Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday 11-24

It's ironic that just a day after I lauded golfer JP Hayes for disqualifying himself from PGA Qualifying School for discovering he used an un-approved ball we got a reminder of real heroism.

Three Neenah Police officers are credited with rescuing two handicapped women from their burning apartment building last Friday. Those are the people we really need to be applauding and honoring. Officers Zuehls, Obrey and Baumann ran into the thick smoke and carried out the women--who likely would have been overcome by the smoke and could have died before fire crews arrived on the scene.

My Two Cents blogsite is usually overrun by anonymous postings criticizing public employees--usually about their salaries, benefits, or vacation times. But how much should the officers have been paid for what they did last Friday? Did they stand outside the building telling each other "rescues from burning buildings are the responsibility of the fire department--it doesn't say anything about breathing all of that smoke in my union's contract"? No, they went in there immediately and saved two lives.

When we talked to some of the officers on Friday, they wanted to deflect any glory--saying they were just doing their jobs and that it wasn't anything special. I disagree. In an era when "celebrity" is the top career goal of kids (I kid you not, that was the top response in a recent USA Today poll of grade school kids)--we need to highlight the actions of the brave people who serve us every day. Thank you for all you do.


  1. Excellent thoughts, Jonathan. But give it an hour or two and the same old Copy and Paste freakazoid who has nothing better to do than bitch about public sector employees and their unions will be here with another feeble attempt to spin your thoughts another way. What a jackass.

  2. Our safety professionals are certainly up to the task of protecting us. They deserve all the praise you give them Jon. The situation you describe is an excellent example to illustrate my theory of “Public Safety Officers” vs the traditional police and fire departments. As you point out, often time police are able to get to the scene before the trained firemen. In this case, it would have been an advantage for the policemen to have been trained in some aspects of fire science, and had access to protective gear in their police cars.

    The concept of Public Safety employees seems to be one that serves not only the taxpaying citizens, but provides more safety for the employees.

  3. Nice thoughts, Jonathan, very appropo. But do not be too hard on yourself for lauding the golfer fellow, too.

    Though what he did was not "heroic" in any real sense of the word, it nonetheless reflects the same mental attitude evinced by those police officers -- the desire to do the right thing, whatever that is. The belief in putting something else -- duty, other people, integrity, honesty, whatever -- ahead of *self*.

    Sometimes that mindset results in truly great achievements, sometimes it results in small things that few notice. But however it manifests itself, it is a good thing, something to be saluted and honored in those rare individuals who consistently evince it.

    Not only that, but it is a far pleasanter attitude to be exposed to than the greed, parsimony, envy, hatred, bitterness, and cynicism that pollute so much of the blogosphere.

  4. Nice blog Jonathan!

    My hats off to these police officers!

  5. What a tragedy it would have been had one of those heroic officers been burned or worse. Wouldn’t it be good for them to have some training or safety equipment with them? They should be given the tools and training to do their jobs better. How long did it take for the fire engines to arrive I wonder?

  6. Two big concerns when entering a building that's on fire: breathing and heat protection, and water.

    Equipment that would be appropriate for police officers would be the same turnout gear that firefighters wear. A set for one person is between $1500 and $2000. Equally as important, if not more, is breathing protection. A self contained breathing apparatus used by firefighters is about $4000 per unit. So you're looking at about 6 grand per person to offer this type of protection...and it might not be enough to get you through the door.

    Water is the biggest protection that can be offered. A fire extinguisher is not the option. Neither is a garden hose. Fire hoses on modern fire trucks can deliver about 100 gallons of water per minute or more. You really do need this much protection to be able to enter a burning building.

    So the idea of outfitting police officers just like firefighters is a bit far stretched. Often enough, we hear of police officers making heroic rescues before firefighters arrive. And that's just what these rescues are...heroic. But without proper protection and water supplies, the idea of investing this much actually increases the danger to the police, instead of making it safer for them.

  7. Maybe if we somehow cut back on duplicate labor we would have enough money to outfit those heroic officers. If they arrive on fires before firemen, they should be protected. If they were trained as firemen then the headcount in the fire department might able to be lowered by a guy or two each shift. I wonder if anyones called Ashwaubenon to see how they work there public safety group?

  8. Why don't you do it and report back to us. While you're at it, please ask them if they carry their firefighting gear in their police cars while they're on the police patrol portion of their shift.

    We can't wait to hear back from you!

  9. If a firefighter would be in the area of a bank robbery and would arrive before the police, should we consider outfitting them so they could catch the robber red handed? Hmmmmm.....that idea has some merit....

  10. should we consider outfitting them so they could catch the robber red handed? Hmmmmm.....that idea has some merit....

    Good question.

    I wonder what Ashwaubenon does?

    Im thinking their policemen act more in the role of a fireman, thereby reducing the amount of firemen they need just waiting at the firehouse for the bell to ring.

  11. A few thoughts about Public Safety Officers.

    My impression is that this sort of merging is at the administrative level rather than the individual level. In other words, a single administrative entity, "The Department of Public Safety" houses both. But no one individual has all the skills. That DPS still houses fire fighters, police officers, etc.

    I think the sort of highly specialized training of fire and police would preclude doing otherwise. Criminology, psychology, law, weapons, etc. make up the education of a police officer, while firefighters need knowledge about physics, chemistry, architecture, etc.

    I'm sure to us on the outside, there jobs seem very easy: "Boss people around and write tickets" or "Squirt water at flames" but it is a mark of raging stupidity to think that way. Both are highly specialized careers that take skills and training.

    One of the reasons police will arrive before fire is that therey cruise the streets in their patrol cars while fire-fighting equipment is sheltered at specific locations.
    I do not think having those huge trucks patrolling the streets would be a good idea.

    All that said, once one gets above the men on the job and their immediate supervisors, it might be possible to cut some expenses by merging the two services under one upper administration. A lot of the things those people deal with -- budgets, personnel, etc. -- are not specific to a job and would be faced by any administrative type.

  12. Jet,
    I do find some areas (specifically to our area Ashwaubenon) who have combined their firemen and policemen into a combined group called "Public Safety Officers" These guys seem to perform both law and fire functions.

    Do a google or yahoo search and see what you come up with. This sounds like a good way to train and furnish protective equipment to the men, as well as a way to provide better service at a lower cost and better use labor.

    Might be something to consider.

  13. It is not something that is legal in the State of Wisconsin. Ashwaubenon has done it, but since they started their service the law has changed and it is not permissible. I am doing some research to find the law and will quote it when I do. But trust me, it really is not all you think it is. You still need the same number of personnel. Routine duties that are performed by personnel how have to be performed by others because of increased workloads--court, training off duty, and so on. Those all add to overtime costs. Routine maintenance that is performed by firefighters no longer gets done. That adds on to the cost. And the idea of putting fire protective gear in police cars just doesn't make sense. First off, there isn't additional room for it, secondly, the cost is huge, and lastly, except in very unique situations, it just isn't practical to expect personnel to make rescues from burning buildings without protection of hoselines.


  14. From their website-
    In 1979 the now "Village of Ashwaubenon", seeing similarities of both their fire and rescue departments voted to merge the two agencies into one Fire/Rescue Department.

    Once fire and rescue were merged it seemed a natural progression to look into the possibility of creating a Public Safety Department.

    By 1979 there was growing support for Ashwaubenon to form its own police department and a visit to several suburban Public Safety Departments impressed the village leaders enough to begin exploring the possibility of forming one in the village.

    The idea did not come without critics. When questioned how one officer could sufficiently do the job of three Chief Konopacki countered back humorously, "If you have a butcher in a packing plant who is also a volunteer fireman, he has to be proficient at both jobs."

    After nearly six months of study the village board voted unanimously on February 26, 1980 to implement a Public Safety Department.

    On August 4, 1980 the first 24 hour tour of duty began for the Ashwaubenon Department of Public Safety.

  15. The issue here is whether or not police officers should have turnout gear and breathing apparatus in their squad cars. I say it isn't. It's not cost effective, there isn't room, and it's not safe to enter burning buildings, except in very rare, unique circumstances, without the protection of a water supply.

  16. It seems critics are still out there. The idea must work for this city though.

    "The idea did not come without critics. When questioned how one officer could sufficiently do the job of three Chief Konopacki countered back humorously, "If you have a butcher in a packing plant who is also a volunteer fireman, he has to be proficient at both jobs."

  17. I like that you are looking for efficiencies, but if the system is so effective, how come only one place in the state is doing it? That's what's hard for me to understand.

  18. "I like that you are looking for efficiencies, but if the system is so effective, how come only one place in the state is doing it? That's what's hard for me to understand."

    Answer - Union roadblocks.

    Standard union issue "we care more about us than we do the taxpayers"

  19. >>Standard union issue "we care more about us than we do the taxpayers"<<

    Union employees pay taxes. If they earn more, they pay more.

    Besides, on your minimum wagejob and living in your parents' basement, how much tax are you paying anyhow???