By Shannon Pieper
Published Wednesday, April 18, 2012
At today’s Opening Session at FDIC, Bobby Halton, the education director for FDIC and the editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering magazine, sought to create a more positive feeling about where the fire service is headed.
Budget cutbacks, furloughs and position vacancies, combined with the new dangers of the modern fireground, have left many departments feeling battered and helpless. Yet Halton cautioned, “We cannot afford the luxury of wallowing in self-pity. Something much greater is required of us.”
Halton argued against the idea that committees, or large organizations, are effective change agents, saying that it is “breakaway” individuals—often instructors and teachers—who lead change. “If you want to find solutions to today’s fireground problems, ask the men and women in this room,” he said.
Halton went on to invoke the power of the individual in solving great problems, sharing examples from the military and the fire service. FDNY Commissioner Purroy, for example, confronted both economic challenges and new high-rise buildings that were extremely dangerous for firefighters. “The old tactics were failing, resources were limited, and the challenges seemed insurmountable,” Halton noted. Purroy’s response: He pioneered coordinated ventilation and pushed for new building codes.
Halton is known for his passionate addresses at FDIC, and today he appealed to the passion of those in attendance: “Above it all is our passion for the job. Regardless of the cutbacks, the furloughs, we will continue to show up. Because the rewards of our work are so great.”
Taking that message a step further, Halton argued that in fact, now is the prime time to discover the fire service’s next “breakaway” leaders. “We have little to fear and much to hope for. Many years from now, firefighters will look back and say this was the fire service’s finest hour.”
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