Sean DeCrane: The Fire Service and Tunnel Vision

FDIC 2015: Sean DeCrane

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Sean DeCrane, Battalion Chief, Cleveland (OH) Fire Department, who will give his keynote on “What Every Firefighter Needs to Know” at the FDIC 2015 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

DR:  What does being asked to keynote mean to you? What is its significance?

SD: Being selected as a keynote is an incredible honor and kind of a pinnacle. To earn the respect of your peers for this honor is very humbling. If you think of how many great fire service presenters there are in our great country and two of them get to speak each year is a bit numbing. The significance of speaking is, in many forms, a validation of the effort my family and I put into my career and efforts to impact the firefighter’s work environment. My family shares in this as they have borne the brunt of the sacrifice for my travels and efforts.

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

SD: I don’t actually remember when I started teaching. I recall early in my career taking every opportunity to educate our politicians on issues impacting our membership and educating our membership on many issues; I guess it grew from there. When I think back, my tipping point moment probably came in 2006 when FDIC Education Director Bobby Halton attended an International Association of Fire Fighters educational program at which I was presenting. I made sure I hurried through my presentation, as I had always been told to keep time at the end for questions. I also spent part of the time soliciting comments from the audience. It was one of those setups where you present the same class twice, so there was a break in between sessions. Bobby came over to me and said, “Brother, you have a message to deliver. Don’t get caught up in the audience participation; deliver your message.” That comment had a profound impact on me, as it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in myself and my message. He probably regrets it at times now though.

DR: What do you look forward to at FDIC?  

SD: The camaraderie, getting together with so many friends and fellow fire service colleagues who care about the fire service and each and every member who is associated with the fire service. Fire doesn’t know the difference between career, volunteer, part-time, or juniors–it is a dangerous business, and we are making an effort to reduce the risks through education.

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

SD: Take it all in. Stop every once in a while and look around. Experience the differences in so many attendees yet how similar we all are. Take in the sights yet visit every classroom session you can. Not all will be to your taste or interest, but there is a lot of knowledge here, and people want to share it.

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

SD: Tunnel vision. It comes in a number of formats. Some folks have tunnel vision when it comes to the mission of the fire service, it is the “get your helmet dirty I am here to fight fires,” not this other stuff. Some of the tunnel vision is in fireground operations (must go through the front door) or the tunnel vision that there are acceptable losses on the fireground.

We must continue our efforts to educate all of our firefighters that we must have a balanced approach to community protection. After a fire starts, there is a delay until we can arrive. This places citizens at risk. We must be the best suppression firefighters we can be, but we must also be the best public educators we can be, the best fire prevention advocates we can be, and the best students we can be so we understand our craft. General Martin Dempsey once said of the armed forces, “We are not a profession just because we say we are a profession. We must demonstrate our profession by training, educating, and preparing ourselves each and every day to be the professionals we strive to be.” (paraphrased)

General Session

Thursday, April 23, 2015

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center

Sean DeCrane is a 23-plus-year veteran of the Cleveland (OH) Fire Department. He is a battalion chief and chief of training for the Cleveland Fire Training Academy. He is a State of Ohio certified instructor and represents the International Association of Fire Fighters in the International Code Council. He also has served on the 2009 and 2012 International Fire Code Development Committees and is the current committee chair for the 2015 Edition. He was awarded the 2010 International Code Council’s Fire Service Award, the International Association of Fire Chiefs Fire Life Safety Section’s 2013 Fire Service Award, and the 2014 Fire Equipment Manufacturer’s Fire Advocate Award. DeCrane also serves on the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 1 Fire Code Technical Committee. In addition, he serves on the Underwriters Laboratories Fire Council, UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, numerous UL Technical Panels including Ventilation studies, the U.S. Fire Administration’s Residential Fire Environment Workshop Project, the U.S. Fire Administration’s project on Fire Fighting Tactics in Wood-Frame Residential Construction, and the Modern Fire Environment Education Committee.

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