FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Chief (Ret.) Rick Lasky, Lewisville (TX) Fire Department, who will be the recipient of the 2017 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the FDIC 2017 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”
DR: How long have you been teaching/attending FDIC?
RL: I have been attending since 1991, teaching since 1996, and proudly serving on the FDIC Advisory Board since 1996.
DR: How did you get into instructing in general?
RL: Early in my career I noticed that many of my fire service idols and mentors were all teaching, I saw the impact that they were having on the fire service, and I wanted to be a part of that like there was no tomorrow. I wanted to make a difference. I starting teaching Firefighter I and II classes and a variety of hazmat classes in the Chicagoland area, which led me to teach for the Illinois Fire Service Institute, which allowed me to teach with my mentors and idols, which was absolutely incredible!
DR: What sets your experience at FDIC apart from attending other conferences?
RL: First, it is the greatest show on earth. Second, the overall experience is like no other. The classroom, workshop, and hands-on offerings are limitless and on every topic imaginable. The hardest part is picking and choosing which classes to attend, which itself is difficult because there are so many great programs. The networking in between classes, on the exhibit floors, in the hallways, in the restaurants, in the hotel lobbies, and even on the street is all phenomenal. You can’t walk anywhere without an opportunity to better yourself, learn something, or make a new friend. It’s an energy infusion like no other. I’ve said for over 20 years it’s like Disney World for firefighters, except they wear helmets instead of mouse ears!
DR: What was your reaction to being selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award?
RL: It was and still is overwhelming and emotional. I love the fire service more than life itself. My family comes first, but I love our profession and have been honored to work alongside some incredible firefighters, officers, and instructors. But to be selected to receive an award that has been presented to so many of my mentors and idols, many who I now call great friends, and an award named after one of my heroes, Chief Tom Brennan, I think the word overwhelming falls way short. It is an incredible honor, and I am eternally grateful.
DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the fire service today and why?
RL: Teaching and training new firefighters to become senior firefighters and then old firefighters and finally retired firefighters. You do this by bringing all of the generations together, volunteer and career firefighters (and it doesn’t matter, a firefighter is a firefighter), all to a point where they realize that the day you stop learning is the day you need to change career paths. That learning never stops and that you need to train every day. To take the experience and knowledge from the more tenured firefighters (the old guys) and couple that with the constant stream of new information coming our way if you truly want to be that great firefighter. That above everything else, a well-trained firefighter who never stops learning, trains every chance they can, and is passionate about being a firefighter, becomes that great yet humble firefighter who in the end truly gets “it” and understands what the fire service is all about.
DR: What is your “takeaway” from a week at FDIC?
RL: It’s a chance to learn new things and how to be better at what I do as a firefighter and officer. Learning from the best of the best. A chance to hone my craft, a chance to become a better servant and come away energized. They should make an energy drink and call it “FDIC.”
DR: Who are your FDIC role models and why?
RL: Chiefs Tom Brennan and Alan Brunacini for starters. If firefighters and officers would work hard to accomplish just a fraction of what they have done for all of us, the fire service would be better and ultimately safer for everyone both in and out of the firehouse. There are so many more to list here that have truly had an impact on me and my career.
DR: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?
RL: Take every class you can and take from those classes everything you can! Ask questions, listen, and see everything you can on the exhibit floors. There is learning going on all around you, so don’t miss a chance to grab something that will make you a better firefighter or officer. Enjoy every minute of it because there is nothing else like it. And when the week is over and you get back home, share with those around you what you gained in Indy, and encourage more of your fellow firefighters and officers to attend and experience the thrill of FDIC.
Presentation During the General Session
Thursday, April 27, 2017, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
Sagamore Ballroom 1-7, Indiana Convention Center
The Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Tom Brennan, who was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and a technical editor. Brennan had more than 35 years of fire service experience, including more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York and five years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995) and the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.
MORE RICK LASKY