When a firefighter dies in the line-of-duty, their loved ones are left with unique challenges as they begin to rebuild their lives. Finding others who can empathize with their loss can be a struggle in itself. Fortunately, survivors of fallen firefighters have a place to go each year to find support, comfort, and resources they need as well as the chance to make friends and create memories that will last a lifetime.
From February 12 – 17, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) is sponsoring the Annual Fire Service Survivors Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Now in its seventh year, the conference attracts more than one hundred survivors each year. Attendees include both those who have recently suffered a loss and those from years before.
The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday at the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Hotel with a welcoming program featuring a multi-agency honor guard and pipe and drums from the City of Ft. Lauderdale Fire and Rescue. Activities to help the attendees get to know one another will follow. The survivors will then have the opportunity to participate in small group discussions and support sessions.
“The Foundation recognized that many survivors needed an opportunity to express themselves and begin their own healing process that was separate from the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in October,” explained Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF. “The conference also allows survivors to relax, have fun, and share their thoughts and feelings freely with others who understand the path they’re walking.”
Workshops that focus on a variety of topics from photography, technology 101, and creative writing to special sessions for widows, parents, and men, will be held during the following two days at the Motorola Solutions facility in Plantation, FL. Time to explore local attractions and a beach party are also planned during the week.
The conference workshops and some transportation costs as well as lodging and per diem are provided through a grant from the Department of Justice and support from Motorola Solutions and Tyco International.
For more information about the Fire Service Survivors Conference, visit the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation website, www.firehero.org.