The largest gathering of volunteer firefighters in the State drew more than 400 to White Plains August 5-7. The theme of “Training in the 21st Century” was evident throughout, from the educational Speaker Series to the keynote address by longtime Chief, author and firefighter media personality Billy Goldfeder.
“The good old days are gone,” he said. “In the old days, we took risks, we pretty much did what we wanted.
“The way I ran a fire in 1982 and the way I run a fire in 2021 is a little different,” said Goldfeder, a chief officer of nearly 40 years based in Ohio. “It all comes down to training.”
Training and discipline are essential to the volunteer fire service of today. An undisciplined crew does not serve the best interest of the community, which should always be the focus, Goldfeder said.
“You have to run your department based on that standard – what’s best for the people who call 911?” he said. “We’ve got to understand our responsibility. Maybe there are better ways to operate.”
These might include duty nights or bunk-in programs that get firefighters to the scene faster. Automatic mutual aid that includes chiefs immersed in the same training is another important step old-school fire departments can make.
“We socialize so much in the fire service, we establish relationships,” Goldfeder said. “Now tie that into a couple of common policies, a couple of procedures, and you’ve got one hell of an operation going on.”
Discipline should be a common theme running through all training. It not only makes for a more effective action on the fireground, but also makes the firehouse a place younger members actually want to be.
“I really believe today’s young firefighters want and need discipline,” Goldfeder said. “I’m talking about structure so that when they get to the firehouse Tuesday night for drill at 7 o’clock sharp, at 7:01, the drill has started.
“We respect our volunteer’s time,” he said. “Focus on what they need to know. And when they walk out, make them feel like they actually learned something that night.”
A healthy organizational culture revolving around discipline and positivity is key to success, especially with new recruits. For seasoned officers, it’s important to complement tactical training with education in the areas of leadership and supervision, Goldfeder said.
“If you focus on what’s best for the people you’re serving, what’s best for the people who are serving you – your volunteers – you’ve got a bright future,” he said.
In his opening remarks, President John P. Farrell, Jr. expressed FASNY’s continued commitment to training and education, which includes plans to add classroom space as part of renovations to headquarters in Albany.
This video about training premiered during the 2021 FASNY Convention
The emphasis on training continued with Speaker Series sessions that drew upward of 60 attendees each Thursday and Friday. The seminars included “Emergency Responder Safety” by Tim Boel of VFIS, “Fire Service Leadership in Turbulent Times by IAFC Past President John M. Buckman III, “The Passion of Training” by Georgia State Firefighters Association President Dave Bullard, “Extinguishing the Flames of Liability” by Dave Denniston of ESIP and “Resilience in Action” by On the Job and Off CEO Ali Rothrock. Organized in conjunction with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, Hands-On Training returned to Convention for the first time in five years. “Flashover,” held Friday and Saturday at the West Harrison Fire Department Training Center, was a great success.
The Heroes Awards closed out Convention on Saturday, August 7, with FASNY honoring Mark Miller and John Tighe of the Lindenhurst Fire Department as Firefighters of the Year and the Fabius Fire Department as EMS Providers of the Year. Miller and Tighe were recognized for their heroic efforts to rescue two occupants of a vehicle sinking in water. Fabius FD members were the lead on a motor vehicle accident in which a driver was impaled by fencing, but survived thanks to their well-coordinated expertise and care.
Michael R. Caron and Frank Guarino were elected to five-year terms on the FASNY Board of Directors. Thomas E. Rothdiener, Thomas McKinney, James A. Interdonati and Michael A. Kislack were sworn in as FASNY Firemen’s Home Trustees.