CFSI Event 'An Experience of a Lifetime'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “An experience of a lifetime.”

That’s how Alabama EMT Terry Bates explained his first CFSI event the past few days.

Bates was among 1,500 who attended the 26th annual Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on Thursday night.

He and several fellow Cullman County, Ala. responders from said they were thrilled to be named as one of the recipients of the CFSI/MedicAlert Foundation Excellence in Fire-Based EMS Awards.

Jeff Byars, of the Bethsadia Vol. Fire Department, said it was interesting to hear how other companies operate. And, while he’d love to make it an annual trip now, a tight budget may prevent that.

“We had storms. Some of them were out cutting trees until 2 a.m., and then got up and started driving,” he said.

The rural county association was lauded for creation and promotion of an Emergency Medical Responder program. Volunteers, equipped with medical gear bags, sometimes find themselves treating patients for more than 40 minutes while waiting for an ambulance. The ALS crew also isn’t close either.

Heather Byars, the first EMR in Alabama, said she found the seminars outstanding.

“We had the opportunity to hear from some very knowledgeable people. They sparked thought. It was interesting to hear different ways EMS and fires are handled…”

She and the others also were moved by the atmosphere.

“It would be very hard to replicate the enthusiasm,” she said, adding that she hopes funding could be made available to help the average firefighter attend.

Meanwhile, Jerry Owenburg was headed home to Suffolk County, N.Y. with a heavy heart.

While at CFSI, Owenburg lost a friend, Bobby Knight, a fellow fire official.

Knight collapsed on Capitol Hill, but made it back to the hotel. Not feeling well, he changed his flight and headed to the airport Wednesday. It was at the airport when he was stricken again, and rushed to a local hospital.

He died Thursday night.

Sen. Peter King spoke of the incident during the CFSI dinner, and asked for a moment of silence for his friend.

Owenburg, the president of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, said Knight was very knowledgeable, and had many contacts with local, state and federal politicians.

“He can’t be replaced. He knew the ins and outs of things, and who to talk to…”

Owenburg said he’s made the trip to CFSI several times. “We always take a list of our legislation to members on the Hill. It’s important to share how we really need the funding…”

CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb said the number of attendees was just a tad lower than last year.

But, he was quick to add that he was pleased that many make their annual treks to speak with their legislators. “That’s what this is all about…”