Illinois Fire Inspectors Association Report

Discussion created by ssawyer on Jan 10, 2019

The annual Fire and Life Safety Conference (formerly known as the Combined Conference) is progressing, and we already have people registered and securing their hotel rooms, so register now. The conference will be held in East Peoria at the Par-a-Dice Casino/Hotel. A full detailed schedule is available at our website  Here you will find detailed information on the classes that will be provided.


We will again be doing a half-day preconference on Tuesday afternoon, which is free to IFIA members. The non-member cost is only $25. The topic of that session is something we all need to know more about – “Human Behavior in Fire”. Our Wednesday conference keynotes will be two survivors from the Seton Hall fire in 2000, who will talk about going from Fire Survivors to Fire Safety Educators. To get a feel for what they will talk about, check out this link . On Thursday, our keynote will be Sara Gura who will talk about firefighter mental health. With more first responder suicides than line of duty deaths, this is a very important topic.


There is a national campaign going on that talks about closed doors protecting you from fire. In the fire service we know that to be true, but it is also one part of a bigger message. Many news shows are stating that a closed door will protect you from fire. To the general public the implication of this is that it is safe to stay in a fire, you can simply close the door. What we say is important. When talking to groups it is important to talk about the whole message. While the closed door does buy you some time, working smoke alarms, proper placement of smoke alarms, having two ways out, feeling the door, staying low in smoke, and many other fire safety points must also be said. The idea that needs to be stressed is to have a plan, and closed doors is just one part of that plan.


Earlier we mentioned our Human Behavior in Fire class at our annual conference. When we talk about human behavior panic is a word that almost always comes to mind. I’d like to share something written by Mike Love, and obtained from the eParade Google chat group.

Panic is an overused word that more often than not is not even the case. I used the Google Alert tool to deliver me links to news that included the word panic and I was very surprised how quickly it amounted to hundreds and maybe thousands of uses of the word panic in the news. The links were delivered daily. I was helping Robbie Robertson revise his legacy college fire science text book Introduction to Fire Prevention and I wanted to update a section of the book he wrote dealing with panic. Robbie thought I was wrong and based it on observations he witnessed as people dove out of the Winecoff Hotel Fire cut off with nowhere safely to go but to jump from the upper story windows. I can’t say that the example was or wasn’t panic but I think they had few precious choices - they were trapped. We learned and improved the fire and life safety protection since then and it has reduced risk. Look at the raw video of people leaving the Station Nightclub - scared, concerned, heading to the exit. 


I don’t think I found an instance where people actually panicked. Panic actually describes a loss of control but most of the articles contained descriptions of fear, anxiety, apprehension, urge to leave quickly, etc but not loss of control. Action was one of the reactions most often associated. They did something often to get them to safety in the face of real danger. They recognized risk and took action. Were they calm, yes frequently they were. But they were certainly scared to death. These human survival instincts include all the senses with increased intensity and emotions but it’s not panic. We had it wrong for years. Science has realized we have it wrong in fact some social scientist now believe people generally act calmly when taking action to save their lives. 


Could the use of the word panic be a self fulfilling prophecy? I think so. It’s not a good thing to accept a negative reaction like panic as the way people will react when they are at significant risk. Using the word panic such as “Don’t panic,” may only just plant it in their mind. Tell people that they will be scared, their heart will pound, they will be anxious, they will aggressively seek to get out of the situation. This is not panic - it’s survival instinct. It’s good, it helps people be more focused, it enhances the senses, it may save their life - but it’s not panic. 


Let’s dump the over use of the word panic. 


Certification classes: Fire Inspector 1 class will be offered on Feb 12, 19, 26, March 5, 12. The PFLSE class will be held on April 22 – 24, 29, 30. These classes are taught by experts in their fields. Make sure you go to the IFIA website and sign up now if you are interested in either of these classes.


From the just when you think you’ve seen everything category...... Last month a Chicago area sprinkler contactor received a call from a property owner to quote some work that another contractor had written up during an inspection in the western Chicago suburbs. One of the deficiencies was to “replace the pendent head that is installed in the sidewall position near Suite A”.  They are given the job. The fitter then goes there, and when he gets to replacing the “pendent head in the sidewall position” (which was about 14’ in the air), he puts a wrench on it to back it out.....only to find out it is not a sprinkler head at all but really a camera!


This was outlawed many years ago in Illinois.


At our December holiday luncheon, our tradition has been to swear in the newly elected board members. That was again done by Forest Reeder, Chief of the Tinley Park Fire Department. The new IFIA officers are Jack Janozik, Tinley Park – President; Bill Schmidt, Streamwood – Vice-President; Jamie Brown, New Lenox – Secretary; and new to the Board, Jay Atherton, Palatine - Treasurer.



Robert Morris

Executive Director, IFIA






















Jay Atherton, Jamie Brown, Bill Schmidt, Jack Janozik


We continue to evaluate our legislative positions in Springfield. The Board will continue to work with Mike Toika, our legislative representative to find amicable solutions to get our proposals before the General Assembly. 


A west suburban Fire District came across an unusual situation that all fire departments should keep in mind. “We recently had a number of businesses knocked down to make way for a new speculative type building.  While conducting inspections of the new building with the project manager it was brought to my attention that while closing up the self storage facility previously located at this location they encountered several people/families living in their cars which were parked inside the storage units.” While this might be near impossible to detect, fire personnel should be made aware of this possibility for any fire or fire alarm at these facilities.



Check the website for the following upcoming events:

Feb 12, 19, 26, March 5, 12 – Inspector 1 in Palatine

Feb 22 - mini-sem and meeting

Mar 20 – 22 - Combined Conf in East Peoria

April 22 – 24, 29, 30 – PFLSE in Downers Grove

April 26 – mini-sem and meeting