Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, Leatherhead Instructors, Performance, Safety, Training
Thursday, February 19th, 2015 3:02 pm

Leatherhead Thursday: The importance of precision

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

Saws, hand tools, ladders, hoses, nozzles, rescue equipment, and gas tools can be found on all fire trucks across America. There are many similarities between manufacturers of the equipment, but there are also many differences. The manufacturer of the equipment is unimportant, but the knowledge needed to use your departments’ equipment is absolutely monumental. The operations and abilities of the tools that we regularly use are second nature to us, but the stuff that seems to spend more time on the rig than in use may be far from familiar.

The proper start up procedures for your saws can make or break you in an emergency. Small engines can prove to be challenging in themselves due to their “cold blooded” nature, but knowing how to properly handle the equipment and how to overcome things such as a flooded engine or loose chain can keep you in the game.  Regular maintenance of the equipment is imperative to smooth operations, but can also provide an understanding of the more technical aspects of the saws.

Hose loads and lays are never the same between two fire departments, and often are different between the trucks in your bays. The loads, lengths, and nozzles are typically set up for the area in which you respond and departmental preference. Understanding the proper way to deploy each type of load on your trucks can save time, property, and lives. Knowing your loads and lengths will enable you to quickly add sections when needed to reach the fire, ensure efficiency of deployment, and allow you to be an asset instead of liability to your company. Knowing and understanding the type of nozzle, its flow, operation, and pressure is also necessary to be successful on the job.

Routine care of your hand tools, personal equipment, and PPE will greatly reduce failure on the emergency scene. Keeping your hand tools clean, properly assembled, and sharpened is your responsibility; don’t rely on the previous crew or user to maintain them. You better know where and how to use the tools in your pockets if you are going to carry them; it is ignorant to have a mass pile of items on you that you have no idea how to use or where it is. Do you like to wear the same underwear several days in a row? I hope not! Treat your turnout gear the same way. If you use it, clean it! Proper maintenance of turnout gear can prevent you from absorbing carcinogens on a regular basis and allow the gear to effectively work when needed.

Keep in mind that even the simple things can be reviewed and a lot can be gained. Take five minutes and look at your hydraulic rescue tools; which way do you move the control to make the tool operate? How far does the hydraulic reel reach? What type of oil does the hydraulic reservoir use? Are the tools clean? I bet you can refresh your mind and maybe gain something you didn’t know in that five minutes!

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, Safety
Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 10:01 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Firefighter injuries and physical fitness

By Shane Wells

of the Leatherhead Instructors

Firefighters are at increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries and cardiorespiratory illnesses compared to other occupations. Each year tens of thousands of firefighters are injured while fighting fires, rescuing people, responding to emergencies, and training incidences. Occupational injuries are the leading cause of disability and early retirement.  Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of work related death.  All of these injuries contribute to a significant human and financial toll. In addition departments suffer lost work hours, higher insurance premiums, increased overtime, disability and early retirement payments.

Despite measures to prevent injuries such as improving our protective clothing and changing health and safety regulations very little about individual factors influencing firefighter injuries are known. Certain literature has predicted things such as; equipment failure, protective equipment not being worn, lack of training, fitness, team work, and  human error, in addition to fatigue, weather, poor decision making and communication systems.  However, very little information about how individual lifestyle variables and obesity contribute to the risk of injuries among firefighters.

Obesity in adults has doubled in the past 15 years, and the rate of severe obesity has quadrupled. Today roughly 2/3 of adults are overweight and 1/3 is obese. It is also known that as BMI increases certain diseases increase as well, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Studies have shown ties between obesity and increased risk of occupational injuries. Research is scarce about the association between obesity and risk of occupational injuries among firefighters.

Posten and colleagues conducted a study of 433 firefighters that participated in the Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Alternative Models Effects (PHLAME) worksite wellness program. This program was implemented in fire departments in Oregon and Washington five years after that program was first introduced. These were the findings; of the 433 firefighters there were 184 injuries overall and 160 injured firefighters had at least one injury. Of the 184 injuries, 68 were injuries for which a worker’s compensation claim was filled (37%). About 35% of injuries involved the back which was twice as many as the next largest category which was knee and lower leg at 17%. Twenty five percent of firefighters were in the normal weight category. Fifty-six percent were in the overweight category. Nineteen percent were in the obese category. Firefighters that were in the overweight or obese categories had a higher percentage of injury prevalence for all types of physician’s visits. The body part injured the most was the back. There were also a higher percentage of firefighters in the obese category that required a visit to a specialist as compared to the 12.5 % of firefighters in the normal weight category.

Other studies also show a mismatch between fitness and health requirements of firefighting and the current profile of the fire service. Current standards recommend that firemen participate in a fitness program, but it is the responsibility of each individual department to decide whether or not to institute a program. The NFPA 1583 Standard recommends a program that is positive, non-punitive, and does not set fitness standards. Cardiovascular events are by far the leading cause of line of duty deaths among firefighters. Appropriate fitness programs can enhance overall health, improve performance, and lessen the risk of firefighter injury and fatality. Firefighters and the public they serve will benefit from more fitness programs in the Fire Service. Some different types of physical training include; aerobic training, Sprint Interval Training (SIT), and functional training. Aerobic training provides several health benefits, including improved body composition, serum lipids, glucose metabolism, and maximal aerobics capacity. SIT is a type of high-intensity interval training that is designed to improve endurance, increase anaerobic threshold, and improve maximal performance. Functional training targets movements that are necessary for everyday living. Functional training utilizes full-body, dynamic movements to increase muscular strength and endurance as well as aerobic capacity using equipment such as medicine balls, physioballs, and exercise bands to provide resistance. This type of exercise mimics the high-intensity demands of firefighting. CrossFit workouts have been gaining popularity in progressive departments across the country.

There must be a cultural change within the U.S Fire Service in order to improve fitness and decrease injuries and cardiac events. Fit firefighters have increased mobility, energy, and endurance, allowing them to better perform job duties efficiently and safely.  Fit firefighters also are less likely to jeopardize the safety of their fellow firefighters or the public they serve.


Kuehl, K. S., Kisbu-Sakarya, Y., Elliot, D. L., Moe, E. L., DeFrancesco, C. A., MacKinnon, D. P. & Kuehl, H. E. (2012). Body mass index is a predictor of fire fighter injury and worker compensation claims. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 54(5), 579.

Smith, D. L. (2011). Firefighter fitness: improving performance and preventing injuries and fatalities. Current sports medicine reports, 10(3), 167-172.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, PPE, Training
Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 10:01 am

LION partners with the IFRM to successfully set up a fire department

This past December John Granby, VP of Government Relations for LION, traveled with the International Fire Relief Mission (IFRM) to help establish a fire department in Barraterre on the island of Exuma, in the Bahamas.

Previous to this humanitarian aid trip, Exuma did not have any fire or rescue services despite facing wildland and structural fire threats and having a steady stream of tourists. The people of Barraterre had to band together to raise money to build the fire station.

Rick Markley, editor-in-chief at FireRescue1 said they, “organized a leadership structure without any fire service background. They recruited 25 volunteers with no promise of compensation — three of which are women.

Others gave in whatever way they could. Some provided sweat equity at the fire station. The older women in the community landscaped the fire station, cooked meals for the firefighters during training and volunteered for a community response team (think part rehab, part Red Cross, part CERT).”

The IFRM helped provide guidance and needs assessment for the fire station, as well as donating firefighting equipment and a rig. They also brought in experts to help train them from the ground up on firefighting.

John Granby provided his expertise in fire science, PPE and how to fight fires. He helped conduct a physical baseline for volunteers, sized them for gear, and left educational material that they can continue to study and use to train others.

LION’s involvement goes beyond just this trip, we have entered a partnership with the IFRM to help them continue to provide gear, tools and training to firefighters and emergency personnel in under served communities around the world. In addition to donating turnout gear, we manage and house 20,000 sq ft of donated equipment at one of our facilities. LION staff sorts and inventories all brands of used gear, gloves, helmets, SCBA, hose and tools and packs them in shipping containers for future use.

The International Fire Relief Mission is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is a nonprofit, nonreligious, nonpolitical group dedicated to saving firefighter and civilian lives. IFRM members do not draw a salary and all of the money raised is used to fulfilling the group’s mission. For more information, please visit its website at

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Leatherhead Instructors, Safety, Training
Thursday, January 8th, 2015 11:01 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Training Props and Aids

By Shane Wells

of the Leatherhead Instructors

Firefighter educational services use training props or aids almost every time that we train. The costs range from free or inexpensive to multi-million dollar training towers or burn buildings, but they provide  a hands on experience. The training props and aids are a more interesting training method than a standard lecture, and they also allow us to test skills and gain an understanding of how the student is doing.

There are many companies that manufacture training props, BullEx is one company that offers many options for professional and innovative training aids.  BullEx offers everything from smoke generators to training towers and aircraft simulators. They not only provide props for the fire service, but they also offer props for public education, workplace safety training, and fire brigades. Some of the props pertain to forcible entry, roof simulators, window props, and lock cutting stations.  However, not all departments and facilities can afford to purchase props; they simply build their own. They key to building props for your department or organization is safety.

The internet provides many resources for building the props or aids that your department or organization may need or want. VentEnterSearch is one website that offers weekly training prop ideas, ranging from basic to complex. My department has historically built our own props varying from a forcible entry door to a confidence maze that has been set up in a training house. Our most utilized training prop is a shipping container that acts as a burn building, the container has a ventilation hole cut in the roof that has a hinged cover that can be controlled from the ground. We have submitted a grant for a training tower that can serve multiple departments in our county.

A training prop can be as basic as a kids puzzle from the store that acts as a training prop for dexterity when wearing a level A hazmat suit. Don’t allow budget constraints hamper your training, there is always a way to make your training better with or without a large training budget.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, December 18th, 2014 10:12 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Holiday Season and Appreciation

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

As another holiday season rapidly approaches, we are faced with the challenges and unique calls that we may receive.  The way that we provide customer service this time of year really makes an impact on our “customers”.  The season presents us with emergencies that stem from the weather, large family gatherings, faulty Christmas decorations, and the increased use of heating due to the cold.  The compassion that we portray when dealing with our “customers” in their emergency is a subtle reminder that we truly care about our jobs.

This season is also a time for us to reflect on what the job means to us and how we got here.  As our careers progress we sometimes lose sight of why we do this, and what it meant to take the job.  The years and years of time that some of us have on the job has taken its toll and a rejuvenation is important if we want to continue being part of the progression of the service.  The attitudes that we carry at the station, around our brothers and sisters, and to our “customers” is what we build ourselves on.

Take a look at the “new guy” on the department; I bet he or she is full of excitement and is headed in every direction because they cannot get enough.  I bet that each of us can look back and reflect on the days that we were the same way.  Spend some time looking at what your career has meant to you and how you may or may not have arrived at your present attitude.  What things can you change?  What things can you not change?  I bet there are some simple things that you could do to improve your attitude and vision.

This season is about giving and appreciation.  I think that the holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our individual strengths and weaknesses, and the time to make changes.  Set some achievable goals for 2015; maybe there is a class that you want to take, or something within the department that you want to be part of.  Start 2015 with a fresh slate and a rekindled fire within yourself; be part of the solution!

Take the time to talk to people when you are on calls, your kindness will go a long way.  You never know just how much a “customer” will remember when you go the extra mile; this is why we should be doing the job!  We are the fortunate ones, not everybody has a job that they love!  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Stay safe and train hard!

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Leatherhead Instructors, Training
Thursday, December 4th, 2014 10:12 am

Leatherhead Thursday:The nozzle person

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

It has been a long standing tradition within my organization and many others across the country to allow the senior person on the apparatus to be the “nozzle person”.  The concept of the most senior person being on the nozzle comes from the thought that this particular person is the most knowledgeable, experienced, and trained.  I agree that this person should be on the attack line, but I believe that they should be the backup or second in line.

I bet we could teach a monkey to spray water on a fire, but the ability to monitor the ever changing conditions would be difficult at best.  I have heard a lot of things as to why the most senior person is on the nozzle: they have been doing this a long time, they are really good at attack, they have put the time in and should get to have the best job, etc.  These points have no validity in the progression of the department!  How do you think a new firefighter gets the experience so that when they are a senior member of the department they can teach new firefighters? They won’t if they are not put in the position to be taught.

The fire service is now starting to look at the concept of putting the junior person on the nozzle and placing the veteran member behind them.  This idea comes from a teaching position and the ability of the veteran member to monitor the changing conditions.  The veteran member can guide the nozzle person as to where to spray, how to spray, changing conditions to look for, what the fire is going to do, where the fire is going to go, etc.  This allows for the junior member to receive guidance, and the veteran the ability to effect the progression of the junior firefighter and the department.

The junior firefighter should be competent in methodically searching for the fire and monitoring the stability of the floor, but having the veteran firefighter right behind them will allow for guidance when there is a question.  This approach will allow for a positive experience for both firefighters, and strengthen the individuals on their weaknesses.  It is necessary for the veteran firefighter to understand why he or she is being told to be second in line; they need to know that their experience, knowledge, and training can help shape the future of the organization.

I encourage you to look at the information available on firefighter related articles, blogs, magazines, and websites to better understand this concept!

Stay safe and train hard!

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Events, General, News, People
Friday, November 21st, 2014 11:11 am

United Way and LION Team Up for Family This Holiday Season

From the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area

Vandalia-based LION, a world leader in the delivery of equipment and training solutions for fire departments, worked with United Way officials to adopt a special family this holiday season with a child suffering from a rare, debilitating illness.

Each year, as part of their annual United Way campaign, employees at LION adopt at least one family for the holidays as part of their LION Cares program.  United Way officials connected with the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Ohio, a United Way Partner Agency, and learned about a local girl who is suffering from a severe case of epilepsy and whose father is a firefighter.

Graeson Riley Rutmann was born on March 11, 2013 with a rare seizure disorder called Ohtahara Syndrome.  This severely progressive form of epilepsy affects newborns, usually within the first few days of life.  Seizures caused by this form of epilepsy are nearly impossible to control with medication, and the progressive nature of the disorder causes many children to die from it before the age of three.  Treatment is possible, but these children will be totally dependent on others, as their brains make little developmental progress.

Graeson’s father James Rutmann works full time as a firefighter and her mother Claudine works with a local health clinic – providing cost effective care to those in need.  The family is hoping to raise enough money to supplement their income so Claudine can work only part time.  The extra hours available in her schedule will be used to not only ensure that Graeson can receive proper care and attention but also attend to the active lives of their other older daughter and son, Dylan and Ian.

LION employees were happy to work with United Way of the Greater Dayton Area and Epilepsy Foundation of Western Ohio to make the Rutmann family’s goals a reality.  Steve Schwartz, 4th generation family owner of LION and CEO said: “Being a good corporate citizen is a core value of our company.  Graeson’s situation hit all of us very hard as parents and as members of the fire service family.”  Through this collaboration, we will raise awareness in our community about epilepsy and Ohtahara Syndrome and Graeson will be able to continue her fight while under the care of her mother and family.

To learn more about Graeson’s story, visit

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Safety
Thursday, November 20th, 2014 9:11 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Here comes winter again!

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

The long warm days of summer and fall are gone and the bitter cold has arrived!  The winter months present some real challenges to us as firefighters when dealing with emergencies and how we operate.  We are faced with slippery, snow covered roads that are often our work station for hours upon hours.  We are going to talk about some basics that can protect us through this season.

We all have large trucks and equipment that we respond to emergencies in, and there are some things that we should address.  Most of our fire apparatus is equipped with either an engine or exhaust brake; it is a good idea to turn them off when roads are snow or ice covered.  These brakes can cause the apparatus to slow too rapidly and essentially slide out of your control.

All of our apparatus at my department is equipped with automatic tire chains, and our first out medic is equipped with four wheel drive.  These features are excellent when used correctly.  The chains and four wheel drive can certainly increase traction when driving on snow or frozen roads, but neither effect the quality of braking.  Do not get yourself in the mindset that you can stop any better than others!

How about salt and snow shovels?  Keeping these items on your equipment is an awesome idea!  How many times do you respond to a med run at a residence and find the path to their door covered in snow and ice?  Being able to clear that path for your crew can reduce the likelihood of falls that lead to time off the job.  Salt also comes in handy when the pump operator finds that they are standing on a sheet of ice due to loose connections or an overfilled tank.

The last thing that I want to discuss is the preparations that we need to make while operating at emergencies on roadways.  Motorists operate less than ideally year-round, adding a slick roadway will not stop them!  We need to make sure that we are keeping lanes of operation closed and staying away from moving traffic.  Think about sending a second unit to the scene just to shield the emergency crews that are working.  You can inquire about using your local or state police, and having barriers set if you are going to be there for a while.

I hope some of these basic thoughts and ideas help you in some way.

Stay safe and train hard!

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Events, Firefighter Combat Challenge, General, Health
Monday, November 10th, 2014 11:11 am

LION sponsors the Firefighter Combat Challenge in Phoenix

We all know the importance of health and fitness for firefighters, and the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championships exemplify the hard work, rigorous training and fitness levels from firefighters who compete in this event.

This past week firefighters from around the world gathered in Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the 23 rd annual World Challenge, their last stop after a year of grueling competitions. LION has been a proud sponsor of the Challenge since its inception in 1992, we believe in encouraging and recognizing firefighters who take the initiative to maintain exemplary health goals and sportsmanship.

We saluted the outstanding athletes who have distinguished themselves on the course by inducting them into the LION’s Den, the letteman jacket program that recognizes those athletes who strive and succeed by posting times that place them at the top of of the sport.

Congratulations to all the combat challenge participants that worked hard throughout the year!

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Leatherhead Instructors, PPE
Thursday, November 6th, 2014 7:11 am

Helmets of the fire service

By Shane Wells
of the Leatherhead Instructors

I have had a large variety of helmets in my 20 plus years as a firefighter; they range from inexpensive fiberglass helmets to quite expensive leather helmets. The first helmet that I had was a Cairns Fiberglass “salad bowl” Helmet, and now I have a Sam Houston Leather Helmet. There are differences in style, comfort, fit, and weight between the two; both have acceptable ratings.

I consider there to be three types of helmets that we typically see in the United States; leather, composite, and proximity. There are many styles that can be chosen among them, but the three listed types cover most of the bases. Each department really needs to do their research as to what fits them, and uniformity should be considered. Do not allow “what’s popular” to dictate what you get!

There are several things that should be considered when deciding what helmets to purchase for your department. Cost, amount of calls that you respond to, types of service provided (structural, technical rescue, airport crash rescue), turnover rate of your department (applies more to part time and volunteer), and ratings. Some departments opt to use different types of helmets for technical rescue, or wild land firefighting. A leather helmet is a poor choice for a department that uses one helmet and does technical rescue, due to the weight. Be wary of the first salesman that walk in your door and offers the cheapest price; cheapest is NOT always best! Something in the middle may be a good place to start.

I received a LION American Heritage Classic Helmet about two years ago to use while teaching classes, and I have to say that it is one of the most comfortable helmets that I have had the privilege of wearing. It has the look of a traditional leather helmet, but the weight of a composite. The helmet has held up well during the trainings that it has been worn during, and I look forward to wearing it for years to come. We wear Leather Sam Houston’s for our primary helmet, a Cairns 1010 composite as a backup, and a separate helmet for wild land and technical rescue at my department. We are given a leather helmet once our probationary period is met and these helmets remain with us for our career; we get to take them when we retire.

I hope that this helps you in your decision making regarding the purchase and use of helmets.

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