Celebrating 100 Years With a Seal of Excellence

For the members of the Raleigh Fire Department, celebrating 100 years of service to the community was reason enough to don formal attire and attend the Fireman’s Ball. As the festivities began, the department members soon learned that the night wasn’t just about their centennial; they would also receive recognition by a national organization for going above and beyond.

On Saturday, November 17, members of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Memorial Weekend Staff attended the Fireman’s Ball to present the Everyone Goes Home® Seal of Excellence to the department for its commitment to promoting firefighter safety.

“Under Chief John McGrath’s leadership, the Raleigh Fire Department has been a champion of firefighter safety and successfully has implemented the themes and concepts of the Life Safety Initiatives,” said Victor Stagnaro, director of fire service programs for the Foundation. “The department has focused on excellent customer service, professional service delivery and operational readiness through training and discipline. These characteristics epitomize the Seal of Excellence,” he explained.

A single incident reinforced the importance of fully embracing the tenets of the Initiatives. On July 10, 2009, Ladder 4, a tractor drawn aerial ladder, was involved in a single vehicle accident while responding to a report of a structure fire. Fortunately, there were no fatalities and all the members riding on the apparatus returned to work. Afterward, Chief McGrath and the members of the Raleigh Fire department committed themselves to preventing this type of incident from happening again.

The department sought out the best national training models to provide to its members. After researching the best practices related to apparatus driving, they joined forces with the Seattle Fire Department which was working on a comprehensive training program related to driving tractor-drawn fire apparatus. The result was an extensive training program for the apparatus drivers of the Raleigh Fire department and greater levels of protection and accountability within the organization. They also developed key points to remind all fire service members of the following:

  • Safety is First
  • Training is Essential
  • Wear Your Seatbelt
  • Control all Intersections
  • Be In Control of Your Apparatus
  • You Must Arrive to Make a Difference

The Raleigh Fire Department’s outreach did not stop there. In conjunction with the Seattle Fire Department, Raleigh chose to share the lessons learned and the heartfelt stories of the firefighters that were involved in the crash by developing a training video. Their willingness to openly discuss this close call took courage. But the lessons learned and the desire to prevent others from experiencing a similar event, perhaps one with a more tragic ending, took precedence. The Raleigh fire department pressed forward believing that the safety of firefighters is a crucial element in the culture of firefighting. To see the video go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgM2e7VTEGY

In presenting the Everyone Goes Home® Seal of Excellence, Chief Siarnicki congratulated the entire department on demonstrating exemplary commitment to firefighter safety and helping to ensure that Everyone Goes Home after their tour of duty.

Chief Siarnicki then recognized Chief McGrath for his many years of service to the Foundation and to the survivors of America’s fallen firefighters. He presented Chief McGrath with a replica of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, noting, “Over the past ten years McGrath has filled the key role of incident commander for the annual Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland, donating countless hours of his personal time to help the Foundation staff ensure that this important national event runs smoothly.”

Chief McGrath, who prides himself on staying informed about the projects he manages and the incidents he commands, was caught by surprise with the presentation.

In addition to his work with the Memorial Weekend, Chief McGrath has served as a presenter for Taking Care of Our Own®, a course designed to help departments prepare for a line of duty death. He also has moderated the NFFF’s annual Chief-to-Chief meeting and has personally reached out to many fire chiefs after they have experienced a line of duty death.

“Chief McGrath’s dedication to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the survivors, and the fire service as a whole is unparalleled” said Siarnicki. “He is respected and admired by all who know him. On behalf of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, it is my pleasure to honor him and the Raleigh Fire Department tonight.”

Chief Ron Kanterman, a 35-year veteran of the fire service and chief of the Mohegan Tribal Fire Department in Uncasville, Connecticut and who serves as chief of operations for the NFFF’s annual Memorial Weekend ceremonies described his experience at the event in his blog

For more information about the National Fallen Firefighters Seal of Excellence Award and Everyone Goes Home® go to www.everyonegoeshome.com.