Friday, June 17, 2011

God Bless the Marines for...

God bless the United States Marine Corps for their generous support to the Toys for Tots program... AND... for protecting our freedoms, both abroad and domestically.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Executive Director, Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness & Decision Making
Chief Scientist, Public Safety Laboratory

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The tale of Mr. Medium Shot (a.k.a. Kip the Cage Fighter)

Recently I was on an airplane and we were on our taxi to the runway when from behind there’s a cell phone ring. They guy answers it and carries on a conversation. This is after the flight attendants have announced three (3!) times to turn off all electronic devices.
But, as I have seen, the rules only apply to those who are not as important as Mr Big Shot (which, I might note was sitting in the economy cabin… thus diminishing him to perhaps Mr. Medium Shot). Anyhow…

Electronic devices being used within seconds of our takeoff roll is a real peeve for me because I have read accident reports were interference from electronic devices have caused problems in the communications and navigation equipment. Think about it… the federal regulation exists for a reason. Duh! But Mr. Medium Shot thought nothing of putting the lives of 150+ people in jeopardy.

I turned around in my seat and sternly said “Turn that phone off now!” I stunned him enough that he complied and from the adjacent seats I heard several “Thank you” comments.

When the plane landed, Mr. Medium Shot followed me off the plane and told me I had no right to talk to him like that. I could have asked him nicely. To which I thought… Ya, the three (3!) times the flight attendants asked you nicely worked so well, didn’t it? But I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking

Then Mr. Medium Shot told me his uncle is a pilot and told him that cell phones can’t interfere with the plane’s electronics. To which I thought… Wow, ignorance runs through several stains of your blood line. But I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking.

Seeing he wasn’t getting the response from me that he’d hoped for, Mr. Medium Shot told me he was a cage fighter and he was going to follow me out of the airport and kick my ass. To which I thought… My God, it’s Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. But I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking.

Then Mr. Medium Shot said I yelled at him because I have a small penis and yelling at him made me feel like more of a man. To which I thought… Really? You’re bringing my penis size into this? I must have really wounded your ego when I told you to turn off your phone.

Mr. Medium Shot realized he wasn’t provoking me as he’d wished. This made him even more angry so he started pushing me and poking me. Lord, is this buffoon really going to start a fight with me right here in the terminal. I could not help be imagine how he much struggle with the relationships in his life. I thought about asking him about it. But I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking.

Mr. Medium Shot then got more verbal and more physical. As he was so focused on his aggression he failed to realize then while I was walking… with my eyes focused straight ahead, I was on a quest. A quest to find an Atlanta police officer and when I did, I walked right up to him as Mr. Medium Shot continued to berate me, not even taking notice of the police officer standing there.

I politely told the officer what happened on the plane, to which Mr. Medium Shot told the offer I should not have spoken to him in the tone of voice that I did. The police officer then said to Mr. Medium Shot… Do you realize that having your cell phone on after the boarding door closes is a federal offense?

As Mr. Medium Shot stuttered and stammered to come up with a response, I politely thanked the officer for helping to ensure Mr. Medium Shot would not follow me out of the airport and assault me, as he had promised. Then Mr. Medium Shot turned his anger toward the officer. I just giggled and walked away. I was probably 100 feet down the corridor when I looked back and there were now two officers talking to Mr. Medium Shot.

As I walked to my connecting gate, I had to smile inside at the irony of it all... not about what happened... rathar that I was able to keep my mouth shut as he gave me so many opportunities to fire back some really funny one-liners.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maturity meter

Someone needs to invent a maturity meter. It would be a device that you could point at someone and it would provide you with a rating of the other person’s maturity. Imagine how handy that would be when selecting employees.

In almost every situation where I have observed or heard of employees behaving poorly it almost always ties to immature behavior being displayed by adults. This validates of the most accurate observation I have shared so often: Growing old is mandatory but maturing is optional. Most of my employee problems arose from those who chose not to mature.

I was asked once during a program what field of study an aspiring supervisor should study. Without hesitation, my response was simple: “Child Psychology.” As I have studied child psychology, the misbehaviors of my adult employees have become more and more predictable (both the desired and undesired behavior). I would also recommend learning how to influence behavioral changes in children and this will, in turn, help you influence behavioral changes in your adult employees.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Executive Director
Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness & Decision Making

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The pride of being #6 and #7

During my programs I regularly pause to acknowledge and honor our service members in my audiences, asking veterans, active duty and reservist to stand and be recognized.

I did this recently at a breakout session at a state conference and when the presentation was done a gentleman came up to me, almost in tears. He said “You’re number six.” I didn’t know what that meant so I asked him to explain.

He said I as the sixth person who ever thanked him for his military service. He said he was a Vietnam War veteran and when he came back from the war he was spit on and defiled for what he’d for his country.

I shook his hand, and told him that I, and many other Americans appreciate what he did and the sacrifices he made.

The next day I gave the keynote address and, once again, gave thanks to the service members in the audience. This gentleman was in the audience again. I told the entire delegation what he’d told me the day before about being number six and how sad that was, yet how proud it made me feel to be number six. And now… I felt honored to be number seven.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Executive Director, Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness and Decision Making

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Brilliant to Buffoon in 10 Seconds Flat

Recently I took my son on a three-day adventure for school to Deep Portage Learning Center.

For the most part, the trip went as well as one could expect, chaperoning a cadre of exuberant fifth graders on outdoor adventures.

The problems started the first night and it wasn’t with a student. It was with a parent. The fellow chaperone sharing our room snored so bad that I did not sleep at all the first night (making me wish I would have taken my computer because I would have had lots of time to work on things). But I didn’t because I was being the “good father” who left his work behind. Being up all night with nothing to do when I had so much to do was quite the source of frustration.

I was so bored that I did the crossword puzzle in an old newspaper that was sitting in the break room. For anyone who knows me well, you know I was in agony.

By midway through the second day I was having so much fun that I actually forgot about the misery of the first night. But it all came back to me about 10 minutes after “lights out” and the snoring erupted. Honestly! Is it possible for someone to make that much noise and not wake themselves up? That is a medical mystery that needs research!

I could not take it anymore. I got out of bed and I went on a quest to find earplugs. Surely this was not the first time something like this had happened and the staff would be prepared. But the staff were all in bed and I was to fend for myself.

Snooping around in the break room I found… mini marshmallows. Brilliant! They looked to be about the size of ear plugs. I pulled one out of the bag and depressed it between my thumb and forefinger. It was soft and pliable. I tried one in my ear for fit. It was perfect. I had found my solution. I felt like Edison must have felt after discovering the telephone.

I stuffed one in each ear and off to bed I went. They worked splendidly. I could still hear a faint sound that had snoring features, but it was dulled enough that I could sleep. And off to dreamland I went.

I awoke sometime during the night, realizing I needing to use the restroom. I got up and walked to the bathroom and while I was in there I realized my earplugs were working so well that I could hardly hear my stream hitting the water in the toilet. Again, I marveled at my brilliance.

As I walked back to bed I thought it’d be wise to check the positioning of my earplugs before I bedded down again because they were working so well I surely didn’t want one to fall out. As I reached into my right ear with the tip of my finger I realized, immediately, that I had a BIG problem. The marshmallow had melted.

The reason my earplugs were working so well is that they had formed an airtight seal of goo in my ear. What a buffoon! Why didn’t I realize they would melt? What do I do now? If I go back to bed and they continue to melt and ooze back to my eardrum I’m going to have a really big problem on my hands.

Fortunately, my survival skills kicked in as I remembered that I had brought Q-Tips along. I took one Q-Tip and gently rolled it in a circular motion at the entrance to my right ear and, even to my amazement, it worked. The marshmallow clung to the cotton and I was able to extract the entire blob out. A second Q-tip had equal success in the left ear and I was once again elevated to brilliant status.

And then… it was back to purgatory as I had to listen to the other dad snore the rest of the night. As I lay there, I contemplated the possibility of stuffing mini marshmallows up his nose. Not that I thought it would stop his snoring, but at least he'd have a big mess to clean up when he awoke refreshed. And I'd start my day off feeling vindication for my "near deaf" experience.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Monday, January 17, 2011

Surviving a plane crash

I recently taught a firefighter safety program at the Utah Winter Fire School in St. George, Utah. To get there I flew Delta Airlines from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City and then SkyWest Airlines from Salt Lake City to St. George. I always scares me to fly on commuter planes. I know too much about airline safety and accidents. I know that many commuter pilots have far less experience on the flight deck than their seasoned counterparts who fly large commercial airplanes. I also know that lack of experience can lead to accidents (not necessarily on Sky West, but on commuter flights in general).

As we flew over the Dixie National Forest and Zion National Park, the landscape didn't change much - Lots of snow covered mountains, wilderness and frozen lakes. Once we crossed over the last plateau before St. George, the sun had just set and the lights of the city were in view. I could even see the airport off the port side (left side) if the plane. From the air, airports that land commercial airlines are not difficult to see. There is a large, rotating green and white beacon and there are strobe likes blinking in sequence to guide the pilot to the center of the runway.

There was no doubt in my mind that what I saw off the left was plane was the airport. Only problem is... we weren't turning left toward the airport, we were flying straight ahead. As I watched us lose altitude, I reasoned with myself that the pilot would, at some point, bank left and we would be on course to land at the airport. But that didn't happen. We kept going straight and we kept losing altitude.

Panic started to set in. Was I the only one that could see we were NOT landing at the AIRPORT? Should I depress my flight attendant call button and request she notify the pilots they we were landing in the wrong place? I held my composure, though I still contemplate if that was the right thing to do.

We were still several thousand feet above the city lights so, technically, there was still time for the pilots to turn the craft and land at the airport. Then... much to my startlement, we made contact with the ground. I about had a bowel movement right there in seat 3A. The pilots seemed to be in control of the plane. That is to say we were not tumbling tail over nose ala the United Airlines Flight 232 that landed in the corn field in Sioux City, Iowa in 1989.

It sure seemed plausible to me that we'd landed in a corn field. How could a small town like St. George, Utah have TWO airports? But, as I looked out the window, we did appear to be at an airport. There was a terminal and a jetway. I got off the plane and sent a text message to my host that I was ready for pick up.

When he arrived at the airport, the first thing he said was "I wasn't sure if I should pick you up at the old airport or the new airport." "New airport?" I inquired. "Yes" he replied. "It opened this morning. It was a big deal here. We even had the governor in town. Did you know we have a new airport?" the host asked. "I sure do and I even know where it's located."

There I stood... in the "old airport"... feeling stupid in my perspiration-soaked shirt... having survived the closest thing to a plane crash I had ever experienced.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just doing my part...

Recently I checked into my hotel after a long day of travel. It's not unusual for me to be on 5-8 airplanes in a week so when I get to my hotel, I always welcome a fresh, clean and inviting room. Little things mean a lot to a road-weary traveler. After I unpacked I decided to take a shower and settle in for some reading before bed.
In the bathroom there was a sign that said the hotel had gone "green" and they were doing their part to concern our precious natural resources. In this case - water. The sign informed me if I wanted to reuse my towel, I could hang it up on the rack and that would be the indicator to housekeeping that they would not have to replace it. If I want to have the towel replaced, then I should leave it on the floor.

As I was getting into the shower I wondered if campaigns like these are really effective or if they are just the hotel's way to jump on the "we've gone green" bandwagon. I didn't think about it long though. For as I turned the water on, I realized the shower head was no ordinary shower head. Oh no. It was the Speakman S-2222-HS-CP dual showerhead with two full spray 50-jet nozzles and massage spray features attached to a solid brass manifold with chrome plated plungers.

After what seemed like an hour in the bliss of this shower Nirvana (an exaggeration of time.... I'm sure it was no more than 30 minutes... ok 40 minutes max), I got out, dried off and hung my towel on the rack. I wanted to be sure to do my part to conserve our precious natural resources, in this case - water.
Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The land of the free and the home of the brave

I have known for almost a year of my son’s plans to become a United States Marine. His decision to go that route did not surprise me much. He has always been patriotic. He would always sing the National Anthem when it was played. I notice things like that – especially as I would notice the other young men around us standing silent. Did they not know the words or were they choosing simply not to sing the Anthem? Though I wondered, I guess the answer didn’t really matter. What mattered to me most was MY son stood proud with his hand over his heart singing.

He shipped off this week for his thirteen weeks of basic training – an adventure I affectionately termed “summer camp” fully aware it would be unlike any summer camp he’d ever attended. Was he prepared for this? Had we raised him right? How would we know? How does any parent know when the day comes to turn your son or daughter loose into the grown-ups world if you’ve done it right?

The comfort I drew from as I contemplated these questions did not come from anything I had done, but what he had done that proved him ready – proved him worthy – of being a Marine. He had been a fire explorer and rose to the highest officer rank within that organization. He was a competitive swimmer for six years and was selected to be the co-captain of the high school swim team and receiving awards for being most-improved and most inspirational. He took EMT class as a high school elective, competing in (and winning) the state high school EMT competition. Then he went on to the national competition in Orlando and won third in the nation. He had been a boy scout for eight years, rising to the rank of Eagle scout, being inducted into the Order of the Arrow and was voted into the Vigil – the national honor society of the boy scouts – a honor bestowed on less than one percent of all scouts.

Reflecting back, it seems as though nearly everything he did from age 12 through graduation culminated in his rise to a leadership position. Yes, he was ready to be a United States Marine.

Even as he prepared to ship he was setting goals. “Dad, I want to be the Company Honorman.” I didn’t know what that was so he had to explain to me that each company has one person selected to carry the Guide (the flag of the company) during the graduation ceremony. This will be the only Marine in the company in a Class-A uniform. I remember thinking to myself, almost humorously, “That sure will make you easier to see at graduation.” (But I didn’t tell him that.) The selection criteria for company honorman is not widely known but if it is based on leadership, I think he is well prepared.

There are several good websites designed to support Marine recruits and their families. These sites tell parents what their Marine sons and daughters will be doing every week of their training. Watching the videos on those sites assure me that the Marines are doing a thorough job of preparing my son for the honored task of protecting the freedom all of us enjoy, and many take for granted. Remember, we are the land of the free because we are the home of the brave who protect our freedoms around the world.

Semper Fi, my son, and to all service men and women – recruits, reservists, active duty and retired.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Marine support websites

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If you want a big tip from me, you'd better give exceptional service.

Recently during my travels I had dinner alone at a restaurant. That's not unusual at all as program hosts usually want to go home to their families after a long day in the classroom and I am left to fend for myself for dinner. Ok, enough of the self-pity party, that's not the point.

For dinner I had a Cobb Salad (one of my favorite on-the-road salads) and a glass of water to drink. The bill came to around $9.50. I realize that's not a big ticket dinner item, but the service was lousy. The waiter didn't even come back to my table during my meal. The salad was delivered by someone else, so essentially I saw this waiter two times, once when he took my order and once when he dropped off the bill. I had a $50 bill that I wanted to change up for a cab ride in the morning so I set the $50 on top of the bill at the end of the table. The service was not good and I contemplated how much tip I should leave.

As I was contemplating what to leave for a tip the waiter came by, picked up the money and the bill and said "Do you need me to bring you change?" I realize that is probably a standard waiter response when they pick up a check and I suspect he said it without even looking at the denomination of the money, but he should have.

I was tempted to ask if he thought the quality of his service and the personal attention he had paid to me during my dinner was worth a $40 tip on a $10 bill, but I didn't say a word. I let my tip do the talking for me... which is a shame because I have been known to give 30-50% tips when the service is impressive.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tis the season

I hate politics. In fact, I have a relatively healthy disdain for most politicians. I guess I've seen too much of the ugly side of politics in my thirty years of public service.

Don't get me wrong, along the way I have come across a few whose intentions were righteous and who were true public servants. But I have to honestly say they have been few and far between. Most have been very selfish in their motives, often thinking they were hiding it well (but they weren't).

I was told one time by a very seasoned elected official that the true motivation of every politician is to get re-elected. While I don't know if that's true for all, I can certainly say I've seen my share who look for every angle to make themselves look better than they deserve. Whether that's a photo opportunity with uniformed personnel (after just voting no for the purchase of a critical piece of safety equipment) or publicly praising the efforts of police officers and firefighters after bashing the same people in an executive session to discuss their union contract.

Now it's political season and we are being peppered with mean spirited ads on TV including name calling, back stabbing and mud slinging that have little to do with the real issues we average Americans care about. I see yard signs springing up all over the place for people that most voters know little about. It's scary to think that someone might actually vote for a candidate because that's the name they see most often on a yard sign.

I recall one election where a candidate I would rate as pathetic was running for an office that was important in my community. There were yard signs everywhere for this candidate - enough to cause me to believe this person had an amazing (and unbelievable) amount of support in the community. As I groused about this to another elected official, I was promptly reminded "Yard signs don't vote. People vote." A sage observation. The rogue politician lost the election and our community was much better off for that.

I can't wait for the political season to be over. Political elections are like eating sausage. You may enjoy the outcome, but you sure don't want to watch it being made. I think my blood pressure dropped 20 points the day I retired from being a public official, thanks to the politician-ectomy that occurred that day.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP