Author Archives: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].

Let’s build some kindness into our firehouses

The word brotherhood is thrown around in the fire service all day long. This day reminded me of what the word really means. This is a dangerous profession, and we would die for each other and there are many times we do. I ask you today to put aside the pettiness between us as brothers and sisters. The pettiness between shifts. The pettiness that separates operations from daywork. The pettiness of destroying someone’s reputation over a rumor. The pettiness that comes from an occupation that breeds alpha personalities and competitiveness that often ends friendships.

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Ode to an officer and a gentleman

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer Today I learned of the passing of a former friend and colleague from my days with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department, Lieutenant (Ret.) Bobby “Pop” Knight. To say “Pop” was the last of dying breed would qualify as the understatement of the year. Bobby Knight picked up the sobriquet of “Pop” by ...

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Is Safety Stand Down 2024 really addressing the basics?

I'm also not sure how these five topics address "back to basics." To my mind, this year's Safety Stand Down should be using the five days to address firefighter safety issues that continue to plague the fire service across the board after decades (e.g., lack of seatbelt use, lack of accountability systems, not wear PPE correctly or appropriately). Building the Foundation of a Training Program; Assessing the Needs of the Community and Department; Safety During Training; Physical and Behavioral/Mental Health Considerations; and the 12 Foundations of Fire Department Training.

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Take Full Advantage of Fire’s Diamond Time

In doing some research online regarding firefighter safety, I came across this "oldie but goodie" from one of the legends of the fire service in the U.S., the late Ronny Coleman. For firefighters and officers of a certain age, we grew up with Chief Coleman particularly as we read his classic monthly column in the old Fire Chief Magazine (the hard copy), The Chief's Clipboard. For me, reading that column provided my first real taste of officer development as I'd just been promoted to a company officer position in my department, the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department, nee the Chesterfield Fire Department. This was one such column.

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The Mental Health Crusade in Firefighting

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer WOW! I’m so excited to have been a guest of Jerry Lund for his podcast, Enduring the Badge. I had the opportunity to have a great conversation with Jerry regarding firefighter behavioral health and what it will take to “bridge the gap between professional psychology and the fire service.” As many of you know, ...

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NFPA 1407: 14 years later, what’s your RIC policy?

In the fourteen years since its initial publication, NFPA 1407 has been a big part of fire departments elevating the "status" of the RIC as a critical fireground task assignment on par with that of search, fire attack, ventilation, and laddering. While this has been a positive step in the right direction regarding firefighter safety, the RIC is a "reactive" approach to firefighter safety. The RIC is in the "background" until something goes wrong (e.g., a firefighter becomes lost, entrapped or otherwise endangered). The presence of the RIC can also provide a false sense of security, especially when the RIC consists of only two firefighters.

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Why join the Fire Service Psychology Association if you’re in the fire service?

I've been a fire service member of the Fire Service Psychology Association (FSPA) since 2018 and it's been an informative, educational, and fulfilling experience seeing how fire service leaders and psychologist and other mental health clinicians are working to "build a bridge between professional psychology and the fire service." However, in the five-plus years I've been a member of FSPA I never really gave serious thought to "Why did I join FSPA?"

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Where are you?

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer Firefighter/Paramedic Stephanie White One of my pleasant surprises in 2023 has been the discovery of a new “voice” in the fire and EMS world, Stephanie White, a firefighter/paramedic with the Fairfax County (Va.) Fire and Rescue Department. So, here’s one of her recent posts on LinkedIn: I recently listened to a conversation on inclusion ...

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What’s in Your Fire Department’s Behavioral Health “Toolbox?”

Fire departments that are looking to provide an effective behavioral health program for their members would do well to model the approach that the fire service has taken with its tiered response to hazardous materials incidents. They would further serve the best interests of their firefighters by collaborating with mental health clinicians, preferably those at the Specialist Level, just as they would if developing their own hazardous materials response team.

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