Rurally Speaking: Hitch a Ride to FDIC International 2016

By Carl J. Haddon

Have you ever been to FDIC International (Fire Department Instructors Conference) in Indianapolis, Indiana? This April 18-23, marks the annual biggest week in the American fire service. Don’t be fooled by the name—although the training part of the conference is geared toward those of us who teach fire service classes, this is the Mecca of all opportunity to experience the latest and greatest in “our” firefighting world. Structural, wildland, industrial, urban, rural, career, combination, or volunteer—we all meet in Indianapolis, and there is more than something for all disciplines.

I am blessed to once again be one of the instructors for FDIC International 2016, but that is only relevant because of how I discovered FDIC International myself. Prior to 2010, I thought FDIC was a federal banking institution. I had not previously been introduced to this overwhelming concentration of Brotherhood and Sisterhood and everything that you could ever imagine that is fire service related compiled under two roofs (Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium). I have to admit that since 2010, there is no product, fire apparatus, service, training, or equipment that I haven’t been able to find or find information about in Indy.

Some of you have been to Indy, some of you haven’t, and some of you wish you could go but don’t have the budget or the personal funds to make the trip. Listen, for those of you who don’t have the personal funds or the department budget (like the rural department that I worked for) to send you to Indianapolis for FDIC, you are not alone. BUT, that is no reason not to benefit from FDIC!

As I mentioned, I am blessed to be an instructor at FDIC and a columnist for this magazine. Otherwise, I too, would be challenged to have the funds to make the pilgrimage to FDIC each year. That said, there is no reason why you and your department can’t benefit from what goes on in Indy next week. If the funds aren’t available for you or your department to attend in person, hitch a ride with a member from a department who is sending a member or members.

For those of you who don’t know, I have semi-retired to the rural Rocky Mountains of central Idaho, where I served as a Deputy Chief of a rural volunteer department for 10 years. I have offered to let local fire departments use me as an “information gatherer” for departmental needs and information on equipment, apparatus, and fire service related services that are imperative to the survival of these small rural volunteer departments.

We call ourselves “Brothers and Sisters.” Brothers and Sisters who are fortunate enough to attend FDIC as instructors, students, or simply trade show attendees should avail themselves to departments that are not quite as fortunate. This year, I will be the eyes and ears for the Elk Bend Volunteer Fire Department and the Salmon River Division of the Idaho State Search and Rescue Organization for gathering information and materials relative to their wants, needs, and wish lists.

If you would like to learn more about all of the latest and greatest that FDIC has to offer, I encourage you to reach out to someone in a neighboring department or even a department from a neighboring state that has someone attending FDIC. Ask him or her to look into the goods or services or classes that are important to you. A REAL Brother or Sister would gladly jump at the opportunity to find opportunities, vendors, and technologies that you are looking for. Odds are that while doing so, the person you ask will unintentionally become more educated about something fire-related in the process. I know that each year I take on this task, I learn far more than I could ever teach in one of my classes.

The other really cool part of this process is the brotherhood shared when you return to that department with the needed information you were asked to find. You are the eyes and ears for the betterment of that department, and I guarantee that it will eagerly await your return for the information it is looking for.

Let’s face it: if you are already going to FDIC, it costs you nothing to do a few good deeds for other departments. Additionally, it may also show those departments the value of sending a contingent or even a single representative next year. This will unintentionally extend the influence of the Brotherhood that you showed them and hopefully start that chain of networking and perpetual Brotherhood that so many of us know and live for each year in Indianapolis.

During a recent Fire Engineering Humpday Hangout I was a guest on, I was asked what the best part of my FDIC experience is each year. Without missing a beat, I was able to proudly say that FDIC is a chance to “recharge my firefighter batteries” and that FDIC literally is “the glue that holds the pieces of my fire international service/instructor puzzle together.” Each year, we see fellow firefighters/fire instructors from all over the world whose company we only get to enjoy this one week each year. Please reach out to one of us who is going to FDIC, or c’mon out to Indy. It is an experience that will last a lifetime. We’d love to see you there!

CARL J. HADDON is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board and the director of Five Star Fire Training LLC, which is sponsored, in part, by Volvo North America. He served as assistant chief and fire commissioner for the North Fork (ID) Fire Department and is a career veteran of more than 25 years in the fire and EMS services in southern California. He is a certified Level 2 fire instructor and an ISFSI member and teaches Five Star Auto Extrication and NFPA 610 classes across the country.

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