Rhetorical Lesson No.8:If We Did it 100 Years Ago, Is it Still Okay?

Injuries during a “training” event make one wonder, what the hell?

This isn’t the planned first post for September, but after working on news it seems worthy of our specific topics.

On Long Island, four members of the Elmont Fire District were reportedly thrown from their speed drill vehicle. Three were injured, one having a serious head injury. The latest report according to NBC New York is that he is recovering dramatically.

“It is something that has gone on for decades, 100 years maybe,” said Elmont Fire Chief Mike Capoziello. “It’s prevalent on Long Island. Upstate departments do it.”
NBC New York

Now for the disclaimers. First, I wish all the injured as well as their department a quick recovery. Second, I have been on a fire department muster team, and while we didn’t have any competitions nearly as fast as these on Long Island, some of us did have some bumps and bruises practicing.

FirefighterNation.com: New York Firefighters Injured in Questionable High-Speed Drill Team Training

View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

So for this latest rhetorical discussion you have two points you can debate:

1. How can a department justify such drill team expenses, or an association with drill teams, when politicians are cutting budgets and departments are struggling to make ends meet?

2. Should a firefighter die during such a “training” event, would his or her death be fairly considered for submission as an official line of duty death? Are you sure?

I wonder if they do these things in Sweden with tricked-out Volvo wagons.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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  • In an attempt to pass the time until the big announcement, I’ll give the above discussion points a go. Keep in mind, that this sort of competition is completely foreign to me (we do some interesting stuff down here in FL, but I’ve never seen this). I’ll try to stick to the points, despite the obvious “training value” and “seatbelt pledge irony” debates this begs to open up.

    1. If the department/jurisdiction/area is having the financial troubles that seem to be abundant these days, it would seem hard to justify taking on the added costs associated with these “drills”. While one may argue that these foster a spirit of teamwork, and get their organization out in the public eye, the argument is a weak one at best. What is the state of their public education program, what is their current level of staffing, condition of equipment, what other departments in their town have been cut, etc.? My guess, though, is that this is likely a volunteer dept. (I only say that because my relatives in LI tell me that the majority of the agencies are in that area), so much of the cost I’m assuming, comes from the membership. The concern here, though, is the cost associated with the town picking up the tab for these injuries…healthcare ain’t cheap.

    2. Here’s where I’m a little torn. On one hand, you have these FF’s hypothetically dying during a dept.-sanctioned event. As opposed to drag racing on the way home, they were actually doing it in an “official” capacity. Technically, right or wrong, it would seem to qualify as an LODD. On the flip side, your posts about certain other “LODD”s have sparked serious thoughts about how we classify such. Rather than base the label of “LODD” on certain technicalities, we should consider the factors and events leading up to them (I’m not saying go crazy with the subjectivity, but a little thought couldn’t hurt). I’m all for taking care of our own, but I think that some “LODD”s take away from the solemnity and respect given to FF’s who make the ultimate sacrifice doing their job, not eating themselves to death.

    I’d be interested to hear what anybody else thinks.

  • fedup says:

    As a former LI volunteer FF and now current career ff in MD I can speak with a bit of back round. While the LI volunteers have taken a lot of slack in recent years due to what has been termed as redundancy and over spending I can say that the LI fire service is by far the most active and well staffed volunteer fire systems in the country. The reason behind this is that the departments stick to the recruitment tactics that have worked for decades. Drill team attracts members. Members get the rigs out. I can speak first hand that the department I rode with consistently gets three engines two trucks and a rescue on the street for an afa in the middle of the day in minutes! These departments are funded by donations and are more cost effective then a paid department. I know its hard to stomach when some departments in this country can barely get an operating engine, but if they can make it happen, don’t hate. Drill team is a huge draw for the membership and it makes for an actually entertaining public relations opportuinity

    • Bill Carey says:

      I’ve allowed this anonymous comment to post, despite our comment policy, because it does highlight a truly important part of this story. If there are departments that can successfully manage their budgets as well as have non fire-related activities to use as a recruitment and retention tool, then they are obviously doing something that works well.

      Bill Carey

      p.s. Remember, all comments must include your name or your department name.

  • Fedup,

    Thanks for the insight into how the system works up there. I would have to agree that if you can make it work, and it helps attract, retain, and turn out members, then I can see it as a positive.

    In LI, are the FDs under any kind of city/town control, or are they independent associations? I ask because I’m curious on the way insurance, workers comp., and legal issues are handled for something like this. Around here, cities seem have an overwhelming concern for potential “liability” for many training activities we put in for.

  • Brendan says:

    I think the bigger question for fedup is, does that town actually NEED 3 engines, 2 trucks, and a heavy rescue al by themselves, or can some of that response be obtained via automatic aid with the town/station just a couple miles down the road?

    Part of the reason LI has taken so much slack is the absurd amount of excess and one-upsmanship in stations and apparatus purchasing with zero regard for any regionalization or even just regional cooperation. The drill teams expenses are probably chump change in comparison.

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