Dugan Challenges Audience in FDIC 2011 Opening Session Keynote Address

Fire service veteran Michael Dugan issued a number of challenges to members of the fire service during his keynote address at the FDIC 2011 General Session on Wednesday.

“You are that one in 100, the one percent of the fire service who is a teacher, a mentor, and a brother or sister to your fellow firefighters,” Dugan told audience members. “The one-percenters,” he continued, “are the backbone of the fire service and those willing to risk it all and try to do it all to make the fire service better.”

Dugan painted a vision of what he considers a “one-percenter”:

You and I want to leave the firehouse, the fireground, and the fire service a better place because we were a part of it. That is what we do! We try to make a difference by casting stones into the water and try to make waves. Every stone that goes into the water makes a wave; some of the waves wash away with no one noticing, but some of them become large waves and wash up on shore. Those large waves have an impact on the people around you and the people in front of you. The thing you have to learn is when to throw the stone and which way the tide is going, because you don’t want all of our waves to go out to sea; you want to have an impact on the shore. You want to make a difference.
Dugan noted that the attendees were at FDIC “because you are involved in the fire service and want to learn and, hopefully, to teach what you learn at FDIC to your fellow firefighters back in your hometown.” 

Then Dugan suggested some ways audience members could do this:

  • Meet the Pennwell/Fire Engineering authors who are at FDIC. Read their books, “which are considered reference standards throughout the fire service.”
  • Meet other people (at FDIC), learn from them, and interact with them. “I have met some very good and dear friends at FDIC,” Dugan interjected. “We found that we were like-minded and had common goal, and formed the bonds of friendship. Some of the people live miles and states away from me, but we are and will continue to be friends.”
  • “When you get home, you are duty bound to pass on the knowledge you gained from FDIC and the classes you attended,” Dugan explained. “Our job is to go home and share what you learned with those around you. If you keep all of your knowledge to yourself, then no one will benefit from it; but if you pass it on, then we will all benefit.”  

There were challenges for the younger members of the fire service present: “We are all waiting to hear your thoughts and ideas, and to read your opinions. It is your turn! The fire service is looking for the new shining stars to step up and lead us forward. Are you ready?”

Senior fire service members were urged “to be role models, mentors, and friends to newer and newest members of the fire service and to pass on their knowledge, passion and pride.” The newest members were urged “to listen to what is said?” All were encouraged to learn or refresh their knowledge of the history of their departments and companies and to instill pride and ownership in their departments. “Every firefighter can be an example,” Dugan said, “but is it for good or bad?”      

Addressing the greatest need today’s fire service, Dugan said all fire service members must “get involved with what is happening in your community; do not allow your community to be run by people who have never gone into a burning building.” He lamented that the fire service is getting away from its core values and is moving “to a business plan” being developed by “people who are not fighting the fires or ever crawled down a hallway and who don’t know what ‘hot’ is.” 

Dugan stressed that if this were allowed to happen, firefighting would then become “just a job. Firefighting is not just a job,” he asserted;” it is a career, a vocation, a noble calling to leave this world a better place for our having been here.”

Dugan reinforced his theme of Why Are We Here? His final remarks contained another challenge to the audience-at-large: “Are you are making a difference? If not, why?” He paraphrased President John F. Kennedy: “Have you asked what you can do for the fire service and not what is the fire service doing for me? If not, why not? Why are you here?”  

Dugan has been attending FDIC, without interruption, since 1998. He serves FDNY as the captain of Ladder Company 123 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and is also a volunteer in the Halesite (NY) Fire Department.

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