A Message From Marshal Reardon
Now that we've closed the books on 2020, I can’t help but reflect upon what everyone has dealt with concerning the response to COVID-19. When the team from the State Fire Marshal’s office was essentially sent home at the onset of this incident, what we knew about this virus was much different than what we know today. What we all thought would be a short-term event quickly became what we are dealing with today.

First responders throughout the state of Ohio quickly responded to a new threat without the full knowledge about how to best protect themselves and their co-workers as they were called to respond in numbers few would have ever expected. The stress and pressure on responding crews worsened as time passed, which was also true for us at the State Fire Marshal’s office. We, too, started down a road no one had traveled before, and the demands and pressures for us to continue to serve the public and the fire service in Ohio rapidly changed the way we do business.

Through it all, we came together and figured out a way to accomplish tasks and complete our mission – whatever it may be. The early implementation of technology to make working at home effective made a big difference in our ability to meet the needs of our customers – many of whom would tell you they didn’t even know we had even left the office.

Over time, responders were able to get answers to a growing list of seemingly everchanging questions and PPE began to arrive to support the massive increase for service demand. Almost every fire department and EMS provider instituted new policies and treatment protocols for dealing with known or suspected COVID-19 patients. Once again, with the assistance from outside agencies far and wide, we found a way to make it work!

While there’s no doubt 2020 was a tough year for everyone, it taught us a lesson in both patience and futility and once again reminded us of the unpredictability of life.

As we move forward into 2021, the challenge ahead is how to safely and methodically transition back to a “new normal” – potentially casting aside many traditional methods of conducting our business as we shift to a new way of doing things. For responders, this experience will serve as a constant reminder of the need to be ready for all of the common emergencies we face daily and to also be prepared for unplanned and unpredicted events that will stress every point in the emergency response system.

While we are still a bit away from the finish line, I think we can begin to at least see it faintly on the horizon. The ability of the human population to adjust to unforeseen, unpredictable and unexpected changes affecting our daily lives certainly is the true story of survival.

The State Fire Marshal’s office wants to wish all of Ohio’s first responders continued success in serving your communities. We will forever remain grateful and appreciative of your dedication, professionalism and commitment to Ohioans.

Kevin S. Reardon
Ohio State Fire Marshal
SFM, Division of EMS Come Together for
Unique Ohio Fire Service Awards in 2020
By Brian Bohnert
Public Information Officer

Although the State Fire Marshal's (SFM) office and the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Division of EMS could not physically come together for the annual hall of fame ceremony, both agencies were still able to honor Ohio's bravest first responders and citizens in 2020.

The 40th annual Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame and Fire Awards took place throughout this fall as a traveling roadshow, of sorts, where this year’s honorees are recognized individually at smaller, more intimate ceremonies or online — instead of the traditional ceremony in Reynoldsburg.

State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon kicked off SFM’s portion of the Hall of Fame Awards on Oct. 5 and continued both socially distanced, in-person presentations and virtual ceremonies until Nov. 12. In the previous edition of this newsletter, we covered the first four award presentations, which you can read all about here.

The penultimate presentation took place on Nov. 4 at the East Wayne Joint Fire District in Dalton, where Marshal Reardon recognized Firefighter Ryan Sprunger with an Ohio Fire Service Valor Award. Sprunger was honored for saving the lives of two people who had fallen through ice on Dec. 22, 2019.

The final award presentation of 2020 took place virtually on Nov. 12 and saw Marshal Reardon honor Brookpark resident Steve Pozniak with an Ohio Fire Service Citizen's Award. On Jan. 26, 2020, Pozniak, who was working as a security guard, rescued a child from a fire at a Cleveland apartment complex.

This year’s class of 12 honorees will join the hundreds of first responders and citizens who have been recognized for their selfless and heroic acts throughout the last four decades. Each year, SFM's awardees are chosen by the Ohio State Fire Council.

Detailed information on all of this year’s awardees, along with descriptions of their honors, may be found here.
Annual Toy Drive Yields 66 Toys, $1,310 For Gifts
By Brian Bohnert
Public Information Officer

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the State Fire Marshal’s (SFM) annual toy drive benefitting children at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital burn unit was a massive success for the seventh year in a row.

On Dec. 16, State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon and other SFM staff delivered 66 toys and $1,310 toward gifts for the patients and their families at Nationwide Children’s this holiday season.

Thanks to the generosity and support of staff throughout the entire Ohio Department of Commerce, the yearly effort still managed to provide

This is always an enjoyable way for all Commerce and SFM staff to give back.
FEIB Shining Stars Work Behind the Scenes
to Keep Investigations Running Smoothly
By Katie Hibbard
Staff Writer

Behind the scenes at the State Fire Marshal’s Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau (FEIB), two integral workers help make sure the office runs smoothly and provide the investigators with the support they need to do their jobs the best they can.

Hannah Ison, FEIB’s administrative professional, will be celebrating her first year with Commerce in February; and though it was anything but typical with the onset of COVID-19, Ison said she has found a rhythm and is settled in.

“It’s been a crazy ride for everybody, but it has been really cool to see how things have evolved,” said Ison, who was only in the office for a month before everyone was sent home. “Going from that point of being really unsure of everything to now being totally set in a routine and a lot more comfortable is great, and it’s only continuing to get better.”

Hannah is responsible for the day-to-day organization and operation of the FEIB office, including inventory, ordering, filing/records organization, vehicle reports, burn reports, and other basic office duties. She reports to the office in the afternoons three days a week to keep up with mail, accept deliveries, and organize and send supplies to the investigators so they are well prepared.

She is grateful all of her other duties can be done from home.
It has been a career goal of Ison’s to work at SFM for some time. In fact, she’s had her eye on a position in the office since college.

“It’s been nothing short of wonderful,” she said. “I think we’ve all had jobs that we’ve dreaded going into, but hopefully everyone has had the experience where they very much enjoy going in, and this has been the only time where I’ve had a job like that. I’m very grateful and blessed to be a part of such an awesome team, it’s all positive.”

Another face behind the FEIB curtain is Criminal Analyst Debra Van Fossen. She worked with SFM long before she worked for them, collaborating with investigators from her position with the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In her previous position, she was an intelligence research specialist, which transferred smoothly into her position with FEIB.

In her current role, Van Fossen helps investigators by researching people of interest. If there is a fire and arson is suspected, the investigators share vital information with her, who then sleuths out information on anyone who may have been involved.

“I’ll identify all their associates, their family members, look to see what their backgrounds are and who they hang out with,” said Van Fossen. “I’ll get on their social media, their Instagram, and find out what they’re saying – have they gotten into a fight with anyone? Is anyone threatening them? Things like that, and then I’ll send it back to the investigator saying everything I’ve found, and it helps them go from there.”

Her research helps to establish timelines to help support cases investigators are trying to build. She is often able to prove who was involved, how long conflict has been happening, and even where the people of interest were at a given time. She said she loves the work, and that it’s great to be able to dedicate her time to helping the investigators put all the pieces together.

“Debbie and Hannah are an integral ‘behind-the-scenes’ part FEIB’s daily operations,” said FEIB Chief Joshua Hobbs. “Hannah keeps our field staff equipped with the supplies needed to meet their mission, while providing them timely information, and concerns passed along from the public. Debbie provides crucial investigative case support to investigators, sometimes even breaking open the case with her analytical tools.”

“Both Hannah and Debbie handle the frequent and often complicated process of responding to and filling public records requests,” he added. “This requires patience, diligence, and the ability to delicately communicate with a variety of stakeholders. I would say that they are the organizers of the often times chaotic processes the FEIB works through on a day-to-day basis.”
FEIB Encourages Use of Arson Reward Program
By Josh Hobbs
Chief, Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau

The State Fire Marshal's Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau (FEIB) is encouraging fire departments and law enforcement agencies across the state to utilize the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee's reward program.

While this resource is being greatly underutilized throughout Ohio, it has proven to be an effective tool for generating tips and helping solve numerous arson and related cases.

The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee maintains the capability to support fire and law enforcement agencies with the program and is encouraging the use of their reward system to help fight crime in Ohio.

For more information on the program, click here.
Recent OFA Grad Recognized for Heroism
By Brian Bohnert
Public Information Officer

Seven days after graduating from the Ohio Fire Academy, a rookie firefighter took part in a daring search-and-rescue mission to save a person trapped during a fire at a steel manufacturer.

On Dec. 11, OFA graduate and current Mansfield firefighter Hunter Shoup responded with his engine company to a furnace fire at AK Steel in Mansfield. The crew discovered one person trapped in a crane unit, 30 feet above the factory floor.

Shoup, Capt. Daniel Krizan, and firefighters Phil Atwell and Jared Hagen navigated multiple staircases and catwalks in zero visibility until they were able to find the trapped worker and lead him out of the facility to safety.

All four firefighters presented with the Bronze Star award for their heroic actions during an intimate, socially distanced ceremony on Dec. 29. Due to the dangerous conditions inside the facility, and the successful efforts of the crew, the Mansfield Fire Department Awards Committee chose to honor the four brave firefighters.

“There are firefighters who go their entire career without an incident like this, and he had it in his first two weeks,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon. “This is an extraordinary example of grit and heroism, and it’s a testament to the type of high-quality training we provide to recruits at the fire academy.”

Shoup was one of several to complete the final Firefighter I & II class for 2020 before the Thanksgiving holiday. In order to finish the course before students went home for the holidays, 35 of the OFA’s top staff worked 10-12 hours in the days leading up to the week of Thanksgiving to make sure all course material was covered.

As a result, the entire class successfully graduated on Dec. 4.
OFA Offering Variety of Grant-Eligible Courses
By Jack Smith
Superintendent, Ohio Fire Academy

The Ohio Fire Academy (OFA) currently offers a wide array of training to eligible fire departments at no cost through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Division of Forestry.

Departments located in any of the 43 counties within ODNR's Wildfire Protection Areas are eligible for the Volunteer Firefighter Assistance (VFA) grant. The VFA grant supports training for firefighters who serve rural communities of 10,000 or fewer residents.

Successful applicants may receive full waivers of tuition and dormitory fees for certain courses.

Support for this program is provided, in part, through a federal grant via the U.S. Forest Service and is matched by the State Fire Marshal's office.

The OFA offers a variety of training courses delivered on campus, online, or on the road at your fire department. A list of VFA-eligible courses can be found in the OFA Course Catalog here.
'Sound Off' Becomes Statewide CRR Program
By Rich Palmer, CPM
Assistant Chief, Fire Prevention Bureau

In 2019, the Center for National Prevention Initiatives at the Michigan Public Health Institute received a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA to expand “Sound Off with the Home Fire Safety Patrol,” an important fire safety program for young children and their families. The goal was for fire departments and other safety partners to work in second- and third-grade classrooms to raise awareness of the importance of working smoke alarms and to install free smoke alarms in homes lacking this vital protection.

Ohio joined this project, along with 10 other states, when the Division of State Fire Marshal took a facilitating role. The communities of West Union (Adams County), Steubenville (Jefferson County) and New Lexington (Perry County) were chosen to participate as local team partners in a pilot of this initiative. These towns were considered high risk through the evaluation of recent incidents, demographic data, fire fatality reports, and socioeconomic concerns.

The pilot delivery of this Community Risk Reduction initiative was considered successful with 280 students receiving instruction meeting Common Core requirements. In addition, 237 home safety visits were conducted – including the installation of more than 680 smoke alarms and almost 100 carbon monoxide alarms.

Pre- and post-tests showed students gained an increased knowledge of smoke alarms, including how to recognize their sound and how to react properly using a home escape plan. In Ohio, one community showed an almost 60-percent gain in knowledge, while others achieved almost 50-percent gain. The overall gain in knowledge for the program from 11 states averaged 45.8 percent. In terms of educational gain, these are well above expected averages.

Ohio continued in 2020 with three additional communities participating: Manchester (Adams County, Bellefontaine (Logan County) and Bainbridge (Ross County). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, most were unable to deliver education or participate in home safety visits.

The only school to complete education and pre/post testing was Paint Creek Elementary in Bainbridge. Fire Safety Educator Paul Martin developed virtual opportunities for students that also included self-paced learning of the program. He narrated the storybook that is typically read in class.

Moving forward, there is good news about the “Sound Off with the Home Safety Patrol” program. The grant has been renewed in Ohio, now participating as a “tier two” state. Additional materials are to be delivered to the state coordinators, as well as additional smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector inventory for use in 2021. Most importantly, more than 12,100 second- and third-grade teachers across Ohio will receive direct communication from the national program managers. They will be able to offer the training using both virtual and in-class options, so more children can participate.

The State Fire Marshal’s office will deliver a virtual pilot course to an already chosen school system. Hopefully, new opportunities for home safety visits and the installation of smoke alarms will be possible as the year progresses.

Your department may receive calls from schools asking for your participation in the “Sound Off with the Home Safety Patrol” program, which you can learn more about here.

Coordinators for the State Fire Marshal’s office are Assistant Chief Rich Palmer and Fire Safety Educator Paul Martin. Either can be contacted at sfmprevention@com.state.oh.us
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