As firefighters, we face some very difficult situations such as flammable liquids, concentrated atmospheres of flammable gas, heavy content fires, mass casualty incidents and more. Yet, many might agree that in 2018, there is one that could bring the bravest and “toughest” firefighter to his/her knees – and that is a diagnosis of cancer. Although today, more people are surviving cancer than ever before, our love for our work can often bring us together with strange, alternative forms of known cancers, even ones that have rarely, if ever, been seen before.
That is where our guest on this podcast, Cindy Ell, comes in. Cindy is the founder of the Firefighter Cancer Foundation, which was established in 2004. Cindy and her group of over three dozen volunteers, spread out across the country to help lead the charge against cancer in the fire service. They work on multiple platforms, including legislative at both state and federal levels; medical, working with medical professionals and facilities who are studying the causes of cancer in the fire service and searching for new treatment methods, and perhaps, their most important mission, working with firefighters and their families who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
This podcast contains excellent information and a great deal of it. You will see that Cindy doesn’t “beat around the bush,” and tells it like it is. The statistics that Cindy provides are somewhat overwhelming. Yet, she counters those with messages of real hope thanks to the work of the FFCF.
Who knows? This podcast just might save your life.
Even though the premier example of “heavy content” or hoarding fire dates back to the Collyer brothers’ mansion fire in Manhattan in1947, the problem has taken on a new urgency in today’s fire service over the last decade or so. With television programs displaying various interventions for people who may be suffering from a disorder, the public has no idea what it is like for members of the fire service to battle a blaze that breaks out in a structure where extreme clutter is the norm.
Our guest, Lt. Ryan Pennington, considered one of the country’s foremost firefighting experts in this topic, returns to the podcast to share with us additional information he gathers from speaking with firefighters both in the U.S. and Canada, who have come face-to-face with this serious problem. If there is one warning that Ryan emphasizes, it is that no firefighter can enter this type of structure fire, thinking that his/her general firefighting education and experience has prepared them for this type of incident. “It doesn’t even come close!”
This discussion also leads us down another path as we discuss firefighting “chatter” that we find on social media today. Unfortunately, the word, “chatter” is far too polite a term to use in many cases. Instead, we see personal attacks, diatribes and more, as firefighters across the country and even throughout the world, discuss many firefighting topics, but “tactics” is the most common one that often displays vitriolic language.
Ryan cautions all that we should always re-examine what our message is saying, before we push that “send” or “tweet” button and what the ramifications may be, should that message come back to bite us in the butt. And while there is noting wrong with a little bit of ego or as he calls it, “swagger,” remember that we are all here for one purpose and that is to safely protect the lives and property of the community we serve.
We are the fire service. We’re all about fighting fires and kicking its butt. We have always believed that for most materials, we put the “wet stuff on the red stuff” and we’re done. Sure, we might catch a “snootfull” of smoke; perhaps suffer a small burn here, a steam burn there, maybe even a broken bone. Yes, we’ve had tragic losses too, from time-to-time, but those were usually the building’s fault!
However, in the aftermath of 9|11, we suffered a strong dose of reality – what’s actually burning in many of these fires is “fighting back,” by off-gassing and/or releasing toxic chemical compounds and high levels of carcinogenic substances that are found in much of the furnishings of our homes and offices. In turn, creating, for all intents and purposes, an “epidemic” of various and sometimes, strange types of cancer to those who have taken the oath to protect lives and property in the communities which we serve.
My guest on this podcast is Heather Mazurkiewicz. She is a lead advocate in the Florida chapter of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. She works very hard, all too often, out of the spotlight, to help Florida firefighters avoid hearing the news of a cancer diagnosis, and if they do, to support both the firefighter as well as his or her family.
If you are a firefighter, no matter where you may live or work, you stand a significantly higher probability of a cancer diagnosis than the average citizen in your country. Please – listen to this podcast, listen to what Heather advises and learn what you can do to reduce your exposure risks and keep yourself alive and hopefully thriving through a long career and a long and healthy retirement.
No one said, “Life is easy.” And for those of us who are first responders, we get to see life at its very worst sometimes. It may be just one call, or it could be several really serious ones in a row. Fires, auto collisions, shootings, tragedies involving children and more; they often seem to pile up, one on another. Add to that mix how little sleep we often get, maybe problems at home with family, money, and yes, even health, and the result is a toxic soup from which we may see only one way out.
According to the current statistics, the number of firefighter suicides in 2017 was equal to the number of LODD’s registered. And to that, the number of our EMS colleagues who took their lives and the numbers are almost staggering.
My guest on this podcast, Jeff Dill, knows these numbers and well. Currently, Jeff and his organization, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FFBHA.org) are the only ones who keep track of firefighter and EMS suicides. You will hear Jeff explain the process he follows and the organization’s efforts to not only assist those who are living with these dark shadows, but the families who are often left behind to cope with little understanding of what happened.
This podcast is for every single listener out there, firefighter, EMS, law enforcement, buffs and civilians, too. YOU might be able to make a difference in someone’s life. To learn how and why, tune in, sit back and listen.
If you’re a first responder, you’ve come across “heavy content” properties and homes. That’s “polite-speak” for severe clutter or hoarding. And many of us have responded to some type of call there, from a trip and fall or critical illness, to an actual working fire. All of us in fire, police and EMS want to do something about these problems in our community, but there never seems to be enough people, funding or motive to drive a solution, until sadly, it’s too late.
Our returning guest is Shanna Perino, a Certified Professional Organizer. She has been working in this field for nearly two decades and has seen it all. She has studied the issues of clutter and hoarding and as you’ll hear, the causes are more than you may suspect. However, she has also been working on the mitigation of these issues together with first responder partners, as well as members of the community.
Being certified as a Fire Inspector II by the KY State Fire Marshall and now preparing for the NFPA Fire Protection Specialist Certificate, Shanna shares with us that the issue is more than one of just hoarding. In truth, we must work together in a new initiative (at least in the U.S.) called Community Risk Reduction.
Listen in and see how this goes much further than just fire prevention and the rewards both the community and its residents can reap.
In the premier episode of Season 3 of “5-Alarm Task Force,” we are pleased to welcome back a dear friend and great supporter of the podcast, Capt. Robby Owens, Sr. (@averagejakeff) as we discuss “Tactic and Terminology.”
As we have heard from other guests, especially line officers and above, no singular tactic is appropriate for every working structure fire. What almost all agree on, are the two words that they believe are appropriate, “It Depends!”
The first arriving officer who assumes initial command has precious little time to ascertain all the factors facing him/her as they pull up on the scene. Of course, the determination of whether or not people may be trapped must be foremost in the initial IC’s mind. As is, the initial method of attack he/she feels will best suit this particular fire for the first arriving apparatus. Will it be an engine? Will the truck company arrive first? What if it’s the Heavy Rescue?
Capt. Owens discusses how important it is for the first front-line personnel, initial IC and even whoever assumes IC, not to pigeon-hole the methodology of tactics without having the benefit of a full-360 and other pertinent information.
Capt. Owens also brings up today's far-too-common practice of on-line bullying occurring on social media by firefighting personnel who may not agree with the bravado and “bash through the front door at all costs” thinking by some, especially those who hide behind anonymous social media identities.
Welcome to Season 3 of “5-Alarm Task Force!”
This podcast is not an old one from two years or so ago. Rather, it was on this past spring. However, it may be one of the most important podcasts you will ever hear.
My guest is Battalion Chief (ret) John Cagno of the North Providence RI Fire Dept. Chief Cagno has a long and successful career. But it certainly didn’t start that way. His story will teach you one of the most important facts of this job, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
When we’re young and we first join a fire department, we’re all “spit and vinegar.” We probably watched the firefighters for years and were scratching at the chance to get in there and do what they did. And lots of us were pretty damn sure we could do it better.
Chief Cagno’s story starts out that way, but it soon goes to “hell in a hand basket;” and we’re not just talking about his future career, we’re talking about his LIFE!
Listen to this replay of Chief’ Cagno’s, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and ask yourself, “Could that be me?
As we once again return to the “5-Alarm Task Force” podcast vault during our summer hiatus, we turn to another excellent podcast that deals with the exorbitantly high rate of cancer in the fire service.
Firefighters around the world risk their lives almost every day, running in when everyone else is running out. While it is well known that our job is inherently dangerous, over the last 10-12 years, we have learned about a different danger, one that hides as a microscopic "time-bomb," where no one knows, if or when it may go off!
Our guest on this Episode is Keith Tyson, a 34-year veteran of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Just a few months after retiring 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer and several skin cancers. These diagnoses started Keith on a journey and mission that continues today.
He immediately began looking into the cancer rates of colleagues in his department. Each number, each fact, led to the discovery that his was not a sole incident. Both men and women in MDFR were experiencing rates far above the national average. Dealing with his own treatments, he engaged the Univ. of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Centers, who joined the search for the cases and apparent causes of these rates.
From his own case, he learned of another, this time in the Palm Beach County Fire Dept. and started to engage their participation in the studies. With that, Keith founded the Florida Chapter of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. Listen as Keith relates his personal journey which has led him around the country, to both inform and support firefighters about this very dangerous enemy that we face and what we can do to reduce our exposure. For more information, visit the website FirefighterCancerSupport.org
Due to the level of importance this podcast bears, I am releasing today in hopes that many of you will have the opportunity of listening to it over the weekend. Keeping with this is important topic, I am following up the past two “summer” shows with one we recorded this past March, featuring Alberto Caban-Martinez, DO, PhD and Natasha Schaefer-Solle, PhD, RN of the University of Miami, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Care Centers, along with Exec. Asst. Chief Todd LeDuc and Frank Correggio of Broward County Sheriff’s Office – Fire Rescue Services. Doctors Caban-Martinez and Schaefer-Solle and both part of the team leading Sylvester’s study in the prevalence and natures of fire service occupational cancer.
As you will hear, they are both “in the thick of it” and answer our questions forthrightly and honestly. The entire team at Sylvester is not only studying the problem, but also working on solutions, both socially, by getting the word out even to the newest of recruits, but medically as well, as the team has been at the forefront of enhancing the methodology of the “early detection – better chances” push.
Additionally, Exec. Asst. Chief LeDuc discusses the success of the early detection programs, not just theoretically, but with actual facts from his firefighters at Broward Sheriff’s Office – Fire Rescue Services. And Frank Correggio, a former firefighter/paramedic, raises some excellent points regarding some of the occupational hazards that we have face and some still do. This podcast is one that might just save your life or the life of someone you work with.
Remember, you can listen or download every podcast from our website at www.dalmatianproductions.tv, iTunes®, Google Play®, Spotify®, Listen Notes®, or other podcast aggregators. Just search for “5-Alarm Task Force!”
Last week, I re-leased our interview with Bill Banks, a former Battalion Chief with Ft. Lauderdale Fire, who provided me with my first, real education in the cancer dangers that firefighters and other first responders face. Today, I am proud to follow that interview with my interview with Cynthia (better known as “Cindy”) Ell.
Cindy Ell is a former firefighter/paramedic in Anne Arundel County MD and a founding critical care paramedic at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She has been investigating and studying occupational exposures & their results for over 25 years. However, after own diagnosis of a line-of-duty cancer, she saw it as the opportunity to serve as both a first responder advocate and the founder the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation. She now works to raise on-the-job cancer awareness to all first responders, but especially to firefighters. The foundation now works in many areas of the country, assisting afflicted first responders and their families. I am proud to say that Cindy and the FFCN was one of my first “promotional partners,” helping to get the word out about “5-Alarm Task Force,” as I, in turn, help to educate first responders about the dangers of cancer in these jobs we love to do. The facts and figures are real and Cindy and her "crew" are doing everything possible to make sure YOU know all about them. If you're a first responder, you NEED to listen to Cindy Ell!