The message was clear: while progress has been made in reducing line-of-duty deaths since the first Tampa Summit in 2004, there’s still more work to do. The emphasis now is to maintain the momentum generated 10 years ago and to build a strategic plan for a safer and healthier fire service.
More than 300 fire service leaders and industry partners have gathered for Tampa 2: Building for the Future to recognize the 10th anniversary, assess the effectiveness and implementation of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, and nurture the development of a new generation of fire service leaders.
“You represent the catalyst for leading this effort to the next level,” Chief Dennis Compton said in his opening remarks. Over the course of two days, participants will examine all the resources available to the fire service and determine what else is needed to integrate the 16 Initiatives into the culture and operations of every organization.
Vina Drennan, a NFFF Board member and fire service survivor, impressed upon everyone present that making tough decisions that prioritize health and safety is critical for every member of the organization, and most importantly for leaders.
She shared the story of a rookie firefighter from FDNY who was instructed to stay at the station on September 11, 2001. He managed to get on a truck and arrive at the Twin Towers where he was again instructed to go to another station to assist with triage.
It was the last command he received from his senior officer who died that fateful day. That officer’s exemplary leadership, and willingness to do the right thing, saved the rookie’s life.
“We might never know the end result of our work but that’s not why we’re doing this. I do believe we’re making a difference,” she said.
Day two began with a call to action from Tim Sendelbach, editor of FireRescue Magazine. In his presentation, Observations from 30,000 Feet: Leadership, Challenges and Opportunities for the American Fire Service, he encouraged members of the audience to learn from the past to make the future safer. He asked them to consider what the walls of their fire stations would say if they could talk.
“What would they say about your strategy, your tactics, your culture? Same thing – been there, done that. Let’s learn from mistakes and change the way we do business,” he said. “The American fire service has to put public education and fire prevention at the forefront of our business.”
For the remainder of the summit, participants are meeting in small break-out sessions to discuss 10 “hot topics “drawn from current trends and direction in the fire service. At the end of these sessions, each group’s recommendations will be incorporated into a final report to guide future implementation of the Initiatives.
“The success of our efforts doesn’t rest with a few; it relies on many. All of us need to look at each Initiative and consider what role we play in reducing line of duty deaths,” said Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF.