Thursday, May 13, 2010

Letter to the Editor of "The Chief"
Civil Service Newspaper and
the New York City Council

Lt. George Diaz, President FDNY Hispanic Society

I find it necessary to make a statement on behalf of the FDNY Hispanic Society. Over the last several months statements made in the media & news print have implied that since The FDNY Hispanic Society represents a minority group then we must automatically be part of any and all statements, law suits, or allegations of inequality made about or toward the FDNY. My previous statements have been taken out of context. The Hispanic Society and the Vulcan Society share similar issues, wants and needs, we just go about securing and/or rectifying them in different ways. Our organizations do not always see eye to eye but we well respect each other’s point of view. At the end of the day both organizations, as well as the Women Firefighters Association, The FireFlag/EMSs, Asian etc all want to increase their own representation within the ranks of NYC Firefighters. I respect what the Vulcan Society has achieved in respect to successfully bringing public attention to the lack of diversity in the ranks of the FDNY and this lack of diversity should trouble us all.

I want to clear up our stance on the credit preference issue for firefighter entrance exams. We are not in favor of an 8-point High School preference credit in addition to 5 points for residency. The truth is that these are two bills the Hispanic Society addressed and considered years ago. We chose then to support the residency preference requirement, which was eventually passed. What we would like to see is to have the 5-point residency requirement honestly enforced. There is no 5 points preference when everyone and anyone can claim it and use it. This has been the practice for too long. If the NYC Fire Department candidate investigation division does not have the manpower or resources to verify the residency requirement then maybe a High School Diploma will be easier to verify and harder to forge. I believe now, as I always have, that the residency and/or the High School preference bills are economic bills rather than a minority advantage. The salaries that are paid to 60% of our firefighters who live outside the city are spent outside the city. If more of these firefighters lived in the inner city this salary revenue would re-circulate within a budget strapped city. With so many budget cuts on the horizon we can use all the help we can get. It does not matter what race you are. If you live in NYC, you were educated here, you posses home grown knowledge beneficial to this job. You understand the buildings, the traffic, the subway system, the people, the difference in the culture of Manhattan vs. the culture of Brooklyn, or even the Bronx. Regardless of race, creed, color, sex, etc, you should get preference for that knowledge over someone who wants to work here but has not mastered that knowledge yet. For years our very own suburban communities have given preference to their residents who wish to be police officers for the same reasons and no one disputes that. Why is it a problem when New York residents ask for the same consideration?

In 1980 I learned about the firefighter exam in “The Chief civil service Leader” newspaper. I found info in “The Chief” about tutoring classes to prepare for the written test. I found info of physical training course at a Brooklyn Armory by a “Firefighter Walsh” to prepare for the physical portion. I took advantage of all. I passed a written test, a physical test, a psychological test, a background investigation, a medical evaluation and was appointed to the Fire Academy in the summer of 1984. At that time “The Chief” was the only reliable source of information about the test other than word of mouth. In that first class of the list I remember there were only two African Americans out of 350 candidates. One of the two was Paul Washington, who later achieves the rank of Captain while also being President of the Vulcan Society. I don’t know exactly how many Hispanics there were but I knew no more than 6. In the 1980s there were less then 700 black Firefighters and less the 300 Hispanic Firefighters (only one Hispanic female firefighter) in the 12,000 Firefighter work force. Today we have 369 Black Firefighters and 735 Hispanic Firefighters, (7 total Hispanic Female firefighters, 4 of the 7 all came on together on the last 2008 class). The Hispanic representation has doubled while the number of African American Firefighters has significantly decreased. The City and The Fire Department misleads its citizens and my fellow firefighters by combing the diversity number of EMS uniformed EMT/Paramedics with the number of Firefighters. EMS has no problem displaying diversity because it was already diverse when the FDNY took charge of it over 10 years ago. I know because I once wore the all green uniform of an EMT when EMS was run by the Health and Hospital Corporation.

Why has the New York City Fire Department failed to reflect the community that it serves for so long? This is a great job that continues to be passed down from father to son. Word of mouth has been a very successful recruitment tool for the FDNY for decades. The firefighter entrance exam is given approximately every 3 years. It takes a potential candidate approximately 2- 5 years from the date of test to be appointed. In the past when the 6-week filing period window opened the city would send a package of some 50 applications to each firehouse for the public. Each firehouse has a roster of 25 Firefighters. If each firefighter took two applications for their friends, neighbors or family members then the general public understandably never saw one. Another fact is our family members generally tend to be of the same race or color. Today, as in the past, by word of month, if each member of our total 12,000 firefighters went out and recruited just two family members we would have 369 black firefighters recruiting 678 candidates, 735 Hispanics would bring in 1, 470 Hispanic candidates and 10, 896 non-minorities would bring in 21,792 non-minority candidates. Each firefighter entrance exam has yielded at least 30,000 test takers and the city generally appoints an average of 1500 firefighters off any one list.

So we have a problem. But is really a test or something more. Smarter, more educated people then I have studied the situation and found that the test is the problem. I personally don’t know exactly. I do know this. When we put real honest recruitment to the test, the results come in. In 2008 we had the most diverse class of probationary firefighters in the history of the NYC Fire Department. This was no accident. It came from the largest recruitment effort ever made by the NYC Fire Department. 68 out of 350 probationary firefighters were Hispanic, 4 of those 68 were females. Of course we need to do better and we are but some understandably feel not fast enough. The city is 27% Hispanic. I am not saying the Fire Department needs to be 27% Hispanic or 60% people of color. The truth is that I don’t think in the city of New York if we have 50% doctors, dentists, carpenters, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, nail salon owners, fruit stands, etc. There will always be an uneven number somewhere. That in itself makes our city special.

Is the test unfair? I was born in NYC and English was my second language as I spoke only Spanish until I entered the NYC public school system. I have Hispanic Society members who were not born in this country that came here, studied here, passed the test and are appointed firefighters. I agree that no written test can prove what kind of Firefighter one will be. That’s because firefighting takes several talents and abilities into account. No written test can test athletic abilities but firefighters must be fit, strong and disciplined enough to do what the average citizen can’t. No written test can test one’s mechanical abilities with tools but in time of stressful emergencies firefighters must be able to adapt and improvise with whatever is available in hand to get the job done regardless of what obstacles are placed in front of them. The NYC Fire Department has volumes of written field proven training material passed on by seasoned brother firefighters before us. Every Officer in this Department had to dedicate countless hours of studying a portion of that written material to be more knowledgeable then his Band of Brother firefighters trying to earn the grade to be appointed the rank. The FDNY is paramilitary. Firefighters must not only know how to follow training, orders and instructions but also must be able to know the where, when & how to take the initiative and think outside the box. The public expects it and deserves it. The written test is a necessary part of the entire process. But does 5 points on any test really make one firefighter better then the next? I have known many non-minorities that did not pass the written test. I have known many non-minorities that passed the written but not the physical. They too never became Firefighters.

The Hispanic Society is totally against lowering any standards. New York City is the greatest and most popular city in the world. It deserves the best of the best to protect it. It is insulting to all Hispanics to allege that we are incapable of passing a written exam. There may be many contributing factors as to why many minorities don’t make it to the academy and they all must be evaluated. But once in the academy, our record of success is outstanding and undeniable. Is the test unfair? We can’t blame it all on the inner city school systems. I’m a product of it. So are our first Hispanic Fire Commissioner Carlos Rivera and our Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor. The test questions are made up, evaluated, and contributed up to DCAS by a diverse panel of active firefighters. DCAS has the final word on which questions will be used and the format on how they are presented but Firefighter input is considerable.

When given the opportunity Hispanics assimilate well into every occupation and this one is no exception. In the 1970s as a Marine, the United States Marine Corp had diversity there. In 2001 when the 343 firefighters were killed in the World Trade Center, Hispanic Firefighters were among them. In 2002 during my “Enduring Freedom Campaign” overseas I found diversity among my troops. In 2010 when we still find that the FDNY is the least diverse of any Fire Department in a major city in the entire United States it surprises me that all my brother firefighters are not offended by this. We must take notice and find out why. We are not asking for a “hand out” but there is a real problem. To allow this question of integrity of the job we claim to love and protect so much and not be shouting from the rooftops to have this issue resolved once and for all is beyond comprehension. Those who fight to remedy this unfortunate black eye without bringing sound solutions to the table I question their true allegiance. I do not want to give the public or my hopeful future firefighters the impression that the FDNY is fortress of racism or hatred. On the contrary no greater brotherhood outside of a military squad in theatre will you find anywhere. As citizens, as Americans, an injustice to one is an injustice to all. We owe it ourselves to try and really find the problem. I truly believe the solution lies in honest true recruitment.

We, as Hispanics are no different then any other ethic group that came before us. Hispanics have assimilated and have contributed in every aspect of American life. Hispanics have fought and even won Medals of Honor in every US involved war. We have passed every test brought before us. We have & will continue to adjust, adapt and improvise as everyone else.

In 1962 five Hispanic members of the FDNY got together and founded the FDNY Hispanic Society. In that same year The Hispanic Society’s by-laws were written and have not changed much since then. The mission statement stated then, as it does today, “its purpose is uniting and improving the quality of life for its members, as well as to contribute to the civic and cultural endeavors of the Hispanic community at large.” Today, our duty to continue to fulfill that mission is stronger, truer & more vital than ever.

Lt. George Diaz, President FDNY Hispanic Society

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cesar E. Chavez
American Hero

The Mexican American labor leader and US Navy Veteran was a humble man who gave of himself unselfishly to the cause of farm workers and all workers. He championed the cause of equality for Latinos like no one else. His courage in the face of some of our nation’s most powerful industries inspired generations of all races and nationalities to fight the good fight. The late founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America had deep confidence in the ability of people to move mountains of injustice. Under his leadership, farm workers moved the agribusiness mountain and won the first union contracts for agricultural workers in the grape fields. Millions followed Cesar Chavez on his journey, which won monumental gains for farm workers, for civil rights, political representation for racial minorities and environmental justice. These achievements place him as one of the most outstanding leaders of the twentieth century.

People from all races, nationalities, men and women alike admire Cesar Chavez for helping us stand tall with dignity and unity as we organize against injustice. The roots of Cesar Chavez’s organizing are deeply embedded in the Latino community and the class struggle of America. The rallying words of Cesar and the UFW, “Si Se Puede!” can be heard across the nation. When Cesar Chavez demanded union contracts, decent wages and safe working conditions, he extended the possibility for victory to all workers across the nation. He elevated the bar for equality and unity. He gave hope to the poor and under represented.

"We have another kind of power that comes from the justice of our cause. So long as we are willing to sacrifice for that cause, so long as we persist in non-violence and work to spread the message of our struggle, then millions of people around the world will respond from their heart, will support our efforts...and in the end we will overcome." ...Cesar Chavez

The NAHF honors Cesar E. Chavez

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Safety, Health and Survival Week 2010
"Fit for Duty"


Fairfax, Va., Mar. 11, 2010: The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters announced the theme for the 2010 Safety, Health and Survival Week: Fit for Duty.

Safety, Health and Survival Week (Safety Week) is a collaborative program sponsored by the IAFC and the IAFF, coordinated by the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section and the IAFF Division of Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine, in partnership with more than 20 national fire service organizations.

Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety Week and instead focus entirely on safety, health and wellness-related training and education until all shifts and personnel have taken part. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend one day focusing on these critical issues.

With more than 50 percent of fire fighter line-of-duty deaths caused by health and fitness-related issues, both organizations believe it’s imperative that there be a concentrated effort in implementing wellness and fitness programs.

Safety Week’s Fit for Duty theme will cover a variety of topics that are extremely important to all fire fighters and EMS personnel. The program will assist fire departments with implementing their own programs to prepare fire fighters and EMS personnel with healthy habits that reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain cancers, thereby increasing the chance for a longer and healthier life.

While departments are encouraged to identify activities tailored to their specific community, recommended areas of concentration include:

  • General Health and Wellness
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Fitness
  • Stress Management
  • Smoking and Smokeless-Tobacco Cessation
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Suicide Prevention

During the week, departments are also encouraged to support comprehensive fitness assessments, medical screenings and educational programs that build and maintain medically and physically fit personnel and help in reducing health and fitness-related deaths or injuries.

Planning tools and resources are currently available on the Safety Week website courtesy of the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section. Check out the Resources > Health and Wellness webpage for specific resources on this year's areas of concentration.

Additional information can also be found on the IAFF’s Health, Safety and Medicine’s website. Online resources in a variety of topic areas are available online year-round to support continuous efforts to promote personnel safety, health and wellness programs.

CALL FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

We seek submissions for new SOPs, policies, articles, program summaries, program descriptions, etc., on this year’s areas of concentration. The preferred format for submission this year is a URL link to a departmental or organizational website, in order to facilitate a timely posting of new resources and provide visibility to departments contributing to the program. If a link isn’t available, PDF documents will still be accepted.

If you have submitted resources for Safety Week in the past, there’s no need to resubmit the same information. However, if you have updated your resources or have new ones, we would like to add them to the website. If appropriate, please note that your submission is an update of a resource currently posted on the Safety Week website.

By providing resource links for use in conjunction with the Safety Week and overall fire/EMS safety efforts, you acknowledge that you:

  • Have the authority to do so without infringing on copyright or ownership of the resources.
  • Give the IAFC permission to post these links/resources on the IAFC's public website.
  • Understand that the IAFC posts these links on the IAFC's website for use by public visitors to promote safety practices in the fire and emergency service, but the IAFC does not control who uses the resources or how they are used. The goal is to provide tools and resources that fire and emergency service professionals can customize for use in their area. Please do not send resource links that cannot be used in this fashion.
  • Understand that their availability on the website does not constitute endorsement of any kind by the IAFC.
Email your current resources to safety@iafc.org by Friday, March 26, 2010. In your email, please indicate which of the 2010 areas of concentration (listed above) the resource references.


The NAHF encourages all Firefighters to participate in the
2010 Safety, Health and Survival Week
"Fit for Duty"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Webinar Invitation-The USFA
Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign

Launch of the U.S. Fire Administration’s
Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign
Join us for a Webinar on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 12:00pm EDT

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) invites you to participant in the Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign Webinar. The campaign is asking everyone to help protect themselves, their families, AND the firefighters who help save lives by:
1.) Installing and maintaining smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers,
2.) Practicing fire escape plans, and
3.) Performing a home safety walk- through to remove fire hazards from the home.

The USFA’s Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign, will launch before the end of Daylight Savings Time when people are often reminded to change the batteries in their smoke alarms.
Registration:
Register now for the 30-minute webinar, held on Wednesday, October 28th at 12:00 pm EDT by clicking on: http://bit.ly/3cXNDO.

The webinar will include:

  • Kelvin J. Cochran, Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration
  • Bianca Sancic, Fire and Life Safety Educator/Public Information Officer, who was saved from a home fire, because she had a working smoke alarm
  • Dawn Deeks, Director of Communications, SAFE KIDS Worldwide
  • Kathy Gerstner, Fire Program Specialist, U.S. Fire Administration
  • Information on the free campaign materials, which are available in English and Spanish, for your use

    Title: The USFA’s Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign Webinar
    Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009
    Time: 12:00pm EDT

    Requirements:
    On the day of the webinar, you must log-in through the computer and call the telephone number provided to you upon registration.
The NAHF and USFA thank you and we look forward to your participation on October 28th

Thursday, June 18, 2009

“Mis Primeros Pasos”
Fire Prevention & Life Safety Training
Dominican Republic

From May 19, through May 31, 2009, NAHF representative Antiliano Estrella of Providence Rhode Island Fire Department and member of IAFF Local 799, trained an estimated 200 Fire Personnel in the “Mis Primeros Pasos” fire prevention program. This program is the NFPA’s “Learn Not to Burn” program in Spanish. The training took place in four municipalities in the Dominican Republic; San Pedro de Macori, El Seibo, Barahona, and San Francisco de Macori. San Pedro de Macori was the first NAHF International Chapter established in 2007 in Dallas, TX.

Most Fire Departments in the Dominican Republic have a Junior Firefighter program that builds discipline and prepares youth for a career in the Fire Service. Firefighters representing 13 Fire Departments and the Red Cross took advantage of this training. “The training was very successful and has inspired participants to train others in the program” stated Antiliano Estrella, “The training was a huge success and helps the NAHF reach its goals of keeping or communities healthy and safe.”
The NAHF would like to thank President of the NAHF Domincan Chapter Carlos Tomas Ramos, General Carlo Varelo, General Luis Esmurdoc, Chief Javier Garcia, Chief Jesus Corpal Arias,  Chief Jose Antonio Perez Gomez, and Battalion Chief Federico Matos for planning and coordinating such successful training programs throughout the country of the Dominican Republic.
The NAHF would also like to recognize F/F Antiliano Estrella (center white cap) for his dedication, sacrifice, and leadership. It is because of members like him the NAHF has a bright future.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 NAHF International
Training Conference
Miami, Florida USA




Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Los Bomberos of Northern California
23rd Annual Toy and Food Program
Assist 500 Families

video
Click arrow above to view 2007 program

San Jose CA - On Friday December 12, 2008, Los Bomberos of Northern California will be hosting its 23rd Annual “Bombero Holiday Toy and Food Program.” Hundreds of family and friends of Firefighters will wrap new toys for children of less fortunate families in Santa Clara County. This year’s program is projected to assist over 500 families. As in past years, the program is hosted by Los Bomberos of Northern California and supported by the San Jose Fire Department and San Jose Firefighters Local 230.

“Los Bomberos of Northern California”, was founded in 1972 by two Stanford Firefighters who wanted to promote the Latino culture within the fire service. The two original goals were to increase Latino representation in the fire service and provide guidance and support to those pursuing promotional opportunities. Today, they recognize their responsibility as role models and leaders in the community. As a result of this distinction, the goals of Los Bomberos have grown to include “Commitment to Community Service.” This commitment is reflected in the various events they have coordinated and supported over the last 35 years, which include:

· Annual Holiday Toy and Food Program
· Cesar Chavez Family Vision, March and Celebration
· Walk-a-thon for Latinas against Breast Cancer
· Earthquake Preparedness Programs
· Paint-a-Thon (Painting homes for the elderly)
· Firefighter Recruitment
· Bilingual Fire and Life Safety Education Programs
· Scholarships for Students Pursuing Higher Education
· CA State Fire Chiefs Assoc "Bombero Program"
· Training to Firefighters from Mexico, Central, and South America
· Development of National Bilingual Certification
· Leadership and Professional Development
· Mentorship and Role Model Programs
· Int’l Support of Construction of Homes and Churches

These are the types of initiatives that have sustained the organization for over 35 years, recently culminating with a special “Congressional Community Service Commendation” from the Congress of the United States, House of Representatives.
Posted by: Lizzetth Bellot, NAHF Consultant