By: DeAnjelo Bradley- MS CFO MIFIREE
This article aims to reflect on my story in the fire service and my mission to promote positive change going forward by providing a strategic plan and guidance for all fire departments to follow internationally in regard to Continuous Therapeutic Management (CTM). This is my outlook, and what I believe wholeheartedly within my core needs to happen. In order to for the layperson to understand my mission I must start from the beginning. So strap on your seat belt and relax so I can tell you how the games have been good to me.
The Reflection Before the Fire
Introspection as defined by Leah Jacob is the “Examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings is known as introspection. The term is used primarily in the field of psychology as well as being a philosophical precept. Introspection involves the process of looking inward, gaining an understanding of how one’s own mental processes work.” (Jacob, L. M. 2023). This concept is very important because in order to promote change in one’s environment then one must know themselves first. Why am I wired like this?
Twenty-six years ago I was walking thru a quiet neighborhood in Urbana, Illinois on a hot summer day and I was up to no good. What I was intending to do does not have merit but what I did does. While I was walking I looked up and saw smoke coming from a window and I without thought ran to the front door and went to where I saw heavy smoke and I heard people coughing. A young man not much younger than me was fanning the fire and obviously, it was making the situation worse. I yelled and told them (a family of four) to evacuate the house and I grabbed a lid and covered the pan which subsequently smothered the fire. I had no formal training in the fire service nor did I want to be a firefighter. I felt a sudden urge of adrenaline rush thru my veins and I would spend the rest of my life chasing that same feeling. I knew at that moment my life would never be the same.
With all transparency, I only told one other person this story and I never looked at it as a heroic event because I performed out of impulse, it was second nature. It seemed like I was wired to respond in this manner without fear and it gave me a sense of peace. I’ve been in the fire service for over twenty years I realize the importance of protecting my physical and mental health. You only get one body, one mind, one soul, and one spirit. So it is paramount that holistically we take care of all of them.
I’m only sleeping on average two to three hours a night because of my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), tinnitus, sleep apnea, migraines, and musculoskeletal injuries. It takes me sometimes upwards of twenty or thirty minutes to get out of bed in the morning and my wife has to help me get dressed. Due to my PTSD, I don’t feel comfortable with being in large groups or around people and all of my personal and social relationships have suffered. The depression leaves me feeling hopeless most of the time and due to my TBI’s, I suffer from short-term memory loss. All of my medications have to be sorted for me and given to me. It seems like everywhere I go I’m getting into verbal and almost physical altercations with people. I’m not supposed to feel like this, I’m not supposed to be so messed up.
After twenty years in the fire service, I would tell a younger me to take better care of myself on and off the fire ground. I wish someone would have told me or mandated that I went to see a therapist on a scheduled basis. I wish someone would have told me that I wasn’t invincible. Three knee reconstructions later, torn rotator cuffs (bilaterally), thoracic vertebrae injuries, lumbar vertebrae injuries, and pain all over. I wish someone would have guided me to a more cautious way of serving in the fire service. I’m tired of limping and dragging my legs when I walk, I’m tired of all of the pain injections, and going to my therapist. I am tired of taking medication to level me out, and I’m tired of life at times.
This is not a cry for help – this is a cry for change. As Chief Fire Officers and leaders in our trade, we must do better for the generations to come. We must change our thought processes and actively change how we address the health and wellness of those we are charged with leading. We have to cut out the politics and alleviate any obstacles that will limit us from doing better for our fire service members. I’m tired of burying my brothers and sisters earlier than they should have gone.
The Solution – Continuous Therapeutic Management (CTM)
What is continuous therapeutic management? This is an advanced approach to combating the physiological and cognitive disparities that firefighters put their bodies through. This is the method for addressing the issues that firefighters face and provides an actionable process if implemented for decreasing dual hazards faced by firefighters. It is my opinion that federal guidelines have to be implemented in order for this program to succeed.
- Physiological – While in service there are physical therapy personnel assigned to all fire department personnel and they are assessed on a frequent basis (even while not injured).
- Cognitive – There is a fire department therapist assigned to fire department personnel and they are mandated to have therapy on a scheduled basis. This is continuous in nature and not just after bad calls.
- Heat and Emergency Crisis – Ongoing and strategic assessment of the body’s function including testing. (Ongoing research conducted from the initiation of a firefighter’s career until they retire.
I know in my heart and in my soul that if the fire service as a whole adopts, implements, and addresses the physiological, cognitive, and issues coupled with heat/emergency crises, we will all be better off, paving a brighter future for those who serve after us.
Jacob, L. M. (2023). Introspection. Salem Press Encyclopedia.
De’Anjelo, MS CFO MIFireE, is a Chief Fire Officer. Mr. Bradley is a staff member at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Mr. Bradley also founded a youth mentor organization (Planned Purpose Program). He received a Master’s of Science from Columbia Southern University. Mr. Bradley served in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree advanced associate’s degree in Municipal Fire Protection; Bachelors degree of Technology in Emergency Response Administration (Magna Cum Laude). He went on to complete his Graduate Degree from Columbia Southern University in Occupational Safety and Health (Suma Cum Laude) and is currently pursuing his doctorate in Occupational Safety and Health from Capitol Technology University. From 2004 to 2014 Chief Bradley completed tours in Ecuador, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait as a contract/combat Firefighter – becoming the first and youngest African American fire chief of Prevention/Operations Fire Chief for the country of Iraq in support of Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Also, the youngest to hold the Regional Fire Chief Position for central Iraq. He is a credentialed Chief Fire Officer (Center for Public Safety Excellence-CPSE), Member grade for the Institute of Fire Engineers (MIFireE), International Association of Fire Chiefs-Member, Oklahoma State Fire Chiefs Association-Member, International Association of Black Professional Firefighters-Member, National Fire Protection Association-Member, Black Chief officers Committee-Member and he continues to excel in his field. In 2020 Chief Bradley was recognized by the National Fire Heritage Fire Center as a “Who’s who?” in fire Protection for his contributions to the fire service both nationally and internationally.
Mr. DeAnjelo J.L. Bradley can be reached at: [email protected]
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