Close to 100 fire chiefs attended the 50th Annual Meeting of the New England Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (NEDIAFC) at NFPA’s conference center in Quincy, Massachusetts this week. Top fire leaders hailed from six New England states; attendees included active chiefs, retired leaders and aspiring commanders.
After welcome remarks from NEDIAFC leaders and NFPA staff, Boston Fire Department (BFD) Commissioner Joe Finn spoke to the crowd about his department’s crusade to raise awareness about cancer in the fire service. BFD has created powerful videos on the effects of cancer within their department and prevention tips for optimal safety, and has garnered significant media exposure including a key feature in Boston Magazine this month. Earlier this year, the Division of Population Sciences at Dana-Farber and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced that they are working with BFD to determine how firefighters are affected by diesel exhaust fumes in fire stations and the toll that 24-hour shifts, irregular sleeping patterns and eating habits have on first responders’ health.
Finn then shared lessons learned from the Back Bay fire that killed two firefighters two years ago this weekend. NFPA assisted both the city and state with guidance based on NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, and worked with BFD to create new hot work permitting and training requirements in the city. The commissioner received rave reviews for his candor, insight and leadership perspective.
Real world, relevant information-sharing continued today with Deputy Chief Richard Wales and Assistant Chief Hezedean Smith from Orlando Fire speaking about the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the September 11th attacks. The terrorist attack at the Pulse Night Club in their city killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. Increasingly, the fire service is being called upon to respond to new threats and atypical emergencies so the audience was highly engaged in the officers’ presentation. The pair discussed the tactical, operations, communications, firefighter mental health, equipment and community partnership takeaways from that tragic incident; and the ways their department is training so that they can effectively prepare and respond to active shooter incidents and other mass casualties in their community.
Tours of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Special Operations Rehab Unit were also available for attendees. The vehicle provides resources to facilitate proper firefighter/rescuer rehab including heat, air conditioning, fluids, rehab supplies, and medical monitoring equipment to assist local EMS. NEDIAFC members also discussed chapter priorities during the annual meeting portion of the program, and enjoyed a celebration hosted by organization president, Steven Locke of Burlington, Vermont Fire.
NFPA was a host and corporate sponsor of the annual meeting and educational sessions, along with platinum corporate sponsor AT&T. Another 15 national and regional businesses supported the program via sponsorships and exhibit opportunities.