Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Origins of the Firefighter Combat Challenge

From time to time, the question comes to me, be it in a TV interview, or just a new Competitor: “Where did this (meaning the Firefighter Combat Challenge®) come from?” 

Short answer: “This is the only federally funded, University-based, occupational physiology research study that became an international touring and televised sport.”

The Sports Medicine Center of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health was the recipient of a grant from the predecessor of FEMA.  

In cooperation with the Fire Training Officer’s sub-committee of the Greater Washington DC Council of Governments (GOG) I conducted a JTA (job task analysis). This is the process whereby essential functions of the position (firefighter) are identified and quantified. Our criteria were a search for arduous, frequently performed or critical tasks. Critical means that failure could result in injury or death. 

The validity of the five linked tasks is evident with the world-wide acceptance and promulgation of the Challenge. There are professional and legal standards that must be met to withstand the rigor of publication in peer-reviewed journals. The results of our study were published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise).  But beyond a competition, the higher standard is being able to defend against legal challenges when the arduous nature of the profession has a disparate impact on “protected classes.” 

And then there’s a lot of steps from a research study to the development of a copyrighted, trademarked competition and all of the intricacies associated with over 60,000 participants spanning nearly three decades. 

While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is disconcerting when your intellectual property is hijacked and represented to be the creation of their own. Simply stated, there is no form of firefighter testing or competition involving a tower, forcible entry, hose advance and a victim rescue that is not a derivative of the Firefighter Combat Challenge®. 

My vision for the Challenge is that there is only one right way to run this event. When people start to change the fundamentals, we lose respect for the objectivity of the event. There’s only one 440 yard dash and the performance time has universal credibility.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Augustine’s Laws

Augustine's laws were a series of tongue in cheek aphorisms put forth by Norman Ralph Augustine, an American aerospace businessman who served as Under Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 1977. In 1984 he published his laws.

I enjoyed the humor, and thought that you might as well...

Law Number I: The best way to make a silk purse from a sow's ear is to begin with a silk sow. The same is true of money.

Law Number II: If today were half as good as tomorrow is supposed to be, it would probably be twice as good as yesterday was.

Law Number III: There are no lazy veteran lion hunters.

Law Number IV: If you can afford to advertise, you don't need to.

Law Number V: One-tenth of the participants produce over one-third of the output. Increasing the number of participants merely reduces the average output.

Law Number VI: A hungry dog hunts best. A hungrier dog hunts even better.

Law Number VII: Decreased business base increases overhead. So does increased business base.

Law Number VIII: The most unsuccessful four years in the education of a cost-estimator is fifth-grade arithmetic.

Law Number IX: Acronyms and abbreviations should be used to the maximum extent possible to make trivial ideas profound...Q.E.D.

Law Number X: Bulls do not win bullfights; people do. People do not win people fights; lawyers do.

Law Number XI: If the Earth could be made to rotate twice as fast, managers would get twice as much done. If the Earth could be made to rotate twenty times as fast, everyone else would get twice as much done since all the managers would fly off.

Law Number XII: It costs a lot to build bad products.

Law Number XIII: There are many highly successful businesses in the United States. There are also many highly paid executives. The policy is not to intermingle the two.

Law Number XIV: After the year 2015, there will be no airplane crashes. There will be no takeoffs either, because electronics will occupy 100 percent of every airplane's weight.

Law Number XV: The last 10 percent of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems.

Law Number XVI: In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

Law Number XVII: Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics; i.e., it always increases.

Law Number XVIII: It is very expensive to achieve high unreliability. It is not uncommon to increase the cost of an item by a factor of ten for each factor of ten degradation accomplished.

Law Number XIX: Although most products will soon be too costly to purchase, there will be a thriving market in the sale of books on how to fix them.

Law Number XX: In any given year, Congress will appropriate the amount of funding approved the prior year plus three-fourths of whatever change the administration requests, minus 4-percent tax.

Law Number XXI: It's easy to get a loan unless you need it.

Law Number XXII: If stock market experts were so expert, they would be buying stock, not selling advice.

Law Number XXIII: Any task can be completed in only one-third more time than is currently estimated.

Law Number XXIV: The only thing more costly than stretching the schedule of an established project is accelerating it, which is itself the most costly action known to man.

Law Number XXV: A revised schedule is to business what a new season is to an athlete or a new canvas to an artist.

Law Number XXVI: If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance.

Law Number XXVII: Rank does not intimidate hardware. Neither does the lack of rank.

Law Number XXVIII: It is better to be the reorganizer than the reorganizee.

Law Number XXIX: Executives who do not produce successful results hold on to their jobs only about five years. Those who produce effective results hang on about half a decade.

Law Number XXX: By the time the people asking the questions are ready for the answers, the people doing the work have lost track of the questions.

Law Number XXXI: The optimum committee has no members.

Law Number XXXII: Hiring consultants to conduct studies can be an excellent means of turning problems into gold, your problems into their gold.

Law Number XXXIII: Fools rush in where incumbents fear to tread.

Law Number XXXIV: The process of competitively selecting contractors to perform work is based on a system of rewards and penalties, all distributed randomly.

Law Number XXXV: The weaker the data available upon which to base one's conclusion, the greater the precision which should be quoted in order to give the data authenticity.

Law Number XXXVI: The thickness of the proposal required to win a multimillion dollar contract is about one millimeter per million dollars. If all the proposals conforming to this standard were piled on top of each other at the bottom of the Grand Canyon it would probably be a good idea.

Law Number XXXVII: Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

Law Number XXXVIII: The early bird gets the worm. The early worm...gets eaten.

Law Number XXXIX: Never promise to complete any project within six months of the end of the year, in either direction.

Law Number XL: Most projects start out slowly, and then sort of taper off.

Law Number XLI: The more one produces, the less one gets.

Law Number XLII: Simple systems are not feasible because they require infinite testing.

Law Number XLIII: Hardware works best when it matters the least.

Law Number XLIV: Aircraft flight in the 21st century will always be in a westerly direction, preferably supersonic, crossing time zones to provide the additional hours needed to fix the broken electronics.

Law Number XLV: One should expect that the expected can be prevented, but the unexpected should have been expected.

Law Number XLVI: A billion saved is a billion earned.

Law Number XLVII: Two-thirds of the Earth's surface is covered with water. The other third is covered with auditors from headquarters.

Law Number XLVIII: The more time you spend talking about what you have been doing, the less time you have to spend doing what you have been talking about. Eventually, you spend more and more time talking about less and less until finally you spend all your time talking about nothing.

Law Number XLIX: Regulations grow at the same rate as weeds.

Law Number L: The average regulation has a life span one-fifth as long as a chimpanzee's and one-tenth as long as a human's, but four times as long as the official's who created it.

Law Number LI: By the time of the United States Tricentennial, there will be more government workers than there are workers.

Law Number LII: People working in the private sector should try to save money. There remains the possibility that it may someday be valuable again.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

13th Annual Berlin Firefighter Combat Challenge®

Dateline: September 6 & 7, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

Over 300 firefighters from 11 countries descended on the visitor center of Berlin for two great days of racing. 

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Poland, Slovenia, UK, Iran, Italy, Luxemburg, and Belgium were represented in the most impressive of walk-ons. 

But, the races were even more impressive. Under the management and direction of Mike Weikamm, Berlin Fire Brigade, Individual, Tandem and Relay racers took to the course and performed admirably for thousands of locals and tourists.

Friday’s weather could not have been better; nearly cloudless skies with an ambient temperature hovering around 70°F. Saturday, while overcast, saw temps in the mid 60’s. So, overheating was not an issue. 

Two videos are available for your viewing pleasure. One of the multiple sub-90-second runs, and the Relay Championship between Slovenia and Lion’s Den Germany. 

An update to this post will take place once the final results have been posted on the Official website



Sunday, September 1, 2019

Our Salute to Tommy Sadler at the Nebraska State Fair, Grand Island

Our competitors recognized the late, great Tommy Sadler on Saturday, August 31, 2019, after the competition with a push-up fest and salutary comments. Here’s a nice piece by the NBC local affiliate.







Friday, August 16, 2019

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Firefighter Combat Challenge®

I’ve addressed this topic before, and it’s time to revisit the implications of the DCMA for our background music playlist. Every artist that wants to make a living through their music has been afforded protection by Congress under the DCMA.

Meaning, that every song that you hear on the radio or TV is protected from piracy. Like it or not, the original artist, songwriter, producer “owns” their original work. Or can sell the rights to another agency.

When we play music in a public place, we are obligated to report and pay a use fee. As you might imagine, this can not only become expensive, but confusing since there are many agencies representing the millions of tunes available for downloading through a host of servers.

While we do not proffer our soundtrack as the reason for attending the Firefighter Combat Challenge®, it does add a certain ambiance to the show.

The consequences of violating the DMCA can be very expensive. Fines levied can be in the thousands of dollars, notwithstanding the fact that morally, it’s theft.

So, if you hear someone complaining that we’re playing “unlicensed” music [royalty-free tunes in the public domain], kindly explain that we don’t make the laws and ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

We have been recruiting garage bands, looking for exposure, offering free use of their repertoire. If you know any musician that would like to donate sports-appropriate tracks, have them contact Rob O’Connor.

We’re always happy to provide a platform for budding artists.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Retro-Reflective/Fluorescent Material Color and Pattern Choices

One of the most underrated safety devices on emergency vehicles may well be a retro-reflective/fluorescent tape. It is always visible, requires no electrical power, adds negligible weight and is highly cost-effective.

The retro-reflective portion works only at night and is energized by oncoming lights from other vehicles. The fluorescent portion works only during daytime (from dawn till dusk) and is activated by the ultraviolet rays from the sun.

While the retro-reflective/fluorescent products are available in many colors, several stand out from the rest. The most visible colors, day and night, are yellow and lime-yellow, with lime-yellow having the safety advantage because of visual impact.

When considering chevron pairs, offering a contrast to lime-yellow is the red stripe. The result is lime-yellow, offset by red, is the most visible and safest of the chevron color choices and offers superior attention-getting responses. This fluorescent lime-yellow and red chevron pattern should be used on all emergency vehicles that use chevrons, regardless of service branch.

Why not white? While white can be measured as reflecting light, it does not have the brightness of lime-yellow or yellow. White does not attract attention. Pairing red and white in a chevron pattern is not as safe as the lime-yellow/red choice.

Around the clock, the fluorescent lime-yellow/red chevron choices are the highest rated. And either day or night, those tape applications that are free of dirt are most effective.

Picking patterns

In addition to the selection of color, the patterns selected are of prime importance. The large-area chevron pattern on the rear is the standard but more attention needs to be paid to the overall patterns on the sides of vehicles. While logos are popular, they do not provide enough visual information relating to the outline of the vehicle.

Especially at night, it is important to use enough retro-reflective material to offer a general outline of the sides of the vehicle. This gives a high level of information to the oncoming driver. Currently, a civilian driver sees a horizontal band along the beltline, and this is insufficient, even if it exhibits ribbon-like artwork, emblems or EKG waves.

Emblems, logos, images and company insignia are all fine as long as they are not used as a replacement for the outline tape.

By providing additional material horizontally along the upper and lower edges of the cab and chassis, the outline of the vehicle becomes apparent. They do not have to be solid lines but rather can be segmented. Our brain can add in the missing details to make it appear complete.

Why is tape color, rear chevrons and overall vehicle tape outline so important? They provide the oncoming driver with additional visual information, both day and night, in fog and smoke, and weather-induced poor visibility, because it improves reaction time. This provides for a safer driving and accident-avoidance response. The importance of improved reaction time should not be underestimated as is a vital component of emergency vehicle highway safety.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

God is Watching...

The children were filling their lunch trays at the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school.  At the head of the food line was a pile of apples upon which a nun had posted a note reading: “Take only one.  God is watching.”

At the opposite end of the table was a pile of chocolate chip cookies and a second note, this one posted by a fourth grader, reading: “Take all you want.  God is watching the apples.”