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Episode 51: Seek First to Understand

051 - Dern1 Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern suffered second and third degree burns following a catastrophic collapse of a roof. This episode is dedicated to him and is intended to inspire all of us to: Seek First to Understand.


Length: 21 minutes
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051 - Dern2On Sunday March 29 Fire Captain Pete Dern was leading his crew across the roof to provide ventilation for the safety of attack crews when a catastrophic collapse dropped him into the inferno. Fellow Firefighters rescued him within minutes but he suffered 65-75 percent second and third degree burns across his body.

Following the incident a video of the event quickly made its way across mainstream media and social media. I was encouraged by the outpouring of support.

I was also repulsed by the number of firefighters who chose first to judge and speak poorly of Captain Dern and his department and their leadership. This episode is dedicated to Captain Dern and all firefighters who, in the moment, make split-second decisions that, for any of us, at any time, can result in tragedy.

This episode is a call to action. There are three actions I am requesting of listeners.

  1. Answer the questions I pose during the radio show that forces all of us to seek first to understand, and to allay our impulse to judge others (especially those we do not know).
  2. Shoot a short (30 second maximum length) video from your crew, company or department, offering support to Captain Dern and his family.
  3. Give a donation to support the Dern Family (link is below).

As we seek first to understand from near-miss and catastrophic events, we should be asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. What were the responders trying to accomplish at the time things went wrong?
  2. What was the overall mission of the incident and what role were the responders playing in advancing the mission at the time things went wrong?
  3. Why did it make sense to the responders to be doing what they were doing at the time things went wrong?
  4. What tasks or objectives were the responders focused on that may have kept them from seeing the bad outcome on the horizon?
  5. Were there any distractions or interruptions that drew the responders attention away from their task?
  6. Did the responders understand the overall incident goals and objectives, their roles in the mission, and how other individuals/teams were going to influence the outcome?

051 - Dern3Send your short (under 30 seconds) video clip offering your support and encouragement to Captain Dern to:

Fresno City Firefighters Local 753 Facebook Page: site set up to raise money for Captain Dern and his family:

SAMatters Community Members:
Received a free book when you make a donation of $50 or more. The details are being sent out in a special newsletter on April 15. Check your email inbox for how to claim your free book.

Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System

Intro music

Safety Dance (1982)
Men Without Hats
GMC – Virgin Records

Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System

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The mission of Situational Awareness Matters is simple: Help first responders see the bad things coming… in time to prevent bad outcomes.

Safety begins with SA! 

Share your comments on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you want to send me incident pictures, videos or have an idea you’d like me to research and write about, contact me. I really enjoy getting feedback and supportive messages from fellow first responders. It gives me the energy to work harder for you.



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