Photo credit: Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Photo credit: Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Photo credit: Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Eisner: What are your observations now that you’ve been with Firehouse for a year?
Nichols: I’ve spent a number of years in the fire service competing with Firehouse and I’m certainly excited to be part of Firehouse now. The brand – the magazine, online and the events – is so strong it makes my job easy: Understand what our customers want and deliver it. The confidence in, and loyalty to, the brand are there. We just need to continue to evolve to meet the expectations of our supporters.
Eisner: Will there be another Stair Climb this year in Baltimore? Who will it benefit and who will help coordinate the event?
Nichols: We do plan to host the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Stair Climb again. The goal of the climb is to raise money for the NFFF, ultimately getting 343 participants to each wear the name of an FDNY firefighter who died on 9/11 around their neck to climb 110 stories, or the equivalent of scaling the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We nearly had 343 participants last year and I’m confident we will reach that goal this year.
Eisner: After meeting with several attendee focus groups during last year’s Expo, what new things will be added to the attendees’ Firehouse Expo experience?
Nichols: Each year, we compete with so many things – the economy, budget cuts, funding challenges – to “earn the right” to have the fire service attend Firehouse Expo. What we’ve learned is to never take the privilege lightly. Those attending, and frankly those participating, have a right to ask “Why should I be there?” every year and we need to have a good answer.
This year, there will be more hands-on interaction, opportunities to get behind the wheel of apparatus and get tools in their hands, new conference speakers and discussion-worthy topics. Then, after the hall closes, we need to show them a good time – and continue to outperform on creating that experience year after year.
We’ll have networking events that will bring everyone together to celebrate being part of the fire service. That’s what fire-service events have become – or need to become – is a celebration of the fire service. When people come to Baltimore we want them to be among friends and renew the passion and excitement that made them become firefighters.
Eisner: What kind of networking events will be held at Firehouse Expo?
Nichols: One thing that came through loud and clear from the research is that people elect to attend an event based on the complete experience. Not only the education, which we feel we offer the best, or the selection of products and services on the show floor, which we’ve focused our efforts on growing this year, but also the opportunities to get together beyond the show hours and celebrate being part of the fire service. To that point, we’ve worked very closely with the Baltimore Convention and Visitors Bureau this year to create new opportunities throughout the Inner Harbor for families attending Firehouse Expo. We are also working with the Baltimore Stadium Authority and the Baltimore City and Baltimore County fire unions. The plan is to have something for everyone both Thursday and Friday.
Eisner: Will this be like the USS Midway event that was introduced at Firehouse World in San Diego, CA, this year?
Nichols: Of all of the new initiatives introduced at Firehouse World, we found the networking event with MES on the USS Midway, benefiting the Burn Institute, was the addition everyone was talking about.
Eisner: For the first time at Firehouse Expo, there will be a Ride-and-Drive. Please explain what it means, where will it take place and who can participate.
Nichols: We’re very excited to be working with Rosenbauer on bringing a Ride-and-Drive apparatus-driving demonstration to Firehouse Expo this year. A lot of planning has gone into this event, which will allow guests of Rosenbauer to get behind the wheel of Rosenbauer apparatus. People interested in participating can reach out to their Rosenbauer dealer directly.
Eisner: Another Firehouse first, a Hands-On Demo, takes place on Friday afternoon. Where will it be and what will the attendees be able to see and do?
Nichols: We introduce hands-on equipment demonstrations at Firehouse Expo this year. On Friday, July 20, attendees will be able to go outside for multiple outdoor exhibits and hands-on opportunities.
Eisner: What can we look forward to with this year’s opening ceremonies?
Nichols: Last year, we paid tribute to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 during the opening ceremonies. This year, besides our traditional opening action video, one of our keynote addresses will focus on a graphic report on the preparations and response before, during and after Tropical Storm Irene in upstate New York, which caused utter devastation when over 18 inches of rain fell. Always supporting the efforts of the NFFF, if a new safety tape is available, it will be previewed. We are working on adding several other features.
Eisner: Free exhibit hall passes are available. How can a person who wants to see the opening ceremonies and exhibits obtain a free exhibit hall pass?
Nichols: We have a series of association partners and each of the over 400 participating exhibiting companies distributes the free exhibit hall passes that we have provided to them.
Eisner: Have you been working with the Metro Baltimore Fire Departments and how will that benefit the Expo?
Nichols: We’ve really rededicated ourselves to the local area, working very closely with Baltimore City Fire Chief James Clack and the metro-area fire chiefs. We got away from our core and those relationships and we’re very excited that, through efforts led by you, we have strengthened those relationships and anticipate an increase in attendance from the paid and volunteer ranks in Maryland and neighboring states this year.
Eisner: How can an attendee coming to Firehouse Expo for just a day find out about parking in the Baltimore Inner Harbor/Convention Center area?
Nichols: We know parking has been an issue. We’re working with the Baltimore Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Stadium Authority to identify lots, preferably at reduced rates, for our attendees. More information on parking, schedules of events and Amtrak or local mass-transit discounts can be found on our website, firehouseexpo.com.
Eisner: Are you working on any special programs for attendees?
Nichols: We are. All attendees are important; however, those reading this would be the first to tell us their needs and expectations are different – and they have – as we’ve spent the past year with focus groups in our efforts to continue to improve the experience at Firehouse Expo for our customers. This year, we will introduce a program for chief-level officers that will include a specific badge designation, an “Admiral’s Club”-type lounge, suggested education and exhibit product schedules and preferred access to the opening ceremonies and networking events. This is the first of what will become multiple programs designed to take the experience at Firehouse Expo from being part of the masses to a more customized, personal experience for our attendees.
Eisner: Attendees want to know where future Firehouse Expos will be held.
Nichols: We’ll be in Baltimore during the third week of July for the foreseeable future. We’re developing and growing great relationships with the fire service in Maryland. We have a number of new initiatives to improve the customer experience. Local businesses in Baltimore have really stepped up, and continue to step up, to let us know how important Firehouse and those who attend Firehouse Expo are to them and they are prepared to join us in improving that experience for attendees year after year.