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Interview with FDIC 2014 Opening Ceremony Keynote Speaker Erich Roden

Battalion Chief Erich Roden of the Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department will give the keynote at this year's FDIC Opening Ceremony.

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Battalion Chief Erich Roden, Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department, who will give his keynote on “Operating Above the Fire” at the FDIC 2014 Opening Ceremony, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

DR: What does presenting the keynote mean to you?

ER: I could say that doing the Keynote Address at FDIC is the crescendo accomplishment in one’s firefighting career. I’d rather say it’s a chance to talk about the one thing you love about the job that makes you who you are as a firefighter; to share your thoughts with those in the audience who also deserve to be on that stage. Moreover, you are picked to speak by the fire service’s stalwarts who have already made their mark and feel that you also have the virtues that will one day make people remember you by. It’s an honor and privilege that will not be lost on me.

DR: How long have you been teaching the fire service? How did you get into instructing?

ER: I’ve been teaching the fire service for the past 15 years at the national and local level, at FDIC and the Milwaukee Area Technical College. I would say my inspiration to teach came from discovering how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know after picking up my first Fire Engineering. I immersed myself in firefighting academia and realized that I wanted to help others discover how much of their profession they didn’t know was right in front of them; to transcend mediocrity and operate at a different level. And teaching always becomes the natural course after career enlightenment. 

DR: What do you look forward to at FDIC?

ER: I’ve been attending FDIC since it came to Indianapolis and have been teaching HOT classes since 2003. I’ve had the honor of teaching with the fire service’s greats and meeting thousands of firefighters from across the world. There’s no better experience than that and is what makes FDIC the best week of the year for any firefighter. I look forward to seeing my friends and peers that I’ve had the honor of teaching with deliver phenomenal classes that inspire all. Moreover, I also look forward to the new, original ideas that debut at FDIC that change the fire service forever and drive people to seek out others. That’s what FDIC is all about and is what makes this week so important.

DR: What message would you like to give to a first-time attendee or to someone who has never been to FDIC?

ER: The first time at FDIC can be overwhelming as you become instantly enlightened to the fact that you are amongst more than 30,000 others just like you in one place; others with the same passion to improve themselves, their departments, and their communities. The first-timer will instantly bond with the collective attendees and understand why others who’ve been to FDIC talk about it the other 51 weeks of the year, too. 

DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue in the fire service, why, and what can be done about it?

ER: The most pressing issue in the fire service is the misunderstanding of the economy’s consequences on fire departments. Firefighters need to understand the microeconomics of their communities and the fact that when cities cry poor they actually mean it this time. Fire departments also continue to repeat the gloom and doom platitudes to city leaders rather than discover new ways to portray their importance to the community. Shopworn arguments about how important the fire service isn’t falling on deaf ears at City Hall. Politicians know why the fire department is important and don’t enjoy closing companies. What they don’t know is that taking a real look at how important the fire department is becomes the new rhetoric. This can be accomplished through emerging use of municipal data to accurately portray where the demands on service truly are. Fire departments are beginning to “mine” geospatial data to correlate conventional fire department data to socioeconomic and neighborhood risk data that we can put true numbers to. That’s justifying our existence and providing hard facts rather than melodramatic arguments during budget time. 


Opening Ceremony

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center

Erich Roden is a 21-year veteran of the fire service and a battalion chief with the Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department assigned to the Fire Academy. He has been a H.O.T. instructor at FDIC for more than 10 years and is a lead instructor for “Urban Essentials.” He is also an instructor for the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Fire Science Program and has an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He is an online editor for Fire Engineering and is a co-founder and editor of Urban Firefighter. In 2013, he was appointed to the Underwriters Laboratories Technical Review Panel for the Effectiveness of Fire Service Ventilation and Suppression Tactics: Vertical Ventilation. He is currently conducting extensive research on socioeconomic and urban demography data to determine its impact on fire service resource deployment in urban neighborhoods with researchers from the University of Chicago and Harvard University.