Firehouse Expo Speaker Profile: Thomas Dunne

Thomas Dunne will be presenting two programs at Firehouse Expo this year: "Fire Resistive Apartment Building Fires" and "Think Like an Incident Commander." Firehouse asked Dunne about his programs for this Firehouse Expo Speaker Profile.

What will attendees to your program walk away with?
Fire Resistive Apartment Building Fires - This class will highlight the unique challenges you face at fires in apartment buildings made of fire resistive construction. I have operated at fires in these structures for many years and always viewed them as a "different" kind of firefighting. Unfortunately, New York City has had a number of high profile fires that led to both firefighter and civilian fatalities. These experiences have led to some significant changes in our firefighting procedures including flow paths, transitional attacks, and positive pressure ventilation.      

Think Like an Incident Commander - For most of us, the process of training to be a firefighter starts out by learning how to handle a nozzle, climb a ladder, or force a door. There are a lot of essential, hands-on tasks that can take years to master. However, as important as these skills are, the process of learning them often causes us to become very tactical or "task" oriented. I have always believed that "command presence" is a quality not exclusively reserved for chiefs.

What is the story behind your class?
Fire Resistive Apartment Building Fires - Whether they are low- or high-rise buildings the potential is there for extremely hot fires, water supply problems, wind influences, and logistical challenges. It seems like there is so much to do and, particularly for smaller departments, never enough personnel to get the job done. Students who attend this class will walk away with a full appreciation for the dangers faced at these operations, plus an overview of effective and safe tactics. 

Think Like an Incident Commander - Students who attend this class will get a greater appreciation for seeing their role in the overall picture of a fire operation.  Everything you do at a fire affects the firefighters around you. The roof you cut, the window you break, even the way you talk can influence the job in a positive or negative manner. This ability to maintain the "big picture" and to establish a calm, organized approach can definitely contribute to safer firefighting.  Even if you never aspire to become an incident commander the ability to think like one will make you a far more effective firefighter or company officer.  

Tell us about your time in the fire service.
I've been with the FDNY for 33 years and have had to good fortune to work throughout the city. This has given me the opportunity to experience firefighting in glittering mid-Manhattan high rises as well as in squalid tenements.

What has been the highlight of your career? 
I usually respond by saying that a "highlight" can be either a positive or negative thing. In that sense the devastation of Sept. 11 ranks as being a highlight. In a positive way, I would say that the real pleasure in my work has been sharing the feeling of accomplishment, brotherhood, and fulfillment you get after each fire. When the fire is under control and the hose is being repacked on the engine there is a real sense of relief, satisfaction, and connection with fellow firefighters that just can't be replicated in other types of work.

What’s one piece of advice that you can give to Firehouse Expo attendees to make it a great experience?
I would encourage anyone who attends Firehouse Expo to interact with as many instructors and firefighters from different departments as possible. Keep an open mind and learn from a variety of perspectives. The real benefit from the Expo is the exposure to people who do our unique kind of work throughout the country. Above all, enjoy yourself, and I look forward to meeting many of you.

The 31st Firehouse Expo will take place in Baltimore, MD, July 15-19, at the Baltimore Convention Center. This year's conference offers over 90 education sessions, including hands-on training, in-depth workshops and classroom sessions. Find out more about Firehouse Expo, the exhibitors who will be showcasing their products and learn how to register go to: