Fire Fighting in Canada

The FDIC experience


The FDIC experience
Canadians who attended the Fire Department Information Course in Indianapolis review the massive trade show and the lessons they brought back to their fire departments.

July 6, 2010 
By Laura King

The floor of the Lucas Oil Stadium at FDIC-Indy, where most of the truck manufacturers were set up during the trade show.
Photo by Laura King


Baptism by fire. There’s no other way to put it. In April 2007, about three weeks after I became editor of Fire Fighting in Canada, I went to the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis. Like most FDIC rookies, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event, the 30,000 firefighters, the massive trade show and all the stuff I didn’t get close to seeing or learning about.

I returned to FDIC in April of this year with dozens of other Canadians, including about 20 fire officers and firefighters traveling with The Fire Within ( – the group that does the fundraising calendars for volunteer departments) – some FDIC rookies and some experienced veterans.

I was better prepared this time. I had a plan, maps of the Indianapolis Convention Centre and the new Lucas Oil Stadium where most of the truck manufacturers were set up, and I had pre-arranged interviews and meetings in a logical sequence that cut down on travel time and walking distances (and getting lost).

I saw Billy Goldfeder – of The Secret List ( – and Bobby Halton, FDIC guru and the editor of Fire Engineering, walking the trade show floor. I ran into fire chiefs from across Canada whom I had met at chiefs conferences over the years, and I struck up a conversation with a chief from a small town in Texas about volunteer retention that led to an idea for a story for a future issue. I heard terrific speakers. And I hooked up with several people – from Canada and the U.S. – whom I rarely get to see face to face but arranged to meet for lunch or a beverage in Indy during FDIC.

Over the last several weeks, I talked to a handful of Canadians who attended FDIC – many for the first time (and some whose inaugural trip to FDIC was also their international sojourn) – to get their perspective on the big show and its myriad hands-on-training sessions and workshops, the value of networking and the most important lessons they brought back to their Canadian fire departments. Here’s what they had to say (including some shameless plugs for The Fire Within, which enabled many Canadians to attend FDIC for the first time).

Cory Clark, Nova Chemicals Emergency Services
First impression: Indy. . . was bigger and I was surprised to see how much of the trade show was new equipment that I haven’t seen before or advancements with the existing equipment.
Key lesson(s) learned (or best HOT session or workshop/seminar attended): As a “rope guy” in our department we train for the high/low angle rope rescues, but I did a HOT session on personal harnesses, and we hit back to the fire ground self-rescue techniques, drags /carries – equally important stuff; it was a great  review of old techniques and new using different types of gear.

Most relevant lesson/information/opportunity I brought back to my department: I think there would be too much to put here to answer this question, But I know anyone who attends FDIC will benefit from the sessions and courses.
Best Indy experience: The best Indy experience for me was getting to make new friends, sharing stories, experiences, getting some education, learning new technologies and equipment and having fun the whole time I was doing it. Does it get any better than that?

Several groups of Canadians, including a contingent from Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., enjoyed the conference, trade show and hospitality in Indianapolis. The landmark Steak ‘n Shake, down the street from the convention centre, is an Indy must.  
An MSA rep demonstrates the “flat back” prototype SCBA at the trade show in Indianapolis in April. The IAFF, under contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, chose MSA to develop a prototype of the flat back breathing apparatus. A fully functional prototype SCBA that incorporates new pressure-vessel technology is to be field tested in fire and law enforcement departments this year.  
Attendance at FDIC in Indianapolis topped 27,000.


Deputy Chief Trevor Allan, Town of High River, Alta.
First impression: The sheer magnitude of the event – magnificent from the word go.

Key lesson(s) learned (or best HOT session or workshop/seminar attended): I think the best seminar I attended was on working with different generations, specifically “Generation Y”. Tiger Smittendorf encouraged the participants to work with the ideals of the new generation instead of making them adapt to traditional ways.

Most relevant lesson/information/opportunity I brought back to my department: The only thing that changes is the name on the door of the rig . . .  everything else in the industry is the same from one end of the continent to the other.

Best Indy experience: The recognition of the Canadian representation at the opening ceremonies, including the LODDs. Special thanks to The Fire Within’s Chad Sartison for making this happen!

Overall, the experience was one to appreciate. Having not done much travelling in my life (this was only my second time on a plane!), it was a fantastic opportunity to network with firefighters from across North America. Travelling with friends and colleagues who have attended before helped to ease the confusion of the simple guy from a small town. My experience was so positive I have secured a spot for next year with The Fire Within and am paying for my trip on my own.

Deputy Chief Jamie Juteau, Windsor (N.S.) Fire Department
First impression: The sheer size of the event. The largest Fire Department event I had attended to date before Indy was the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association Conference. There was no comparison.

Key lesson(s) learned (or best HOT session or workshop/seminar attended): You can really move your department forward by thinking outside the box. I learned as much from the people I met at the conference as I did from some of the courses.

Most relevant lesson/information/opportunity I brought back to my department: We all face a lot of the same issues, being from a small town Nova Scotia or a city in the U.S. We should network more among ourselves; we sometimes have the answers to each other’s problems.

Best Indy experience: There were several, from my first airplane trip to a wrong way trip around a traffic circle in a tour bus . . . but walking into Lucas Oil Stadium and looking down on the displays for the first time was something to remember.

Capt. Henry Thomson, St. Paul (Alta.) Fire Department
I had a great time at FDIC. I have never had an opportunity to be in a place like that before. At first it seemed a little overwhelming, but being able to travel with The Fire Within group, with people who had been there before, made it easier.  The entire conference is very well organized. It would be impossible to list in one brief e-mail the number of things I learned in the nine classroom sessions I attended over the week. I do know that I returned home with a new-found sense of confidence and at least a year’s worth of lessons and drills to pass along to our members. 

The most relevant session I was able to attend was Improving Firefighter Safety with Thermal Imaging by Mike Richardson. We have just recently purchased our first TIC and this session provided me with some extremely important lessons to share with our members.

The best part of the entire experience was some of the teaching techniques used by the presenters that included a great deal of audience participation. Being able to listen and learn to groups of experienced firefighters as well as the lessons taught by the instructors has been a huge benefit to my firefighter leadership skills. 

I certainly hope I get a chance to attend again but at the same time I would like ensure some of our other young officers get a chance to attend as well.
Trent West, Alberta Fire Commissioner
My first impression was how well we were treated everywhere we went. It was awesome.

I think my most relevant experience is that it brought me away from a smoldering stage to a flashover – it gave me new insights and new ideas.

I’m very grateful to The Fire Within, Wholesale Fire and Task Force Tips for giving us this type of opportunity. Coming from a small department, we could have never otherwise experienced FDIC.

Ken Sheridan, Norfolk County Fire & Rescue
Attending FDIC is an overwhelming experience. This was my first year exposed to one of the largest fire service training and trade show events in the world. The Fire Within organization sponsored many fire departments involved in their remarkable fundraising calendar project including Norfolk County Fire & Rescue Services.

Indianapolis is an amazing city and their hospitality was remarkable. The conference itself offered outstanding speakers and information that is not only current but ground-breaking. There is something for everyone from seminars on fire education tips to hands-on training of fire ground evolutions. If anything negative could be said about the experience it would be that you can’t see or experience it all.

I met some incredible people and listened in on conversations with some of our top fire service visionaries such as Alan Brunacini and Bobby Halton, chairperson of the event.

My niche is fire prevention and fire safety education. This topic is limited there; however, leadership sessions were abundant. My sense is that the fire service in general can always benefit from good leadership regardless of our role during these ever changing and demanding times.

Overall, my time at FDIC was unparalleled in scale and experience to any fire educational event I’ve experienced within the fire service.

Brad Boddez, Morinville (Alta.) Fire Department
My first impression is the same as it was three years ago – what an awesome conference and experience! The sessions were great and informative and we took back a lot of information to our departments. The atmosphere in Indy was indescribable. As firefighters, we all believe in the brotherhood of the fire department. This is evident wherever you go. Indy is like a big family – 30,000 brothers and sisters all in the same place with a common bond. As a senior training officer for my department, I could bring back information for my officers right down to our probies – workshops for reading smoke, for public information officers, ventilation, and strategies and tactics for the fire officer were all excellent sessions. The best experiences I had? It’s a tie between the opening ceremonies (which pulls at our heart strings every time) and the night life!

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