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Company Officer Leadership: Officer Development at FRI 2016 – A First-Hand Look

The IAFC’s Officer Development Program (ODP) is second to none. Fire-Rescue International offers hundreds of educational sessions, but when you enroll in the ODP program, you’re placed in an educational track that meets the job performance requirements of NFPA 1021(standard for fire officer professional qualifications).

Having a set schedule of educational session’s helps attendees chose what track they should be in. The ODP offers three levels of company-officer training, two levels of chief-officer training and two levels of executive chief-officer training. Speakers present information specific to each level and must meet the JPR set in the NFPA 1021 standard.

Having attended FRI for the past seven years, I have to say that this year had the greatest impact on me. Lt. Jim Ready of the San Antonio Fire Departments presented on Culture, Cancer and Firefighting PPE, and it was eye-opening. Part of his lecture was about cancer-contamination reduction, where he talks about the importance of decon at the scene of a fire—not only the PPE but the tools and equipment used as well.

A few days after returning home from FRI, I was able to use the knowledge I gained in his lecture and put it into action. For the first time in my career, we did gross decon on all members and equipment that were in a structure fire; it was done outside the fire building and before returning to the stations. I was impressed with the positive reactions from the members and command staff. The idea of leaving a majority of contaminates at the scene was something we only thought about during a hazmat incident. After this year’s FRI, this is a practice I’ll utilize after every fire.

Another highlight was the introduction of High Impact Training at FRI. This training focused on the stresses an incident commander would face on the fireground. Participants were placed in a command vehicle next to a structure and given real-life situations. This course combined foundational survival techniques and sound mental strength and conditioning.

Spending time on the expo floor was a great way to network, see the latest equipment on the market and learn about some of the resources available from organizations like the NFPA, Center for Public Safety Excellence and National Fallen Firefighter Foundation, to name a few.

My experience at FRI 2016 was very rewarding, from learning about the challenges faced at the Fort McMurray wildland fire this summer to hearing about the survival of a four-man crew from a large metro department that walked away from a ladder truck roll-over because they all had seat belts on.

I would encourage any aspiring officers and current officers to attend FRI 2017 in Charlotte, N.C. I can assure you that there’s no other training for company and chief officers that compares to the Officer Development Program at FRI.

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