While many will be the people in class there may be those who transact their business with the confines of the many fine food and drink institutions which offer their amenities to the attendees. Thus has it long been in the world of smoke and flames. This is not a bad thing. Heck, some of my greatest learning experiences have come at the National Fire Academy's Command Post Pub.
There is just something about the relaxed environment that is conducive to the sharing of the true secrets of fire service success. The exchange of ideas in a convivial atmosphere is a good thing: Friends coming together to share life's lessons. This is one of the reasons I go to the FDIC. So it has been for me since 1977 when I attended my first FDIC in Memphis, Tennessee.
I met an almost endless array of really neat people. We all shared an interest in the gaining and sharing of knowledge. As a matter of fact for many years I used the FDIC as a place to recharge my mental batteries. After being worn down by the system in my own department I came together with people who wanted to learn and who had a great deal to share. I now go to pass on my four decades of experience and meet the people who are the future of our fire service.
Many were the people over the years that came to share what they had learned in their own parts of the fire service world. Some are gone now, but their example lives on in my mind, others have retired or moved away from the fire service. Here are some of the people I remember, but there are countless more whose names escape me:
These were some of the people who served as my role models. They worked hard to expand the knowledge base for all of us who were laboring in the trenches of the fire service all over North America. You may have heard of some of them, but most are no longer with us. Some have been with the Lord for quite some time while others have recently left us. However, whether you know them or not as a member of the fire service you enjoy the benefit of their labors.
These are our predecessors. These are the people who blazed the trails that you and I now travel. These are the people who taught those of us who now step onto the podium at the FDIC to present this years round of knowledge for you and me. Here are just a few of the folks I look to for guidance, support, and knowledge within our fire service:
These folks are out there every day doing the work of the fire service. They are researching and adding to the body of knowledge for all of us. They will be out in Indianapolis doing their level best to share the lessons of their lives with us. Their motivations are pure and their efforts come directly from the heart. Be sure to learn as much as you can from these fine and dedicated individuals.
However, not everyone that you will encounter at the FDIC will be out there working for the purest motives of the fire service. Over time I have come to see a growing number of people for whom this conference is just one more place to make a buck. They are not interested in advancing the fire service. They just wan to sell you things.
Many of them know just enough about their product to make sure they can catch our attention and hopefully grab our wallets. Maybe they can answer our basic questions and maybe they are all smoke and mirrors. My friends, they are merely out to sell you and me something we may or may not need. My friends, I am a realist though. I know that this will continue. It is just something we have to tolerate, because it helps to pay the bills.
In spite of my bias against commercialism I want to ask you to do one simple thing if you are going to attend a conference this year. I want you to visit as many vendors as possible and I want you to ask hard questions about the background research which supports the new apparatus, tools, equipment, and concepts which are being displayed. I want you to be an educated consumer.
Here are a few simple questions which can help you to get to the heart of what you really want to know.
Be sharp. Create your own questions. Do not be afraid to ask these questions. These people want your money. They had damned sure better be ready to receive and answer your questions. Make a pain in the butt of yourself. It is your money that these folks want. Make them work for it.