Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The American Red Cross Launches "Wildfire" App

(Photo credit: The American Red Cross)

The American Red Cross launched their "Wildfire" mobile application this week. Consider sharing this application with members of your community during your pre-season meetings.

Application Features
  • Step-by-step instructions let you know what to do before/during/after an wildfire, even without data connectivity. 
  • Get notified about current wildfires or wildfire-conducive weather. 
  • Let family and friends know you are okay with the customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text. 
  • Find open Red Cross shelters in your area when you need help. 
  • Stay safe when the lights are out with the Toolkit, including a strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions. 
  • Prepare for the worst by learning how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of power outage or evacuation. 
  • Empower your family to stay safe and remain calm in an emergency by learning how to make and practice an emergency plan. 
  • Earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your wildfire knowledge with interactive quizzes. 
  • See an illustrated history of wildfires in your area.

Friday, October 26, 2012

TriData Study: Looking to the Future

To conclude our four-part Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we focus on where we go in the future.

Here are suggestions our fire leaders say we should do now:
  • Run the survey again. (Take the survey for yourself.)
  • Go back and look at the recommendations to see what we have done and set priorities for those not done or should be eliminated. (Browles & Livingston)
  • Change the way firefighters are paid. (DeGrosky)
  • Keep TriData in the forefront through items like the refresher. (Livingston)
  • Prepare your workforce. (Cook)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Focusing on TriData Study: Continuing Challenges

So how have we done? In part 3 of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Centers series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we look at the challenges we have had addressing the 86 goals and implementing the 200 recommendations from the study.

Here are some of the challenges identified by our fire leaders:
  • We continue to have bad things happen. (Bequi Livingston)
  • Safety doesn't stop once you go home from a fire. (Paul Browles)
  • The physical fire environment has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. (Mike DeGrosky)
  • Climate change and fuels are affecting operations. (Chad Fisher and David Aldrich)
  • Decline in "militia" (non-fire personnel) involvement in the fire program. (John Glenn)
  • Proliferation of fire in the wildland urban interface.
  • Workforce retention has declined. (Cook, DeGrosky, Mark Boche)
  • A centralized focus on the TriData study has waned. 
  • Driving safety was not recognized in the study. (Sutton)
  • SmartCards were never acted upon. (DeGrosky)
  • Changes are needed with our review and investigation processes. (DeGrosky and Aldrich)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Monday, October 22, 2012

TriData Study: Successes

We are a learning organization that looks back at our "roots." In part 2 of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Centers series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we look at the successes we have accomplished related to the study.

Here are some of the successes identified by our fire leaders:
  • Firefighter asked for their input regarding safety. (Sutton)
  • Creation of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. (DeGrosky, Cook, Sutton, Livingston, Fisher)
    • Cultural change
    • Awareness on human factors and how that affects behavior on the fire ground.
    • Focus on decision-making
    • Creation of experiential learning tools.
  • Better understanding of the science of fighting fire. (DeGrosky)
  • Creation of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center with a focus on high reliability organizing. (Browles, DeGrosky, Livingston, Aldrich, Glenn)
  • Right of refusal to turn down assignments. (Browles & Livingston)
  • On the job training. (Livingston, Fisher)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Friday, October 19, 2012

TriData Study: 10 Years Later

The Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness study, otherwise known as the TriData Study, has had significant impacts on the wildland fire community since its release in the late '90s. Researchers queried approximately 1,000 firefighters and presented a three-phase study with:
  • 19 principles
  • 86 goals
  • 200 implementation strategies
Over the next week we'll focus the TriData Study featuring the four-part video series created by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.

Check out our introduction to the series today and stay tuned for what a few fire leaders have to say about the study and its impacts on wildland fire next week. This is something that every fire leader should know.

Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leadership is in the Story

(Photo credit:
So, what do the lessons of Alice and the Cheshire cat, the tortoise and the hare, Stone Soup, Dorothy in Oz, and the Little Red Hen all have in common? Answer: they are all presented in "5 Important Leadership Lessons You Learned in Kindergarten" by Jesse Lyn Stoner.

Storytelling is woven into the fabric of our culture. When I became involved in wildland fire training development, I was told that one of the most important aspects of the NWCG curriculum is the instructor's experience. Being able to tell our stories is a powerful teaching tool. Not everyone has the gift of storytelling, but nearly everyone has a story to tell.

Many years ago, I proposed a storytelling self-development tool for use by wildland firefighters. At that time, I was told another entity was working on a similar project. As with many initiatives, I don't think it came to fruition. It has been two years since presented the tool to blog readers, so here it is again:

“How-To” Suggestion:
  1. Download and read LILA Harvard University's Deborah Sole's and Daniel Gray Wilson’s "Storytelling in Organizations: The Power and Traps of Using Stories to Share Knowledge in Organizations" which can be found online at
  2. Obtain and read the book Leadership Lessons from West Point from the Leader to Leader Institute. Authors of this publication set the example of using storytelling to bring very real leadership experiences to life.
  3. Research storytelling as a leadership development tool. A few printed and Internet resources are listed below as possible guides for your knowledge quest. (Supervisors: Consider adding storytelling references to your local leadership library.)
  4. Implement storytelling when communicating; use the information you have gained from your research.
  5. Document experiences where storytelling was used to handle a leadership challenge (bring about change, encourage teamwork, share knowledge, transmit the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles,etc.). Indicate whether the experience was effective or ineffective; if ineffective, document what could have been differently for future reference.
  6. Create a personal storytelling library for future use. Revisit your storytelling library to keep the information updated and relevant.
  7. Continually practice and improve your skill.
  8. Pay it forward. Share this leadership development tool with members of your crew; become a storytelling mentor.

Printed Resources:

Denning, Steve. The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. Jossey-Bass. April 2005.
  • Addresses “how to use storytelling to deal with the most difficult challenges faced by leadership today” including:
    • Motivate others to action
    • Build trust in you
    • Build trust in your company (branding)
    • Transmit your values
    • Get others working together
    • Share knowledge
    • Tame the grapevine
    • Create and share your vision
    • Solve the paradox of innovation
    • Use narrative to transform your organization
Denning, Steve. Squirrel Inc.—A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling. Elsevier. June 2004.
  • Addresses “the use of storytelling to address leadership challenges”
    • How to bring about change
    • How to communicate who you are
    • How to transmit values
    • How to foster collaboration
    • How to stop rumors
    • How to share knowledge
Leader to Leader Institute (Major Doug Crandall, editor). Leadership Lessons from West Point. Jossey-Bass. 2007.
  • This publication is the ultimate reference for using storytelling for leadership development.
    • “In our classrooms, as in this book, we bring forth concepts and theory, relate stories from our own leadership endeavors, and help cadets make sense of their own experiences as they look toward the future. Throughout this book, we open a window into this world of leadership development that is the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point and share some of our candid reflections, compelling stories, best practices, and frontline ideas.” (Major Doug Crandall, xxvi)
Simmons, Annette. The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion through Storytelling. Perseus Books Group. June 2002.
  • Addresses “six types of stories that will serve you well in your efforts to influence others”
    • Who I Am Stories
    • Why I Am Here Stories
    • My Vision Story
    • Teaching Stories
    • Values in Action Stories
    • "I Know what you are Thinking" Stories
Internet Resources:
Stories from the Fireline can be a powerful self‑development tool. Effective use of the tool requires thought, organization, and practice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Common Threads

What do leaders have in common? Dr. Mike Useem (Director Center for Leadership and Change Management at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania) believes there are 15 principles that all great leaders share:

  1. Articulate a vision.
  2. Think and act strategically
  3. Honor the room.
  4. Take charge.
  5. Act decisively.
  6. Communicate persuasively.
  7. Motivate the troops.
  8. Embrace the front lines.
  9. Build leadership in others.
  10. Manage relations.
  11. Identify personal implications.
  12. Convey your character.
  13. Dampen over-optimism.
  14. Build a diverse top team.
  15. Place common interest first.
This video kicks off our series on those principles as provided in him book "The Leader's Checklist." 

Friday, October 12, 2012

We're Back!

We're back! At one time the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) shared our blog updates via their mobile app. Well, that feature was disabled, but it's BACK! Not only do you know when a new blog entry is available but also when reports and other great information is released by the LLC are available. Be "in the know" and download the app today by following the link below or clicking on the icon in the right margin of this blog page.

Wildland Fire LLC app - check it out on any phone!

Thanks for taking care of us, Wildland Fire LLC!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Caught Between Right and Right

Photo credit: Center for Public Trust

You cannot talk about leadership without talking about ethics. According to Merriam-Webster, ethics is "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." If you read the definition closely, you see that ethics does not focus on "bad" but gives "good" equal billing. The right-versus-right ethical dilemma causes us to pause and look deep within self.

Rushworth Kidder, Institute of Global Ethics, who passed away earlier this year left a great leadership legacy. In this talk, Kidder delves into the right versus right dilemma that often cuts us to our very core.

(Thank you Mark Stanford, Texas A&M Forest Service and member of the NWCG Leadership Committee, for referring this video.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Thanks to a very observant reader who noticed that our Facebook link was incorrect, we have updated the link on our sidebar. The old site actually redirected you to the National Interagency Fire Center's Facebook page (our official BLM sponsor). Therefore, be sure to visit the new link and "like" our page. We provide a variety of information and references beyond that found on the blog.

IGNITE the Spark for Leadership and become a fan today!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is Being Too Safe Putting You at Risk?

(Photo credit:
There is quite a debate ensuing around complexity and how humans respond to risk. A few fire veterans I have conversed with lately wonder if the risk aversion pendulum for safety has swung too far, that we are more risk averse, and that we are actually putting ourselves at greater risk.

In the Harvard Business Review blog article "What to Build Resilience? Kill the Complexity," Andrew Zolli weighs in on the subject addressing July's release of the final report of the 2009 Air France Flight 447 disaster which killed 280 people.

Over the next few months, we'll showcase some of the talk regarding the issue. Zolli's article will give you a foundation for our discussions. Check out a few of the concepts he presents.
Risk Compensation: As we add safety features to a system, people will often change their behavior to act in a riskier way, betting (often subconsciously) that the system will be able to save them.
Risk Homeostatis: Suggests that, much like a thermostat, we each have an internal, preferred level of risk tolerance — if one path for expressing one's innate appetite for risk is blocked, we will find another. 
Cognitive Diversity: Getting people to think more broadly and diversely about the systems they inhabit. 
 Ask Yourself
  • Do the safety features you have built into your firefighting equipment change your behavior to act in a riskier way?
  • Do you have an appetite for risk? If yes, do you have a mechanism to keep that appetite in check?
  • Can you determine the difference between operating in areas of vulnerability or using the keys of resiliency?
  • Has your organization adopted the tenets of a high-reliability organization? 
  • Have you developed a culture as a learning organization using pre- an post-mortem exercises?
  • Do you embrace cognitive diversity?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Staff Ride App

It is approaching about six months since the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program released the Staff Ride App for use. Our Fall meeting is scheduled soon and we will be discussing our next steps with the Staff Ride App. With the amount of activity that the Rocky Mountain Area saw this year I was wondering if any crews (hand, engine, helicopter or other) were able to take advantage of travel routes home and the availability of the Staff Ride App. for an opportunistic visit to South Canyon and if they had some feedback? There has been some feedback from a few sources, and one magazine article that I am aware of. If you had an opportunity to look through the Staff Ride App., especially if you were able to take it up on the hill, post up and let us know what you think.


Quite a few of our posts lately have focused on the formation of veteran fire crews. Here is a perspective from a veteran who has moved into the private sector. Viewers can see why their incorporation into the wildland fire service has been so successful. Here are a few parallels:
  • Structured and routine work environment
  • Work ethic and value system
  • Uniform and personal professional equipment (PPE)
  • Technical  skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Committed 
  • Rugged work environment
  • Irregular work schedules

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Surround Yourself with Good People

(Photo credit:
In "The Job of a Leader with Jack Welch and Bill Hybels," Jack Welch shares his perspective on how good, secure leaders surround themselves with smart, talented people.

Here are a few highlights:
  • Draw out the people who make you smarter.
  • Learn from those around you.
  • Hire smarter people. Don't hire "dopes."
  • Promote your people. Don't hide them. 
  • Encourage your people to grow.
  • Don't envy your talented people.
  • Celebrate your successful people.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Resetting the Moral Compass

If you are a student of leadership and follow the experts, there is a lot of chatter regarding ethics and character. In many of the books I read or speeches I hear, there is a sense of urgency to address this leadership concern.

Dr. Rushworth Kidder, Institute of Global Ethics, shared his insights in a Washington Speakers Bureau presentation "Moral Courage: The Guts of a Tough Decision" prior to his death in March 2012. In this talk, he leaves us with a lot to think about regarding our future.

  • A paradigm shift is occurring:
    • Attention to ethics.
    • Capacity for technology to be leverage our ethics in ways we have never seen before.
    • Unethical impulses are not capable of producing global, immediate, and catastrophic effects.
  • Leadership development for the next generation must focus on ethics and character.