K-9 Clipper Joins Fire Investigation Unit

By: Donald P. Cialone Jr., FBNY

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Unit (FIU) recently added Clipper, an Accelerant Detection Canine (ADC)to their team. Clipper, a purebred black Labrador, and his handler Detective Scott Kuhlmey graduated in early December from a 12 week certification program at the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia. 


Scott and Clipper are part of a larger investigative team including Detectives Shaun Hedlger and Lee Richard who operate three response vehicles out of an office in downtown Buffalo and at the Sheriff’s Bunker in Orchard Park. All FIU investigators are crossed trained in crime scene investigation and evidence processing and have completed the FBI Post-Blast Investigators School for post blast investigation.  


The unit conducts all arson and sex offense background checks for the 94 volunteer fire companies in Erie County. They are also available to assist with or conduct fire investigations for any of those fire companies as well as law enforcement agencies in the county. 


Training began on the world’s first Accelerant Detection Canine’s at the ATF on May 1, 1986. The ATF currently has 59 ADC Teams active in the United States and over 300 canines in service worldwide. 


The ADC program uses classical conditioning to train the canine to associate the odor of ignitable liquids with a food reward methodology meaning Clipper only eats when he detects an accelerate. Clipper and his handler train up to 20 times a day 7 days a week. Clipper is trained to detect 0.1 parts per million enabling him to determine trace amounts of accelerants of ignitable liquids from fire debris. 


Repetitive training keeps Clipper sharp and trains him to pinpoint the source of the target odor which enables Scott to obtain productive samples for lab validation, although Clipper is capable of detecting below lab reporting thresholds. To date Clipper and Scott have conducted over 6,000 training searches indoor, outdoor, and in vehicles within various environments. 


Clipper is capable of detecting Light Petroleum Distillates, Medium Petroleum Distillates, Heavy Petroleum Distillates, Gasoline, Isoparaffinic Products, and Naphthenic/Paraffinic products. 


Training in Methodology, Terminology/Tone inflections, Grooming/Health checks, Canine Wellness/First Aid, Canine Olfaction, Advanced handling skills, Search Patterns/Techniques, Fire Chemistry/Dynamics, Evidence collection, Accelerants, Contamination, Record documentation, and Courtroom testimony were all part of Scott’s training during the program.


The ECSO Accelerant Detection Canine Unit is a regional asset deployable not only to Erie County but anywhere in New York State or nationally as part of the ATF National Response Team. When considering deployment the request should be made as early into an incident as possible because ignitable liquids are susceptible to different evaporation and dilution rates.


When requesting the ADC the unit requests that you provide the following to their dispatch: Type of fire/incident, injuries, point of contact information, and whether or not you require a hot or cold response. You can contact the ECSO Fire Investigation Unit at their dispatch at (716) 858-2903.

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Tips for the New Chief Officer

By: Donald P. Cialone Jr., FBNY

It’s the first week of the New Year and a lot of you are starting out as a newly elected Chief of your department. With any new position there are going to be growing pains, that’s expected. Mistakes are going to be made, that’s part of the process. The key is to learn from those mistakes and use them to help you become successful. Over time and with experience you’ll grow into a great leader. 


Here’s a few tips I put together to help you transition into your new leadership role.


Meet with your Line Officers: If you haven’t already, meet with your Line Officers to establish your ground rules and clarify how you’d like to see things run. Review any new policies or procedures that you would like to see implemented so that you are all on the same page.


Meet with your Appointed Officers: Again, if you haven’t done this already you should meet with your Appointed Officers to explain what is expected of them, review any new policies or procedures, and establish ground rules. Make sure to include all Captains, Lieutenants, Fire Police, Training Officers, & Safety Officers. If you want things to run smoothly everyone needs to be on the same page especially these Officers, they are the ones entrusted by you to ensure things run smoothly and according to your established rules.  


Review your SOP’s/SOG’s: Use one of your first training sessions to review your departments SOP’s/SOG’s. Take time to explain why certain policies exist and highlight specific policies or guidelines that tend to be problematic. 


Review Training Records: Take time to review the Training Records of your personnel. Ensure that they are up to date on all mandatory training and that all individuals are participating at a level that you are comfortable with. By reviewing these records, you should understand deficiencies in training that need to be addressed in the coming year. 


Establish a Training Schedule: Take time to establish a diverse training schedule that will not only keep people’s skill levels up but will keep them engaged with new and interesting topics. Ensure that all required PESH/OSHA training is scheduled and attended by those individuals who need it. Whenever possible try and run the same training and drills for your dayside and evening personnel.


Assign Officers to Probationary Members: While every department has different training methods for probationary members they should always be assigned an Officer to work with them. Do not let new members learn things on the fly, they will almost certainly develop bad habits that will be hard if not impossible to break. 


Keep Members Engaged: Mo matter their age, there is a roll for everyone in the fire service. Utilize everyone’s talent to your advantage. Encourage them to participate in drills and training. When training use senior members to change SCBA bottles or for traffic control.


Squash Problems Quickly: Every fire department has individuals who thrive on chaos. It is important that you set a tone early on that nonsense will not be tolerated. On the same token, resolve problems quickly. Don’t let issues fester and get worse over time, squash them fast. You’ll be amazed at how effective an impromptu sit down can be.   

  

Communicate: Communicate constantly with your personnel. Most people want to be kept informed, even of seemingly minor things. When Chief or Line Officers keep too many secrets people tend to distrust them. With the exception of personnel matters relay as much information as possible through text alerts, memos, white board messages, newsletters, or bulletins. People tend to take more pride in an organization when they feel they are part of that team.


Treat Everyone with Respect: This is paramount! Fire Departments attract people from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, and it is necessary for the Chief Officer to remain respectful and professional with everyone in the department especially, those members they disagree with or dislike. 


Review Incident Command: Review the Incident Command System with your Assistants and your Line Officers. Be sure that you are using the same phraseology and that everyone has a solid understanding of how ICS will function in an actual incident. I highly recommend using it regularly for smaller incidents like carbon monoxide calls and MVA’s so that when something major comes along everything clicks for you. 

Also, ensure that all Officers are schooled in giving quality initial reports when they are the first to arrive at an incident scene. It is highly important to create a picture of the scene for the units coming in behind you so they can start preparing to leap into action. 


Check Your Equipment: Ensure that all equipment and tools are started and in good working order. Ensure that all supplies are stocked up and ready for the next incident. Assign Officers to do weekly checks of the apparatus and equipment they carry.


Drill with Your Neighbors: The scene of a fire is not the place to find out you have equipment that isn’t compatible with your neighboring department. It is important that not only you know what equipment they carry on their apparatus but that you constantly drill with them and establish operational norms so that when an actual fire or incident occurs everything runs smoothly. ed

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Update Your Run Cards: It seems like with every new Chief mutual aid plans change, which is fine, just remember to notify your dispatch office of the changes. Also, make sure you talk to the Chief of the department(s) you plan on calling in for mutual aid to ensure they have the equipment, manpower, and capabilities that you’re looking for. If you plan on utilizing a neighboring FAST/RIT ensure that they are available all hours of the day and have a backup plan just in case they can’t respond. Again, speak with the Chief to ensure they are ready, willing, and able to be your FAST/RIT.


Establish Alarms: There’s nothing worse than listening to a Chief during a working fire try and figure out on the spot who he’s going to call in next on mutual aid. This should already be established prior to a fire or other incident so you’re not wasting time or sounding foolish over the radio. Establish ahead of time what the Balance of your First Alarm will be if you have a confirmed fire as well as a Second, Third or possibly a Fourth Alarm. Also, establish mutual aid plans ahead of time for incidents such as Mass Casualty or Active Shooter Incidents. 


Familiarize Yourself with Resources: Not every fire department is equipped or trained to handle every type of incident however, it is important that you know where to get the help you need during an actual incident so you’re not wasting time when they are needed most. Take time to research the available resources that you might need should an actual incident occur. There are likely departments with the kind of resources you might need all over your county that you can utilize if you know where they are located and how to get a hold of them. Also, there are some specialty and technical rescue teams in the western New York Region, educate yourself as to where they are located and how to get a hold of them should you need them for an actual incident.   


Work with your Emergency Manager: Pretty much every city, town, and village has an Emergency Manager on staff or on call. They usually are a wealth of information and resources. I would highly advise you to give them a call and have a meeting to pick their brains. Find out what type of resources your municipality has, what surrounding municipalities have, and what neighboring fire department resources might be available to you if need them.  

First Net Arrives in Western New York

By: Donald P. Cialone Jr., FBNY

With so many people tying up lines in emergencies, responders were never able to use their cell phones to communicate. This all came to a head after communications challenges during the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 Commission recommended the establishment of a single, interoperable network for public safety. 


For years, public safety organizations lobbied Congress to make this recommendation a reality. In 2012 Congress established the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) based on public safety’s express concerns and desires.


To truly design the FirstNet network for public safety by public safety – a distinction that makes it unique in American telecommunications history – FirstNet continuously consults with local, state/territory, tribal and federal public safety agencies across the country.


Over the past several years, FirstNet has collaborated with public safety stakeholders and leadership from each state and territory. Never before has the public safety community had the opportunity to provide input towards the creation of a nationwide broadband network tailored specifically to meet their needs as they save lives and protect communities across the nation.


A governance board of 15 members was created that’s made up of telecommunications experts, federal government appointees and public safety officials in an effort to make sure expertise from every aspect of the network got a say in how it works. When AT&T came forward with a plan, FirstNet was fast-tracked five years ahead of schedule and is now able to focus on deploying all over the United States.


What is FirstNet?


FirstNet is a dedicated wireless LTE network assigned to all first responders including fire, EMS, law enforcement, security, urgent care, doctors and nurses, that gives priority over the public. The two main benefits of this network are First Priority and Preemption. 


First Priority means first responders connect first so they don’t have to compete with non-emergency users for a connection, they will have a priority over the public, so if there are ten people on the network and there is an event the network will knock off those ten people so that. 


Preemption will make sure first responders have the bandwidth they need by detouring others off the network. “Preemption is like an HOV lane, you can travel 70 mph, and no one will disturb you”. Says Haris Jamal, Store Manager of the 8200 Transit Road location.


What network does FirstNet work on?


The system currently works on AT&T’s network, however once the system is complete FirstNet will be a single, nationwide, interoperable LTE network dedicated to public safety communications. AT&T has won exclusive rights to run the system for the next 25 years through their government contract and are liable for its operational capabilities.


How is the coverage on the FirstNet network?


FirstNet wireless coverage reaches more than 99 percent of Americans, extends to 2.74 million square miles, covering 76.2 percent of the continental United States and the District of Columbia.  FirstNet will provide the same services, support, and capabilities that are provided on the mainland to public safety responders in Hawaii and Alaska. FirstNet service will also be provided on all five of the U.S. island territories.  FirstNet primary users will receive priority and preemption across the entire nationwide LTE network.


What are some of the benefits of FirstNet?


Some of the more interesting features FirstNet offers are: Sat/COWS, Drones, Enhanced PTT and an Application Ecosystem. Sat/COWS which is short for Satellite Cellular on Wheels, also called deployables, are mobile satellite trucks that can boost coverage for commercial customers during a disaster or event who aren’t on the FirstNet system already. There is a cost for their use although during a disaster FEMA is likely to pick up the cost. There are two Sat/COWS dedicated to the Greater Buffalo/Rochester area.


FirstNet Drones can be tethered to a device and be used to inspect disaster scenes or improve cellular communication during a disaster. 


First Net offers an Enhanced Push To Talk (EPTT) and Voice feature which works on WiFi as well as their regular network. EPTT can be tied in to existing mobile radio systems as well as used to send PDF files, voice recordings, text messages, location services, geo fencing, pictures and videos. 


Lastly, the Application Ecosystem is basically an app store for applications that will make life easier for first responders. Some of the apps include: Communication and Fleet Management Tools, Push-to-Talk Communications, Work Force Management Solutions, Device Security Solutions, Private Connection Solutions, VPN Solutions, Cloud Storage Solutions, Content Delivery, and Virtual Data Center Services


What plan choices are available with FirstNet?


You have two general plan options: 


Responder Plan options are: 2GB plan for Smartphone for $26.50 per month, 5GB plan for Smartphone for $39.00 per month, 100MB plan for Feature Phones for $10.99 a month, or 2GB plan for Tablet for $21.00 a month or 5GB plan for Tablet for $34.00 a month


Unlimited Responder Plan options are: Unlimited Smartphone plan (talk, text, and data) for $39.99 a month, Unlimited Smartphone plan (talk/text/data/mobile hot spot/tethering) with tethering for $44.99 a month, or Unlimited Tablet plan (mobile hotspot/tethering) with tethering $37.99 a month.  


All plans are true unlimited data plans with no throttling of data. Tethering can be done via hot spot, wirelessly, or via Bluetooth. All plans come with roaming to Canada and Mexico.


How does this work if I already have AT&T wireless service?


Your existing line can be migrated into a FirstNet mobile connection, you can even keep your same phone number. You just have to go through the verification process.


How does this work if I have service with another wireless provider?


Your phone number can be ported into FirstNet. Simply visit an AT&T store so they can discuss your options and walk you through the verification process and determine your phones compatibility. AT&T is offering a $200 bill credit for new plan activations.


Does FirstNet have Family Plans?


Yes. Each First Responder is allowed one line of service on FirstNet and their families can be ported to AT&T on a separate account and participate in the First Responder Family Appreciation Offer which offers a 25% discount on all family member lines. 


The Family Plans break down as follows: 


AT&T Unlimited Premium Plans: 1 line-$60/month, 2 lines-$112.50/month, 3 lines-$127.50/month, 4 lines-$142.50/month.  

AT&T Unlimited & More Plans: 1 line-$52.50/month, 2 lines-$93.75/month, 3 lines-$108.75/month, 4 lines-$120/month


How do I sign up for FirstNet?


You can sign up for FirstNet at any local AT&T store. First Responders will fall into two categories: First Responder Volunteer or Employee and Professional First Responder Employee or Department (District).


If you are an individual First Responder, you can obtain service for your own personal cell phone on your own however signing up does require credentials from your agency such as a badge or department ID. A store manager will provide you with an activation email. Once you receive the email, you’ll have a few minutes to complete your information. This step is so FirstNet can validate your involvement in a public safety organization and establishing a passcode.


After you complete validation, you will receive a second email from FirstNet that contains an activation/authentication code. Save this email and present it to the AT&T associate. Upon completion of your FirstNet activation you must complete the verification step located at firstnet.com/verify. Your AT&T associate will assist you in completing this process.


Where do I find out more about FirstNet?


For further information go to firstnet.com. 


If your looking for further information on signing yourself or your family up for FirstNet contact Transit Road (Amherst) Store Manager Haris Jamal at HJ673Y@att.com or via phone at 716.639.0673. If your looking for further information on features and systems for your fire department or district contact FirstNet’s Principle Consultant for Western New York, Marie Farrell at marie.farrell@att.com or via phone at 315.830.4994. 


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