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Fire Engineering Training Achievement Award

Donald Abbott, of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, was the recipient of this year’s award.

In the mid-80’s, Don began building a small diorama city in 1/87 scale. It was used to teach members of his Warren Township (IN) Fire Department IMS and haz-mat response. Soon he was asked to use the program around the Midwest. In 1992, he and his wife, Bev, formed CERT–Command Emergency Response Training–and began traveling the country, teaching with their city, nicknamed “Abbottville,” which had grown to a 12-foot by 16-foot diorama with a river of real water running down the middle. Here were real fires and real explosions happening in “Abbottville.”

The town had small-scale fire trucks, small firefighters, hose, and haz-mat technicians with real chemicals to use their real instruments on. The responders to incidents used walkie-talkies for communication, Bev played the dispatcher, and Don wore several different hats and other outfits to play various “roles” the responders had to deal with. Don and Bev found themselves teaching in every kind of environment imaginable, including chemical companies, board of director rooms, fire station bays, fairground arenas, colleges, and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Conference Room in the Pentagon. For several years they were on the road, driving more than 45 weeks a year. In 2002, after ten years on the road, Don and Bev sold the company. Don went to work for the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department.

According to Alan Brunacini, Chief, Phoenix Fire Department, “Five or six years ago a group of us were toying around with the idea of designing a place where we could do incident command training. During my travels, I ran into my old friend, Don Abbott, and ran the idea past him and over the course of our conversation made a rough plan of what an incident command training facility might look like. The two of us figured we couldn’t really screw it up too much because no place like this existed yet. A few months later, a position in our department became available along with an old fire station we had just replaced. A couple of weeks later Don came to Phoenix and literally moved into old Fire Station 30 with his wife Bev. Don took a plan that had been scratched out on the back of a napkin and without a budget or any staff, one year later, produced the Phoenix Fire Department Command Training Center. We have operated the Command Training Center for the past three years. This training center has improved our structural firefighting operations and taken firefighter safety to the next level. One of the smartest things the Phoenix Fire Department did in the pursuit of this facility was to hire Don Abbott.”

To date, the Command Training Center has trained more than 3,000 people. Don has also helped develop three-, five-, and six-day training packages for outside agencies and has delivered command training to members of more than 100 departments across the country. The Phoenix Center has become a national model not only for the facility itself but also for the curriculum and the training materials produced there. Each year, the facility has visitors from around the globe, and Don’s work has led to the creation of similar facilities across the nation.