Kelvin Cochran was appointed administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) on Aug. 27, 2009. Cochran has 28 years of experience in preventing and responding to fires and emergencies, including firefighting, EMS, hazardous materials, public...
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Kelvin Cochran was appointed administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) on Aug. 27, 2009. Cochran has 28 years of experience in preventing and responding to fires and emergencies, including firefighting, EMS, hazardous materials, public education, and research and development. His administrative expertise includes personnel management, training and strategic planning. Before joining FEMA, Cochran was chief of the Atlanta, GA, Fire Rescue Department, where he coordinated homeland security and emergency preparedness initiatives between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management Agency (AFCEMA). Previously, he served in the Shreveport, LA, Fire Department as a firefighter, assistant chief training officer and fire chief. Cochran also served as president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association and first vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). The interview was conducted by Firehouse® Contributing Editor Charles L. Werner, chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department.
FIREHOUSE: Your career has been a very distinguished one and as you have served as fire chiefs for Shreveport, LA, and Atlanta, GA, and as the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) first vice president, can you first tell how each of these waypoints influenced your career?
COCHRAN: From the very beginning, since my recruit academy experience, I have been driven to do my best to try to make a difference in the fire service. What I realized is to really make a difference in serving people through the fire service requires advancement and promotion throughout your career. I have always heard, "success is where preparation meets opportunity," so I had the mindset of continually being in a steady state of preparation through training and education.
Professional development has always been a major focus of my career development to prepare me for advancement and promotional opportunities. When I realized being promoted from firefighter to training officer that I could serve more and make a better difference, I had a greater hunger to serve at a higher level. I was promoted to assistant chief training officer and began to see what a difference it made, consequently, successfully competing to serve as the fire chief of Shreveport. That opportunity was made possible because of the preparation I had diligently applied over those years. As fire chief of Shreveport, everything was going super. We were accomplishing great things. I continued to serve and prepare. Ultimately, the opportunity in the City of Atlanta came along.
While serving as fire chief in Shreveport, I became the president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association and ultimately ran and was successfully elected to second vice president of the IAFC. At the time of my accepting the appointment as fire chief in Atlanta, I was serving as first vice president of the IAFC. To recap, having a desire to serve more people at greater levels and having a mindset of a constant state of preparation has created the opportunity where I get to serve now, the American people and the American fire service as the United States Fire Administrator.
FIREHOUSE: While serving as fire chief in Shreveport and Atlanta, what successes were you most proud of and why?
COCHRAN: In the City of Shreveport, it was a great time economically for the city and we had tremendous community and political support built up through the years by my predecessors. I came in at a great time. We had many great accomplishments from increased salary/benefits to members, adding and renovating fire stations, increasing the number of medic units from eight to 10, and improving the capabilities of our emergency medical services through increasing the number of paramedics and the skills that they provide saving lives. The two that I am most proud of in spite of all those tremendous accomplishments, we had two years in a row (2006, 2007) where there were zero civilian fire deaths. During my nine-year tenure as fire chief in the City of Shreveport, we did not lose a firefighter in the line of duty and we did not have a major debilitating injury to a firefighter.