hero’s to the Top stair climb, Zombie Run, Small group EMT tutoring, Small Group Cross Fit Training, “Mini-Biddle” relay, movie night, resume workshop, mock oral board.

We will also have club T-Shirts & shorts ($15 each) as well as wristbands ($2) for sale.

 If you can’t make the meeting you can sign up in the Fire Tech Office. Members need to have a current Student Services sticker ($5).

I will be using this blog to share with you my thoughts and observations as we move through the semester. At least once a week, a new post will be added. These posts will include a look at what has been happening at Santa Ana College, opportunities and “breaking news”, current events, real stories, as well as your questions and comments answered.  

I am dedicated to helping you, our Fire Tech students, to understand more about what we do… and when I can, helping your experience at Santa Ana College be as rewarding as possible.

I hope you enjoy it.     



Thursday, May 3

ATF: The Death of a Firefighter-Critical Video (The Secret List)

In January 2011, Firefighter Mark Falkenhan of Baltimore County's Lutherville VFD, a highly respected veteran career and volunteer Firefighter, died in the Line of Duty at a fire in a multi-family dwelling on Dowling Circle.

Now-in addition to the previously published internal report and recommendations (link below) ....the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has published a MUST SEE FIRE MODEL VIDEO with audio and related minute by minute detail.

The Fire Protection Engineers from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory worked with the Baltimore County FD to create a computer model of the fire that resulted in the Line of Duty Death of FF Mark Falkenhan on January 19th, 2011. The following 36 minute video details the entire incident, beginning with the 911 call and ending after the firefighter MAYDAY. The statements of each firefighter were reviewed and their individual actions (breaking windows, opening doors, etc.) and observations (fire size, smoke conditions, etc.) were recorded on floor diagrams. The actions and observations of the firefighters were then associated with specific times in the fireground audio to generate an overall event timeline. All events in the model are based on this master timeline of events. In addition, all photographs were time stamped and synchronized with the model and scene audio.
Several alternative fire modeling scenarios were also including as part of the engineering analysis and are included in the video. The purpose of the alternative fire modeling runs were to explore how the ventilation flows paths through the apartment building would differ if apartment entrance doors were shut during suppression/search efforts. The video is intended to be used as an educational tool that provides insight on potential methods for preventing similar tragedies in the future.

The following three conclusions result from the analysis:
1. Unidirectional flow of 600 degree Fahrenheit gases in excess of 6 mph up the stairs resulted in a high rate of convective heat transfer to the firefighters, making initial fire attack down the stairs very difficult.
2. The open apartment entry doors allowed the main stairwell to act as an open channel for fire and smoke spread between the 2nd and 3rd levels, resulting in flashover of the 3rd floor approximately 30 seconds after the 2nd level.
3. The model supported the scene observations and indicated that shutting the entrance doors blocked the flow of buoyancy driven fire gases, ultimately preventing fire extension to the 3rd level apartment via the stairwell.

===Again-please don't miss the opportunity to use this outstanding above linked video information for use and discussion in your firehouse.


As pointed out in the reports, this fire, like many other LODD's, this Lin e of Duty Death was not the result of one specific issue within the event-but numerous issues that lead up to the tragic loss. 
A detailed timeline of the fire, leading up to the loss, from the time the initial call went out until Falkenhan was removed from the third floor of the building, is included in the below report. The timeline also includes transcripts of the radio transmissions between FF Falkenhan and others as he sought assistance in escaping the building. We have also included an edited link to the RADIO TRAFFIC below.

In summary, FFFalkenhan and his partner entered and made their way into the building to search for victims, without a hoseline. The apartment, like ANY dwelling any FF operates in today-is filled with plastics and other petro-chemical based consumer items (carpeting/flooring, furniture, TV's etc) that create a gas filled and subsequent fire environment of explosive potential. Firefighters searching saw fire in the corner of the apartment shortly before coming across a victim-but those conditions were not communicated via radio. At 1841 hours, crews were ordered to evacuate the building and about a minute later Falkenhan called a MAYDAY. At 1850 hours, Firefighters found Falkenhan unconscious and eventually removed him from the building.

Some of the main recommendations in the report include:

Company officers shall ensure that crew integrity is maintained at all times by all personnel operating in an IDLH environment. Falkenhan and his partner separated while searching the third floor-and his partner was forced to bail due to the conditions.
=No personnel should operate in an "immediately dangerous to life or health" environment without a portable radio. Falkenhan's partner did not have a portable radio.
=Develop ways of reducing inadvertent radio interference, including developing a rubberized cover for the push to talk buttons on radios which would reduce the chances of accidentally pushing it.
=While performing operations above the fire, notify command of changing conditions, and immediately request resources to support your function. The Firefighters conducting search and rescue operations saw fire in the corner of the apartment shortly before coming across a victim-but never communicated the fire conditions to command. The room flashed as they were exiting the apartment.

The report concludes that while Falkenhan's death was tragic, there is little need for massive changes to the department's related protocols. As you and we have all read in previous Line of Duty Death reports, if current policies and procedures were/are adhered to, the opportunity for tragic outcomes may be reduced.

In a statement from the report: "It would be easy if one particular failure of the system could be identified as the cause of this tragedy.
"We could fix it and move on. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. No incident is 'routine.' Mark's death and this report reinforce that fact."
Once again-the above NEW information, the previous report, radio traffic etc is an excellent opportunity to learn, and HONOR the memory of FF Mark Falkenhan.
The Secret List 5-3-12 / 1500 Hours


Friday, February 3

Redondo FF need a new kitchen- Vote now!

The firehouse with the most votes will receive a truly heroic kitchen renovation valued at $25,000. 
2 reasons why I am voting for Redondo Beach Fire:
  1. Their kitchen really is hopeless
  2. Their synchronized pan dancing abilities. Who knew?

Here is The Official Music Video for the REDONDO BEACH FIRE DEPT..."We Cook Our Food In This Hopeless Place"... Please Vote They Desperately need a new kitchen... 

Thursday, February 2

The Choking Game- Do You Know?

 Students Report Playing Dangerous 'Choking Game'. One in seven at a Texas university tried it, survey finds.  
FRIDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The "choking game" has been played by nearly one in seven students who were surveyed at a Texas university, a new study finds. This so-called 'game' is played individually or in groups and involves deliberately cutting off blood flow to the brain in order to achieve a high. This is done by choking oneself or others, applying a ligature around the neck, placing a plastic bag over the head, placing heavy objects on the chest, or hyperventilating.

It is true. Not everyone that plays the game, dies. Meet some of the survivors:

From the Dangerous Behavior Foundation (DBF):
Since it's conception in 2006, DBF has been tracking this high risk teen behavior and leading the fight for effective education and awareness.

Every child is at risk of being tempted to 'play' this 'game'.  Many tween and teens engaging in this activity perceive no risk, often stating "No one ever dies from fainting"  Education of the very real, potentially fatal, risks associated with participating is the essential element to risk reduction and prevention.

Oxygen deprivation practices are not new. What is new is the speed at which the information transfer occurs. Children growing up with current technology learn about risky behaviors through friends, mutual friends and video sharing website at warp speed.
 The Official Choking Game Awareness Website has educational and advocacy materials at 

A little education goes a long way. Click the link below to add your support

There is an alarming wave of deaths among our country’s youth; a wave that continues to go unnoticed by mainstream media. Adolescents across the nation are victims of unintentional fatalities caused by their participation in the “choking game” and though known by many names, the intent is to pass out purposely for amusement or for a “buzz”. This silent epidemic that focuses the most brutal results on our very young middle schoolers, remains hidden from public attention because currently there is no way to accurately track and report the number of cases. This lack of statistical proof also limits prevention efforts promoted by the grass-roots organization of the thousands of grieving families who have lost a child to this insidious “game”. 
As your constituent, I have signed my name below to ask that you help us help our children by doing the following:
1. Call the CDC and request to be briefed on the issue of the “choking game”.
2. Support the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services by requesting that the World Health Organization add a sub code that includes the “choking game” as a cause of death.
3. Include the “choking game” among the health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth in the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), and make the YRBS affordable and accessible for all states.
4. Support the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) model of education as the means to disseminate information regarding the “choking game”.

Enduring the death of a child is heartbreaking. As my representative to Congress, I ask that you help me prevent other families from this heartache by showing your support in establishing statistical evidence of the “choking game,” Your efforts will assist us in heightening awareness among teens and their parents, teachers, and health care providers.`


Anti-Sprinkler Legislation- Because our Families & Firefighters are an Acceptable Loss?

80% of all structure fires in the US occur in 1 & 2 family dwellings.  That is also where the majority of fire deaths occur. People are not dying by the 100s in public assemblies, they are dying by 2s and 3s in their own homes.  We (the US) have one of the highest fire death rates of all industrialized countries. And our LODD rates for firefighter...well, you know. And if not here you go 

Today, home fires flash over much quicker than ever before

Synthetic Materials in Homes Turn to Toxic Gases in Fire, Families May Not Have As Much Time As Expected To Escape House

Watch this short video and see for yourself:

And Yet, the Lawmakers are passing ANTI Fire Sprinkler Legislation- PROHIBITING the adoption of building codes requiring sprinklers in NEW one-and-two family homes.

Tenn; Hawaii, and Colorado are all in the process of passing ANTI fire sprinkler legislation.
This is because the model building codes (beginning Jan of 2012) now require sprinklers in all new homes. The building codes are not effective however, until they are adopted by a jurisdiction, thus the legislation trying to block the adoption. This article " Home Fire Sprinklers will Save Lives and Won't Kill the Housing Recovery" does a good job of explaining it.

Another benefit home fire sprinklers, is they won't kill firefighters.

You will find a rich collection of resources at including videos and lesson plans supporting the Life Safety Initiatives in general, and Initiative #15 Code Enforcement and Sprinklers, in particular.

The code change was not a quick process.Here is a resolution supporting the legislation from 2008.

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Resolution
A Resolution Supporting a Change to the International Residential Code to Require Fire Sprinklers in One - and Two-Family Dwellings and Townhouses
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is an organization created through Public Law by the United States Congress to honor and remember America's fallen heroes, to provide necessary resources to assist their survivors in the rebuilding of their lives, and to work within the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has worked since 2004 to implement a national blueprint to reduce firefighter line-of-duty deaths through its "Everyone Goes Home" Program, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation considers it unacceptable that in the 21st century, more than 3,000 people in the United States are killed and thousands more suffer burns and injuries in fires each year, with an overwhelming number of these deaths occurring in homes, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation recognizes that many fire deaths and injuries occur in the most vulnerable populations-the young and the elderly, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is working to have a positive and consequential impact on reducing the nation's losses due to fire, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation recognizes that fire sprinklers represent a proven, reliable, efficient and effective method of protecting life and property in both commercial and residential occupancies, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has incorporated within its vision that advocacy must be strengthened for the installation of home fire sprinklers, and
WHEREAS The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation supports the concept that the widespread use of residential sprinklers will improve fire occurrence outcomes for civilians and decrease firefighter injuries and deaths due to firefighting.
  1. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation supports the installation of fire sprinkler systems in all residential structures, and
  2. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation hereby encourages jurisdictions to adopt legislation that further strengthens the installation of these life saving devices, and
  3. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation advocates for firefighters nationwide to stand in support of these efforts.

Ronald J. Siarnicki
Executive Director, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
August 1, 2008

Here are the most common   myths about home fire sprinklers - busted. (Average cost in new construction is $1.61 per square ft. ).

The Fire Sprinkler Initiative has many other resources, reports and presentation materials for advocates.
What uses the most water? An fire hose or  fire sprinklers? Try putting out a fire with each one at the City of Franklin's web site.and then you can check out these interactive videos  and games.

Here are some more videos and interactive materials from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.  including fire and sprinkler burn demonstrations, facts about home fires and construction information.

NFPA has a variety of videos available at YouTube including their "Faces of Fire" series which tell the personal stories of people who have survived a fire.

Anne Mazzola was working in her home while her new floor received its last coat of sealant. The combustible product ignited an intense fire that was extinguished nearly as quickly as it started, thanks to her home's sprinkler system.

A former operating room nurse, Princella underwent numerous painful and time-consuming surgeries followed by frequent hospital stays following a devastating home fire. She believes it all could have been avoided had her home been equipped with fire sprinklers

My all time favorite argument for home fire sprinklers however is what Fresno FD said:

It's like having a firefighter in your home 24/7, only


The Interactive Heart

This interactive infographic explains the anatomy and function of the human heart. Find out how the blood flows through the different chambers and valves, and visualize the blood flow using the scroll bar.

The Human Heart - Explania

Wednesday, December 21

Lesson Building Resources

Here is a Symbaloo Webmix of my favorite sites and resources when I am putting together a Fire Tech lesson.

Here is a link to the mix:

Saturday, December 17

Arsonists caught on tape

Redwood City CA Aug 1989 Segment from Unsolved Mysteries. Videotape of arsonist narrating his own fire is found. Video describes investigation and outcome. Also shows some amazing vintage mustaches.
Speaking of arson, here is a short clip discussing the profiling of serial arsonists:

Here are facts about arson and serial arsonists:

Exploring Arson Motives and Solutions, a discussion from Australia is here:

Interesting stuff on Pyromania at Stranger than Fiction:

Turns out they aren't all that bright:

Watch these guys set themselves on fire.

This guy runs into the lamp. Left side of the screen. It is awesome.

Arsonist Runs in to Lamp Post KO EPIC FUNNY FAIL OWNED - The best bloopers are here

The next video gave me goosebumps! The Moose and the Match,  the making of an arsonist. 

One day a moose found a box that said "match"
and he stumbled across an egg about to hatch
So the moose took a match and lit the egg on fire
and the life of the egg began to expire
So the moose went on to find something to do.
He found a cow-moose with eyes so blue.
Moose lit a candle for a romantic dinner-
or tried anyway- without her fur she looked thinner.
So the moose moved on-his matches beside him.
he burned everything so company was slim.
He got angry thinking of what he'd done.
so he lit another match and began to run.
He ran by the field, catching it in flame-
the whole forest burning he had no shame
He ran to the next woods, burning them all
every thing crumbling in ash- big or small.
So that's the story of the match-happy moose
who even burned off a part of his own caboose.
His profession is flames-he's an arsonist now.
How he ever lit that first match, I can't figure how.
Turns out the cats are in on it too!

Watch this baby's eyes. Future firefighter or fire setter? You be the judge.

Arson Resources
Juvenile Firesetters What Can You D?o Handout[1].pdf
SD Burn Inst. Juvenile Firesetting

Arson stories in the news


Certified Fire Investigator Training
USFA Arson
Firesetting by Children & Adolescents: Coffee Break Training

Friday, December 16

The Guy, The Deer, The Dog, And The Bambulance. Hysterically funny

Strong language. Laugh out loud funny. Enjoy.

Truck Ops Electrocution Close Call Video

Vintage footage of a truck company operations involving power lines.  Graphic Content.

Surgical Fires: Woman's face ignites during surgery

Miami woman's face ignites in 'flash fire' during surgery

The article about this incident, w/photos is located here:

Fires during surgery? Not as unusual as you might think! Here's the second one in the same week!

Washington man's face catches fire during routine surgical procedure: It's second such incident in a week nationwide 

Immediately followed by this post on a Legal Malpractice website: Two surgical fires in one week may lead to malpractice suits 

Overview of Surgery Fires

Authorities suspect the Fire Triangle might be responsible. According to the FDA: Fires can occur when the three elements of the “fire triangle” come together. In the surgery room it looks like this:
 Oxidizer: Gases used during surgery, such as oxygen and nitrous oxide, and room air
 Fuel: Flammable objects, including surgical drapes, alcohol-based skin preparations, airway tubing, and even the patient’s hair or body
 Heat: Tools such as electrosurgical (tissue-cutting) tools, lasers, fiber-optic lights and cables that can generate heat or sparks and cause a fire
 Surgeries of the head, neck and upper chest pose a greater risk of fire, especially if the patient is receiving extra oxygen through a breathing mask or nasal tubing.
I know you want to know more about it. From "The Patient is on Fire!" A Surgical Fires Primer (
Most people have heard of the fire triangle: heat, fuel, and oxidizer. When these three components come together in the proper proportions, a fire—the rapid chemical reaction of fuel with oxygen, resulting in the release of heat and light energy—is bound to occur. Diminish or remove any element of the triangle, and a fire can be prevented or extinguished.
 Each side of the triangle contains obvious (and some not-so-obvious) components that are commonly found in the OR environment. Each member of the surgical team controls a specific side of the triangle: surgeon, heat sources; nurse, fuels; anesthesiologist, oxidizers. By understanding the fire triangle and how to properly manage its components, the surgical team can prevent fires.
Heat and ignition sources. Heat input from a variety of sources increases the oxidation rate of a fuel-oxygen mixture until combustion occurs. In addition to the overhead surgical lights, some of the heat sources found in the OR are defibrillators; electrosurgical or electrocautery units (ESUs, ECUs); heated probes; drills and burs; argon beam coagulators; fiberoptic light sources and cables; and lasers used with the free-beam (bare-fiber) method or with contact tips or fibers. These sources produce temperatures from several hundred to a few thousand degrees Fahrenheit, enough to ignite most fuels, including most drapes. In addition, incandescent sparks can be produced by ESUs or high-speed drills and burs; lasers can also cause sparks when the energy hits instruments or the laser fiber becomes damaged. These sparks, or even glowing embers of charred tissue, can provide enough initial heat to ignite some fuels, especially in oxygen-enriched atmospheres (OEAs).
Also, for a few seconds after deactivation, a heated ESU or ECU probe tip, fiberoptic cable tip, or laser contact tip can retain enough heat to melt plastics or ignite some fuels. While these devices must be in contact with a material to heat it, a laser can heat a fuel from a few centimeters to several meters away. A fiberoptic light source may take a minute or so to heat a drape to the point of combustion, while a laser can cause almost instantaneous ignition. By ensuring that these heat sources are not directed toward or allowed to come in contact with fuels, OR staff can prevent fires.
Fuels. A fuel is anything that can burn, including almost everything that comes in contact with patients, as well as the patients themselves. As shown in the "Fuels Commonly Encountered in Surgery" table below, fuels abound in the OR; note that, in addition to the many items that are generally known to burn, many other items that are not generally thought of as flammable are listed.
Some prepping agents and a few ointments required during surgery are volatile and extremely flammable, more so than many other fuels. For example, liquid alcohol from a wet, dripping prep can pool under the patient and generate vapors beneath the drapes for quite some time. Concentrated alcohol vapors trapped under drapes or above areas still wet with alcohol can be easily ignited by heat or sparks (see "Proper Prepping Techniques," below). Open bottles or basins containing volatile solutions (e.g., alcohol from suture packs, acetone degreaser) should be closed or removed from the sterile area as soon as possible after use.
Under the right conditions, some surgical ointments can burn. For example, petroleum-based ointments used in an OEA will ignite when enough heat is present to cause vaporization. These materials must vaporize and mix with oxygen to allow ignition. Globs of ointment are not easy to ignite because their mass absorbs considerable heat before vaporizing. Thin layers, however, have a low mass per area and need less heat to cause vaporization; thus, they are more ignitable.
 In contrast, water-based lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, are mostly water and will not burn; heat simply vaporizes the water in the lubricant, cooling the area. In fact, water-based lubricants can be used to coat hair to make it fire resistant.

I DID NOT know that about lube! I'm thinking, KY could save some eyebrows not only during surgeries but BBQ season...Sure when you show up to the BBQ with a Costco sized container of KY Jelly, people WILL wonder, especially if they were expecting you to bring the pasta salad. But the conversation about fire safety has to start somewhere. I'm just thinking, starting with some lubricant is not a bad idea. At a bbq or in a surgical suite...

Preventing Fires in the Operating Room

But I digress, this post is about Surgery Fires. Turns out, Surgery Fires are preventable. I know. Such a surprise. Here is how to prevent them (in case you are asked)

Extinguishing Operating Room Fires
Because fire prevention is NEVER 100% effective, here is how to put OUT a surgery room fire from the ECRI Institute :

More info is available at:

Surgical Fires in the News
FDA Surgical Fire Initiative
Inside Edition Reports on Surgical Fires
Surgical Fires: Chronological Bibliography 1949-2009

Wednesday, December 14

What would you do when EMTs Won't Help Distressed Woman.mp4

Do things right, or do the right thing?

Medics literally "phone it in" when a pregnant woman experiences a medical emergency while they are on their break.  Sure, they have a right to take their break, but was phoning it in the right thing to do? What would you have done? This investigative piece reports on the incident, then sets up a similar situation and records what people will do when EMTs refuse to help.

Do things right, or do the right thing?

One of my favorite speakers at our Fire Academy Graduations was Fire Chief Mark Martin, Santa Ana Fire Dept (Ret.) Not only was he an eloquent speaker, but he told the best stories. My favorite is about compassion. Compassion is not on the curriculum in any of our Fire Service training manuals. It isn't even listed in the "Desireable" section of the job flyer. But Chief Martin told the following stories about compassion (my apologies to Chief Martin and anyone else who wants to tell me I messed up the stories. This is how I heard it. This is how I tell it.)

As a young medic, he told us about a call he received early one morning, at the end of a very busy shift. It was a man in his 50's that had suffered a stroke, while sitting on the toilet. Not an unusual event. Except this was a very large man, almost 400 lbs. He had fallen from the commode and become wedged between the vanity and the toilet. And yes, there was feces. Quite a bit. After removing the victim and ensuring his medical condition was stable (he was alert, frightened and unable to communicate) They then took the time to clean him up and change his clothes before transporting him. Not in the job description, but the made one of the worst days of this man's life just a bit more tolerable.

He told another story of a local fire crew that responded, again, early in the morning,at the end of a shift, and found a mother of 4 children, all under the age of 4, who had been dead at least 3 days. The children were with the body and unsupervised during that time. The PD informed them that social services would come for the children, but they wouldn't start work for another hour or so. The police officer offered to take the kids to the police station to wait for social services. The Firefighters, realizing the trip to the police station, would not be in the best interest of the kids, chose to stay with the kids and wait for Social Services to show up. They made them breakfast and watched cartoons. Not in the job description, but they made one of the worst days of those children's lives, just a little bit more tolerable.

The last story was about an engine crew that worked for him. They were on their way back to the station early one summer evening and they were stopped at a light. An elderly woman, crossing the street pulling one of those little wire shopping carts, tripped and fell, right in the middle of the crosswalk, and her groceries went everywhere. The firefighters got off the rig and checked her out and picked up her groceries. She was uninjured. They loaded her, and her groceries onto the engine, and gave her a ride home. Chief Martin called the Captain into his office the following day.

"I know what you did last night," he opened with. Then he went on to list the SOPs that were broken and the legal liabilities the Captain had exposed the department to. And then he told him that if it ever happens again, he would hope the Captain would do exactly the same thing. Because sometimes it is more important to the the right thing, rather than to do things right.

Recently, one of the first firefighters I met when I joined the fire service, passed away. I realized how lucky I was to get to know him first. He was one of those guys, that if your wife or your daughter or your mother, were having the worst day of their life, and found themselves in a predicament, naked, and vulnerable, you would hope that Don - or Mark, or someone just like them would show up. Not only would they treat them with kindness and compassion, they would probably give them their jacket. The idea of finishing their coffee break or taking a photo of the victim and posting it for others to see would never have occurred to them.

I like that. We should hire more like them.

What are your Ethics? Try this quiz (without cheating) and find out. (If you don't like the results you can always take it again and change the answers)

Teaching a lesson? Here is a full lesson plan Ethics in the Fire Service complete with media, handouts, activities and more! From CTE Online.

Do you have underlying beliefs about people from other cultures or religions? Physical disabilities or age? Find out with these tests from Harvard.

How do you deal with problems? Are you a "decider"? Find out more about yourself with these Personality quizzes from

What do you really think about people with mental health issues? What are your unconscious or uncontrolled reactions when you think about anxiety, depression, alcohol, eating disorders, or persons with mental illness? Try these quizzes from Harvard and find out!

What about your religious beliefs? Check it out at

How Not To Drive A Fire Truck

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?