Firefighters Talk About Virginia Tech at FDIC in Indianapolis

Thousands of firefighters gathered in Indianapolis for the 79th edition of the Fire Department Instructors Conference -- FDIC --which started training and classroom sessions Monday.

It was also an opportunity for firefighters from across the nation to reflect on the tragedy of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. On their mind was what they would do if it was their community was in the very literal line of fire next time.

"No community is completely ready for a situation like that," said Jay Evett of the Fort Rucker, Ala. Fire Department. "It was an attack from within and who is ever ready for that."

Richmond, Calif. firefighter Erik Newman said his department takes preventative steps to deal with deadly shooting events. That's because, he said, Richmond is one of California's most dangerous cities.

"We get anywhere from six to 12 shootings a week," he said.

So, the department reaches out to youths, catching them before they turn violent. He said firefighters unite teenagers from different parts of the community, with the hopes that if they know each other, they won't hurt each other.

Garland, Texas firefighter Greg Huff said, "We have trained, we have inter-departmental drills, we house a mass casualty trailer, we have taken all the appropriate steps. But there are the intangibles that you never know about."

Richard Wynne from the Rogers, Arkansas Fire Department said it is all about "training, training, training. There isn't anyone ever completely ready for something like that."

Leonardo Chumacerio of Florida's Palm Coast Fire Department also stressed training.

"Providing training helps us deal with emergencies," he said. "That's why we're here."

Apex, North Carolina firefighter Sue Lynn Hinson said she felt they could do a pretty good job. A chemical fire last fall resulted in the evacuation of about 17,000 Apex residents and she said that alone gave them a lot of training.

Chief Jim Owens of Greenwood, Maine, a community of about 800, felt more vulnerable. He has thought about it he said, but action would have to come from the county level or perhaps the state???s EMS mass casualty plan.

Wednesday's welcome remarks by Chief Robert Halton, Fire Engineering's Editor in Chief opened the day for classroom sessions.

Opening session keynote speaker was Timothy E. Sendelbach, President, International Society of Fire Service Instructors whose group on Friday will name Montgomery County, Md. Battalion Chief John Tippett as their Fire Instructor of the Year.

Tippett, also is a project manager for the International Association of Fire Chiefs National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System that has received more than 1,000 reports of incidents that could have proven deadly to firefighters.

Keynote Speaker Thursday is Jerry Tracy, Battalion Chief, Fire Department of New York, an adjunct instructor with the FDNY training academy who has developed numerous training programs for the ranks of firefighter through chief officer.

Other awards by Fire Engineering:

Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award: At Wednesday's Opening Session, the Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award was presented to the widow and family of Lt. Howard Carpluk, who died August 27, 2006, trying to save the life of a fellow FDNY member at a Bronx fire.

Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Denis Onieal, National Fire Academy superintendent.

Tom Brennan Training Achievement Award: Named for the legendary Fire Engineering editor, the 2007 Training Achievement Award goes to Jim McCormack of the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Service Awards: These awards honor the individuals who help make FDIC happen. This year, the award winners are Robin Nicoson and Matt Stewart, both from Indiana.

Joe Fishelson Award: Paul Curtis, L.N. Curtis and Sons of Oakland, CA, representing excellence in customer service to the fire service.