Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gustin Delivers One-Two Punch at FDIC 2011

Captain Bill Gustin of the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department was a perfect complement to FDNY Captain Mike Dugan’s opening conference address.

Where Dugan was telling the young firefighters to turn introspective; to soul search for their reasons that they are firefighters (“Why Are We Here”)-Gustin was telling them what they could expect.

From budget cuts hurting both career and volunteer departments to the changing attitudes of the public, “doing more with less to doing less with less”; Bill Gustin put the fire service on the stage as seen through the critical eye.

And, how can you argue with him when he states that we spend too much time and money on getting firefighters out of trouble when the focus should be on keeping them out of trouble in the first place?

He had very strong words on the apparatus accidents that have occurred in the past few years. His simple message was to “slow down”. To the apparatus drivers, he reminded them that, if they hit someone and it is their fault, they could be arrested, lose their job and then get sued. As a comparison; he couldn’t remember of too many firefighters who fell off of rigs when it was still acceptable to ride outside of the cab. How true!

Here was another fire service veteran advocating learning from others’ mistakes. NIOSH LODD reports, NIST burn studies and UL were all mentioned as very good sources of information that should be read; then used.

I liked his straight forward delivery. He stood at the podium and gave his honest and personal insights on where the fire service has been, where it’s at now and where it’s going.

Sound familiar? Yeah; Gustin “BAGged” it!

Now; Captain Gustin wasn’t delivering a safety sermon. In fact; “safety” was rarely mentioned, but…

The message came through loud and clear.

He mentioned that firefighters were dying “with a hose in their hands”. He wasn’t advocating not doing interior attacks, but he was advocating applying water from the exterior to slow down fire growth in order to make it safer for teams to go in AND he made it clear that he was not fond of “bursting”.


Because applying short, nozzle bursts of water doesn’t put the fire out, but only delays flashover. He advocated getting water and “plenty of it on the seat of the fire”. What a concept!

Though his message was directed at the young firefighters in the audience, it wasn’t condescending. He encouraged education and to take advantage of the changing technologies like thermal imaging. But, he stressed that technology alone is no substitute for making critical decisions in regards to building construction and fire behavior.

I believe that we will have to continue to see advances in the way that we think!

And having frank and honest discussions on points made by Captain Bill Gustin in his address will go far in reducing firefighter injuries and death.

It wasn’t so much a “wake-up call” as it was a call to be awake and aware of an inherently dangerous profession.

Throw in respect for the job, respect for each other and respect between generations of firefighters.

Gustin and Dugan; two heavyweights who delivered a one-two punch at FDIC 2011.

Catch them both in the archives at:


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

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