New York State
Association of Fire Chiefs

Providing Service to Those Who Serve

Schedule of Fire Education Programs

Open to Conference Full Term Registrants only.
Classrooms at The Oncenter are located on the lower level.

Fire Education Programs – Schedule at a Glance (JPG)

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

“What? Wait…What the Heck Just Happened?”
Chief/Director Mark Strzyzynski, Henrietta Fire District/NYSAFC

This extremely interactive, rapid-fire, class-driven discussion will address real-world, non-fireground problems or “opportunities” modern fire service leaders may face. Participants will critique actual responses to improve their non-fireground critical decision-making process. This class will be moderated by some of New York state’s most adaptive and entertaining retired fire chiefs.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

“Decision-Making at the Critical Moment”
Battalion Chief Rick Lago, Baltimore City (MD) Fire Department

This program will study the difficult process of fireground decision-making at critical points during an incident. It will give an understanding of how incident commanders make rapid decisions that balance the risk of an incident with the safety of their personnel. The focus will be on what information the firefighter must process to make time sensitive and complex decisions that will significantly impact the incident. The presentation will explain the stage of an incident that becomes a critical moment that will guide or change the direction of an event. It will examine naturalistic decisions, as well as review case studies that involved critical incidents and how tragedy impacts change.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
“Urban Flooding”
Detective (Ret.)/Ex-Captain David Norman,
New York Police Department (NYPD) Emergency Service Unit/Inwood Fire Department

This program will provide an overview of urban flooding, outlining important information on what to do and what not to do during urban flooding situations. Topics to be covered include types of boats and vehicles used for flooding operations, exposure and personal protective equipment, safety/hazards, tactics and communications, temporary shelters, and handling of animals. This program will be presented for the rescuer, but all involved in the rescue process will benefit from the knowledge shared.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
2:45 – 4:15 p.m.
“Search and Rescue: Civilian Fire Fatalities are on the Rise”
Deputy Chief (Ret.) Robert “Butch” Cobb, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department

The fire service has a long history of successful aggressive search. Recently, home fire deaths in the United States hit a 14-year high. The 2021 civilian fire death toll of 3,800 civilians is 8.6% higher than the 3,500 total in 2020 (NFPA). According to a report, people are more likely to die in a reported home fire today than in 1980. Nearly 80% of civilian deaths were in their homes, in the places where they lived. Recent studies have shown that 37% of the victims were trying to escape when overcome and 31% were sleeping. Every officer and firefighter responding to a residential fire must be ready to combine search and rescue with any assigned task. This program will look at engine company tactics combined with search tactics. Many civilians have been located and rescued by firefighters operating hoselines. A tactic to safely search off the hoseline, especially when manpower is limited, will be described. This class will review how to size up your primary search assignment; where to go in, how to go in, when to go in, and how to get back out. The key areas to search first will also be covered. The overlooked tactic of V/E/S or vent/search on the fire floor and floors above will be discussed. The program will identify three important tools that should be in your pockets to aid in immediate victim removal. There are many methods to put out a fire and save property, but there’s only one way to save trapped civilian victims – using smart, practical, and aggressive search and rescue tactics.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

“Man vs. Machinery – Are You Prepared?”
Firefighter/Past Chief Thomas Gies, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)/Merrick Fire Department

Machinery entrapments occur across the United States and Canada. Is your department capable of handling one? This program will provide responders with the knowledge to help manage incidents involving extrication of patients from various types of machinery. Common machinery and machinery specific to locations within your response area will be reviewed. This is a highly specialized skill set, and caring for victims/patients entrapped in machinery necessitates that providers be trained in specific treatment modalities and the possible complications that may arise. Tool selection, patient stabilization techniques, and crush injury syndrome will be discussed, and case studies will be analyzed.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Behind the 8 Ball – The First 15 Minutes”
Deputy Chief Timothy Cowan, DeWitt Fire District

Fire departments across the country are experiencing staffing shortages. The problem – fire will continue to grow, people will continue to be trapped, and the overall incident will not stand still regardless of how understaffed you are. What can we do about it? Does this mean the only thing we can do is fight fire from the outside? This program will highlight training, crew efficiency, collaborative mutual aid, and realities faced when looking at fire department challenges. Have you ever heard the term, do more with less? This does not mean that we are accepting lower standards. Quite the contrary, we need to become more efficient at every level within the fire department. This interactive presentation will review incident priorities and how a lack of staffing can make all the difference in winning and losing on the fireground. Staffing studies that have been completed and how to utilize them to your best advantage will also be discussed. The program will also review NFPA 1710 and 1720 and the OSHA standard for two-in/two-out.
The Oncenter Room 3
“A New Chief’s Guide to Surviving Local Politics”
Commissioner Jared Renshaw, Western Berks (PA) Fire Department

 Newly promoted chief officers are often well-versed in the strategies, tactics, and operations of their departments. In their new positions comes the added responsibility of becoming the “face” of their agency with every encounter they have. The focus of this program will be on the formal and informal politics that a newly promoted chief officer must be ready to encounter, navigate, and engage upon. These will be some of – if not the most critical – relationships that must be developed for both the chief and agency to be successful. This interactive presentation will demonstrate how politics impact not only the internal stakeholders, but also external stakeholders and their support. Emphasis will be placed on the attitude, practices, and steps that the new chief can take to avoid mayhem and survive local politics.
The Oncenter Room 4
“Lightweight Wood Frame Buildings: Not Your Grandpa’s Structure Fire”
Fire Marshal Paul Dansbach, Borough of Rutherford (NJ) Bureau of Fire Safety

Each day, firefighters respond to fires in modern-day, wood frame buildings that have been constructed with lightweight wood frame structural components. This program will explore the types of materials used in these buildings, such as parallel chord floor trusses, sloped and peaked roof trusses, and wood I-joists. The focus will be on how fire impacts the construction methods and materials and the building. Fire spread and the collapse potential of these buildings, building uses and occupancies ranging from private to multi-family dwellings to commercial occupancies to fast food restaurants, and fires in lightweight wood frame buildings will be presented. The program will also review a case study of a truss floor collapse in a multi-family dwelling constructed with lightweight parallel chord floor trusses.
The Oncenter Room 5
“Fire District Budgets: Processes, Tips, and Traps”
Attorneys Mark Butler and Terry Hannigan

This class for fire district treasurers and commissioners will address the annual budget process for fire districts, including considerations for developing both an annual operating budget and budgeting for capital planning; the creation, funding, and use of capital reserve funds and repair reserve funds; preparing the annual proposed and final budgets required for fire districts; preparing for and conducting the annual budget public hearing; modifications to the budget after the public hearing; and approving and filing the final budget. The course will be presented by two of the leading fire service attorneys in New York state with extensive experience representing fire districts and training fire district commissioners, treasurers, secretaries, and fire chiefs.
The Oncenter Room 6
2:15 – 3:45 p.m.
“Lithium-Ion Batteries – Impact on the Fireground”
Lieutenant John Cassidy, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

This presentation will provide an overview of lithium-ion battery construction and causes of battery failure. Using real incidents in New York City, the impact of lithium-ion batteries on the fireground will be discussed. Firefighter safety when responding to these incidents will be featured. Capability gaps and potential response will also be part of the program.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Crisis Management – On Our Own – When Bad Things Happen to Good Fire Departments”
Assistant Chief/Executive Vice President Robert Leonard, Syosset Fire Department/DKC Public Relations

Unfortunately, bad things happen to even the best fire departments. We are great at responding to other people’s emergencies, but are we prepared to respond when tragedy strikes our department, or we have become the focus of negative attention? This program will review various crisis situations confronting large and small fire departments every day. Participants will be shown the common threads of response to all fire department crises – a focus on maintaining clear communications with our members and the communities we serve and taking definitive actions to maintain the public’s trust. Attendees will walk away with a better sense of how to prepare their fire department to weather a potential crisis situation.
The Oncenter Room 3
“Lessons Learned in Leadership and the Uncomfortable Topics”
Past Chief/Chief Executive Officer David Kryger, West Haverstraw Fire Department/Sunset Security, Inc.

This course will dissect leadership down to its core and talk about what leadership should be doing to connect with the boots on the ground. Topics that will be addressed include communication (specifically listening vs. talking and well-received communication), emotional intelligence, how to deal with detractors (toxic people) in your organization, book smarts vs. street smarts, discipline (why and when), delegation and mentoring (for organizational continuity), monitoring the mental health of your members (you must know the signs of distress in your members and have access to an EAP for your members), social media (pros and cons of leadership and technology), leadership accountability and maintaining your integrity, the newly promoted leader, and how to lead impartially and without ego.
The Oncenter Room 4
“Peer Support and Stress Management”
Captain Mary Jo Stuparich, Baldwin Fire Department

The basis of this lecture is to help participants understand what peer support is – why we need it and how it works – and break the stigma associated with asking for help. Participants will learn  the signs and symptoms of the body’s stress response to trauma and techniques to deal with it. Interactive portions of the program will allow attendees to participate and share experiences with everyone, if they feel comfortable.
The Oncenter Room 5
8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

“Fire Behavior and Firefighter Survival”
Deputy Assistant Chief (Ret.) John Norman, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

This class is intended to keep your firefighters from repeating the same deadly mistakes that others have made, so they can avoid the tragedies that others have suffered. It will focus heavily on the changes occurring in today’s modern fire environment, and include segments on the changing causes of firefighter deaths and injuries, the changing fire environment and its effect on firefighters, warning signs of impending firefighter casualties, and prevention of catastrophes.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“How the Fire Service Needs to Define a ‘Healthy Firefighter’”
Firefighter/EMT/Training Officer Aaron Zamzow, Madison (WI) Fire Department/Zamzow Fitness

What does a healthy firefighter look like in today’s fire service? We must start to look at health and fitness as a whole concept and move away from the “how do you look” and “how much do you bench” persona. In this presentation, Aaron Zamzow will introduce the “Healthy 10.” This list will help fire service members determine their current health level and what they can do to make immediate improvements. This is a must-see presentation for anyone (chief, firefighter, EMT, administrator) that wants to reduce injuries, improve performance (on and off the fireground), and have a healthy career in the fire service. Attendees will receive access to a free workout and nutrition guide.
The Oncenter Room 3
“The End of a Chief’s Term: Making the Transition Easier for Everyone and Redefining the Mission”
Commissioner Thomas Merrill, Snyder Fire Department

One common denominator shared among every volunteer fire chief who ever served is that eventually, his or her time in office will come to an end. Some are excited and can’t wait, some are restricted by term limits and understand that their time is up, and still others are caught off guard and didn’t expect it to end so soon. No matter the reason, they are sure to experience a wide range of emotions as they leave office. This presentation will review model programs to employ and practices to avoid when it is time for the chief to “move on.”
The Oncenter Room 4
“First Due: Residential Concepts for Engine and Truck Companies”
Captain Douglas Mitchell Jr., Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

This program will examine the mission critical incident actions for engine and truck companies at residential building fires. It will highlight the “must have” roles and responsibilities for each unit, and hone those elements that are imperative to employ an efficient and effective fire attack. Success dictates a deliberate balance of coordination and communication. Initial company-level actions can make or break the operation.
The Oncenter Room 5
10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
“Mayday, Mayday – Who’s Coming for You?”
Past Chief Michael Healy, Central Nyack Fire Department and
Chief/Firefighter Robert LaGrow, West Haverstraw Fire Department/Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

What is your department’s policy on a reported mayday? Does your department have a SOP covering trapped firefighters? Are you automatically switching your other units to a secondary radio frequency, and are they continuing to fight the fire and complete their assigned tasks as the FAST team goes to work? In the event of a mayday transmission, who handles it? Do your firefighters know the difference between an urgent message and a mayday? Do you or your firefighters know how to transmit a mayday? These and many other highly critical aspects of a mayday situation will be addressed during this presentation, including what the firefighter should be doing to help his or her own. Studies have shown that implementing and training on mayday procedures both decrease the frequency of mayday transmissions and increase appropriate actions to a mayday situation. Topics to be addressed include how and when we as firefighters are getting into mayday situations, proper radio procedure for transmitting a mayday, information to be included in the mayday, and command actions to a mayday situation.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Responding to Aircraft Emergencies”
Past Chief Duane Welliver, East Farmingdale Volunteer Fire Department

Responses to aircraft emergencies require unique strategies, tactics, and of course, planning. As the chief of a fire department with a busy airport, Duane Welliver has been the incident commander at four aircraft emergencies over the past several years. This class will offer a firsthand account using case studies to provide valuable lessons learned. Using department policies and procedures, ideas and guidance for setting SOPs for aircraft incidents will be provided. Response considerations and basic operations (extrication, fire, and EMS) will also be covered. Many fire departments falsely believe these types of incidents are not a concern because they don’t have an airport in their district. However, these incidents frequently occur away from airports and in nearby towns. It is always good to be prepared for the unexpected.
The Oncenter Room 3
“Prioritizing Your Department’s Training Program”
Chief Justin Bailey, Oliver Springs (TN) Fire Department

Making training a priority in fire departments can be a struggle. This can lead to catastrophic results, such as an increase in risk for injury and/or death and failing to meet the expectations of the communities served. This course will help firefighters determine the need for training for themselves and their departments, and how to make it the leading priority. Topics to be discussed include organizational training needs and expectations; the selection of a training officer; training program delivery; and personal responsibility in maintaining a healthy training environment. Attendees will leave the class with knowledge on how and why to make training a priority in their departments, as well as their personal lives.
The Oncenter Room 4
“Transparency, Integrity, Consistency: The TIC for Leadership”
District Chief Moses Jefferies IV, Nashville (TN) Fire Department

The transition to company officer can be challenging. Reassignment to a different response zone or shift can set back years of relational chemistry and trust due to unfamiliarity. The challenges that need to be overcome in order to build a high-functioning cohesive unit can’t be overstated when the incoming officer is “the newbie” in the unit. With the understanding that trust is built more on action than words, new officers have their work cut out for them. Actions in the station speak volumes about the character of the company officer, and to lead a crew successfully on the fireground there must be trust. In this session, Moses Jefferies will share the personal story of his leadership journey as a young company and chief officer, relative to his peers of the same rank, and the challenges associated with leading senior members of the organization. Attendees will gain insights that will influence their development as leaders in their department at their current rank and moving forward. Additionally, attendees will be encouraged to use the core objectives of this class to intentionally build a foundation of trustworthiness, both personally and professionally, in their organizations and beyond.
The Oncenter Room 5
“Nuts and Bolts of Fire District Elections”
Attorneys Mark Butler and Terry Hannigan

This class will review how to properly conduct annual and special fire district elections. Subject areas will include giving proper notice; appointing and training elections officials; ballot preparation; the role of the county board of elections; the nature and scope of preventing electioneering; conducting the election; affidavit balloting; and post-election procedures and filings. This program is for fire district secretaries and commissioners. It will be presented by two of the leading fire service attorneys in New York state with extensive experience representing fire districts and training fire district commissioners, treasurers, secretaries, and fire chiefs.
The Oncenter Room 6
12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
“Decades of Strategy, Tactics, Leadership, and Training”
Deputy Assistant Chief – Chief of Safety Frank Leeb, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

Drawing on his more than two decades of leadership in the FDNY and more than 30 years of career firefighting experience (FDNY) and 38 years of volunteer firefighting experience (East Farmingdale Fire Department), Chief Leeb will deliver real-world lessons learned and best practices. Each of the examples presented will be from his personal experience. Chief Leeb will emphasize the importance of the winning mindset, playing to win, training, teamwork, fireground strategy and tactics, large scale emergency response, extinguishment, search and safety cultures and how they coexist for optimal outcomes, problem-solving, leadership development, decision-making, understanding and working with the media, health, wellness, and cancer in the fire service, the power of knowing what you don’t know, staying learnable, and motivating your team. From the chief to the probie, you will leave this presentation motivated and better prepared for any emergency response.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Rapid Intervention Crew Awareness: Are You Prepared to Perform?"
Lieutenant John Lewis, Passaic (NJ) Fire Department and Chief Robert Moran, Brewster (MA) Fire Department

Rapid intervention crews are the most significant fireground resource that incident commanders can use to enhance the safety of firefighters operating at an emergency incident. Assigning a crew to this role is a mandatory component of any incident commander’s decision-making process. The real challenge occurs after the assignment is made when the execution of the rapid intervention crews’ fireground responsibilities need to be performed to perfection. This program will review current NFPA RIC standards, identify the operational awareness components of who, what, when, where, and how a RIC team is developed, staffed, and deployed, tool assignments, and operational responsibilities. It will also examine the critical importance of a RIC size up and demonstrate how a scripted mayday checklist can support a positive outcome to a rapid intervention operation.   
The Oncenter Room 3
“Leadership Lessons for All Levels”
Battalion Chief (Ret.) Shannon Stone, City of Fort Walton Beach (FL) Fire Department

All too often in the fire service, we train on the technical aspects of our job, but rarely do we coach or mentor our leaders (company and chief officers) on how to deal with the interpersonal side of our job and how to indeed lead. This lecture is designed to give experience-proven advice on how to lead, strive, and obtain excellence. Critical leadership practices will be discussed, such as building a purpose-driven culture, the four levels of expectations, the three conditions of leadership influence and how to create effective influence, developing an operational disciplined mindset, understanding the importance of mentoring accountability, servant leadership, and inspiring your firefighters to do great things. This class is designed to give legitimate, time-proven practices that leaders can implement and see instant results. All subjects that will be discussed have originated from on the job trial and error, and from this, many critical practices have been found that work! Regardless of whether you work in a large or small department, from urban to suburban, leaders face the same challenges. This lecture will give you tons of “nuggets” on how to deal with the many challenges you will face as a fire service leader.
The Oncenter Room 4
“Today’s House Fires are NOT Routine!”
Retired Battalion Chief/Shift Commander Jim Duffy, Wallingford (CT) Fire Department

Private dwelling fires are the most common structure fire in New York and the United States as a whole. About 75% of fire deaths occur in residential dwellings, and about 2,400 civilians die in these structures each and every year. We lost 2,284 in 2022 and 144 in New York alone! In fact, 668 civilian home fire fatalities were reported between January 1, 2023, and March 22, 2023, including 48 in New York state. If your fire department is anything like mine, odds are, most of your structure fires are in private dwellings. Just because it’s the most common fire you go to, it doesn’t mean that you let your guard down, because a significant number of firefighter injuries and deaths occur here. It should be no surprise that our work environment has changed. Structural members are being made lighter and cheaper, homes are more energy efficient, and most importantly, fuels have higher heat release rates. This highly interactive and challenging class will explore command, fire attack, ventilation, and search in private dwelling fires, coordinating all fireground tactics with your staffing. It will also briefly cover current scientific studies and how they may or may not relate to your tactics. Lessons learned here can also be applied to other types of structure fires. Hopefully, students will have a little bit of fun at the same time!
The Oncenter Room 5
1:45 – 3:15 p.m.
“Setting Up For Success”
Battalion Chief Christopher Eysser, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

Do you view the tower ladder as an offensive tool or a defensive tool? The answer is both. This program will provide the answer to why we consider the tower ladder both an offensive and defensive tool on the fireground. The basic steps of how to use this tool to its maximum capability will be presented in an organized approach from start to finish. The program will emphasize the importance of getting this apparatus in position early and the advantages it can provide the department throughout the incident. This versatile tool can help provide a safe and efficient platform to work from at various occupancies and buildings located in the suburban setting. At the completion of the course, members of all ranks will have an understanding of the necessary steps to safely place this apparatus in operation and achieve maximum operational capabilities with this tool that we consider the “trump card” on the fireground.
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Commander Competency”
Assistant Chief Walter Lewis, Orlando (FL) Fire Department

The task of managing and overseeing operations at life-threatening situations can be a daunting one. Failing to properly command one usually results in large dollar loss, community business disruption, and possibly, loss of life. This program will examine the challenges (and solutions) for an incident commander when facing these situations.
The Oncenter Room 3
“Full Contact Leadership: Meeting the Prime Directive”
Deputy Chief (Ret.) Anthony Avillo, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire & Rescue

The fire service exists for only one reason – to get out the door ready to go. The prime directive, “Nothing shall interfere with your ability to maintain the in-service and ready status of your command,” will be the main focus of this discussion. This course will explore “full contact leadership” and how it applies to all things fire. Students will be guided to understand that leadership, discipline, and accountability come out of the firehouse, just like every tool we use to mitigate an emergency. Further, students will see that what happens out on the street is based on how we handle ourselves and our responsibilities in the soft environment. Failures in the soft environment of the firehouse will eventually come home to roost on the fireground. The program  will demonstrate how proactive and diligent measures off the fireground will lead to a safer and more effective fire operation.
The Oncenter Room 4
“Searching – The Offensive and Defensive”
Lieutenant Michael Scotto, Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

Searching tactics are primarily thought of as an offensive action – moving in, checking behind doors, in closets, and numerous other areas. As we search, our concerns are focused on the search. Defensive tactics involve our escape plans ,which are needed as we complete our search, but more importantly under extreme or emergency conditions. To make these tactics work, we must always have our strategy front and center. Both sides of the coin are in play all the time. In this class, students will examine strategy and tactics to gain a more concise understanding of needed training for searching and escape.
The Oncenter Room 5
9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

“Tactical Considerations with Minimal Staffing”
Chief Tony Perez, Tampa (FL) Fire Department

Staffing concerns continue to be a problem for fire departments across this country. The alarm never stops and firefighters continue to do the job. This interactive, fast-paced class will address tasks that can be accomplished on the fireground with minimal staffing. Whether stretching a line, throwing a ladder, or forcing a door, it does not matter when time is of the essence. The program will examine tried and proven methods that will assist you on the fireground and elicit discussion on fireground responsibilities that start with training. Firefighters of all ranks will be challenged to step outside their comfort zone and embrace change within our profession. Embracing positive change is not bad in the fire service. The objective of the presentation is to help every firefighter exceed their levels of expectation within the firehouse and on fireground, and to help them be successful through their journey in the fire service. 
The Oncenter Rooms 1-2
“Emergency Radio Communications – What to Say When It Really Matters”
Lieutenant John Lewis, Passaic (NJ) Fire Department and Chief Robert Moran, Brewster (MA) Fire Department

This emergency radio communication program will familiarize firefighters, company officers, and command officers with best practice communication procedures and methods designed to assure the efficient rescue of distressed firefighters. Specific components, such as command mayday actions, culture of the mayday message, calling the urgent or mayday message, state and national standards/regulations, evacuation systems, PAR, and the actions required of the mayday or urgent firefighter, will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on the development, awareness, and use of department-wide standard operating guidelines designed to ensure the effective use of these procedures in the mayday environment. The closing of the course will include hands-on emergency radio communication scenarios utilizing the instructors and students.
The Oncenter Room 3
“The Art of Speed Recruiting”
Vice President of Strategic Recruitment & Retention Services Tiger Schmittendorf, First Arriving

If you had just 30 seconds to convince someone why they should join your volunteer fire department, what would you say? What would your message be? Do you have a standard sales pitch that you use for just such occasions? Can you even say hello in 30 seconds? This class will outline the need to know your audience, your product, and your competition; and the need to remove the physical and other barriers to success at in-person recruitment opportunities.
The Oncenter Room 4
“I’m in Charge, Now What?”
Training Officer Tom Murphy, Pleasant Valley Fire Department

Every incident has an incident commander. What happens when an officer is not there? Decisions will still need to be made. Who is going to make these decisions? Do they know what needs to be done? These decisions will be discussed and explained, from size up to tactics to stabilizing the incident, including the importance of proper on-scene communications. This course is designed for those who may find themselves in an incident command position on the emergency scene. 
The Oncenter Room 5