The Emergency Responder Safety Institute presents the podcast, a closer look at hot topics, new information, innovative approaches, and case studies in responder safety at roadway incidents and in traffic incident management. Listen for practical, actionable information you can implement today at your next roadway incident response to improve safety of emergency response personnel and the public, no matter which agency you work for. Come learn from interviews and special features with experts and leaders in emergency services. All agencies who respond to roadway incidents — fire, EMS, fire police, law enforcement, DOT, safety service patrols, special traffic units, medevac, and towing and recovery — are all welcome and will find value in what we discuss.

Administrative Note posted 12/6/2021: When this podcast episode was recorded in the fall of 2021, the name of the certification to NFPA 1091 that the FDSOA offers used the word “Technician” to describe the person earning the certification. Subsequently, the FDSOA was informed that the term “Person” or “Personnel” must be used to maintain consistency with the name of the NFPA 1091 standard, which is “Standard for Traffic Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications.” The term has been changed on all program materials and outreach materials available from the FDSOA and on and This podcast episode’s transcript retains the use of the term “Technician” because that is the term used in the audio recording.

Rod Ammon: Welcome to the third podcast episode brought to you by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, a committee of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association. To remain mindful of why we do this work, we start every podcast with an update of emergency responders struck by fatalities. As of today, August 20th, 2021, 39 emergency responders have been struck and killed while operating at a roadway incident scene. We have information on the loss of these responders and a memorial tribute available at Our thoughts are with their families and colleagues.

Today, we welcome Chief Marinucci, executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. Chief Marinucci served nearly 25 years as the chief of the Farmington Hills Fire Department and seven and a half years as the chief of Northville Township Fire Department, both in Michigan. He's a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, served as acting chief operating officer of the US Fire Administration, and was the national program manager for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Everyone Goes Home program from 2008 to 2011. Chief Marinucci, welcome to the podcast.

Rich Marinucci: Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.

Rod Ammon: Let's talk a little bit about FDSOA first. Talk about the need for FDSOA and what it addresses and how it meets that need.

Rich Marinucci: Well, let's just start off with the informal purpose of why we exist, and that is just to make sure that firefighters stay well and healthy while they're doing a very risky job. We used to talk about to Everyone Goes Home, but I think now we've evolved into a place where we not only want you to go home at the end of your call, the end of your shift, or whatever it might be, but we want to live long into retirement. And if you happen to have a pension, we want you to use all those funds you've earned and outlive the actuarial studies. So that's the informal methodology, basically looking at how do we minimize the risks to firefighters [inaudible 00:02:18] job, do their work, but still at the end of their career, get an opportunity to enjoy what they worked so hard for.

Rod Ammon: So can you talk a little bit about the leadership FDSOA offers and how the network ties the states together? How can departments and safety officers benefit from that?

Rich Marinucci: Well, if we look at our goal and our programs that we have... and I think that's the key to the FDSOA... we're trying to stay in our lane and do what we have always done and not get too far to that. So with that in mind, we offer a few programs. One is a safety conference, and that's every year in January. And the intention of that is to bring the latest information to those serve as a safety officer. Related to that, somewhat might seem a bit distances are apparatus conference, which we run back to back, and that gives people that work on apparatus committees, that work on firetrucks manufacturers, parts makers, and suppliers to get together and talk about all the elements of what goes into a firetruck, what makes them work, what's the best way to build them without actually having the distraction of having to go into an apparatus floor to look at it.

So it's a different niche if you will, from that perspective. So we try to do that. And there is a relationship back to safety because if the firetrucks don't get the firefighters to the emergency safely, then they can't do the job and take care of the citizens that call for help. We have two main training academies. Both are two days long. One is an incident safety officer class, and that's to provide information to those that function on the scene of an emergency as a safety officer. It also helps prepare the student for the Pro Board examination. Those that successfully complete the FDSOA testing will get a Pro Board certificate. We have a health and safety officer, and that's intended for those that manage the overall programs within a fire department with respect to firefighter wellness, that being the health and safety aspect of the job that goes on behind the scenes and prior to the emergency. And then we've also got one more Pro Board certification that's on roadway safety. We have approval from the Pro Board. We are credited to offer testing to NFPA standard 1091.

So those are our major programs that we offer right now. And we try to do those very well. And we also through our website and through our networking, offer those in the industry with similar jobs to share information and learn from their network and peers.

Rod Ammon: Yeah, that sounds like a really important part for for all the states to share information. How does somebody become a member of FDSOA? Are there people from every state?

Rich Marinucci: Probably most states, I guess short of looking at the roster, I would think we have representation from most states. They become a member by going to and looking at our website. And there's an application for membership. And they complete the application. We get them into our system. They pay their dues and they become a member. And part of the benefits of membership would be discounts on our programs that I just explained to you. But we do go beyond the United States too. We have many members in Canada and across that country. And we also have enjoyed some interests from other parts of the world, too. For example, we offered our ISO class in Hong Kong a couple of years ago and certified about 90 safety officers with the Hong Kong Fire Department. We also do a lot of military bases around the world. So we've delivered our training to military fire department personnel, and we get inquiries literally from different parts of the globe.

Rod Ammon: So a network that's not only national, but international. Great. I see you write a feature called Out of My Mind for Fire Apparatus Magazine. So what's driving you out of your mind these days?

Rich Marinucci: Well, I just was trying to pick something. They were kind enough. I do write a column for their print journal, and they started an online version, and they said I had an open canvas to do whatever I felt like. So in essence, I interpreted that to mean to just spout off with my opinions more as an op-ed than anything else. And so I travel around, or as I work with different fire departments, I have a lot of conversations and discussions with firefighters and fire officers, everybody that's trying to make the industry a lot better. I try to glean whatever information I can.

Some of the things that I want to see happen is the continual improvement of the fire service. And I do a lot of things that come out of my mind regarding training and trying to get better at what we do. Most firefighters, when they show up to work, they want to do a really good job. When somebody calls 911, they want somebody truly competent, and they want the A-team. And you don't get to be an A-player in anything you do without the appropriate practice, without the appropriate education, and the appropriate training. So we try to emphasize those sorts of issues to encourage firefighters to strive to be the best they can, because they don't know what the next emergency is going to look like. It's also very beneficial when you're really good at this job, and helping to keep you safe. And again, that ties back into the FDSOA. One of the things that can help somebody minimize the risks in this job is to be really competent at what they do.

Rod Ammon: So if you had to pick one thing, what's the one issue that's driving you most these days, that's making you think, "Boy, I've got to reach out about this and get in touch with some of my fellow in the fire service."?

Rich Marinucci: I really think it's competence. And that crosses over a lot of different areas. When I started in the business a long time ago, what you had to do was break things and squirt water on it. And that was the job. And now we have so many job responsibilities, especially those organizations that provide EMS service, but we're going to more complex incidents than we ever have for variety of reasons. Even the fires are so much different. They're burning hotter. The building construction is creating a lot more challenges for firefighters. So we have a bunch of different methods of putting buildings together, but some of those methods come down in a hurry when subject to fire. So knowing what you can about those in the competence in firefighting is extremely important to keeping you safe, but also it's become so much more complicated that we don't have as much time to train unless we make a very, very conscious effort to go after the things that we need to know.

And there are certain things that we should be unconsciously competent at. And there's other things that we have a lot more discretion and time to think about that we can take our time a bit more and do it right. But in this business, there's a lot of things we need to know. I always tell people, just something as simple as a vehicle running down the road, not too long ago, they were propelled by one means, gasoline. And now, you look at how automobiles are propelled today. Firefighters are asked to go to emergencies involving these vehicles. So you have to know a lot about just vehicle fires and vehicles that are involved in accidents. And that's just one aspect of the job. Throw in hazardous material incidents and technical rescue events and a whole bunch of other things that firefighters are called to respond to.

Rod Ammon: That's a nice transition to where I was headed. And it comes from a survey that we did. We know from statistics that fire departments make approximately three times as many runs to roadway properties as they do structure fires, and the respondents to a recent ERSI responder safety survey overwhelmingly agreed that operating on the roadways is as dangerous if not more dangerous than working on a structure fire. Yet it seems like the fire service talks a lot less about the safety on the roadway incidents than we do for structure fires. What are your thoughts?

Rich Marinucci: Well, first and foremost, I think it is probably for a bulk of fire departments the most dangerous place where you work because you have a lot of factors that come into play. Jack Sullivan has done a lot of work with a responder group, talks about all the D drivers, distracted, drunk, drugged, et cetera, et cetera. So you have a lot of people that are outside of the actual emergency itself that are out of your control. So you don't know exactly what they're going to do. So we're trying to set up a work area on the highway that gives us some protection.

In a fire, in a building, you don't have outsiders or civilians trying to get around the building and creating additional hazards. You have only the hazards of that particular structure. So it's an added responsibility when you're working on a roadway is to create a safe working environment through some of the best practices, like blocking and giving adequate warning and those kinds of things. So depending on where you're at as a firefighter, you may have a few more fires in your district and roadway incidents, but a lot of fire departments are working on the roadway way more frequently than they're going to structure fires. And obviously, every time you go out there, there's a potential for some driver to do something, you could say dumb or inappropriate or carelessly that would endanger a firefighter.

Rod Ammon: Yeah. I have a feeling Jack has all kinds of names for them, and it's very frustrating because with all the work that all of you have been doing, we still have people coming off the roadway and striking firefighters and vehicles. And well, I know you're all doing the best you can to address that. That rolls into as your role with FDSOA, maybe you can tell me a little bit more about the role of a safety officer in responder safety at roadway incident responses. When I first started thinking about that, I was like, "I don't remember anybody talking about them being the safety officer at a roadway incident response." Is that happening and who is that person?

Rich Marinucci: Well, there's two situations that you have to consider. One is the more routine roadway event where you're just sending out a couple of apparatus, a couple of companies to handle the situation. Maybe you're sending out an ambulance and a firetruck, and they're resolved in a relatively short period of time. You treat the patient. You get them off the highway on the way to the hospital or whatever may happen. And then the other cases are those that last a lot longer, much more serious events where there's entrapments and you know you're going to be out on the highway for a lot longer time. Now, in the first case, when you're going to be there a very, very short time, it is difficult for most organizations to even think about getting a safety officer to the scene. So in that situation, what we need to do is provide the appropriate training to all of our officers, and in fact, all the firefighters in being a safety officer on the roadway.

So this is learning the most you can about how to create that safe work environment [inaudible 00:14:32] safer work environment as possible. So you're not going to get what we may consider the formal incident safety officer that's designated on those smaller, shorter duration events. But if the members of the organization are aware of the best practices, they can look out for each other. When you have a situation where you know you're going to be out on that highway for a lot longer, then at that point in time, organizations with a safety officer should dispatch that formal officer to assume that position so that their sole responsibility is to look around for things that could cause harm to the firefighters.

Rod Ammon: Well, and so there it goes. More training for everybody so that whether someone's there or not, they've got that awareness that I hear often spoken about. What about the fire service efforts on training personnel to recognize and mitigate safety hazards when at a roadway incident response? What more can we be doing?

Rich Marinucci: Well, this is one of those things that could get out of my mind again too, is that I think there's a core of fire departments who are doing a really outstanding job, but there's a lot that don't get an opportunity to attend our programs, to learn more about what you could do as a safety officer to attend FDIC and see what's the latest and greatest to participate in the National Fire Academy, et cetera, et cetera, when you really look at the numbers of organizations that have the opportunity to participate outside of their own organization, it's a smaller percentage of the number of fire departments of this country.

So one of the things we have to do is figure out a way to get to those that aren't coming to get our message but need to drive them to our offsite trainings, if you will, figure out a way to get this information to the people that have yet to receive it. And then you got to get them to practice enough so they're competent at what they do. Somebody that may have taken a roadway class five, six years ago, figures they'd check that box and they're done. And the reality of it is we're learning more and more about that part of the job every day and there's things they need to refresh and learn more about to become a better at what they're doing and hopefully providing a safer environment for the firefighters.

Rod Ammon: So as a chief, how did you make that happen?

Rich Marinucci: You got to start off by hiring good people. I mean, it starts with anything. I don't care what team you have. If you're going to have an orchestra or whatever, you've got to have people that are going to be good at the job. They have to have talent and are capable of doing that. And from that point, then you've got to provide them with the training.

Now, between their desire and their interest in being really good at the job, if you give them the opportunities, they're going to do that. You got to give them the right tools to do the job. You can't just throw somebody out with an untuned instrument and ask them to play a concerto. It's just not going to sound that good. So you have to give them the tools they need to do that job. And then you got to have the leadership that's willing to provide the information as needed, and then the courage to enforce the things that need to be done when you find somebody that deviates slightly from your policies and procedures. So you hope that everybody in their best interests would follow all the best practices, but we know historically whether it's the fire service or any other industry, you need supervisors to be supervisors and get people on the right path.

Rod Ammon: I love what you have to say about leadership and enforcement because we have a lot of conversations with people about, "Hey, if you see something, whether you're in leadership or whether you're a part of the team, say something and act and do the things the right way." I think about what's going on with backing up fatalities. They're still happening. I guess we've had two this year with people backing up and leading to a fatality. And I think that's now six in the past four years. How do we make a difference there?

Rich Marinucci: Well, I've had experiences now with people getting backed over, but people backing firetrucks into immovable objects. And in my view, it's inexcusable. The only reason that happens is pure laziness. There's no spotter, nobody backing it up. There's nobody behind that. I realize there are times when there might be a single driver, but then in that case, that person has to get out of the firetruck, walk around, see where they're at, and then maybe take a little extra time to make sure that they're not going to back into something.

So from my view, it's somebody knows the right thing to do. They probably understand what can go wrong, but either because they've done it 1,000 times and nothing bad has ever happened, they're going to try 1,001 and they're going to take a shortcut, or they're tired and the officer doesn't want to get out of the truck and back them up, or they don't want to wait for somebody to come out of the station or hurry, again, completely inexcusable, completely preventable. You got to get people to do that, educate them over and over again. I think when you use these incidents and demonstrate that there are people getting run over and backed over, it could happen to anybody, and we can prevent this by doing it the right way. And this is a case when those leaders and officers, when they find that it's not happening, need to step up and take the appropriate action to get people's attention.

Rod Ammon: Okay. Just as a sidebar, there is a video that was produced by Responder Safety about safe backing that's available It seems in a lot of places we talk about changing culture, but let's just talk about the resistance to change in emergency services and how it's impacting the ability to operate more safely. How do we address that? How do we motivate firefighters in this case to do more about safety?

Rich Marinucci: Well, this is going to probably... I hope it comes out the right way with its intended meaning. But I think right now we're in a situation where firefighters are getting ill because of the job that they do and coming down with cases of cancer. We know firefighters are more susceptible to certain types of cancers. With that is virtually by everybody in the fire service knows somebody close to them that's contracted cancer. And we can point back to some of the hazards of the job. So that becomes a motivator to some extent, because a lot of times [inaudible 00:21:28], "I'm not going to get hit by a car on a roadway," or, "I'm not going to fall through a floor. I'm not going to fall from a roof," or whatever it is that's causing the injuries. But when you can make a direct connect with somebody you know that suffered through that tragedy, that horrible, horrible disease known as cancer, it certainly starts to [inaudible 00:21:51] makes you think twice what you're doing and the risks you're taking that could be affecting not only you but your entire family.

So I think that's one of the motivators to try and help us transition to something a little safer. And I think we have to start looking at our whole life in perspective. Again, I mentioned family members. Okay, how many people want to stick around and see their kids grow up? Well, everybody does. Right?

Rod Ammon: Yeah.

Rich Marinucci: Well, you do have a much better chance of doing that if you minimize the risk. So somehow, we have to look past ourselves personally and all the other people that are affected when we get seriously injured or worse. So those are some of the things we use to try and motivate people. Now on the flip side of that is that we try very hard in the FDSOA and we do our classes is to tell people, "We're not telling you not to put out a fire. We are not telling you not to do your job. We're not telling you not to put yourself in harm's way when there's another human being. But there are cases when we put ourselves in a dangerous position for absolutely no reason whatsoever."

For example, when I tell stories in class from time to time, I'll ask firefighters if they've ever saved a car when we went to a car fire. And they'll say, "No." I said, "You mean you didn't put the fire out and a board up company came and put boards all around the windows, they took it back to the shop and restored it?" They said, "No, they just take it right to the junkyard." So why are we risking breathing in all the crap that comes off a car fire for something that they're going to throw into a junkyard? So that's the kind of thing that we have to work on is get people to say there's a time and a place to take the appropriate risk and there's a time where it's just stupid.

Rod Ammon: Yeah. Well said. I'm thinking about what you said about competence. And you also touched... At the beginning, you talked a little bit about the certifications that come from FDSOA. So as a firefighter who wants to become more professional, I think there's an opportunity here that FDSOA has partnered with the Emergency Responder Safety Institute to offer a new certificate for traffic incident management technician. Can you tell us how that came about?

Rich Marinucci: Well, the FDSOA has been accredited by the Pro Board for a long time long before my affiliation as executive director. So we have been working with our two programs, incident safety officer and the health and safety officer, which are based upon NFPA 1521. And so recently, the NFPA added the standard 1091 for roadway safety. And I was contacted by the roadway safety folks and said, "We're very interested in trying to offer certification to try and promote professionalism in this particular area." And what it does is it drives people to understand what's in the JPR of the NFPA standard. And then they get tested to see if they're competent, to see if they actually have absorbed the information and are able to practice it, to apply it during an emergency. So from the roadway safety perspective, it was going to be a much longer process to get into the Pro Board system. But since it was a safety issue and relative to the FDSOA mission of keeping firefighters safe, we decided to work in partnership with them and develop a testing mechanism.

Rod Ammon: So why should emergency responders become certified TIM technicians? What's the motivation?

Rich Marinucci: Well, I think the motivation is like with anything, it goes back to wanting to be really good at your job and knowing as much as you can. When you know you're going to work in a very dangerous situation, whether it's a structure fire or whether on the roadways, the more information you have, the less likely you're going to get seriously injured because you're going to make good decisions. And by following the standard, you are getting the latest and greatest information. You're understanding as much as you possibly can about working in a hazard environment. So for self-preservation, the preservation of your crew, the preservation of your companies, your fellow firefighters, learning as much as you can and then demonstrating that you actually do that.

You talked about some of the other things that I get out of my mind. One is the certification mills that we have where firefighters are more interested in just producing a piece of paper. Well, the certification goes beyond that. It says you've got to prove it. You don't just attend a class and then have a pulse and walk out and you get a certificate. You actually have to demonstrate that you gained some knowledge by attending that class. And I think [inaudible 00:26:52] the certification will do is attest that you actually have gained some knowledge.

Rod Ammon: I think it's pretty fair to say that the leadership, including safety officers and training officers, chiefs of departments, have an important role in directing this and requiring their personnel to earn credentials like the certified TIM technician. What's your message to department leadership? How can prioritizing roadway responder safety and traffic incident management skills and training rotations and through certifications like this reduce line-of-duty deaths and injuries? What's the responsibility applicable to the standards in an NFPA 1500?

Rich Marinucci: Well, from the leadership perspective, one of the things I've learned in my travels over the years across this country is that any fire chief that suffers a line of duty death of one of their members is devastated by that. And then it weighs on their mind until the day they die. And if you want to be a leader, your goal should be to make sure that everybody leaves this job as healthy as they possibly can. And so once we know that there's a risk in part of this job, and we know there are things that we can do to minimize those risks, it's up to the leadership to take the initiative and make sure that becomes part of their department culture.

Rod Ammon: Yeah, and more and more, it seems as though it's getting put to a higher level or a priority of chiefs to get this training done for the same reason you're saying, so we can get people home. Thanks for that. But before we move on and close up for today, we're often talking about in the team about distracted and impaired driving. You've already mentioned it today, and the fact that Jack Sullivan has brought that up many times. We're hearing a lot of frustration from emergency responders, what they're seeing out on the road in terms of driver behavior. And we've had some high profile struck by LODDs this summer related to some really bizarre driving behaviors. Everyone's trying to crack this and figure out what to do so that we can be more effective in reducing distracted driving. Do you have any input into that conversation? Any suggestions?

Rich Marinucci: Well, I think there's some great minds working on it, which the fact that we haven't come with a magic potion yet tells you how complex this issue is because it involves not just fire department response, but if you have a separate ambulance response, a law enforcement response, tow truck drivers. So there's a lot of people that work in that. So the fact that we're able to start to pull these folks together and get some synergy from our brains to try and come with solution is a really, really good step. There are some things that people are doing. And as they prove to be more effective, I think you'll see more and more departments going in that particular area. So we started talking about markings on the highway and accentuating signs, and there are departments now that have special vehicles that they go out there that block for them.

And as we see cases where these are successful at protecting firefighters, we should start to see more and more departments demanding that their communities provide these tools to them so they can operate safely. It's like anything. You don't have to fight through the budget process to get some of this equipment, whether it's on a fire ground or whether it's for an EMS call or working on the highway. So we're starting to get indications that a lot of what is practiced for the most part is working, although there are exceptions, as you said. There's been some crazy events in the last couple of months of just wacko drivers. I don't know how they got to where they're at. But we do know that there are certain things we can do that even with some of the wackos, we can keep our firefighters safe and minimize the damage along the way.

Rod Ammon: Yeah. I think every once in a while, we got to say something positive. We even had a video that we just worked on where some people did all these right things. And the firefighters survived. The vehicle got hit, the apparatus got hit, but everybody went home. So I feel like you all are doing some things right, and that needs to be said. At the same time, we've got more and more traffic and higher speeds and all kinds of things going on. [inaudible 00:31:25] am I missing?

Rich Marinucci: I think you got to add, I think, those successes, and I think we're going to have to start collecting them, as you said, to demonstrate that these practices do work. I remember back when I was with [inaudible 00:31:39] Fire Department, I had an ambulance out on the interstate and the [inaudible 00:31:48] unit on the side, and they followed protocol. The driver looked through his rear-view mirror before he opened the door and he saw a car. It was icy conditions. It was in the winter time. He saw a car losing control. The medics in the back went out the side door versus the rear door. The car slammed into the back of our ambulance, unfortunately killed the occupants of the vehicle, but our firefighters were uninjured.

And I think that's a testament to them doing things the right way, not taking a shortcut and making sure they follow best practices. And so when you have those incidents that you just highlighted of where somebody blocked and a car slammed into a vehicle and didn't hurt a firefighter, we need to do a better job of accumulating those cases so that we can demonstrate to the policymakers while it's still very important to follow the best practice.

Rod Ammon: Anything else I'm missing, anything you want to get across to the audience?

Rich Marinucci: It's a tough job on occasion, and nobody said it was going to be easy. But on the flip side, I don't think anybody shows up at work in the morning and says, "I'm going to do something dumb today so I get injured." So they want to do the right thing. And the way you overcome some of that is addressing the competency issues. And then also not getting complacent when you're doing the job. That's very challenging when you're in a department that goes in a lot of calls and you hear the same thing over and over again, and you get into that rut. And that's where we have to start supporting each other in our companies and in our stations and in our departments to make sure that somebody's looking out for the wellbeing all the time. Not everybody can be on the top of their game for a 30- or 40-year career every single shift, but somebody's got to be to make sure that we're protected. And we need to look out for each other, eliminate those things that can be eliminated because that will help us in the long-run on different issues.

Rod Ammon: Great message. Chief, we appreciate you joining us today to talk about important safety issues in the fire service that sometimes don't get the attention they deserve. You can apply for the certified traffic incident management technician credential at We also have a page of information, resources, and a workbook and study guide to help you prepare for the certification exam at Those links are on this podcast page. Thanks again. Really appreciate your time, Chief.

Rich Marinucci: Thank you, Rod. I appreciate [inaudible 00:34:26] the opportunity. Any chance we get to get our message out. If we can get just a couple more firefighters every single time and we're gaining on it and we're making progress.

Rod Ammon: Appreciate your passion. And again, thanks for your time. You be well. Be safe.

Rich Marinucci: You too. Thank you again.

Rod Ammon: Bye-bye.

This podcast, and the Responder Safety Learning Network are made possible by funding from the fire prevention and safety grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program administered by FEMA and the US Department of Homeland Security. We appreciate your support, and remember to share these podcasts with your colleagues to spread the word about safety practices at roadway incident scenes. Thanks for joining us today on the podcast. Stay safe, everybody. We'll see you next time. For, I'm Rod Ammon.

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