FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Captain Angela Hughes, Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department; president, International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services, who will give her keynote on “Be Your Own Hero” at the FDIC 2017 Opening Ceremony, about the whole FDIC “experience.”
DR: How long have you been teaching/attending FDIC?
AH: It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized the importance of attending conferences. I have had the privilege of being an instructor at FDIC for the past three years.
DR: How did you get into instructing in general?
AH: I took a class in which the instructor began the session by stating, “This will probably be the worst class you have ever taken!” At that very moment, I was profoundly impacted to make a difference in the lives of those who would follow as students. My goal has been to present curriculum in a manner that is comprehensive to the unique learning style for my students. By doing this, students who are auditory learners have the same success rates as those who learn by visual or kinesthetic techniques. I believe this makes learning both fun and individualized.
DR: What sets your experience at FDIC apart from attending other conferences?
AH: FDIC is the “super bowl” of fire service conferences. With an annual attendance of more than 30,000 people, it is fair to say that FDIC is one of the greatest tools for advancing the skill set of fire service personnel. The conference staff ensures that the experience is top notch for instructors, firefighters, first line supervisors, as well as chief officers. The FDIC instructors are the “cream of the crop” and provide each student with fantastic resources and tools to implement in the workplace.
Chief Halton’s welcoming speech, delivered with such passion and motivation, sets the tone for the entire event. Activities are scheduled each evening to provide the opportunity to network with brothers and sisters from around the world.
The International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services (i-Women) will be hosting a one-day leadership event this year, during the preconference activities. This is an excellent networking opportunity for both men and women. And, speaking from personal experience, this is an occasion to meet lifelong friends and amazing firefighters.
DR: What was your reaction to being selected to speak at the Opening Ceremony?
AH: When Chief Halton announced at the FDIC Advisory Board meeting that I was to be the 2017 keynote speaker, I asked Chief ([Rick] Lasky, “Is he kidding?” Once I realized this was not a practical joke, I was filled with surprise, excitement, disbelief, and a touch of fear! I am honored and humbled to be selected for a role of this magnitude. Last year I listened to Steve Pegram tell his story and share how each member of the audience can be a hero. During his message, I realized that I had been gifted with one of the greatest opportunities in my professional career.
DR: Why is your speech an important topic to the audience and the fire service as a whole?
AH: There are numerous topics of importance to fire service. However, my heart’s desire is to mentor and inspire younger firefighters. My son, Joshua, encouraged me to speak of the lessons I’ve learned in the fire department. One of the greatest gifts a person can give is to make difference in the lives of others. The message I will share will focus on the experiences of my career; what I have learned; and how each member of the audience has an opportunity to make a difference by serving others, by being a leader, and by impacting the community at large.
DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the fire service today and why?
AH: There are many emerging issues that the fire service needs to address. One that I feel very passionate about is the safety of our members. We need to be more vigilant of our ever-changing environment and be constant students of our craft.
We are fortunate to have access to professionals like Dan Madrzykowski and Steve Kerber [from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute]. These leaders have dedicated their career to developing and implementing strategies on working smarter and safer. Also, the International Association of Fire Service Instructors selflessly dedicates hours researching and developing tactics to adapt to the new fireground. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our teammates not to resist change but to embrace and view these changes as improvements.
DR: What is your “takeaway” from a week at FDIC?
AH: Wow! When I leave FDIC, my bucket is full; and, I’m excited to share what I have learned with my teammates. I leave with immense pride in the profession of firefighting and EMS. It is truly an uplifting experience to share a week at FDIC with such amazing colleagues.
DR: Who are your FDIC role models and why?
AH: I have been fortunate to have numerous great mentors, such as Captain Mike Dugan, Captain Mike Gagliano, and Chief Rick Lasky. I have appreciated their advice and support and how they are totally honest and approachable. They each bring something to the fire service that is unique and valuable.
However, the one individual who stands out more than any as my FDIC role model is Chief Bobby Halton [education director]. In the few years that I have known Chief Halton, he has taught me more than I can ever express. He is a person who genuinely cares for ALL members of the fire service. He is a champion, and he does the right thing, thus making the fire service a better organization. He is a mentor and a friend, and because of his inspiration I am a stronger person.
DR: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?
AH: If you are on the fence, invest in yourself and GO! The training, camaraderie, and overall experience cannot be put into words. Have a plan, and know what classes you want to attend before your arrival. Take advantage of the app, and pick your favorites. Each of the instructors and topics are excellent, and you might have a hard time narrowing your choices. Be sure to watch the videos corresponding to your class selections to ensure your expectations are met. Plan to attend ALL evening networking events, the firefighter combat challenge, and the stair climb. When you return home, summarize what you have learned and share the experiences with your department. Lastly, while you are at the FDIC conference, remember you are representing your fire department … have fun, but be smart!
Opening Ceremony & General Session
Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
Sagamore Ballroom 1-7, Indiana Convention Center
“Be Your Own Hero”
Captain Angela Hughes, Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department; president, International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services
What does it take to be your own hero? Who is the person you wish to be; and, what steps are necessary to become your future hero? First, you must start by creating a life of significance. Next, you must find someone you can trust, someone who has experience. You must also invest in yourself with continuing education. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is imperative that you operate with integrity–even when it’s not so easy. Every person here has an opportunity to create their own legacy. Choose wisely, and use the information presented at FDIC 2017 to be your own hero!
Angela Hughes began her experience with the career fire service in 1989 as a paramedic with the Baltimore City (MD) Fire Department. She was hired by Baltimore County in 1992 and served as a paramedic, preceptor/coach, firefighter, fire marshal, lieutenant, and current rank of captain. As the co- founded of the Baltimore County Women in the Fire Service, she mentors women and is the president of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services. Her committee work includes the USFA Severity of House Fires, FEMA grant reviews, VCOS Diversity and Inclusion, NFPA Needs Assessment Summit, and NFPA First Responder Forum. She has been published in Fire Rescue and is on the Fire Engineering, FDIC, and Fire Rescue advisory boards.