Fire Station Bullies

Most people that know me well will tell you that the one thing that almost destroyed my firefighting career was the Fire Station Bullies. If you come along to my book signing next week at the Manila International Book Fair I can tell you more about it. Meanwhile, here is a recent article by Adam J. Hansen that I can resonate with very well:

Looking back on childhood memories, most can recall our parents telling us “if you work hard enough, you can do anything you want.” Our family’s encouragement is what sets up the fundamental understanding of “if you want something bad enough, all it takes is courage and determination and your possibilities are endless.” This premise continues as we proceed throughout our lives; teachers keeping us on the right path, coaches pushing to reveal our full potential, and friends encouraging us to excel. The best payment anyone of these life mentors can receive is to get word of a protégé going out into the world and becoming successful. Knowing that you impacted someone’s life and were a part of their success is truly an awesome feeling.

If these support mechanisms exist throughout all chapters of our lives, then why do they all too often seem to abandon us at the firehouse? Most rookies get hired with the goal of graduating the academy and going on to their respective departments to learn, succeed and excel. A probie envisions the firehouse as being a warehouse of unlimited resources/access to experience and help to achieve their goals. Ideas of being surrounded by like-minded individuals who are looking to advance their careers and becoming the best versions of themselves is how probies imagine their new universe will look. If these ideas and hopes exist when first coming on the job, why does the firehouse so often seem to offer the exact opposite reality for new firefighters coming through the door?

The reality often looks more like this: if the probie takes even one bit of initiative, i.e., clean the tools, check/inspect seldom used equipment, read an IFSTA Book, the response is negative and destructive. You hear things like “Look at this whacker”, “What, you think you’re going places on this job”, “I don’t know why you bother with that”, and ”This ain’t the big city kid”. It is these firehouse bullies who are responsible for destroying the culture of the fire service.

Simply stated, probies walk through the door on their first day with one thing on their mind – to become a good firefighter. A newbie first walking into the firehouse is the most opportune time to take advantage of the occasion to teach, demonstrate good behaviors and impart our seasoned wisdom to the next generation. The first year is when they will formulate their career path and mold into the kind of firefighter they are going to be. Good and bad habits will be picked up, first impressions made, proper decorum learned, and respect taught. When a probie walks through the doors of the firehouse we, as mentors, have a clean slate upon which to teach and create. We have an opportunity to model them into the type of firefighter we want working by our side for the next 20+ years. If this all holds true, then why in Hell do we go out of our way to destroy this great opportunity?

Firehouse bullies don’t want to see probies become great firefighters or go on to become the future of positive change within our service. Their goal is to stunt and destroy the drive that exists within them. The young impressionable kid who looks up to the 20+ year veteran is going to be influenced. For good or bad, they will listen to what the veteran says and those words will have an immeasurable impact on the future direction of their career. More often than not the words they are hearing though are these: “Oh, what kind of stupid training do we have today?”, “Look at the glory boys! Who are they trying to impress?”, “Only a fool would take classes that aren’t required.”, ”You spent $100 dollars on a flashlight?! What an idiot!”, “Your just an ass in the seat and nothing more.”, and ”Don’t check that piece of equipment. We’ll never use it.” It doesn’t matter for what department you work; we all know or have met these firehouse bullies who do nothing but destroy the potential future leaders of our fire service. It’s easy to say “You are your own person. If you want to be eager and excited about the job, just don’t listen to them.” But, it’s easier said than done. I’m 35 years old with a beautiful wife, two beautiful boys, and a life I wouldn’t trade with anybody. I know what I want out of this life and no matter who tries to bring me down or mock my endeavors it’s not going to have an impact on what I do. That being said, it’s becoming much more difficult for a young kid just out of the academy to dismiss negative people they may be surrounded by at the firehouse. Young probies wanting to practice donning and doffing their turnout gear, read a firefighting book, take an extra class, or talk about a near miss they read about may think twice before speaking up and following their ambitions. They may say to themselves “I don’t want these guys to make fun of me. Maybe I’ll just sit back and go with the flow. I just want to be one of the guys.” If this happens, by the end of their first year and the time they get off of probation, the opportunity to turn our brothers/sisters into exceptional firefighters has come and gone. Not only have we missed a perfect opportunity, but we have set them up for failure by taking away all of the drive and ambition that once existed.

It’s these same firehouse bullies who suck at the job. They are the ones who sit around bashing training exercises and then run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off when the situation gets real. He/she is the one who talks a big game and makes fun of enthusiasm, but, when push comes to shove, is found standing in the background because they have no clue how to perform the task at hand. If you’re a newly graduated firefighter or just entering the fire service I hope you are blessed with being surrounded by real firefighters who love the job and encourage you to become the best version of yourself. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be surrounded by a solid support network, but instead are surrounded by naysayers and people looking to undermine your passion, don’t get discouraged. Firehouse bullies will come and go, but if you stay true to yourself and disregard the insulant, I promise this job will give back what you put into it tenfold. Be the firefighter you want to be and don’t apologize for anything.



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Author Event with Dave Pamah

Dave Pamah attending Manila International Book Fair on 13-17 Sep  at SMX Convention center, Seashell Lane, Mall of Asia Complex, 1300 Pasay City, Manila, Philippines

Wristbands will be distributed at Booth No. IP 5 on Aisle R with purchase of ‘Firefighting from within’ at MIBF. All books will be pre-signed. One wristband will be issued per book purchased. Attendees may also take a selfie with Dave Pamah if they wish. This is a photo-op only. Mr. Pamah will not be signing any additional books and/or memorabilia.

Come join him!

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Dave Pamah’s “Firefighting From Within” To Hit Asia Soon

Dave Pamah is set to release “Firefighting From Within” in Asia, bringing forth his work to help anyone, regardless of background, age, or location, fight against bullying. Pamah is not only set to launch his latest book in Asia, he will be signing the book on upcoming dates across the region.
Millions of children, and young people struggle with bullying, not knowing what to do or to whom to turn. Dave Pamah knows what it’s like to face off against bullies, and was able to overcome by turning to athletics at a young age. Through physical exercise, nutrition, and discipline, Dave was able to overcome the issues of childhood, and achieve great success in athletics. He is an advocate for exercise and nutrition. But that’s not all.
Pamah has channeled his energies into helping others achieve greatness, just like he has. He has garnered a great deal of experience as an athlete, but also in the course of 25 years, helping save lives, as a firefighter. Harnessing the years of being a top-level athlete, and 25 years of being a firefighter and leader within the ranks of the Fire Brigades Union, Pamah highlights stellar ideas on how to tackle life’s more challenging issues.
“Firefighting From Within” gives inspiration, and real-life lessons from Pamah’s life and career. Focusing on real world examples, Pamah has found a way to share some of the toughest of lessons through his writing, and it will now be available in Asia.
There are millions of individuals struggling to overcome life’s obstacles, and don’t know how to wrestle with many issues. Dave Pamah’s book focuses on how to face the giants in life head on, with an approach that is not only concrete, it’s proven from his own life. Taking on fires, training, and getting back up when life throws something that knocks you down is the premise of the book, and Pamah’s own personal life. He shares it openly in this book, and is set to share his story with the world, including Asia.
“Firefighting From Within” is not just Pamah’s story, it’s his life, and mission. To help others in any way possible, and often times it’s to see things from the inside out. Anyone that meets Pamah and hears his story and passion for helping others, will no doubt want to read his book and take on the giants in their own lives.
Dave Pamah’s website has further information on the book, blog posts about current events, and a lot more. Visit the page for updates on the Asia book launch, and signings that will occur soon.
About Dave Pamah
Dave Pamah is a premier athlete, firefighter of 25 years, and has committed his life to helping others. His book “Firefighting From Within” is available now. You can find more information via, and via his social media links.


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Workplace Bullying Needs to be Stamped Out!

You may have read that Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced his resignation recently. This followed months of chaos and revelations of a bullying and toxic corporate culture at Uber. When I saw this news item, it made me think about corporate culture and the major effect it can have on people. It made me think there’s a real need for organisations and managers to focus on promoting two very important qualities – they are dignity and respect for everyone while at work.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that the health of any corporate culture can affect productivity. If the culture is toxic, it can be hugely detrimental to those caught up in it. You’d agree, wouldn’t you, that when an organisation has robust procedures and zero tolerance policies against bullying in place, this will go a long way towards deterring bullies. When there are signs of stress levers such as intimidation and harassment at work, management should deal effectively with them. Having said that, it’s often difficult to identify the early signs and symptoms of bullying.

To understand this better, we need to ask ourselves –

  • How does bullying behaviour manifest itself in the workplace?
  • Why does one person regard a particular behaviour as bullying, while someone else sees it as tolerable, simply indicating a dominant attitude (even if such an attitude may be unwelcome)?

Bullying behaviour can be overt or covert

Bullying behaviour relies on a wide range of tactics – overt and covert. Disparaging remarks or criticism made by colleagues or managers can have harmful effects on an individual at the receiving end. This individual then feels their professional competence is being called into question – and it’s undermining their work.

Overt tactics can include public rebuke for alleged errors made by an individual in their work. Covert tactics can take the form of circulating rumours or gossip appearing to question an individual’s ability. These tactics can also be expressed as inaction.

For example, failing to acknowledge or approve work that’s been done well. Or omitting to ask for someone’s opinion, when that someone is clearly best qualified to comment.

You can recognise bullies, because typically they -

  • Make unreasonable demands on their chosen target
  • Shout at victims publicly, as a deliberate tactic to disempower them
  • Give instructions, which they then change for no apparent reason
  • Allocate tasks which they know are beyond an individual’s ability
  • Block promotion by refusing to give fair appraisals
  • Fail to endorse pay increases or bonus awards, though fully earned
  • Exclude an individual from discussions germane to their work responsibilities

You may well have observed some of these behaviours happening in work situations yourself – sadly, they’re not that uncommon.

How does bullying affect people?

People who are bullied at work often feel they’ve lost control, and they’re no longer able to carry out their duties efficiently. They try to regain the semblance of normality – but frequently this is unsuccessful. After a while, people who’ve been bullied may become tense, anxious, prone to emotional outbursts, and behave un-cooperatively. Worse still, the stress that bullying causes often leads to minor illnesses, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and fatigue. When people experience stress over time, this can result in more serious health problems – for example, very unpleasant conditions such as ‘burnout’.

When they’re being subjected to bullying, people are often reluctant to discuss their experience for fear of reprisal or further intimidation. Talking about it may be seen as a ‘black mark’ against them that could damage their career progression. In my experience, most victims of bullying have two main aims – they want to keep their job and they want the situation to return to normal.

What actions can an organisation take to prevent bullying?

  • Introduce policies to counteract bullying and harassment
  • Train HR people to recognise the signs and symptoms of bullying
  • Carry out stress and culture audits to identify ‘hot spots’
  • Focus on developing soft skills
  • Mediate between ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’
  • Ask a question such as ‘Have you ever experienced bullying in this organisation?’ during exit interviews

What you should remember 

  • Bullying behaviour is always unacceptable
  • Your people may need to be taught how to confront  bullies
  • Anti-bullying policies should complement your organisational culture

( SOURCE: Carole Spiers Group )

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How to Cope With Trauma

We are living through extraordinary times, the like of which we have never before experienced in the UK.  Our emergency services and hospital teams sweep into action after each atrocity to offer medical assistance to the injured and comfort those who suffered the ultimate loss.  For those who lost family members or sustained life-changing injuries, the road ahead is long and painful.  At first, people will remember the victims but, as time goes by and terror campaigns targeting innocent victims continue, names will sadly turn into statistics.There are many types of traumatic event that occur in the workplace 
However, you don’t have to be caught up in terrorist attacks to feel the effects of trauma. It could be that simply watching the news brings reminders of a time when you experienced trauma yourself. Trauma may be brought on by events such as an accident at home or at work, a robbery, a fire, lay-offs, death in service, threats, violence, or natural disasters such as floods.What can an organisation do?
Nothing can adequately prepare organisations or individuals for the occurrence of a traumatic incident because, by definition, such incidents are outside ‘normal’ experience. But research shows that the way an organisation treats its staff in the aftermath of a traumatic incident can have a profound effect, not only on the recovery of individuals directly involved, but also on their colleagues and families. Individuals may be traumatised (i.e. severely affected) by a disaster for some time afterwards and during this period their productivity and commitment to the organisation can be drastically reduced. In this context, managers may find themselves having to play a key role in managing a situation which might ultimately be more damaging to the organisation than the original event.

The nature of trauma
Anyone who has been involved in a traumatic incident is likely to experience some form of reaction to it. Such reactions may happen immediately or they may not occur until weeks, months or, sometimes, years afterwards.

Staff are more likely to be badly affected if:

  • There were fatalities and/ or injuries during the traumatic incident, and these were sudden or violent
  • Individuals experience feelings of guilt, wondering whether they could have done more to help the injured or could have prevented the incident from happening
  • They lack adequate support from family, friends or colleagues
  • Stress arising from the incident comes on top of existing problems that are unrelated

Emotional reactions
An individual’s emotions are likely to be in turmoil after an incident, although some people may not feel anything. Amongst the more common reactions are:

Irrational guilt for having survived when others did not
Anger at what has happened, or at the injustice or senselessness of it
Fear of breaking down or losing control and being unable to cope
Shame for not having reacted as they might have been expected to
Sadness at the deaths and injuries of colleagues

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
People are very likely to find that they are unable to stop thinking about the incident. They may experience disturbed sleep, suffer loss of memory, concentration or motivation. They may experience flashbacks and hate to be reminded of what happened, or may always have to be on their guard against a repetition of the incident.

Physiological reactions
Individuals often experience reactions such as tiredness, sleeplessness, having nightmares, dizziness, palpitations, shaking, difficulty in breathing, tightness in the throat and chest, sickness, diarrhoea, menstrual problems, changes in sexual interest, changes in eating habits, and many other symptoms. Frequently these may occur without any conscious connection being made with the incident.

Resultant behavioural problems
Individuals may feel hurt following the incident and their personal relationships, particularly with their partner, may be placed under additional strain. They could find themselves taking their anger out on family, or emotionally withdrawing from close contacts, just when they need them most.

What can be done to help
Nature often heals by allowing feelings to emerge naturally, enabling people to want to talk about them. This should be encouraged if the opportunity arises.

Talking to a trained counsellor is often beneficial and can reduce much of the tension and anxiety. Trying to ignore personal feelings or avoiding having to think or talk about the incident, in the belief that the individual can cope, is usually counter-productive in the long run. Suppressing feelings can lead to problems being stored up and that can create even greater difficulties.

When to ask for professional support
People who have experienced a traumatic incident should be encouraged to seek professional help if they:

  • Experience chronic tension or feel empty, exhausted or depressed
  • Continue to have nightmares, are sleeping badly, or have flashbacks
  • Have no-one with whom to share their emotions
  • Think their relationships seem to be suffering or have sexual problems develop
  • Start to be accident-prone, or their work performance suffers

It is important to encourage individuals to remember that talking about their experience can help. Suppressing their feelings, on the other hand, can lead to further problems in the future.


  • HR department contingency planning is vital
  • Investment in staff training to cover emergencies is important
  • Put in place support procedures to help prevent PTSD or manage it if anyone is affected

( SOURCE: Carole Spiers Group )

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Will there be any one held personally accountable for the London Fire?

I’ve had someone from China ask me the following question on the Quora website recently:

Will there be any one held personally accountable for London fire?

“If it were in China, all government officials in the same line of management would be fired. CEOs of the estate management company and the refurbish company would be in prison. The Mayor would have to go. Will the British government be able to equally accountable to its people?”

I answered back my response on Quora and will also share it here on my blog:

I was a firefighter with London Fire Brigade for 25 years and in the last few years of my career I was temporarily promoted to Watch Manager in Fire Safety Regulation.

The UK’s regulatory framework for tall residential buildings is intended to prevent the spread of fire between floors and between apartments. The law clearly sets out that the person responsible for the building has a duty to undertake a fire risk assessment and put in place adequate and appropriate fire precautions or “bring in a competent fire risk assessor to undertake it. It’s difficult to pinpoint who the responsible person is for the fire at Grenfell Tower at this stage. If the cladding was to blame for spreading the fire, then the firm that provided the cladding ( possibly the CEO ) may face prosecution. That firm was Harley Curtain Wall, and they went into administration two years ago. There will also be questions about how the building was built and renovated. Rydon Construction refurbished the building in works that finished last year. Then there are other factors such as adequate fire exits, means of escape, fire alarm systems, ventilation, fire suppression, etc. A controversial ‘stay put’ policy was in place at Grenfell Tower where residents were advised to stay in their apartment in the event of a fire. Also, Fire Officers have been campaigning to UK government for the installation of sprinklers to be compulsory in buildings such as Grenfell Tower just as they do in the US. The higher the building, the more the risk and the need for robust fire safety measures especially in sleeping accommodations.

Politically, The London Fire Brigade is currently overseen by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) which is made up of local Councillors, London Assembly members and representatives of the mayor. The authority was due to be abolished this year and the London Mayor was to have gained direct control of the London Fire Brigade. However, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been told he’ll have to wait until at least next April because of the recent UK general election delaying the process. Currently, in order to avoid deadlock between LFEPA and City Hall, the last Labour government gave the mayor the power to overrule and ‘direct’ the authority to follow his instructions. That power remained unused until 2013 when Boris Johnson used it to order a consultation on plans to close fire stations and axe fire engines in the wake of cuts in both City Hall and UK Government grants. This has had an effect on firefighting resources in London and the UK in general putting lives at risk.

Investigators are now probing any criminal offences that may have taken place and it is possible that the company which managed Grenfell Tower and the contractors who carried out the recent renovations could face criminal prosecution.



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The London fire from my perspective

I was approached by Sky news two days ago via twitter to give my take as a retired firefighter on the fire at Grenfell tower in West London. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties on my side we were unable to carry out the interview live on TV so I thought I’d just give a little perspective as a retired firefighter in this blog.

As a serving firefighter, I have had to deal with a lot of blazes in high-rise blocks many times in my 25 year career and I can tell you now that at the Grenfell tower fire, crews were confronted by terrible scenes. The situation faced at Grenfell Tower in London would have been extremely difficult because the fire was able to spread so rapidly, and appeared to engulf nearly the entire building.  Fire safety experts have already pointed to cladding on the building as a likely reason the blaze spread so quickly – making it impossible for the fire to be contained floor-by-floor. But as a well trained firefighter, you turn the last corner and see something like that in front of you and it makes you go into almost automatic pilot.

Normally firefighters arriving at the scene of a high-rise building fire would set up a base about two floors below the actual fire. This allows them to set up entry control points, so firefighters going to fight the blaze can be recorded, and crucially, have their breathing apparatus checked so it’s clear how much time they can spend in a dangerous, smoke-filled area. The amount of time each person can spend fighting the fire is limited by the amount of air available – so any minutes spent climbing up into a building with equipment is precious fire-fighting time wasted.

You’re going to use a considerable amount of air going up the 10 floors, so because of that and various other things, they will set up the control point two floors below the fire. Once they are able to go in, the immediate focus, if people are reported to be trapped in the building, would be on rescuing them, rather than firefighting, and the firefighters would carry minimum levels of equipment for that reason. They will have to fight their way in, in some instances, but they will take chances when people’s lives are at risk.

But because the  fire was spreading so rapidly at Grenfell tower, for the firefighters to get 20 storeys up to rescue people in that situation is something special. Firefighters did eventually reach the top floor “but it took them hours to get there. It couldn’t have been quicker because without extra air supply for the person rescued, the journey back out of the building would be extremely dangerous. The firefighters on the scene would also have had to operate from a very low level in the building because of how far the blaze had spread, and there were concerns that the building might collapse.

My former colleague Dany Cotton whom is now the London Fire Brigade commissioner said the firefighters “didn’t waver. They were going through there time and time again battling through the floors looking for people. The thing that worries me going forward is the psychological effect. A lot of my firefighters yesterday experienced things they have never seen before. I spoke to some people who were truly distressed – not least because they knew there were people still in there and they were battling through the heat to get there. What happened [yesterday] truly traumatised a lot of people.”

I totally agree with her.




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Trump’s attack on my London mayor

In the wake of this weekend’s terrorist attack in London, President Trump took to Twitter, first spreading news reports of the attack, then boosting his calls for a “travel ban” from Muslim-majority countries, and finally continuing a personal vendetta against London’s mayor.

White House denies Donald Trump picking fight with Sadiq Khan – video

On Sunday morning Trump tweeted: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!” He took the mayor’s comments wildly out of context—and insulted a leader trying to guide his city just hours after the deadly attack. On Monday morning Trump persisted. “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!” Trump also launched a tweetstorm criticizing his Justice Department’s strategy in defending his beleaguered travel ban, and called on the Supreme Court to quickly overturn lower court restraining orders on his ban. “The courts are slow and political,” he added. All in all it was striking response by the president to a terror attack. But as shocking as it was, it represents the new normal in presidential communication.

Sadiq Khan says the US president is wrong about many things and that the state visit to Britain should not go ahead. I agree.

Thank god that Khan is my mayor and Trump is definitely not my president.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has been ‘too busy’ to respond to Trump’s comments

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has been ‘too busy’ to respond to Trump’s comments

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Politicians spar over security after London Bridge attack

It was supposed to be the Brexit election. Instead it is the issue of security that dominates today after another terror attack struck a British city and election campaigning was suspended for the second time. Sunday’s suspension was more brief than that agreed after the Manchester Arena bombing, and different in tone – perhaps inevitable after the second terrorist strike in a fortnight, and with just days to go before voters head to the polls.

Theresa May emerged from a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee to announce: “Enough is enough. While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. ” On what she thought still needed to be done, May said there could be increased prison terms for even minor terrorism offences, and targeted internet companies:

“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide. We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism planning.”

Returning to the stump on Sunday evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took a different view on how extremism could be tackled: “You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts.”

Theresa May was warned by the Police Federation but she accused them of ‘crying wolf’. That is a reference to a speech made by May as home secretary two years ago, in which she accused Police Federation delegates of scaremongering and “crying wolf” over cuts in police funding.

Corbyn also sought to distance himself from some of his own past comments, notably a 2015 BBC interview in which he said he was “not happy with the shoot-to-kill policy in general” on Britain’s streets (an interview the BBC Trust later ruled was presented out of context). Speaking on Sunday, the Labour leader said he backed the actions of armed police who shot dead the three suspects just eight minutes after the first emergency call:

“I will take whatever action is necessary and effective to protect the security of our people and our country. That includes full authority for the police to use whatever force is necessary to protect and save life as they did last night.”

Corbyn finds backing this morning for his argument that “difficult conversations” need to be had with countries including Saudi Arabia over the funding of extremism. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron echoed Corbyn’s call for a report commissioned by David Cameron into funding of jihadi groups to be published.


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Intern opportunity

I am an author who has published a self-help book called “Firefighting from within”. I am looking for a dedicated self-starter who wants to positively influence the world using the tools of digital marketing and public relations. You will get a chance to learn how to launch a self-published best-seller and to build an influential company from podcasts, videos, marketing advertising, and public relationships. Send an email to or use the contact tab on this website for more details.


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