Ryan O’Donnell, President, Lion Training Resource Group

By Chris McLoone

How has the ATTACK™ Digital Fire Training System been received so far?

It’s going well. The ATTACK training system is a product that we’ve had in development for several years. The idea actually came from hands-on training instructors at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) who were looking for a way to simulate the seat of a fire in an acquired structure, obviously couldn’t have live fire, but had a lot of training to do and a lot trainees to get through different evolutions. We worked with them over a couple of years to develop a system that used some LED technology, sound, and smoke to simulate realistic fire conditions without live fire. We were proud to launch the product, and the launch has gone quite well. We’ve got several units sold, and we’re having a lot of conversations with customers around the country. And, they seem to get it. It seems that a lot of departments are facing the same challenge of having an acquired structure or a burn tower [in which] they can’t have as large fires as they used to or they can’t have fires at all anymore because of the structural implications and are looking for a way to engage in realistic training.

How has the transition to Lion ownership gone?

It’s gone well. It’s interesting for us to be part of a larger organization. We started BullEx several years ago. We’ve grown pretty quickly and have established a global presence. But, being part of the Lion organization really gives us the foundation to continue to grow and develop innovative products for the fire service. It’s been good.

How has coming under the Lion umbrella enhanced what BullEx can offer the fire service?

I would say that it helps us see the bigger picture in the fire service. Obviously Lion also operates worldwide. It is the largest manufacturer of personal protective equipment for firefighters, so there’s a broad perspective there. There’s a lot of focus on readiness, which I think has a strong relationship to training, and that’s how we fit into the whole picture. So, there’s a lot of discussion about how we can, as one organization, help fire departments maintain their levels of readiness, whether that’s through the right training, the right training equipment, the right personal protective gear, or the right maintenance systems. So, it’s helped us see that bigger picture and respond to the needs of the fire service in a way we probably couldn’t have before.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the fire service currently?

The issue we hear the most about, from our perspective, and I think it’s an issue that has implications beyond just training, is the fact that there aren’t as many fires as there used to be. And, why we hear a lot about that, in doing what we do in manufacturing training equipment, is that because there aren’t as many fires day to day to maintain the same level of readiness, training has become more important in departments around the country and around the world. Our ability to create the right props, the right training facilities, and the right training tools is important. Working with fire departments to understand how we can best do that has become our mission.

What keeps you up at night?

Other than my two young kids, probably my cell phone! Right now we’re working on building training facility projects in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. So we’ve got operations that are happening around the clock, and we’re honored to be able to work with as many departments around the world as we have.

But, there are certainly some challenges with having a global business, and sleep is one of those challenges! It’s a good challenge to have, and again we are fortunate and thankful that we’ve got that challenge. That’s something that keeps me up at night. Probably what’s always on my mind is how we can be in the right spot to work with the fire service to develop the training tools that the service really needs, that instructors really need. We’ve got quite a large number of firefighters who work at BullEx, who are actively engaged at BullEx, myself included. Our philosophy really is we don’t make products that train firefighters to do the job. We make products that help instructors train firefighters to do the job. So, what do instructors need? What can we be doing to help instructors enhance the job that they’re doing? That’s what’s on the top of my mind.

Because there aren’t as many fires day to day to maintain the same level of readiness, training has become more important in departments around the country and around the world.

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