Leadership Institute meets in North Charleston

Leadership Institute meets in North Charleston

The City of North Charleston Fire Department was honored to host the 2013-2014 South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association Leadership Institute (LI) from Friday November 15 to Sunday November 17, 2013 for the career fire department weekend.  This was the third year the Association has brought the LI members to the Lowcountry for a weekend packed full of educational experiences.

On Friday, the members arrived at City Hall for a quick briefing and welcome by North Charleston Fire Chief Greg Bulanow and SCSFA Executive Director Joe Palmer before being transported over to the Boeing 787 Main Campus located in North Charleston.  We were very fortunate to have a presentation on a corporate fire department delivered by Boeing Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Darrell Sooter, Fire Marshal David Zito and Captain John Zaleski.  The LI members were able to see how corporate fire departments operate within a facility and how they interact with the surrounding jurisdictions.  They received a history lesson on the Boeing Corporation, the inception of Boeing Fire and how the “Enterprise Fire Department” works with local Boeing Fire Department around the world.  At the conclusion of the presentation, the LI members were allowed to tour the 787 assembly line.

From the Boeing facility, the LI members were bused over to the Lowcountry Firefighters Support Team Office which is housed in the old NCFD Station 5 on Dorchester Road.  Here the group met Retired Chief Gerald Mishoe who discussed how the Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team came into existence after the Sofa Super Store fire in 2007 and the transition his group has made from the Charleston Support Team.  Chief Mishoe was able to impart to the LI members the importance of mental health in the fire service and how this program, along with the SCSFA FAST, works for the firefighters and their families.  At the conclusion of his presentation, the LI members were treated to dinner at the new NCFD Station 5 before returning to the hotel.

Saturday’s presentations began at 0800 at North Charleston City Hall with an overview of the NCFD by Deputy Chief Kyle Minick.  The LI members were able to see how the “North Area” of the 1800’s became the City of North Charleston in 1972 and has developed into the third largest municipality in the State.  They were able to learn about the pros and cons of an all career system and discuss the success and failures that we’ve experienced.  The LI was introduced to our “Auto-Aid Model” that allows five independent fire departments to work together seamlessly to put the closest, most appropriate unit on scene regardless of jurisdiction; a feat we are extremely proud of and the culmination of many hours of hard work.

After lunch the LI members visited the Sofa Super Store Memorial site and listened to a survivor’s account of the fire by Battalion Chief Mark Davis.  From the site we attended an overview of the Charleston Fire Department by Chief Davis.  This department services the second largest municipality in the state and also participates in “Auto-Aid” with four other agencies.  While Charleston’s fire department is steeped in tradition that dates back to 1882, it has taken a more progressive and proactive role in the region since 2007.  Chief Davis was able to effectively speak to the LI group about the rapid changes the department has experienced from the late Chief Tom Carr to the current Chief Karen Brack.

Charleston Fire Captain and Past IAFF Local 61 President Bill Haigler spoke to the group about being a member of a union in a right-to-work state.  This portion of the LI is very interesting as most of our state is comprised of volunteers, and the areas not serviced by a volunteer agency have departments without a union presence.  Captain Haigler was effective in articulating the role he took as union President, and how he attempted to influence positive change for his fire department.

Executive Director Palmer led a discussion on the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives and how they relate to leaders of the fire service.  We also heard from each individual as they presented their individual project idea that will be delivered in June at our 2014 Conference.  Director Palmer then assigned the three groups their topic for research and delivery in September at the Executive Committee’s meeting.   After a busy day of discussion, the group toured Charleston Fire Department’s Station 6 on Cannon Street where they learned some history from Battalion Chief Joey Roberts.  The group wrapped up the evening at 2030 by having a dinner downtown to fellowship before returning to the hotel.

On Sunday, the LI group gathered with Assistant Chief Trey Coker to learn about the Charleston County Metro Marine Unit that encompasses both police and fire agencies.  This new division was created to allow water-borne assets to better communicate and work seamlessly in the harbor, rivers and wetlands.  NCFD is heavily involved in the marine unit and works closely with the Captain of the Port, United States Coast Guard and others in delivering emergency help to those in need.  One point to note: this is the first joint marine unit to receive accreditation from NASBLA.  The final event of the weekend was a private tour of the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum & Educational Center.

As an alumnus of the Leadership Institute and a weekend host, I am pleased of the work our Association is doing to further leadership development in the state.  This program is a tool our members should take advantage of to broaden their perspective of the fire service in the State of South Carolina, and in turn use the knowledge gained to improve the service delivery at home.  I encourage you to reach out to a member of LI, past or present, for their individual experiences and then take the time to apply for the 2014-2015 program.  This is your Association and the services provided are there to benefit you and the fire service in our state.  I challenge you to take an active role in our Association and the programs we offer.

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