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Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr Installed as IAFC President

Fairfax, Va. – Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, a fourth-generation firefighter, was installed today as president and chair of the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Pledging to focus on reducing firefighter deaths and related firefighter safety and health issues, she becomes the first woman to lead the IAFC in its 142-year history.

Kerr will lead the association’s 18-member board of directors. She will serve as the association’s primary spokesperson on national and international issues, testify on behalf of the fire and emergency service at Congressional hearings and serve as the association’s representative dignitary.

During her inaugural address this morning at Fire-Rescue International 2015 (FRI), the IAFC’s annual conference, Kerr said her theme for her tenure while in office will be “Building upon the Past, Responding to the Present and Preparing for the Future.”

“I believe we can continue to learn important lessons from the past by reducing firefighter deaths—including line-of-duty deaths and preventable medical conditions—and focusing on the wellbeing and safety of our firefighters through positive change,” Kerr said during this morning’s FRI general session at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Kerr, originally from New Jersey, said she is proud to be a fourth-generation firefighter. “I would not be where I am now without those who have gone before me, so thanks to my dad, grandfather and great-grandfather.”

Kerr outlined her three primary areas of focus for her year serving as IAFC president:

  • Reducing firefighter deaths, including line-of-duty deaths and preventable medical conditions
  • Sustainability as both a global organization and as individual departments
  • Embracing cutting-edge technology, such as the proliferation of rescue robotics

Kerr began her career in the fire service in 1983. Before becoming the Austin’s fire chief in 2009, she spent five years in the same position in Little Rock, Arkansas. She also served more than 20 years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the last five years as deputy fire chief.

Kerr, who is only one of 1,080 worldwide who holds the designation of “Chief Fire Officer,” has been a member of the IAFC since 1991. She is the past chair of the IAFC Human Relations Committee and past president of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers and currently serves on the executive committee of the IAFC Metropolitan Fire Chiefs’ Association. She holds two certifications from the Harvard University program, one for Senior Executives in State and Local Government and the other for the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. She is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.

Read Chief Kerr’s full remarks.

In addition to Chief Kerr being installed as president and chair of the board, Chief John Sinclair, Kittitas Valley (Wash.) Fire Rescue, was sworn in as the association’s first vice president. Chief Sinclair began his career in the fire service in 1977 as a volunteer firefighter; he has been a member of the IAFC since 1992. Chief Tom Jenkins, Rogers (Ark.) Fire Department, was sworn in as second vice president. Chief Keith Bryant, IAFC President 2014-2015, will continue to serve on the IAFC executive committee and board of directors as immediate past president.

More than 10,000 fire and emergency service leaders, experts, exhibitors, guests and industry partners from around the globe are participating at FRI in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center, August 26-30. FRI offers current and future career and volunteer fire chiefs, chief fire officers and company officers throughout the international community information and education to enhance their professionalism and capabilities. In addition, FRI features more than 400 exhibitors, who are showcasing their products and services for fire and emergency service leaders.

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more
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