FDIC International Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: William C. Peters

FDIC International: William C. Peters

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with William C. Peters, Apparatus Supervisor (Ret.), Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, the recipient of the 2015 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the FDIC 2015 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

DR:  What does receiving this award mean to you?  What is its significance?

WP: I am both honored and humbled to receive the prestigious Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award, especially after looking over the list of fire service leaders who have received this award before me.  I consider this award the pinnacle of my career of teaching, purchasing, and specifying safer fire apparatus.

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

WP: My first “fire service” class was while serving in the Army in Vietnam more than 48 years ago.  I did a training session for my unit on the proper use of fire extinguishers.  When I got out of the service, I  began teaching pump operations to my volunteer fire company when I was 22 years old and was the first in my unit to attend the county fire training center.  The teaching aspect has always followed me through my volunteer and career fire service.  Sharing knowledge has always been paramount on my mind.

DR:  What do you look forward to at FDIC?

WP: The Fire Department Instructors Conference is the place where apparatus and accessory manufacturers generally unveil their new products.  It is always exciting to see the direction that the fire service market is going in.  It is also the place where the “Who’s Who” of the fire service gather to meet and share their knowledge.

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

WP: My advice is like the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.”  There are so many classes for you to receive instruction, exhibits to stimulate your mind, and after-hours events to build your networking and brotherhood camaraderie, it really requires planning to get the most out of the conference. It is all there for the taking. It is up to you to make the best use of your time.

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

WP: I think the most pressing issue in the fire service is breaking with the old traditional ways of doing things and embracing newer, better, or safer ways of accomplishing our goals. For example, in 1991, the NFPA apparatus standard required fully enclosed cabs, taking the firefighters off the tailboard. It took quite a while for that to gain acceptance.  Now we are faced with trying to be sure everyone is seated and belted, which is another hard sell.  We have gone to red seat belts that are longer and easier to use with gear on, as well as electronic warning systems to identify who is not belted.  I think all we can do is continue to educate our members on the dangers of being ejected in an accident and hopefully one day seat belt use will become automatic.


General Session Award Presentation

Thursday, April 23, 2015

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center


William C. Peters is the recipient of the 2015 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.

Appointed to the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department in 1975, Peters quickly rose through the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant, captain, and battalion chief, earning several departmental commendations for heroism including the rescue of civilians and saving the life of a fellow firefighter. After being promoted to battalion chief, he was appointed apparatus supervisor because of his knowledge and experience as a diesel truck mechanic. In this position he was responsible for the purchase, repair, and maintenance of the fire department fleet as well as the maintenance of all hose, nozzles, tools, and equipment. He responded to all greater-alarm fires to supervise the safe and efficient operation of the fire apparatus.

To become proficient in the apparatus field, he attended seminars and became heavily involved in the NFPA Apparatus Standards committee work. He served on several apparatus task groups before being appointed as a voting member of the apparatus committee representing users.

He purchased the apparatus and equipment for Jersey City’s first haz-mat company and the reactivation of Rescue Company One, a heavy rescue unit that had been disbanded 20 years earlier. Peters wrote the department’s Large Diameter Hose SOP and supervised the introduction of LDH supply hose as standard feed lines for the department.  He wrote the specifications for the department’s first mask service unit that could supply spare breathing air cylinders as well as refill on the fire scene. After a number of aerial ladder accidents across the country, he wrote the fire department’s aerial safety SOP.

He has written more than 100 articles for Fire Engineering; the pamphlet “Final Farewell to a Fallen Firefighter,” outlining procedures and considerations for planning a fire department funeral; the book Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook; and the apparatus chapters in the Fire Chief’s Handbook and produced a video of how to efficiently perform factory inspections of new fire apparatus.

Peters has worked with the NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation Unit, examining aerial apparatus that were involved in serious or fatal accidents. As a result of these investigations and published reports, critical changes have been incorporated into the apparatus standards to help prevent future accidents.

After his retirement from the department, Peters continues to assist fire departments around the country with their apparatus justification and purchasing needs and answers questions from members of the fire service. He continues to serve on the NFPA apparatus committee as a special expert and for the past 12 years has been the sole author of the apparatus supplement that accompanies the June issue of Fire Engineering.

FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton says: “William Peters, a.k.a. Willy P, Billy Peters, and Mr. Apparatus, is recognized this year for his lifetime of service to his community, to his country, and to his calling. Aside from being the author of one of the most widely read and often-cited books in the fire service, the Apparatus Purchasing Handbook, Chief Peters has made numerous significant contributions in everything from large diameter hose to aerial training. Chief Peters is a decorated veteran with combat service in Vietnam and one of the most widely recognized and honored members of the Jersey City Fire Department. He has contributed hundreds of articles and has supported thousands of departments in their efforts to purchase and specify the correct apparatus and tools for their needs. Over the years, he has instructed hundreds of seminars dealing with apparatus purchasing, as well as classes on other apparatus related maintenance and safety issues all over the United States and Canada. He has been a role model and unassuming hero for firefighters throughout the United States and Canada.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Tom Brennan, who was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and a technical editor. Brennan had more than 35 years of fire service experience, including more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York and five years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995) and the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

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