FDIC International 2016 Interview: Derek Alkonis

Derek Alkonis

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Derek Alkonis, Assistant Chief, Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department, who will give his keynote on “Accountability Starts with Me” at the FDIC 2016 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

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

DA: I’m honored to be selected and to have the opportunity to speak to firefighters who are motivated to learn and improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Firefighters attend FDIC looking to learn. The keynote sets the tone for the learning. My message needs to inspire and motivate firefighters to discover information at the conference that will make them more effective and safe firefighters.

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

DA: Before I entered the fire service 25 years ago, I was a high school teacher and coach. I have remained involved with education and training since being hired as a firefighter. The first thing I taught in the fire department was a drill on swiftwater rescue. One of the captains in the battalion asked me and another firefighter (we were both surfers) to learn the content and teach the drill. I must have done alright, because I was asked to teach several other drills after that.

DR: What do you look forward to at FDIC?  

DA: I like the whole experience. The presentations, the hands-on training, the vendors, and the networking with firefighters from all over the world make for a perfect learning environment.

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

DA: Seize opportunities for learning. Align yourself with individuals who are positive and who are problem solvers. Find teachers who speak truth, listen carefully to what they say, and even take notes so you can remember their words and you can apply their message when you get home.

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

DA: Accountability is the first word that comes to mind; however, there are other words like training and competency that come to mind as well. Accountability is first because fire departments (this includes management and all the policies, procedures, and bureaucracies that make up the department) need to recognize they may be accountable for poor or unsafe performance. They need to find where they must make changes to avoid accidents and improve efficiencies and effectiveness in saving lives, property, and the environment. But it’s not only the fire department that is held accountable for firefighter performance. Each one of us firefighters also must be held accountable for our learning and our performance. As a fire service, we need to make our performance expectations clear and provide learning opportunities for personnel to achieve them, and if we can’t meet the realistic and valid expectations, we need to be held accountable so we will change our behaviors for the better.

General Session

Thursday, April 21, 2016

8:00 am-10:00 am

Sagamore Ballroom

Indiana Convention Center

Keynote: “Accountability Starts with Me”

Assistant Chief Derek Alkonis, Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department

The goals of fire departments and firefighters are the same worldwide: We do our best to serve the public in critical times of need. However, “saving lives, property, and the environment” sounds like the goals of a superhero. Though we may be called heroes at times, the truth is we are mere mortals called to do and be more. How can departments, crews, and firefighters rise to the challenge? What are the “superpowers” at our disposal? What is a true hero, and how can you be one? The truth is, each and every one of us must be accountable for becoming the best individual, team, and department possible. Find out what we need to do to elevate our departments to “super” status.

Over his 25-year career, Assistant Chief Derek Alkonis has been instrumental in establishing the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department as a leader in fireground safety and fire service wellness-fitness. A firm proponent of training, he has developed and implemented innovative programs supporting fireground tactics, survival, and firefighter health. He is a member of the IAFF/IAFC Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative Technical Committee and UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute Advisory Board and has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California San Diego.

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