All Clear - A Firefighter Health & Wellness Podcast

Bonus After Show Conversation - Biggest Challenges To The Fire Service with Michael Caviness

August 18, 2023 Travis McGaha / Eric Stephenson Season 1 Episode 0
Bonus After Show Conversation - Biggest Challenges To The Fire Service with Michael Caviness
All Clear - A Firefighter Health & Wellness Podcast
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All Clear - A Firefighter Health & Wellness Podcast
Bonus After Show Conversation - Biggest Challenges To The Fire Service with Michael Caviness
Aug 18, 2023 Season 1 Episode 0
Travis McGaha / Eric Stephenson

Ever wondered why some fire departments seem to excel while others struggle? In this enlightening conversation with Michael Caviness, he reveals the surprising truth: it's not about having the most certifications, but rather about effective leadership who value training and personal growth. Caviness shares his unique perspective on the North Carolina fire service, highlighting the critical importance of in-service training as a cost-effective solution for departments that can't afford expensive courses. 

But the insights don't stop there.  He offers a fresh perspective on how education in general subjects like English can enhance a firefighter's ability to comprehend data and write reports. You'll hear compelling discussions about the importance of experience over job tenure, the role of self-initiative, and the real challenges that the fire service faces.

Support the Show.

Thanks for listening to All Clear!

You can contact us with questions, suggestions or just to say hi at our website
allclearpodcast.com


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered why some fire departments seem to excel while others struggle? In this enlightening conversation with Michael Caviness, he reveals the surprising truth: it's not about having the most certifications, but rather about effective leadership who value training and personal growth. Caviness shares his unique perspective on the North Carolina fire service, highlighting the critical importance of in-service training as a cost-effective solution for departments that can't afford expensive courses. 

But the insights don't stop there.  He offers a fresh perspective on how education in general subjects like English can enhance a firefighter's ability to comprehend data and write reports. You'll hear compelling discussions about the importance of experience over job tenure, the role of self-initiative, and the real challenges that the fire service faces.

Support the Show.

Thanks for listening to All Clear!

You can contact us with questions, suggestions or just to say hi at our website
allclearpodcast.com


Also Visit Our Sponsors - Studio Print Shop at
studioprintshop.com

Speaker 1:

Sometimes the best conversations happen after the show. Here's what happens when we turn the mic back on for one of those conversations with Michael Kavanis. Also, please note that Eric started with the question what is the biggest obstacle in fire service faces in the state of North Carolina?

Speaker 2:

The biggest obstacle that I see in the state is our man. This is a hot seat here. People aren't going to like this answer, but I believe it comes down to we have bad fire chiefs that run people off that don't understand. They think certification is required. What's required is training and they don't understand certification. So they liked it At the office, at the state fire marshal's office.

Speaker 2:

I'd walk into a department and then tell these guys what training they're supposed to do and I would stand there and say did you know that your fire chief can check you off? They're the authority having jurisdiction and they can do everything. All training can be done right here in this station. And their eyes get real big. They start looking at the fire chief and the fire chief says thank you, you can get out.

Speaker 2:

But it comes down to a lot of times. It's all about leadership. It's all about knowing there's some lazy fire chiefs. If you're running a certification and that's all you do at your station, you're not running a training program. You're running a certification program and that's not the level of training you should be at. You should either be well above or well below, if that makes sense. Yes, certification is an inch deep and a mile wide. Okay, it covers all the basics for liability for that fire chief. That's why fire chiefs do that and I understand that part. But if I take you out and teach you a two or three hour ladders class hands on, teach you all the parts of it, how to properly care for it, how to put it up, how to climb, how to use that works the same as the old OSFM sponsored fire rescue commission class on ladders. It is that I don't know. Would that take 15 hours for that ladders class Something?

Speaker 3:

like that.

Speaker 2:

You can go out in the back of your everybody's got a ladder. You can go out and throw it up against the side of the building, work on it different ways and that counts exactly. If you document it, it works exactly the same way as having that certification credit. And you just can't get that. So that's what I see as the biggest problem with training is. We are so reliant upon certifications in the state that it is needed. All paid firefighters, it's a requirement.

Speaker 3:

But in a lot of places.

Speaker 2:

It's just they need training, quality training. They need people not to be lazy, they need to be led, they need to be trained. I had a great chief he just Kyle Dixon just made 20 years at Franklinville fire department and he he can call him a lot of things, but he's not lazy. The man made us get out there and we trained from seven to 10 every Monday night, and it didn't matter about certifications at that point we trained because that's what we need to do. Oh, you need to. You need to figure out how to pull up on an apartment load or whatever. Where you're, you're disconnecting work, we're pulling way off in the distance. How are you going to do that? We went out and tried different things and figured out what worked for us.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and you were good at it and for the most part, hopefully.

Speaker 2:

Some of us would be good at it, some of us wouldn't, but yes, you know and what you were just saying.

Speaker 3:

You know people get so reliant on that piece of paper. You know that it's a safety net, you know, or they just push that. You need certification, you need certification, you need certification. Well, I know a lot of people that hold the certification, but it doesn't make him good at what they do. You know, you gotta get out there and you gotta work. And here's another quality part of it.

Speaker 2:

What sets my community college apart is my FTEs. The both of my FTEs are not certification.

Speaker 3:

That was going to be my follow-up question was what is the ratio? Or, you know, is there? I guess there's probably not really a sweet spot between certification and non-certification style classes, but your community college in particular, what do you think that ratio is between certification versus other fire trainings that you guys put together?

Speaker 2:

We are probably our FTE total. We probably get 30 to 40 percent of our FTE total out of certification classes, but we primarily deal in in-service training. That's the big thing. One of the things that I did when I first came in was I established, I went and I got every chief, tried to get every chief and every training officer on the payroll and let them know hey, I will pay you to do what you've been doing for free, for free, every single day at the firehouse. Yes.

Speaker 3:

And that anybody that works for a community college needs to be listening to this with their ears wide open right now, because that is a way, especially for a smaller community college, to be creating those FTEs and unfortunately, a lot of colleges are not doing that.

Speaker 2:

That is cheap training, if that makes sense, that is cheap training. That's being done. We're just capturing the training.

Speaker 3:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

We are logging the training. That requires work and then it requires it requires a lot of you just have to stay on it. The paperwork is not going to come back all perfect here. You know it's going to be. They may a volunteer department may only have three people. This week, they may have 15 next if they average. If they average 10 they like here the departments do, every other week as far as training, or twice a month and if you'll average 10 people per training or whatever what that does, because that is cheap training. If a department it allows me leeway because we are making money off of it and therefore when a expensive class comes in, I can give, I can say yes easier if that makes sense.

Speaker 3:

You're reading my mind because I was just going to mention that specific thing. You start making that money on the, the daily training activities that these fire departments are doing when they have a a big specialty style class. Or you're gonna farm somebody in To come do a weekend program or something like that and it's gonna cost. It's gonna cost some bucks. You know that's not gonna be free. Guess what? You've been padding that or you've been working up to that point and you're gonna be able to put that specialty class on.

Speaker 2:

It allows me to bring in Raymond Cormick in a couple weeks right or in September. We just names that. You hear Aaron Fields will come later this year.

Speaker 3:

It's nozzle forward yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, to be able to. They they come, those are big names and they come with a price tag. They're in demand and they and they really are there. They're Magnetic speakers, people are drawn to them and but it's not about making money. It's what our entities ask for.

Speaker 2:

Right and and but there is a financial model there. So every that the other stuff helps me, and so that's looking at it from a strategic standpoint and Trying to say you know, looking, I had the leeway. Not all depart, not all community colleges look at it same way. There are some colleges in the state that will say if you do not have 10 people in this class, you shut that class down, and so what?

Speaker 3:

exactly what you're talking about.

Speaker 2:

Those are my best advertisers, because we do not cancel classes Does. We do everything in our power not to cancel a class. I don't care if two people show up, we will run that. If one person shows up, we will. We will try to do what we can. We will teach it to them and then we also allow people to show up, even if it's not the first day. I don't, I can't count them, but they're gonna get the hours and we'll send in their certification stuff. I get no FT's off of that, I don't care. They needed the training.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome, so I'm glad to hear that so can I ask kind of a follow-up question to that and sometimes the B-roll conversations are the best.

Speaker 1:

My follow-up question to that?

Speaker 1:

I was in fire officer three a while back and we were talking about Education and you know there is a line between training and then working toward your degree and the point that this battalion chief was making was the fact that the fire service in general has become so obsessed, like you mentioned, with certifications and you know, do you have this piece of paper, do you have something that says you know how to do TR to this level?

Speaker 1:

But he also brought that back around and he said you know, there are so many certifications and so many people have them they're almost devalued now. And he mentioned, like you know, how many people have an associates degree in like fire protection technology, whether it be a bachelor's in fire administration. He said there's really no value. We need to be guiding firefighters away from that. And I thought that was kind of a weird way to express that because if you learn what you're doing and if you get good at it and you see you're going to make a life out of it, you know, go as far as you can in learning and education never hurts anybody, but I didn't know how you felt about comments like that.

Speaker 2:

That is like a that's a touchy subject right there To say, to say, to tell somebody to stop learning or stop that learning is not worth anything, that certification is not doing you any good. I mean, how many times were you told that?

Speaker 1:

years ago Well. I think he was aiming no good, I think he was aiming more toward the more toward, like the degree side of it. Okay, as opposed to the training part of it.

Speaker 2:

I will tell you degrees. So the fire protection technology degree that we run the FPT program is is not for a beginning firefighter, exactly. That's something different. So people go to a four-year college. So if you're a nurse, typically, and you're going to get your BSN, you would go, or an engineer. You don't go get experience in it and then go that they don't. Let you start as an engineer at NASA and then you go to college and get something. But so you go, you learn these concepts and the theoretical and then you put it in.

Speaker 2:

But in the FPT program, where we, you are taught these skills ahead of a matter of fact, you can start a volunteer department with zero skills and be a firefighter that night. You know you can start that. You spilled out the application. They put you on your, your firefighter that night. But the education piece for us, for FPTR, is about fire protection management really. So it's a really captain and above that it even I don't even know how much it benefits captains. I want literary captains. I want them to be able to read, I want them to be able to write good reports.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

And so that's what the program probably helps you more than anything. We have a saying that every, everything is workforce development. That's what we're trying to gear the college towards. Even even an English class. How does that help? Well, well, they have to be able to read, interpret data. They have to be able to write well, because we're writing legal documents.

Speaker 2:

every time we fill out a fire report, that could be a potential legal document, and you want that written fairly well, and so that's where workforce development, trying to get those skills I have trouble with anybody saying I think that is an older mentality. That I do think is is starting to go away. I think what that guy meant was there needs to be value in it. Ok, that's what he's you know what is the value, and we should all ask that what is the value of a certification? Are there too many certified firefighters running around? It depends.

Speaker 1:

It depends how many firefighters can do their job.

Speaker 2:

Right. What does that mean? And yeah, tell my instructors, you are judged by the worst student you pass. The worst person to come out of your program will always be how your program is judged. That's why it comes across as worthless. If you're giving it away, it is worthless. We probably fail about as much as any of our other college around. They get to us and we do not. We hold the line, I hold the line. Of mind struck back the instructors. I make sure that if you come out of this, you've got a pretty reasonable chance. At least the day you did it you could do the skills, because that's what I preach at them nonstop do skills.

Speaker 1:

We do get rusty though.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but firefighter is a skill based performance. It is not. You know, eric, you ever show up on a fire and get asked a multiple choice question.

Speaker 2:

No, sir, it's not the way it works, it's the way we test. But it has nothing to do with the rest. So it's all about how you use those skills and trying to get to that point, and so pattern recognition, when to do things, why experience matters, it's all, but it all comes together. Experience is sort of education. You know the new person. I remember going and being terrified at Burlington I would have to cook for 12 people. And education, the training that I received there, taught me how to be able to do that. I can. I can say, okay, there's 12 people. I know I need about a half pound of meat per person. We need this many potatoes. The serving size on the back don't mean jack. You know double that. You learn those things as you go and I became competent at it. Firefighting is the same.

Speaker 3:

And it is. It goes back to that that age old adage of you know, 10 years on the job doesn't equate to 10 years of experience. You know what? What have you done with that 10 years that you've been on the job? You know, are you one of those guys that's not doing a whole lot, you doing the bare minimum? Are you one of those hard charters that's out there working every day to perfect what you're doing? And so, yeah, I agree with you.

Speaker 2:

When you see some of the kids and I do I do think in my head sometimes. I see them and I'm like you need to slow down, you need to, but you don't want. I never want to kill their enthusiasm. They're very enthusiastic, they're spouting off the mouth, they're young, they're full of energy. But this, the saying you can always steer you can't steer a parked car right, that's love. That's not moving at all. You can't do anything with them until you get them moving. That kid that you can. You can slow them down. You can't give them initiative. That's all from within. So as much as I want to say stuff, sometimes I've really, I really bite my tongue and say you know what? We were all like that and they will learn. Or at least I'm sorry, the good firefighters were like that, they were brash, they were. You don't know what, you don't know. You say too much. You think you know more. I can remember going in my first early fires and not knowing enough to be scared.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

And that's. I just did not know enough.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you look back and you say, holy crap, we were doing what.

Speaker 2:

Bulletproof. I was absolutely bulletproof. You've come in behind me. Chimney fell, just all kinds of things, and you know people are screaming. Did not know enough to be scared.

Speaker 3:

Yep, just enough to be dangerous. Yep, well, I I greatly appreciate you answering those those follow questions and again being here with us tonight. If anybody has any questions for you, michael, what? What is the easiest way for them to get in touch with you?

Speaker 2:

It's always email um just because, like today, I was in meetings one meeting all day, so it's just. I can check emails during meetings.

Speaker 3:

And, just like you said before you, you just now saw my, my voicemail from last Wednesday. Yes, I'm terrible, answer the phone, you slow. Texting too, I am, I am slow, so what, uh, what's your?

Speaker 2:

email Emails Michaelcavenus at rcccedu About gave my DOI email address, but it's rcccedu.

Speaker 1:

And, you see, we, we will have some unfiltered content like this that will be available to those folks that uh so choose to hear, and this will be a special additional episode that has dropped. So if you're here in this, consider yourself very fortunate. Okay, thank you, michael. We appreciate it. We appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

I have a very unfiltered, unfiltered opinion there and I don't, I don't, I'm careful about that, but, um, that is, I'm a firmly it's necessary information.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

We'll let you listen to it before we drop it. Yeah, all right, you have been listening to all clear presented by the North Carolina firefighter cancer alliance and the first responders peer support network. All clear is written and produced by Travis McGathey and Eric Stevenson and recorded on Riverside FM. Opinions and views expressed by guests Do not necessarily reflect the views of the podcast. Please subscribe and rate us on your podcast app of choice and we'll see you soon.

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