As I look back over my 20 years as chief of department and a member of the IAFC, I can see a path of leadership development, networking and opportunity.
As a new chief in 1991, I attended my first Fire-Rescue International and was eager to learn what the IAFC had to offer me as a chief officer. I reviewed the list of events and educational opportunities with great enthusiasm, trying to figure out how I could get to them all. Chief Tim Travis, a chief in a neighboring community, took me under his wing and outlined how to get the most benefit out of the conference. We would attend all the general sessions, pick the educational sessions most pertinent and plan for six hours on the showroom floor.
The strategy worked. We started out with the sunrise seminar, caught the general session and then returned to the educational sessions. The time for the showroom floor was carved out from time between sessions and was methodically calculated to see what we needed to do on the floor.
The education I received from FRI helped me to develop as a fire chief and to serve my department and community, but it also made me realize that the fire and emergency service is much bigger than FRI and the community I work for. There are a lot of moving parts and they are global. At first, this was over whelming. But I soon realized that this is the advantage of being a member of an association.
For me, the IAFC was able to harness all these moving parts, rapid change, leadership development, networking, legislative initiatives on Capitol Hill, human relations, etc., and gave an opportunity for a fire chief from a small town to help shape the direction the fire and emergency service was headed.
To me, that’s what association membership is all about. An avenue for me to be able to educate myself to be the best at what I do, provide me with a network of people and resources to solve problems and get the job done, and finally, to have a voice in the direction my profession is headed. The IAFC provided all of this for me.
However, to reap these same benefits you can’t sit on the sidelines. Go the FRI; become active in your division, a section or on a committee of interest. You need to engage yourself in the process. Engaging will provide for both personal and professional growth.
Become involved and contribute in moving the fire and emergency service forward. Have a say. This will not only help the fire service in general, but will also help you and the community you’re sworn to protect.
If you’re interested in getting involved, check out the ideas in the “Get Involved” article (IAFC On Scene, July 15, 2010). I would like to thank every IAFC member who chooses to give his or her time to this association and the membership.
This is your association, and you have the ability to set not only the IAFC’s direction, but also that of the fire and EMS community as a whole.
Chief Jack E. Parow, MA, EFO, CFO
IAFC President and Chairman of the Board