FDIC 2013 Interview: Glenn Corbett

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Professor Glenn P. Corbett, John Jay College, the recipient of the 2013 Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the FDIC 2013 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

DR: What does receiving this award mean to you? What is the award’s significance?

GC: I could never imagine that I would someday receive this award. It is the absolute high point of my career. I am truly humbled to be included in an incredible array of former recipients.

DR: What is the award’s significance?

GC: The fact that this award is named for Tom Brennan makes it really hit home for me. Tom was the person who put me on a writing path–so many years ago–that I continue to travel to this day. The entire fire service owes him a debt of gratitude for making Fire Engineering and FDIC what they are today, two institutions leading the fire service.

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

GC: As many of us have, I began teaching occasional drills at our firehouse in the late 1970s. In the early days of my career, I wanted to learn everything there was to know and more. I took as many classes as I could. I sought out instructors and people in the know and listened intently to what they had to say. They gave me an incredible gift: their hard-earned knowledge. As the old fire service training adage goes, pass it on. That’s what we all try to do.

DR: How many years have you been attending FDIC? What do you look forward to at FDIC each year?

GC: I’ve been attending since the Cincinnati days. It is the most important fire service event all year, bar none. I look forward to– and I would suspect most attendees do as well–reconnecting with our friends and reenergizing our batteries. It is this interaction that brings new techniques, tools, and procedures front and center, allowing innovation to spread throughout the fire service.

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

GC: Prepare to be lost in a sea of learning opportunities along with thousands of other dedicated firefighters bent on improving the fire service. Take advantage of these opportunities.

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

GC: As a student of fire history, I believe we are at one of the most important junctures in our 300-year history. Critical staffing problems, the proliferation of unsafe construction techniques, and a much more dangerous fire environment have all conspired to make this one of the most challenging times in our existence. I believe we will end up making some especially drastic changes in our procedures and policies, changes that would never ever have been considered 20 years ago. An essential “stakeholder”–the public–must be directly involved in this decision making. They will decide what level of fire protection they wish to have and determine how much money they are willing to spend. The days of “doing more with less” are over.

General Session Award Presentation

Thursday, April 25, 2013

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center

Glenn P. Corbett has an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and former chair of the Department of Protection Management. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering and wrote his first article, on thermal radiation, for the magazine in 1984. He is a former assistant chief of the Waldwick (NJ) Fire Department.

Corbett testified before the 9/11 Commission and recently served on the Federal Advisory Committee of the National Construction Safety Team that investigated the World Trade Center disaster. He pushed, through congressional testimony, for an investigation of the 9/11 WTC disaster and the creation of the National Construction Safety Team Act, ultimately leading to improvements in our regulatory codes and response procedures. In addition, he is the chief technical advisor to the Skyscraper Safety Campaign. Corbett has served as the president of the New Jersey Society of Fire Service Instructors.

He has spent a large part of his career in code enforcement. He was a fire protection consultant for the Austin (TX) Fire Department and was the administrator of engineering services for the San Antonio (TX) Fire Department. Corbett currently sits on the New Jersey State Fire Code Council. He is an advocate for the safety of firefighters and the public through code development/enforcement and confronting special interest builder and construction material groups.

Corbett is a co-author of Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service, 4th Edition. In addition, he is the editor of Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. He also has an avid interest in firefighting and history, authoring The Great Paterson Fire of 1902 and co-authoring Historic Fires of New York City.

Corbett has a master of engineering in fire protection engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is pursuing a Ph.D. in public administration from Rutgers University. He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas.

FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton says: “The selection of Professor Glenn Corbett as the 2013 FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is overdue and at the same time a placeholder in the career of a fire service giant. Glenn is not only one of our most informed and eloquent spokespersons, he is one of our most passionate leaders. Glenn has been at the tip of the spear from taking on city hall in the battle over code improvements to striving to bring recognition and respect to our fallen at the 911 museum and memorial, participating as a line volunteer firefighter in his hometown, and battling for justice and answers to the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. In all these epic battles, Glen has been a tireless warrior. His passion doesn’t end in today’s controversies. H; is a keeper of our traditions and history; he is a world-class instructor, and, to firefighters across North America, he is affectionately known as “The Professor.” He has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award many times over and will continue to motivate, educate, and inspire us all for many years to come.”

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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