More than 500 fire-service leaders gathered last week in Clearwater Beach, Fla., for the Volunteer & Combination Officers Section's annual Symposium in the Sun. Of those attendees, 179 were first-timers, according to VCOS Chairman Tim Wall. Presentations held over the three days covered fireground mistakes, developing company officer leadership, social-media marketing and more.'s
Jack Snook, president ESCI Consulting, delivered the keynote address, "Managing the New Reality." From the economy drop in 2008 to the ongoing issues that fire departments are facing today, Snook encouraged fire leadership to rethink services and be open to constant change.
Chief Chris Barron of the Manchaca (Texas) Fire Department found success in the changing environment, and was honored with the 2012 John M. Buckman Leadership Award for it. Barron led his department through the transition from volunteer to combination, and helped develop a state mutual-aid program. The department under his leadership went from an ISO 7/9 rating to an ISO 3 rating.
U.S. Army Col. John Antal (Ret.) shared seven secrets of leadership to "raise your leadership quotient" during his keynote, "Leadership — Leading Teams to Win." Antal offered a historical perspective of seven leaders from George Washington to George C. Marshal and their perspectives on leadership.
"Leadership is a sacred trust and the art of influence," he said. "It is the ability to motivate, inspire and impel people."
Motivation and inspirations are crucial to volunteer fire department recruitment and retention. Chief Paul Whorrall of the Manlius (N.Y.) Fire Department walked away with the Recruitment and Retention Award presented by VFIS. The award recognized Whorrall's success in keeping members over a five-year period.
The VFIS also presented its Safe-Driving Award to Chief Joseph Carilli of the Coventry (Conn.) Volunteer Fire Association. Coventry firefighters have driven 135,000 miles with zero accidents. Each and every member signs a commitment letter — whether driving a personal vehicle or fire apparatus — promising to approach intersections and stop, wear seatbelts and to have helmets safely stowed.
"Safety starts at the bottom and works its way to the top and back," Carilli said.
The VCOS Symposium in the Sun will be moving to a new Florida location in 2013. Details to be forthcoming.