Virginia Officers Converge for Safety Week Summit

June 18, 2009
Virginia and Charleston chief officers have been engaged in classes addressing a number of issues they may encounter.

RICHMOND, VA. - Fire officers face a myriad of issues on a daily basis.

In addition to split second decisions on the fireground, they also have budgets, staffing, safety and personnel matters on their plates.

At the University of Richmond this week, 38 Virginia and two Charleston fire officers have been engaged in classes addressing a number of issues they may encounter.

"We have a highly-selective process," said Lt. James Paul, program director of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association's Safety Through Leadership conference.

The third annual program coincides with National Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week.

Paul said officers don't simply sit in class all day. "The sessions are scenario-based. And, there's a lot of role playing. We make it as realistic as possible..."

He added that safety is emphasized throughout the courses. Officers share tips on how to handle situations that may arise in the ranks. "It's not easy enforcing things like exceeding speed limits, buckling up and stopping at intersections."

The group will hear about the Fire Fighter Near-Miss Program as well as the investigation of the fire that claimed Prince William County, Va. Firefighter Kyle Wilson.

"A primary goal of the program is to foster and develop the culture of change required to improve firefighter safety," Paul said.

The program development was initially funded by the National Fallen Firefighters' Foundation.

Students review the 16 Life Safety Initiatives of the Everyone Goes Home program, and discuss how they can be adapted to their departments, said Nick Caputo, deputy chief of Spotsylvania County Fire/EMS.

"This is always a very popular program," he said of the third annual conference.

Networking also is a vital component of the program.

On Friday, Ken Farmer, chief of leadership and reduction at the National Fire Academy, will give the keynote address during graduation ceremonies.

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