BALTIMORE -- Firehouse Expo 2007 opened here Thursday morning with a tribute to the nine Charleston firefighters who perished in a store blaze last month.
From Firehouse Magazine Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner to U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade, the message was similar -- safety must be a priority.
Eisner promised that the magazine is dedicated and renewing its efforts to promote firefighter safety. He said it's important that people share and learn.
With the number of line-of-duty deaths at 70, Cade said if things don't change, 2007 is on course for a very deadly year, possibly a record breaker.
Many of the deaths were preventable, and the new USFA head challenged the group to speak up and take action if they see an unsafe practice. At least eight firefighters killed in crashes were not wearing their sea tbelts.
Cade told the crowd they should be proud of their history and tradition. "Each day you make a difference. You are the first to answer the call."
Although this is the first time in 40 years that he is not directly tied to a fire department, Cade said he is connected, and is proud to be the national advocate for the fire service.
"The USFA is keenly aware of your contributions..."
Cade spoke of the importance for all fire departments to be prepared. The National Fire Academy will be working in union with the state fire academies to insure that personnel get the proper training.
It's essential that responders be ready for all emergencies as the public relies on them for help.
Calling sprinklers a firefighter safety issue, he urged everyone in the room to advocate their use.
FDNY Battalion Chief John Salka began his keynote address about command and control with a simple warning: it's essential to saving lives and preventing injuries.
What is killing America's firefighters? Among the top include collapses, flashovers, and becoming disoriented.
To command properly, Salka said: "You've got to be there. You have to be visible."
Even more important though, is to act like a commander. Be calm and professional, and it's imperative to be a great communicator. Salka said leave no doubt in anyone's mind what you want.
"Be predictable???a creature of habit."
Salka said his crews expect to see him in front of the building. He said firefighters want direction, so make decisions. "Don't turn down help."
Thousands of fire and rescue personnel from around the country are in Maryland this week to learn from the experts.