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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

It's never easy to be candid about your shortfalls

Editor's note: The Colerain Township, Ohio, Fire Department's report into the deaths of two firefighters says basic mistakes contributed to the deaths. Read the full story here and check out Editorial Advisor Adam K. Thiel's perspective below.

This is an important report for several reasons; some are obvious in the lessons learned, and some are more subtle.

Frankly, there's not much new in this report that we haven't seen in many others through the years; and I think if we're all honest with ourselves, we know that any of our departments could have a similar "day of days."

Regardless, I think the Colerain Township Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services deserves great appreciation, from all of us, for producing such a comprehensive investigation of a tragedy that all of its members are still feeling.

It's never easy to be candid about your shortfalls and mistakes, especially after a line-of-duty-death.

And that's my point: why do we (all of us) tend to wait until we experience the worst-case scenario to put ourselves, and our departments, through the wringer of self-examination?

Some departments do a great job with "tailboard critiques," post-incident analyses, and after-action reporting for significant incidents.

In other departments, they simply go through the motions, without the level of candor and honesty demanded by the risks of not getting things right the next time.

Does your department have a formal after-action review process? If not, start now ... before it's too late.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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