FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Firefighter Aaron Fields, Seattle (WA) Fire Department, who will give his keynote “Work, Maps, and Words” at the FDIC 2019 Opening Ceremony Day 2, about the whole FDIC International “experience.”
DR: How long have you been teaching/attending FDIC International?
AF: My first FDIC was 2002 as an attendee. If I recall correctly, I started teaching at FDIC six years ago.
DR: How did you get into instructing in general?
AF: I took classes from a variety of sources and worked at codifying the skills and approaches. I began my study from the perspective of what all of the instructors shared. I began my development from what they all did and spoke of the same, not their differences. I identified that typically technical differences arose from differences in generation and geography. As I listened, I heard similar themes but a lot of differences in linguistic variation. My study led to a system of concepts and skills, an algorithmic application. About 11 years ago, several training officers asked me if I would teach a class to their departments, Several months prior, I had shown several of their new hires a few techniques that worked very well on some of the rookies’ early fires. From there, it has been word of mouth. I never set out to “teach”; my pursuit was for the development of my own skills. That skill development continues today, as comfort is the enemy of growth. I don’t really like to think of things in terms of student/teacher. I prefer to think of it as coaching a skill set.
DR: What sets your experience at FDIC International apart from attending other conferences?
AF: The sheer volume of classes on the wide variety of subjects.
DR: What was your reaction to being selected to keynote at the Opening Ceremony?
AF: Honestly, I though Chief Halton was joking with me. I am more of a hands-on trainer than talker–the accidental instructor, talking about the fire service, it still strikes me as a bit funny. I have seen a lot of these, some in person, some on film. Frankly, I am not sure I have anything profound to say. My hope is that it lives up to what some of my predecessors have said. I will give my perspective from where I stand.
DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the fire service today and why?
AF: I think it is several things. As an industry, we need a jargon, a language designed for a trade. There is no way to give experience through conversation without a shared understand of terminology, without ambiguity or multiple definitions. In addition, as a culture, we must strive to make preparation through training pertinent to the actual fireground. We must also instill in ourselves that the better part of our occupation is preparation, regardless of call volume. Our drills should also include what, why, when, and then how, and they should build from probability to possibility. Preparation is the key to success.
DR: What is your “takeaway” from a week at FDIC International?
AF: Due to the size and scope of FDIC, it brings together all aspects of our profession. My takeaway is to keep our focus on why we exist. Realize we are public servants, not publicly entitled. Our occupation is a vocation; treat it as such. Take the hero out, and replace it with a public servant. I hope folks take the time to access the information and individuals who can help their performance. I hope that individuals don’t get distracted by catchy T-shirts and trinkets and instead get inspired by the pursuit and growth of life-saving skills. Work is the shortcut.
DR: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?
AF: There is a lot of information at your fingertips. Prioritize your objectives, take those classes, and search out those folks who support the objective. A lot of the best information is over a cup of coffee after the class. Maximize your time, get to classes as early as possible to make sure you get in, and ask questions. Don’t let the social outlets distract from the objectives. Keep it simple, relax, and have a good time. (But not so good you end up in jail.)
Keynote Presentation: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., Indiana Convention Center, Sagamore Ballroom 1-7.
Keynote: “Work, Maps, and Words”
Aaron Fields shares the lessons learned while navigating the woods of the fire service, through continual hard work, mental road maps, and deliberate language.
Aaron Fields is a firefighter for the Seattle (WA) Fire Department. He, his father, and his brother serve in the 5th Battalion. He is a member of Engine Company 13. He teaches engine company skills at the Washington State Fire Academy and the engine company class “Nozzle Forward.”