Firehouse Expo Speaker Profile: Charles Wells

Assistant Chief Charles Wells will shares the lessons from when four of his firefighters were held at gunpoint. Learn more in Wells' program "Firefighters Taken Hostage" at Firehouse Expo. 

What will attendees to your program walk away with?

My hope is that attendees should take away from this incident, and incidents that have occurred across the nation, the awareness that similar situations will arise and that presents dangers to first responders. Not only is the general public targets for violent events, so are first responders. By sharing our experience, it will better prepare attendees to look at their own organization to develop policy and procedures for similar events. 

What is the story behind your class?

In April 2013, the crew of Gwinnett Fire Station 10 was taken hostage at gunpoint while responding to a standard emergency medical call. The patient had placed the call to 911 dispatch with the intent to hold the crew hostage in order to meet particular demands regarding his home and utilities. A member of the crew was able to make safe contact with dispatch to inform them of the patient's intent and demands. Gwinnett Police and SWAT teams were immediately dispatched to the scene of incident and were able to incapacitate the patient, without major incident or loss of life for any public safety member involved.

Tell us about your time in the fire service.

I started the fire service as a volunteer when I was 18 and served the communities I lived in and began my career with the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services in 1987. I've been blessed to be promoted through the ranks working at some of the busiest stations throughout the county and was responsible for all aspects of emergency service delivery. I have served on the hazardous materials tTeam, headed the department's special operations area, and represented the department at local and state-wide fire and emergency medical services committees. I have my associate's degree in fire department management from Georgia Perimeter College, a bachelor's degree in organizational management and leadership and a master's degree in business administration from Reinhardt University.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Being promoted to assistant chief, leading our operations division. Operations  consists of 30 fire stations and 700 men and women who respond to over 66,000 calls annually and transport over 35,000 patients. It is truly an honor to work with each one in fulfilling our mission of saving lives and protecting property.

What’s one piece of advice that you can give to Firehouse Expo attendees to make it a great experience?

Our mission statement in Gwinnett is to save lives and protect property. We put ourselves in the line of danger every time we step on that apparatus. As the world changes and we face more complex incidents such as the one I am speaking about, we need to be prepared to go that step further when duty calls.

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: