FDIC 2012 Preview: An Interview with Anthony Avillo

FDIC Conference Director Diane Feldman recently spoke with Deputy Chief Anthony Avillo, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire and Rescue, the recipient of the Fire Engineering/George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award, to be presented during the General Session, about the whole FDIC experience.

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

AA: This award means a great deal to me. I am both humbled and honored to receive it. It represents the timeless tradition of passing the torch and making every effort to ensure that, on a daily basis, the business is a little better because you were there, which is the responsibility of all members of the fire service. I was shocked when I got the news that I won the Post award. As a veteran of the FDIC, I always wondered what you had to do to get that type of award. I guess, based on the fact that I have been recognized, that my instructional beliefs and philosophies have served me (and hopefully my students) well. I think the key to being an effective instructor is to be committed to what you are teaching–or don’t teach it. You have to have a passion for what you are trying to get across to the student. That makes you believable, which is the first step toward credibility. Living what you teach in a consistent manner is what cements that credibility. I hope I have passed on that passion and sense of commitment to my students and helped move forward the great mission of the fire service. 

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

AA: I have been teaching in the fire service in an official capacity as a fire service instructor since 1990, where I started at the Bergen County (NJ) Fire Academy. I was the training officer for the Weehawken (NJ) Fire Department and have been involved in numerous training programs with the North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire and Rescue. I also currently teach at the Monmouth County (NJ) Fire Academy and run a company that trains firefighters and officers for promotion. In addition, I am also pursuing my master’s degree at New Jersey City University so I can join the fire science faculty there. I’m not sure how I got into instructing. It kind of found me, I guess. When I think about it, the greatest influences on my life are the people who were teachers, coaches, and instructors. The fact that I have had some great instructors and coaches has influenced me to move in that direction. I have also taught Tae Kwon Do and have coached football at North Bergen (NJ) High School, which is a different type of venue, but teaching and enjoyable nonetheless. Success in others as a result of my efforts has been greatly rewarding, and it has kept me teaching and learning.

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

AA: I have been teaching at the FDIC since 1999, where I was part of the talented teaching staff of the often imitated, never duplicated, world famous hands-on Truck Company Search. I lectured that year as well. I look forward to the FDIC each year (just a mere 1,174 hours away as I write this!) for not only the great teaching opportunities and the camaraderie of old friends and new but just the privilege of being in the company of the best people on Earth. That electricity in the air, the nonstop activity, the beer-mug case studies, and the job-sharing stories make the week special and way too fast.

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

AA: To the first-time attendee, I say: Get involved, go to everything you can, ask questions, be open to new friendships and new ways of thinking (network, network, network!). Most of all, have fun in the celebration of the great profession we have created and are all a part of. There is no one else like us on this planet. If you have never been to the FDIC, you have missed out on more than you will ever know. The opportunities for training; networking; becoming better at what you do; and, more importantly, the opportunity to bring that which you have learned back home are immeasurable. No one should miss the opportunity to join us here at the FDIC.

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

AA: I believe the most pressing issue in the fire service today is lack of leadership and the allowance of a complacency that allows us and our fellow firefighters to drop our guard in what we feel has become routine. There is no routine incident. More firefighters are killed and injured on the fireground when engaged in “routine” activities than any other service-related activity, and many of the root causes can be traced back to a failure to pay attention to that which was learned in Firefighter I–the basics. Many more are further damaged by adrenaline-driven decisions and actions. The root cause of both of these issues is the failure of supervision. One of the reasons for this is that, at times, the leadership of today has allowed this drift into failure by turning their heads to inappropriate and incorrect activities and operations. When this happens, that incorrect activity becomes okay and the norm and sets the stage for a tactical breakdown somewhere, somehow. The consequence of that breakdown can be and has been devastating. Firefighters are action-oriented people and deserve the chance to be successful. Proper leadership and diligence of supervision as well as avoidance of adrenaline-driven activities and decisions are what is needed most in today’s fire service. How do we accomplish this? By training, setting proper expectations, never turning our head to improper actions and activities, and ensuring through proper supervision that we get ’em in safe, work ’em safe, and get ’em out safe.


General Session

Thursday, April 19, 2012

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center


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