FDIC 2013 Interview: Mark Emery

Firefighter Training: FDIC 2013 Interview: Mark Emery

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Chief Mark C. Emery, the recipient of the 2013 Fire Engineering/ISFSI George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award, to be presented at the FDIC 2013 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

DR: What is the award’s significance?

ME: Although I’ll be on the stage to receive the award at FDIC, I will be accepting the award for each of you who serve to make the fire and life safety service more competent, confident, and professional. Thus believe the award serves as a symbolic expression of gratitude and appreciation for every instructor and training officer who contributes to the mission of improving the craft.Certainly I am honored to have this moment in the spotlight, but I believe the significance of the Instructor of the Year Award is responsibility, a responsibility to carry the torch of professional development. This torch has been carried by the award winners who precede me and carried by each of you who serve to leave the fire and life safety service a better place. To those who paved the road ahead of me, to those who have traveled the road beside me, and especially to those who are blazing trails for roads to the future, I share the spirit of this award with each of you.

DR: How long have you been teaching the fire service?

ME: I taught my first class as a firefighter in 1985; it was a Red Cross CPR/First Aid class for citizens in my community.I taught my first fire service class (to firefighters) in 1987; it was a 3-credit Building Construction class at a local Community College. While preparing for this class,I discovered Professor Brannigan’s second edition of Building Construction for the Fire Service. That book, along with Fire Command by Alan Brunacini, opened my eyes to the importance of the strategic side of the business. As a young firefighter,I thought the world revolved around tactics. As my passion for learning fire service strategy grew and developed, I began a personal mission to become an informed strategist and a competent fire officer. This mission to foster what I call “aggressive strategy” continues to this day.

DR: How did you get into instructing?

ME: Before becoming a firefighter,I was a public school teacher and assistant football coach in Southern California. It was during my student teaching project that I discovered how fun and rewarding teaching is.I also discovered the importance of instructor preparation and planning. My 24-shift work schedule allowed me to work part-time as a substitute school teacher.

Because of my education background, I have enjoyed contributing to fire service curriculum and program development, particularly when I was assigned as chief of training.I still enjoy looking at how “it has always been done” and discovering a new wrinkle or filling a gap. It’s important to me to invest time and energy that will leave the fire service a better place because I was here. Each of us can and should do that. It doesn’t have to be something BIG. It can be as simple as making sure the fire engine is clean before you leave the fire station to go home. The accumulation of all the little things plus all the BIG things adds up to making the fire service better. I believe it is why people attend FDIC and read Fire Engineering and other trade journals.

That is why I continue to learn and why I continue to teach. It is also why I share most of my programs and continue to offer “free stuff” that can add value to how you and your fire department do business.

DR: How many years have you been attending FDIC? What do you look forward to at FDIC each year?

ME: I have attended FDIC seven times and had the privileg eof teaching at FDIC four times. Along with the education,camaraderie,and networking, I look forward to the annual board meeting of the National Fire Academy Alumni Association. I represent Region X on the NFAAA Board of Director; Region X includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.)Ialso enjoy browsing the show floor.

DR: What message would you like to give to a first-time attendee or to someone who has never been to FDIC?

ME: I remember the first time I attended FDIC– it was sensory overload. I recall looking at the program and recognizing that I can’t be everywhere at once. Looking to improve and grow, I narrowed my choices to what I was passionate about and to what could add value to my fire department or solve a problem. What a relief when, years ago FDIC began capturing class handouts and making the “proceedings” available to attendees. It is as close to being everywhere at once as you can get.

Although the FDIC education program committee is vigilant when selecting classes and instructors, it doesn’t hurt to consider instructor biographies. Often you will recognize an instructor’s name from an article or book you’ve read. I particularly enjoy discovering a new and innovative way of doing things. I also enjoy discovering a young firefighter or fire officer who will one day be a fire service leader.

I can offer some FDIC insider tips: Reserve your hotel room early, bring a good pair of walking shoes, try and get a good night’s sleep, have a plan for each day, enjoy a steak at St. Elmo’s, and don’t try to see all the exhibit halls in one day. Repeat one year later.

DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue in the fire service, why, and what can be done about it?

ME: Along with budgets and the push to regionalize services, I believe there will be major cultural shifts in the North American fire service. Fireground methods and techniques are under scrutiny and are being validated (or invalidated) by science rather than anecdotal tradition. Even during challenging economic times, we are in the middle of a fire service renaissance.

I am on a personal mission to foster a proud history and tradition of aggressive strategy, a history and tradition that we are at least as proud of as our proud history and tradition of aggressive tactics. I want it to be routine to hear post-incident accolades such as”Great size-up, Captain”; “Great offensive coordination, Chief”;”Good job with accountability,Lieutenant”; “Fantastic incident action plan, Chief.” There would be a lot of good people alive today if we’d had a proud history and tradition of aggressive strategy.

Statistics and lessons learned from NIOSH fatality investigation reports will continue to influence traditional fireground behavior.

Officer development will become more important than firefighter development. Virtually all fire departments invest weeks and months preparing young people to become firefighters. Very few fire departments invest a fraction of that time and energy to prepare firefighters to become fire officers–and keep them prepared. I believe it is already changing. In 1995, I developed a six-week Officer Development Academy in King County, Washington. It is still going strong. That said, I don’t believe six weeks is enough preparation. And what about battalion chief preparation?

General Session Award Presentation

Thursday, April 25, 2013

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center

Chief Mark C. Emery is the recipient of the Fire Engineering/ISFSI George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award. His comprehensive and consistent contributions to emergency service training are core elements of his selection.

Emery’s contributions transcend traditional rank structures in the fire service–for example, comprehensive driver operator training programs are juxtaposed with far-reaching interdisciplinary emergency management training. In support of firefighter safety and survival, Emery developed an innovative program building on NIOSH line-of-duty death case studies. These incredible training packages, complete with visuals, discussion guides, and learning objectives, provide a valuable tool for any training or company officer to leverage. Keeping firefighters save and alive is at the core of his efforts. Emery continues to innovate and adopts the personal credo of “It’s what you learn after you know it all that’s important.”

Emery is the developer of the popular Command Competency Clinic and co-developer of the Integrated Tactical Accountability System (ITAC). He is a regular presenter at fire and life safety conferences throughout North and South America. He also designs ITAC incident management status boards for IMS Alliance and is the featured instructor in the Passport Accountability System HD-DVD training package. After a 30-year career, he retired in 2010 as an operations battalion chief and currently is fire commissioner with Woodinville (WA) Fire & Rescue.

The award, which incorporates the Training Achievement Award previously given by Fire Engineering at the FDIC, is named for George D. Post, who was a long-time member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Post was a member of the Fire Department of New York, an illustrator of fire service publications, and a developer of instructional materials and is considered by many to be the father of visual training material used to train fire service personnel around the world.

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