Being a fire chief is never an easy job. Whether you lead a volunteer company of 10 or a career department of several thousand, your bottom line is, or should be, the physical safety and mental and emotional wellness of your men and women.
In 1997, I wrote the Grieving Behind the Badge training program because I realized that mental and emotional health were not being addressed by a vast majority of fire departments. Unfortunately, the story remains the same today for many departments in North America. We continue to focus on the statistical number gathering rather than addressing the needs of firefighters. In other words, we take count of those who suffer from post traumatic stress (PTS) or have died by suicide rather than reviewing and implementing noteworthy programs that provide lifesaving information on depression, PTS, and suicide prevention/intervention. Continue reading Five Questions on Department Mental Health Every Fire Chief Should Review→
By the time I was a junior in high school, I knew that I was going to be a police officer. My sense of right and wrong had always been strong, and I was the one who often stood between bullies and the bullied. I knew without a doubt that this was my calling – to don the uniform, badge, and gun.
At seventeen, I became a police explorer, Troop 247 to be exact. The first meeting was at the Harker Heights Police Department. I walked into the first meeting not knowing anyone, and told them I would someday work for that very same department. They laughed, but I knew then this would be the place for my life’s work. When I was told I had to learn at least half of the 100 required 10-codes and half of the phonetic alphabet, I memorized all 100 of them and Adam through Zebra. I got excited every time I was given permission to ride with the officers. Even traffic stops fascinated me – everything did. I watched, and I learned. Immediately upon graduating high school, I began taking Criminal Justice classes at the local community college, and, as they say, the rest is history. I was hired two weeks after I turned 21. Continue reading Life Outside of the Police Badge: A Story of Alcoholism and Sobriety→
On March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps killing 149 passengers and crew, along with Andreas Lubitz the copilot who, through skillful use of the autopilot supplemented by manual maneuvers of the plane’s speed, plowed the Airbus A320 into the mountainside. Headlines, news feeds, commentaries, and columns frenzied to somehow sanitize and characterize the horrible event for the public to more readily digest and have repeatedly referred to the copilot’s actions as “premeditated mass murder.”
Each time I see or hear it I have a visceral reaction to the attempt to neatly package in a sound bite what is an intensely complex psychological Rubik’s cube with implications far beyond airline passenger safety, pilot screening, and whether or not the industry needs to consider remote technological overrides. Continue reading The Crash of 9525 – A Suicide Mission→
The Sweeney Alliance
The Sweeney Alliance Receives Donation from Firefighters for Station House Retreat
Kerrville, Texas – Peggy Sweeney, founder and president of The Sweeney Alliance, a non-profit company, is pleased to announce that participants in the Indy on Fire event held on April 24, 2015 during FDIC in Indianapolis, made a generous donation of $700 which will go directly to assisting those firefighters who need help because they are struggling with an addiction, depression or job related stress.
Peggy Sweeney and her organization work closely with the Station House Retreat, a responder specific recovery facility located in Boynton Beach, Florida. This donation will help defray the cost of treatment, travel, co-pays and other related costs for those who can’t otherwise afford these expenses. Peggy and Station House Retreat are passionate about what they do together to help their brother and sister first responders.
We would like to thank Fire Critic, Iron Firemen.com, Model City Firefighter.com and Firefighter Wife for hosting the event, as well as the party sponsors – Spartan, TECGEN, Fire Cam, Black Diamond and Viking. There were over 1,000 people in attendance.
NEW YORK—It was hard to pinpoint when Glen Hochman’s mind began to unravel. Before he killed two of his teenage daughters, his three dogs, and himself during the early hours of Feb. 21, Hochman was a retired police officer who had received zero complaints during his 22-year career.
Throughout most of his career, Hochman’s job mainly consisted of pulling people over—an exasperating event for most drivers—yet those who knew him said Hochman’s kindly demeanor tended to put people at ease.
Three weeks after the murder−suicide, the Hochman’s driveway in Harrison is covered with deep layers of snow. There are no footprints, no signs of life. Their lost world is preserved inside; a row of delicately framed photographs of Hochman smiling, with his arms wrapped snugly around his brunette daughters and wife, are spread across a table behind the front door, as if to remind the family they were loved each time they entered or exited. Continue reading This Retired Police Officer Shot His Daughters and Himself: Why→
You saw the news this week, Officer Jones was shot in the face, his wife is standing by his bedside and they are receiving support from the hospital staff and their friends. Did you hear about his kids? No, you didn’t. Unfortunately, we forget that many officers have families and there are children involved. We forget that they are also affected by the same circumstances as the spouse/parents of officers and they need help coping.
Why is Dad So Mad? by Seth Kastle Company First Sergeant (retired) US Army Reserve
The children’s issues picture book Why Is Dad So Mad? is a story for children in military families whose father battles with combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After a decade fighting wars on two fronts, tens of thousands of service members are coming home having trouble adjusting to civilian life; this includes struggling as parents.
Why Is Dad So Mad? Is a narrative story told from a family’s point of view (mother and children) of a service member who struggles with PTSD and its symptoms. Many service members deal with anger, forgetfulness, sleepless nights, and nightmares.This book explains these and how they affect Dad. The moral of the story is that even though Dad gets angry and yells, he still loves his family more than anything.
About the Author: Through my 16 years in the Army Reserve I served in many capacities culminating in my role as a Company First Sergeant. I was deployed in January 2002 to Qatar, and then to Afghanistan for a total of eight months. I was then deployed to Iraq in January 2003 until April 2004. I have been married for nearly ten years now to my wonderful wife Julia, and we have two daughters; Raegan and Kennedy. The topic of dealing with PTSD as a parent is something that is very close to my heart. I have struggled with PTSD for ten years now, my daughters are young so who I am now is all they know. I wrote the book Why is Dad So Mad? to try to help them understand why I am the way I am now. This is not who I used to be, but it is who I am now; this is reality. More than anything I want my daughters as well as the children of other services members to know that no matter what we, as fathers love them more than anything. Things may not always be picture perfect , but as parents we will always be there for our kids. You may contact Seth through his website.
"Improving the lives of emergency response professionals"