by Robert Morris Executive Director, IFIA
We have just come off the most successful annual conference we have had in over 25 years. We had over 160 people in attendance to hear keynotes, Gordan Graham, Frank DeAngelis – Columbine High School, and Michele Gay – Sandy Hook School. Our other speakers were from across the country, and from Canada. Many vendors were in our showcase and have expressed interested in the 2019 conference already.
This 2½ day conference is something that we have been doing for over 45 years. Five years ago the decision was made to move more towards the center of the State, and that seems to have been a good move, as central and southern attendance is good, and we are also getting people from Kentucky attending on a regular basis.
We have two State Fire Marshal certification classes coming up. The Public Fire and Life Educator will be held in April/May. This class is taught by fire service experts, including one who literally “wrote the book” on public education. The dates are April 30, May 1, 2, 7, and 8. The other is Fire Inspector Two. That class will be held on Fridays in June. Both of these classes are within 30 minutes of O’Hare airport.
We have been working to educate our members regarding the fire sprinkler and fire alarm tax reform legislation that was passed in December, where Congress passed the most sweeping tax reform legislation since 1986.Under the new law any sprinkler system installed after September 27, 2017 in either a commercial or residential structure until December 31, 2022 will be able to be fully expensed. Therefore, the property owner will be able to immediately write off the full cost of the sprinkler system. We have distributed a tri-fold brochure, made by the NFSA, which they can give to any prospective properties.
The IFIA participated in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers and Fire Prevention Association’s annual showcase. This was well attended and in addition to the exhibits, two educational offering were given.
We are in the planning states of the Illinois Fire Service Association State Fair project. The Fair is held in August. Each major fire service organization (13 of them) is assessed a fee for the tent and related items, and is asked to staff the tent for one day. Almost one million people visit the Fair each year.
Given the rise in school shootings, there has been much discussion on what can or should be done. In an effort to provide our membership with information that they can use in their own communities to determine their own specific strategies, we forwarded some guidance tips developed from The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control. This guidance was developed in concert with their sister law enforcement agencies. This is good common sense advice that you can be passed on to your educational facilities. In essence, schools are advised that:
- If there is no known threat, students and staff should immediately evacuate as normal upon the activation of a fire alarm.
- If there is a threat (I.e. lockdown or lockout), students and staff should either remain in lockdown and delay evacuation until it can be determined whether a fire exists.
- Staff are advised to remain alert and should be empowered to adjust their responses based upon the conditions they encounter. For example, if under lockdown they smell smoke or are otherwise threatened by fire, they should react to the greater perceived threat. Also, if a bad actor is in one wing of a school, administrators may be able to advise staff in other wings to evacuate. On the other hand, if evacuating they notice in the corridor a student who has been expelled or anything else that concerns them, they should consider delaying evacuation. Many schools now teach staff to look into corridors before sending their kids out. In the past, standard practice was to send the kids first.
- Individual staff empowerment is key. Teachers are well-educated and most can be counted on to act in a sensible manner if given the leeway to do so. We are in an age where cookie cutter responses to emergencies are no longer going to work.
Upcoming events – additional information is available on our website at www.Illinoisfireinspectors.org:
April/May PFLSE course
June Inspector 2
July Arlington Park Racetrack social event