Vehicle placement and ommission

 

The incident that injured one of our firefighters, put him in the hospital for nearly 5 months and changed his life forever, was investigated by the Major Accident Investigation Team, a division of the Washington State Patrol.

 

For what it’s worth, here is an opinion of a review of the report.

 

I find it interesting that the conclusions seem to wholly exonerate the actions of employees, and fire departments, of oversight or negligence of any sort in their failure to follow documented policy, extensive training, common sense and basic safe practices.

 

While the loss of vehicle control of Mr. Perez was the turning point for the injuries to our Firefighter, the failure to take the 10 seconds needed to back Engine 66 into a block position while Engine 73 was on scene proved near fatal for the driver of Engine 66.

 

The investigation whitewashes guidelines for backing a fire truck up by leaving the reader to assume the practice should never be used, even in circumstances where the action can be done safely, and would result in making the scene safe for responders and victims, as required by policy.

 

Failure on the part of the investigator to mention, or even observe, two obvious and key elements that were not done condones negligence and jeopardizes future scene actions.

 

Paramount is the fact that there were no active calls requiring Engine 73 to leave the scene that morning. Indeed, Engine 73 was the responding vehicle after the injuries were reported.

 

By not even mentioning the possibility of taking advantage of using Engine 73 to simply move onto the shoulder to a position of blocking the scene appears to the common reader to be, if not merely an omission, then intentional on the part of the investigator.

 

By not even mentioning the possibility of taking advantage of using Engine 73 to remain on scene for an additional 10-15 seconds while Engine 66 backed up 65 feet to block the scene appears to the common reader to be, if not merely an omission, then intentional on the part of the investigator.

 

 

From the Major Accident Investigation Team report, page 14:

Fire Engine Placement Analysis – Engine 66 parked facing southbound completely on the right shoulder just past the Ranger. A pre-collision vehicle motion diagram was completed to determine engine placement and protection. Engine placement should protect the scene by providing a physical barrier to protect the work area from traffic approaching. Analysis determined if Engine 66 parked 66-feet prior (north) to its point of rest, then the Jimenez Perez Blazer would have hit the truck. This would have required the fire personnel to likely create a major hazard by backing on the interstate. By comparison, at 100 feet behind engine 66, it is likely Engine 73 would have been parked in the glide path and clipped by Jimenez Perez as he slid out of control.

(emphasis added)

 (The whole report is over 700 pages long.  MAIT 11-017503)

 

On November 20, 2011, a firefighter made a very bad decision that placed not only himself, but two other firefighters at risk of life and injury. The fact that he was the only one severely injured does not make him a hero, it merely makes him the unlucky one.

 

He was driving the fire truck that he then parked in such position that he left the scene wide open to vehicle traffic traveling at freeway speeds on an icy night with restricted visibility in November 2011. All these conditions were known when he parked his vehicle. Further, after realizing the overturned vehicle was unoccupied, he additionally chose to risk life and limb to place warning tape around the crash.

Engine 73 was initially parked in a position that blocked the scene, and provide protection while Engine 66 backed up to safely protect the scene should Engine 73 be called to another response. But, even though no calls were imminent, Engine 73 was ‘cleared’ to leave UNPROTECTED.

 

Ample time was available to move fire Engine 66 to a blocking position, as dictated by training and required by policy, but who decided it was not worth the effort?

 

Three firefighters on the scene further allowed Engine 73, the second fire truck that responded, to leave the scene, which could have acted as a safety block, and return to service. Records show that there were no pending calls at that time thus no immediate need for Engine 73 to leave.

 

In the desire for expediency, knowing the overturned truck they were responding to was a spinout, their own vehicle had experienced icy conditions, and all three knowing that Engine 66 was not parked in a safe block fashion, not one of the responding firefighters thought to keep an eye open for possible vehicle traffic at a non-victim scene.

 

Department policy clearly reads that the use of your service vehicle as a safety block to traffic is standard protocol. Training consistently reminds every fire department employee of the deadly hazards of the job and to do the job safely.

 

So when an investigation conducted by a supposedly impartial outside agency clearly shows the multiple opportunities that night for responders and the responding fire departments to use safe work practices but instead shows they failed, but summarily dismisses that failure, people are asking why?

 

And why the expert MAIT investigator felt compelled to whitewash these facts. And why not? Who would call him out for clearing a firefighter of any wrong doing?

 

Had this trained firefighter taken the few seconds necessary to ensure the safety of himself and his crew, this firefighter would not have been injured and investigation would not have been needed.

 

But the public expects accountability from our employees, elected or hired to protect us. This report does not meet that standard of expectation.

 

I am not in any way advocating for any punishment beyond what this man has suffered, but I find it disingenuous that an investigation would deliberately mislead the public and put future firefighter operations at risk in the manner this report does.

 

A trained firefighter makes a decision in the name of expediency and with total disregard for his safety and the safety of his fellow workers which jeopardizes lives, and the agency in charge of the investigation exonerates him and his department of any responsibility.

 

At the very least, a reasonable person would expect a deeper review of the facts in this case and that those acts be viewed and investigated without the goal of making an injured firefighter a hero for putting himself and others at risk.

 

Yes, Mr. Perez lost control of his vehicle and his actions are not excusable. But then neither are the actions of the firefighter. Or the others we entrust with our lives.

 

This is merely my opinion.

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Line up the usual media lackeys, there will be a major report of good fortune from the chief soon. Although I was a bit premature in my reporting six weeks ago, the cat is out of the bag now.

FEMA announced this morning that even though the sequester is in full swing with $85 billion in spending reductions, your fire department will not feel the pinch.

A FEMA grant was awarded this morning for $1,185,894 with the stipulation (requirement) of hiring 6 new full time EMT trained fire fighters.

So, remember that $3.5 million Excess Levy which also promised 9 full time EMT trained firefighters? Well they never intended to spend one dime keeping that promise. That money is now free for anything they damn well want, from padding retirement pensions to expensive nationwide travel for ‘training’.

While just one year ago they were threatening us with loss of life and services, a year of scheming has the accounts swelling with behind the scenes fundraising, not one dime to be spent as promised or returned to the duped voter. And if they thought they could keep it secret, you would never be told.

I can’t wait until they come to the voter pleading their pitiful case for a new training center for all of the new hires to keep fit in. Lie after lie, when will the public wake up to the travesty?

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This afternoon at their monthly commissioners meeting, the fire department recognized several local citizens for their involvement in saving lives.

 

A woman worked tirelessly performing CPR on her husband last July after he collapsed in the yard. The King County sheriff who responded, and was recognized, was able to use the portable AED to revive him. The woman’s husband was happily quite alive and able to attend the ceremony honoring his wife today.

 

Another woman was recognized for performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking child, also last July. The boy and his parents were at the meeting thanking the woman for her efforts. She had taken a CPR course offered from SKF&R some time earlier.

 

And another citizen was at a local restaurant in September when he became the first responder to a neighboring diner. His Heimlich Maneuver skills were also successful.

 

We all could be in a situation where at the next table, in the next line at the grocery store, or at the park, we become the only person standing between a person living or dying.

 

It was endearing to hear that these citizens were there and took immediate action.

 

Thank you to SKF&R for honoring these citizens and inviting the local press to cover the story.

 

It is good that we hear about these stories, but I wonder why the long delay in recognizing three separate heroic actions. 8 months had passed on two of them and five months on the other.

 

Last June, less than one week after a private citizen was honored for saving a man from Steel Lake, the department rushed to have an award ceremony, hastily arranged with local newspaper and television press and everything. This was just a few weeks before the election on the Excess Levy, as I recall.

 

And to Chief Church who requested a photo opportunity break immediately after the presentations and tell these local citizens that they could leave now.
Predictably, for the rest of the meeting, the room was cleared of all but the employees of the district, and one member of the public.

 

Ironic, isn’t it, that Commissioner Gates also conveniently rushed through the agenda and ‘overlooked’ the commissioner comment section until after the special recognition. He did ‘remember’ to return to that agenda item after the break, though, when only employees were expected to remain in the room.

 

 

This was a good thing, because Commissioner Fossos, who phone in his attendance, to insure he could get paid his stipend, and with no explanation offered for his absence, did have some glowing remark about Bill Gates he wanted to share.

 

I’m surprised we don’t see more of that. Phoning in the meeting.

 

This is not the first time. Commissioner Thompson got paid for phoning in a meeting while on a hunting trip last year.

 

Bless their dedication.

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The commissioners meeting had it’s good points this afternoon.

 

Promotion

Another raise and promotion was made in the department. Recognition of appointment of Deputy Fire Chief James Hugo was announced today.

 

Recruits

Another announcement was that several of the firefighter recruits that the district did actually hire are doing well in training. Some better than others because of prior experience and training but Chief Church said he was very pleased with the progress of all of them.

 

News from around the state

Then there was disturbing news about two paramedics attacked at a gas station in Centralia in an odd scenario caught on video. Click here for full story.

 

Predictable elections, with amusing twist

Also interesting was the election of the chair and vice chair for 2013.

With the voting order as follows; Comm. James A. Fossos, Comm. Mark Thompson, Comm. Bill Gates, Comm. John Rickert and Comm. Mark Freitas.

It was amusing at how Comm. Thompson handled being nominated.

For the Chair, Comm. Fossos nominated Gates and Comm. Freitas nominated Thompson.

Then the vote was polled, from left to right (audience view) with Comm. Fossos voting for his nominee. then we all watched Comm. Thompson make odd faces and hesitated a long time pondering the cascade of what would follow.

The pause was more than pregnant as the room watched the gears turn; if Comm. Thompson voted for himself, Comm. Gates for himself (both logical, right?) then Comm. Rickert could be the swing, with Comm. Freitas voting for his nominee.

Comm. Thompson waited, made faces, smiled comically at the chief then said: “Comm. Gates”.

The cards fell into place nicely with the swing flapping for a four-one split, Comm. Gates was predictably elected as chair, the remaining votes moot.

And it is obvious Thompson is not willing to accept the responsibility or simply did not want the coveted seat.

The vote for vice-chair was not as dramatic. Nominees were Comm. Fossos ( nominated by Comm. Gates) and Rickert (nominated by Comm. Freitas), voting occurring in the same order as for chair, with Comm. Fossos, Comm. Thompson and Comm. Gates re-electing Comm. Fossos, and the other two votes no longer needed. For the record, Comm. Rickert voted himself and Comm. Freitas voted his nominee.

 

Lest I forget the title of the article.

Never an agency to waste an opportunity to vote themselves a raise, any raise, this body brought up the absurd.

Just moments before the assembled group singing a hearty Happy Birthday to their dear attorney, the board voted on Resolution 320, the revolving mileage and per diem platform.

Apparently the IRS gave everyone a raise, and these guys were eagerly standing at the trough to slurp it up. All of it. All 1/100 of a cent of it.

Yes, folks, the mileage increased a phenomenal amount this year, and while letting it stand unchanged from last year was an option, not for these guys.

Getting paid to drive to work was too important for those that consistently bill you for it and getting paid more was vital. Even 1/100 of a cent more.

(Actually, I think they did it just so I would write about it. Mission accomplished.)

 

Silenced is not forgotten

While the FEMA SAFER grant is just days away from being announced, once again this tight lipped group tried to keep their secret. Not even a whisper about the proposal to hire an additional 6 firefighters with the impending grant was not mentioned.

Considering the grant was so close, I’m surprised no one asked the chief for an update.

Of course, I am jesting. I am not at all surprised. To speak it would have been to make it public knowledge and they want none of that.

 

Thanks for reading.

Jerry

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While it refuses to meet the obligations to the voters who raised their taxes to hire more firefighters, instead recanting allocation of the money they said would be used to return one aid unit to service, the fire district is still submitting applications for grants from the federal government.

 

Name me one politician who got elected by promising to raise your taxes.

 

This is the leadership failure we see locally and nationally.

 

After promising responsible governance, we see deliberate misuse of taxpayer funds while begging for more federal  money.

 

(Hopefully I am not letting the cat out of the bag too soon, but if not this week then expect it to occur very soon.)

 

Today the government announced that our fire district will get an additional $1,185,894 grant to hire only 6 firefighters.

 

We will see two budgetary issues coming up for vote of the commissioners within the next month.

 

First will be the amendments and changes in the contract for the 2024 IAFF Local firefighters. It will contain multi-year raises and major benefit improvements for everyone.

 

Second will be the budget amendment that adds the FEMA grant money to the coffers. There may be a press release. After all, you would fully expect the district to announce they are hiring 6 more full time firefighters to protect the public, right?

 

So instead of using the voter approved Excess Levy for firefighters as promised, they can pad their retirement, take more trips for ‘training’ and raise everyone’s wages.

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Yes, it has been a while since I posted a comment.

 

No, I have not stopped being vigilant.

 

Some things just take time and patience. It also helps to let out a little rope. This I have done. Let’s see what it entwines with.

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Funds are limited and the requirements are strict.

 

Devastation is now the norm in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and local emergency services were put to the stress test. When you consider the $1.8 million that SKF&R accepted and then did not meet its obligations to the voters, it is a further travesty to the abilities of FEMA to serve areas of greater need.

 

What do your elected officials think?

We passed an Excise Levy in August that we were told would be used to hire 9 new firefighters, the exact number required to staff an aid unit. That is what the ballot measure said, that is what the department sold to you and that is what you voted for.

So after the Excess Levy passed everyone breathed a sigh of relief knowing we gave the district enough money to hire 9 new full time firefighters.

But they schemed  different spending plan. One that favors their pockets, thanks to your lack of oversight.

 

Those sneaky commissioners.

The administration at South King Fire & Rescue made sure the FEMA grant restricted to hiring 9 full time firefighters was not awarded until after the levy passed. Then, once they accepted the FEMA grant, the department pompously felt justified reneging on their stated use of voter approved funds from the Excess Levy.

Instead, SKF&R decided to abuse the will of the voters and is using the money for across the board raises, promotions, comfortable benefits packages and several hundred thousand dollar severance packages.

Excess Levy takes on a much clearer meaning.

All the while other agencies and businesses continue to suffer the effects of a bad economy, tightening their belts, with many closing their doors completely.

 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country real need exists. FEMA estimates they will only have enough money for Hurricane Sandy to last through early spring.

 

Not to worry when you have a department that flaunts screw the voter and screw the rest of the country. We got ours and you can’t do anything to stop us.

 

 

 

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/12/04/2390237/fema-chief-sandy-fund-should-last.html#storylink=misearch

 

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I laud the actions of South King Firefighters Foundation president and the IAFF Local 2024 union president for their swift response recently.

 

Earlier this week I contacted the organizers and made them aware of some potentially dire corrections that needed to be made in The John Moncrief Raffle.

 

Newly launched, several points of the raffle were being done in violation of the Washington State Gambling Commission and if not addressed immediately could have resulted in an investigation and ultimate penalties from the Washington State Gambling Commission. Unchecked, these unintended violations could have jeopardized the abilities of the entire foundation.

 

Once aware of the situation, both Kevin Crossen, President of the South King Firefighters Foundation, and Ryan Herrera, President of IAFF Local 2024 took immediate action to correct these problems.

 

I am very pleased that because of their quick actions the raffle can still be held.

 

Please, as you consider your charitable donations this year, visit the pages of the firefighters foundation. Their work helps our local community all year long and not only puts 100% of your dollar back into the much needed and appreciated services, your donation brings the extra bonus of a team of dedicated firefighters with it.

 

Rare is the opportunity to have your donation work so hard for those that need it.

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What the administration told you in their plea for passage of the Excess Levy for maintenance and operations:

“Our Board of Commissioners is putting forth a funding measure called an Excess Levy. This four (4) year levy will allow SKF&R to bridge the shortfall between current revenue and the actual cost of operating. The levy also allows SKF&R to open one of the closed aid units. Nine firefighter/EMTs are required to re-staff this response unit.”

 

So right there in plain English, our leadership told the public that raising taxes would be used to hire nine (9) new firefighters.

It was a hard sell since the last two measures put on the ballot failed.

This time every ounce of pressure was put on thousands spent in positive spin. The  measure narowly passed and funding starts in 2013

 

Any other money coming in?

While not letting the public in on their scheme, what the fire department told FEMA when it sent in their plea for $1,817,649 dollars in SAFER grant money:

“This request for funding is for $1,817,649.00 which is for 9 firefighters for two year grant period of performance.

The department committed to the hiring of NINE new firefighters when it accepted the SAFER grant and factored this fresh money in their 2013 budget.

 

18 new firefighters to be on the streets by 2013

With the additional revenue from both the Excess Levy, and with documentation showing the department told the voters that their money would be used to hire nine (9) firefighter/EMTs,  and the FEMA SAFER Grant, for which the department also told the federal government that their money would be used to hire nine (9) firefighters, does anyone believe we are not going to hire eighteen (18) new firefighters?

It is either hire 18 new firefighters, as promised to get the money, or refuse whatever portion of the revenue required to offset the failure to perform.

After all, if you are not really going to do as you say, you have no right to keep the money, do you?

And being honorable and responsible elected officials and administration, these folks will do the public proud, right?

You know, they may need to approach the voters asking for money again soon and their credibility will be on the line.

 

The evaporating 7 firefighters

Disappearing faster than the steam from a fire hose sprayed on a residential fire, the department rapidly absorbs the new infusion of cash and outperforms David Copperfield by adopting a budget making 7 firefighters disappear:

 “The expense side of the budget reflects the hiring of eleven (11) new firefighters, with nine (9) of them funded through the SAFER Grant and two (2) funded through the approved maintenance and operations levy.”

 

Cash strapped and begging for money, your department used public sympathy to pass an Excess Levy to tax away your hard earned money while promising to use your money to hire NINE new Firefighters.

So why in the hell did three of your elected officials pass a 2013 budget using $3,500,000 to hire only two (2) firefighters? 

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How does a taxing authority earn the trust of the public? Show real integrity? Retain credibility?

 

And as a byproduct, maybe pass an additional $65,000,000 construction tax for a new building?

 

How about give some of the money back? Maybe a rollback would be in order?

 

The administrations and board have set a specific amount of money we NEED to provide our services and will be asking the voters to approve sustainable funding.

 

They will respect the will of the people by earning their trust as things move forward.

 

Here is how to do it.

 

Board shows credibility and leadership

Funding for essential public services was on the line and the board took their responsibility gravely serious. There were multitudes of funding options and each was intently explored for viability.

Always vigilant of the image the board presented to the public, and the trust they had spent years cultivating, the board members wanted badly to ensure that they could offer the best service at the best price, and not overtax the voters along the way.

 

Final choices made

The first would be presented to the people in the district and voted on, asking the voters to approve a property tax increase to pay for services.

Voter education was prepared and sent out. Public meetings were held. Media endorsements secured. Assurances were made.

 

Judgement Day

As the votes came in, tense days passed until hard fought victory was secured.

The public said they have trust the board will make the best use of their taxes and were determined to not let them down.

 

 

The government solution

Not guaranteed but possible to achieve, was also millions in funding from a source not directly related to property taxes.

The board and administration, being responsible and prudent, decide it wise to also pursue this second funding option.

Since it involved a government agency, approval would take months to get, but it is worth pursuing.

 

The Timing

Because of budgeting deadlines, and uncertainty of passage or acceptance, the board was forced to actively pursuing BOTH revenue sources at the same time.

And if both are approved, the board realized a windfall could be given them.

But the amount they needed was already decided. After all, that was how they came up with the price to ask voters for. It would have been unethical to keep both revenue sources.

So, obviously the board, ever desirous of maintaining trust and credibility, would do the right thing.

Hey, they may need to come back to the voter and ask for more money for another project. And they did NOT want to poison the well of public opinion for simple one time greed.

 

The Overlay

Since the agency was asking for funds from two sources for basically the same services, and it had predetermined the cost of those services, they would only accept the amount NEEDED to keep our promise.

If both revenue sources succeed, the taxpayers would be reimbursed every single penny of overlap funds.

 

The Credibility Factor

The board has every intention of showing credible leadership by telling the public how their services would be financed and they would keep all promises of each revenue source.

 

 

The Windfall

To their delight and pleasure, both funding options were approved.

But what about the second funding option? How can they handle that one?

Easy.

Public agencies can only survive as a credible entity if the public trusts them.

So they will build in a contingency for duplicity. And the board was very clear about what they needed to do.

 

Federal Way Public Schools, Take a Bow

Federal Way Public Schools just announced that they are getting almost $10million back to the Taxpayers.

We voted for a tax increase to pay for education and knowingly and willingly said yes to higher taxes.

At the same time the school board was applying for and hoping to get substantial funds from the state Legislature.

They also knew that they could not keep both revenue sources, so built in a contingency clause. If both revenue sources came through, the school district would limit themselves to collecting only the predetermined total. Not every dime possible.

And they were clear and open about what was going to happen, including the information in the ballot and in the voters pamphlet, at all the public meetings and in media releases.

THANK YOU Federal Way Public School Board of Directors for doing the right thing.

 

Not so Honorable is SKF&R

Too bad I am not able to associate this real life experience with our fire department, South King Fire & Rescue.

The Board of Commissioners and the Chief told the taxpayers that if we voted for a tax increase, they would use the additional property taxes collected from the EXCESS LEVY to put another aid unit into service, essentially requiring them to hire 9 full time EMT trained fire fighters.

At no time did they ever tell the public there was another possibility to fund these new employees.

Then they very quietly went to the government and secured a grant for $1,817,649 from FEMA to hire 9 full time fire fighters.

Even a grade school student will tell you 9 + 9 = 18.  But the learned folks at SKF&R only came up with 11.

And, as unethical as it was, and because the public was not aware until too late of their greed, unlike the school board, three fire commissioners salivated as the fire chief presented a way to KEEP ALL THE MONEY and only hire 11 instead of 18 firefighters!!

One commissioner saw the scheme for what it was but could not convince the others to do the right thing.

October 23, 2012 marks the day the SKF&R Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to ignore the plain text of the voter approved EXCESS LEVY and put both revenue sources in their 2013 budget while only hiring 11 new full time fire fighters, not 18 as there commitments said they would.

SHAME on you Commissioner Bill Gates, Commissioner John Rickert and Commissioner James Fossos for screwing the public with your greed. (Commissioner Mark Thompson later went on record as saying he would have joined them but he arrived to late and missed the vote)

THANK YOU Commissioner Mark Freitas for having the courage to see this tactic for what it is, trying to get the rest of the board and administration to realized their error and voting NO to both the fattened 2013 Budget and the EXCESS LEVY resolutions.

 

The Future

Can’t wait until this dis-respectful bunch of fire commissioners comes after us for another levy. I will remind the voters what a bunch of backroom cronies they are.

Again, please know that Commissioner Freitas stands alone trying to protect our interests maintaining integrity on the board. His efforts deserve our appreciation and we need to start showing him our support.

Rest assured that I will also remind the voters when those other guys come up for re-election.

There needs to be a major house cleaning and fiscally responsible officials need to be added so we can have a credible board.

 

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