DCFD: Quander’s Squander


The Mills’ Death as Anti-Union Agitprop

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you have no doubt heard of the January 25th incident in Washington, DC, where an in-quarters truck company crew ignored multiple and repeated cries for help from the public after 77-year-old Cedric Mills collapsed right across from the fire station.

At the watch desk was a probationary firefighter, also a graduate of a very controversial cadet program, who appears to have done the right thing by repeatedly notifying the truck officer in charge and other senior firefighters of the need to respond.  Instead, it seems they lounged about, literally “taking to their beds”, as if in an antibellum-like southern swoon. (“Oh, Rhett, what WILL we do?”)

Some will know that DC is divided into four geographic quadrants and to add farce to tragedy, the Office of Unified Communications failed to include the correct quadrant, northeast, causing dispatched units to go instead to the same address in northwest, a considerable distance away.

Mayor Gray’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Paul Quander, published a report of the affair describing it in all its tawdry detail.

Few would doubt that DCFD is on a rocky shoal when a lieutenant and three firefighters can’t grab an AED and EMS bag to walk across the street in order to render aid to a dying man.

26 Engine, 15 Truck

26 Engine, 15 Truck

“Whenever Possible”

Quander’s “report” summarizes with two sections: 1) disciplinary action and 2) remedies.

Neither section proposes to address the deep leadership, structural and cultural flaws that allowed such an event to occur.  In fact, we can be sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Rosenberg legacy lives on.

Here’s how Deputy Mayor Quander addresses the issue:

“Memorandum regarding assisting the public- the memorandum is an official order instructing members to provide assistance whenever possible to individuals in need, regardless of whether they were dispatched to the scene.”

It is a statement on the leadership and culture of DCFD that such a memorandum is necessary given the department’s mission.

It’s also an astonishing statement on the ignorance and incompetence of Paul Quander to insert the words “whenever possible” in the memo.  This is not a department that needs an escape clause.

DCFD Trial Board

Quander saves his “best” for last using the report as an opportunity to trash the trial board process and the collective bargaining agreement.

He leads with pure bull shit: “unlike the majority of public safety organizations in the country, captains and lieutenants within FEMS are members of the same collective bargaining unit as rank and file members they are assigned to supervise.”

Company officers throughout the US are routinely in the same bargaining unit as firefighters.  In any event, the implication is that as a result, the city is unable to discipline effectively.  Quander refers to the collective bargaining agreement as the basis for “limited authority to discipline” conveniently forgetting the fact that the city agreed to, and is a partner, in it.

In addition, the board is made up of two chiefs and two captains, thus ensuring that management is over represented as no firefighters serve.

Using the Mills incident as an opportunity to trash the bargaining unit is in itself an example of ineffective leadership, this time at the mayoral level.

Finally, whatever flaws may exist in the cadet program, and there seems to be quite a few, the hapless cadet/probationary firefighter who tried to summon his comrades should be re-assigned to an effective supervisor, if one can be found.

He has suffered enough for his co-workers gross incompetence.


(photo courtesy DCFD.com)





  • HOOKMAN says:

    I’d be very careful when describing what the 3 FF’s were alleged to have done…We have not heard their side no have we seen the individual reports they wrote regarding this incident…What we do know is that this probationer is being protected in everyway possible…He received a personal phone call from the Chief ??????…..hmmm..the 3 other Fireman didn’t get a courtesy call from him…Wonder why that is….another thing…maybe 2 of the FF’s were in the sitting room, but d we know what was actually said to them…did the probationer rush in and say a man is dying across the street or did he tell them someone fell down across the street….call it complacency or what have you, but with 160,000 plus calls a year with 80% being EMS…which 60-70% of those are BLS or BS calls and will not make a fireman jump out of his chair and sprint across the street…a man down call is a frequent call in this city, especially if its in front of a liquor store…However, if they were informed a man was down and not breathing across the street, and they did nothing…then they should be punished…so far were only hearing things the way Paul Quander tells it and if you believe his bs..then i have a bridge to sell you…Do and say as you please…but lets not make false statements about 3 FF’s when you haven’t heard their side and what was said to them when this incident occurred…

    • Eric Lamar says:

      green17monster@yahoo.com, a.k.a. hookman:

      Thanks for writing.

      I have been appropriately critical of the Quander report. But even Quander can get some basic facts right, chief of which is the fact that 15 truck individually or as a crew failed to respond after receiving adequate notice of a serious EMS call literally on their doorstep.

      You unload on Quander when your own response is laden with innuendo and very short on facts.

      Finally, your comments about the volume and type of calls including that they “will not make a fireman jump” are professionally embarrassing.

      BTW, “fireman”? Please, it’s 2014.

  • regs1 says:

    I agree with what hookman replied, it very easy to judge people on only what was published in the news papers, and lets understand one point they going to publish a story to sell the most papers, fact be damn.
    In reading the articles, and Deputy Quanders reports, and also being a retired member of that department, I do find some missing items, for one a person who is manning the watch desk – when a incident occurs should also ring the house bells, then make an announcement. The DCFEMS order books simply states upon ringing the house bell -ALL MEMBERS will report to the apparatus floor. Even if you leave this one item out – an announcement was made about an emergency across the street. Members of T-15 failed to act.

    At this point I wonder what happen is a accumulation of a culture that was started by Lt in charge of the truck, or what had developed in the past two administrations. I yes I do include Ex-Chief Rubin administration along with Chief Ellerbe. Deputy Quanders report states that two announcements about the emergency were made – heard by others – the Lt failed to post. From this point its looks like the firefighters had a culture not do do anything without the Lt’s knowledge or permission. I do know this goes against everything that most firefighters are, but I also know certain officers have the pull and backing of higher up to place charges on members of the company for not following the rules and regulations and the order book to the letter.
    So I wonder if this culture reached a point that everyone simply does not make a decision, then how far up this no decision culture go. Remember, a DFC was demoted to speaking to the press, and BFC was demoted because the Fire Chief did not like his discipline decision. A Lt. was also demoted because he was wearing the wrong jacket in cold weather.
    The previous administration had they best friend method of doing things, If you were friend of a top administrations – friends with benefits including promotions, if not exile. This culture just kept going with the Chief Ellerbe.
    Now thefailures of leadership that might caused by this culture, Lack of action by the on-duty BFC, DFC. No mention of their actions taken. The Fire Chief “call the cadet” , ok so much for the chain of command. I do know the chief know all about this, he has place people on charges for failure to follow the chain of command, it works both ways, communication from the top down, and from the bottom up. But no mention of that failure was made in a official report.

    So maybe it time for a culture change, even perhaps start to look at the actions of all people involved. Yes all members of T-15 should be held accountable, being a ex-officer of that house, I cannot even to begin to explain why no action was taken, I know when I was a Lt. We often responded by walking to the nearby park to help the drunk who fallen down, and yes across the street for medicals there. Often telling communication that we going, and will give the exact address when we arrive, but start a EMS unit to our quarters. Yes we self dispatch a violation of that rule, but common sense prevailed.
    Perhaps that the problem, the higher up have to be the decision makers, no one else. The solution then becomes not only T-15 personal be held libel , but everyone up the chain of command be held libel since they made the culture if command that caused this incident.

  • Smitty says:

    I thought Eric’s article was more than fair.

    I also think it doesn’t take a PhD in Good Samaritanism to know that you (whoever you are) should run to the assistance of someone who needs it. If I were any one of these firefighters, the very least I would have done would have been to cross the street and check out the problem. There is nothing anyone can say to make their behavior anything less than unconscionable.

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