Education Descriptions

Building Leaders from the Ground Up

The VCOS Symposium addresses the unique needs of volunteer and combination leaders. This year, we’ve got a new format to our education program that is geared towards increasing networking with your fellow volunteer and combination department leaders. We’ve eliminated the pre-conference and extended the symposium by a day to give you more time with presenters and peers. Sessions and presentations are important to your career growth, but so are the connections you make at conferences.

Thursday, November 9

My Story: How one Moment Can Impact the Rest of Your Life
Days before Chad Williams was to report to military duty in Great Lakes, Illinois, he turned on a television and was greeted with horrifying images of his mentor, US Navy SEAL Scott Helvenston, being brutally murdered in a premeditated ambush on the roads of Fallujah, Iraq. Steeled in his resolve, Chad followed in Scott’s footsteps and completed the US military’s most difficult and grueling training to become a Navy SEAL. One of only 13 from a class of 173 to make it straight through to graduation, Chad served his country on SEAL Teams One and Seven for five years, completing tours of duty in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iraq.
Chad Williams, former U.S Navy SEAL

Like a Pelican in the Desert: Information – Implementation = Irritation
Do you ever wonder why information given is not implemented? The answer to this question lies in another question. Do you ever feel like a pelican in the desert?  This presentation addresses what implementation is, why it is important to address it, and how to respond to the implementation challenge. This topic will lead the pelicans back to the ocean fulfilled and excited, ready to implement.
Stephen Gower, Author and Speaker

VCOS Talks – Top Ten Leadership Points
VCOS Talks are concise stories with relevant subject matter.  Listen to our Experts share insight on hot topics in the volunteer/combination emergency service world.
Greg Smith, President, Shell Pipeline

Fire Leadership Case Studies - You Make the Call
This interactive discussion is based on real-life administrative issues/cases that other chief officers have faced.  As we know, real-life scenarios are not clear cut and there are a variety of opinions of how people would handle them.  The class is designed to teach decision-making in an administrative role.
Gary Ludwig, Fire Chief, Champaign (IL) Fire Department

Welcome Reception on the Beach
*Weather permitting

Friday, November 10

Firefighter Free Speech
This presentation explores the interaction between a firefighter's First Amendment right of free speech and a governmental employer's right to maintain order and discipline within the fire department.  Federal rules and court cases that have addressed many of the repeating conflicts that occur with the fire house, including criticisms of fire officials, retaliatory action, preemptory gag orders and contacting city officials outside of the chain of command are reviewed.  Precedent court case rulings are applied to recent controversies involving social media rants and raves.
David Comstock, Lawyer, Bonezzi Switzer Polito & Hupp CO. L.P.A

FirstNet Update
This session will explain the state-of-the-art technological advantages the FirstNet network will give first responders during incident responses. FirstNet fire service representatives will provide an update on the network implementation status and explain how public safety can get involved. Real-world use case scenarios will be shared of how technology is making public safety personnel better informed, safer, and more effective in their response efforts.
Mike Worrell, Senior Fire Services Advisor, FirstNet

Barn Boss Leadership
Barn Boss Leadership is a unique blend of fire, science, psychology and fire service history provided by an author who has worked for the largest of metropolitan to the smallest of volunteer departments. True leaders develop their power long before they receive a promotion. This presentation is designed to provide a guide and self-awareness gut check for individuals of all ranks. However, the emphasis of this text is for the informal leader in the organization, who is the catalyst for... action. This text is for the individual who considers mastery the minimum standard.      
Brian Ward, Author: Barn Boss Leadership, Divisional Compliance System Owner for Fire Protection and Emergency Operations, Georgia Pacific – Plywood Division

Attributes of Leadership – Put to the Test on D-Day
Listen as Bill Webb shares his vast knowledge of D-Day and experiences traveling to Normandy.  How was Eisenhower a successful leader?  As such an enormous burden was placed on him, learn how he was not only a successful military leader but how he was able to carry out his mission.  What attributes do you have to be a great leader?  This session will give you examples of one leading style that might be a good fit for your department.
Bill Webb, Executive Director, Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI)

Vendor Venue
Vendor Venue is a chance to hear about the exciting products and services our vendors have to offer.  A detailed list of vendor presentation times are included in the onsite guide.

Saturday, November 11

8:15 am – 9:45 am

Who Moved the River – Navigating the Currents of Change
After major storms and other natural disasters, river courses change and new landscape is created. Without proper situational awareness and preparation, the change in its course could be deadly. Are you ready to navigate the new river of the fire service? Or will you be a casualty of the culture change?

Change is a challenge. Thinking inside and outside the box takes conviction, confidence, and courage. Recent research has provided science to identify how the fire service can provide emergency response in a more safe, effective, and efficient way. Rethinking how the fire service responds and mitigates emergencies is needed. This paradigm shift starts with thinking about how these changes will positively impact the safety of the world's fire service. This presentation will invigorate the mind of the participants and get them thinking of new ways to look at old obstacles. They will leave with a desire to look at different angles of approach relating to tactics and strategy.
Devon Wells, First Vice President, ISFSI

Why the Need? WUI is Coming to a Place Near You
In the past and still today many fire departments don’t feel they have a wildland urban interface issue. While the West has recognized this issue for years last year the South East was impacted in unprecedented ways. Is your organization and/or community ready for such an event?  This presentation with help to define the WUI, help to determine if you’re at risk, and how you can be better prepared to minimize the impacts if it comes to your local.  It will take a look what your department can do to better be prepared, explain the alphabet soup that shows up to “help” and what roles do you play and should you play when things go big.
Rich Cowger, Chief, Columbus (MO) Fire Rescue

Are you Ready to Go? Are you Ready to Move On, to Leave, to Pass the Torch?
This presentation will address the question:  Are you really ready to move on, to leave, to pass the torch?  This question is not only for combination and volunteer fire department officers, but for career ones as well.  We will look at the readiness of change within the department, the preparation by the chief officer and the drastic change of time allocation.  We will discuss real life timelines and leaving on your terms along with knowing when it’s just time to leave.
Jim Grady, Executive Director, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, Chief (Ret)., Frankfort (IL) Fire Department

Marketing Your Fire Department
We struggle with Recruitment and Retention, but do we really attempt to market ourselves and our agencies?  The speaker will guide us through various methods of assuring our public knows us and reaches out to us.
Greg Render, Chief (Ret.), Signal Hill (IL) Fire Department

10:45 am – 11:45 am

VCOS Talks
VCOS Talks are concise stories with relevant subject matter.  Listen to our Experts share insight on hot topics in the volunteer/combination emergency service world.

Medical Screenings: Are They Worth It? – Robert Logan, Deputy Chief over Personnel and Development, Spring (TX) Fire Department
Occupational Preventative Health – Hunt Whitten, Health and Safety Officer, Ponderosa (TX) Fire Department
What? Wait! What Just Happened? – Mark Strzyzynski, Chief, Henrietta (NY) Fire Department
Dare to Dream - Prepare to Work – John Buckman, Chief (Ret.), German Township (IL) Volunteer Fire Department

Next Steps in Implementing Hot Zone Design for Facilities – Cancer Prevention
This session will identify the health risks faced by fire and rescue personnel, including the exposure to smoke, toxic chemicals, and carcinogens. Once individuals are exposed to such contaminants, the presentation will highlight how the toxins can be conveyed back to the station and transmitted to others within and beyond the building. Mr. Erickson will present transformational thinking and design strategies for reducing contamination at the site, minimizing contamination transport, and then containing the contaminants at the station before returning to service. This talk will focus on the three primary avenues for firefighter contamination exposure: respiratory, dermal, and ingestion. The topics addressed will include fireground operations, PPE and equipment, fire hose, fire apparatus, and the fire station. Fire stations will never be the same.
Paul Erickson, FAIA, Principal, Lemay Erickson Willcox Architects; Scott Beecher, President, Beecher Emmission Solution Technologies (BEST) - Ward Diesel Filter System & Ward Clean Air Products

VCOS Leadership – Employee Collaboration: Challenges and Solutions for Combination Agencies
This program is designed for leaders, employees and volunteers of combination fire departments. The program will expand on the work being done by the Volunteer Combination Officers Section; Leadership-Employee Collaboration Work Group. Presentation will include an introduction to a new onsite service currently being piloted for combination departments helping them to succeed in the complex environment of a combination organization.
Peter Struble, M.P.A, Chief (Ret.), Wallingford (CT) Fire Department

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Successful Communications for Successful Organizations
Throughout history organizations have all faced a single challenge – communications. At the same time, successful organizations have all shared the same success – shared vision.  Volunteer and combination departments are in a unique situation where communication systems and what motivates our members can vary greatly. This program will focus on how fire department leaders can better understand how we communicate our vision for the direction of our organization. 
Tom LaBelle, Division Chief of Volunteer Services, Albemarle County (VA) Department of Fire Rescue; Tommy Maloney

Elected Officials Roundtable
Vicky Pritchett will lead a panel discussion specifically focused on issues faced by elected officials of emergency services districts. Join her and others in this informative and interactive discussion session.
Vicky Pritchett, Associate Director, Pleasant View (TN) Volunteer Fire Department

11:45 am – 1:00 pm
Lunch on the Beach

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Recruitment and Retention Forum
Always a popular panel discussion, Dr. Jenaway guides a discussion on best practices for recruitment and retention.  Participate in an open forum that hits on timely topics. 
Bill Jenaway, Executive Vice President, VFIS; John D’Allessandro, Secretary, FASNY Board of Directors

VCOS Talks
This is a repeat session.

Why the Need? WUI is Coming to a Place Near You
This is a repeat session.
Rich Cowger, Chief, Columbus (MO) Fire Rescue

Are you Ready to Go? Are you Ready to Move On, to Leave, to Pass the Torch?
This is a repeat session.
Jim Grady, Instructor, Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI)

Who Moved the River – Navigating the Currents of Change
This is a repeat session.
Devon Wells, First Vice President, ISFSI

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Next Steps in Implementing Hot Zone Design for Facilities – Cancer Prevention
This is a repeat session.
Paul Erickson, FAIA, Principal, Lemay Erickson Willcox Architects; Scott Beecher, President, Beecher Emmission Solution Technologies (BEST) - Ward Diesel Filter System & Ward Clean Air Products

VCOS Leadership – Employee Collaboration: Challenges and Solutions for Combination Agencies
This is a repeat session.
Peter Struble, M.P.A, Chief (Ret.), Wallingford (CT) Fire Department

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Successful Communications for Successful Organizations
This is a repeat session.
Tom LaBelle, Division Chief of Volunteer Services, Albemarle County (VA) Department of Fire Rescue; Tommy Maloney

Marketing Your Fire Department
This is a repeat session.
Greg Render, Chief (Ret.), Signal Hill (IL) Fire Department

Sunday, November 12

Building Excellence in the Leadership Team
If you are a member of any real work team then this is the workshop you won’t want to miss!  It is not a seminar on theory that puts forth vague notions of how things could or should be.  It is a practical, hands-on experience that focuses on issues critical to the effectiveness of the leader and team in getting things done in the organization.
Howard Cross, Consultant and Trainer, Howard Cross & Associates

Developing the Next Generation of Fire Service Leaders
Professional development is the planned, progressive and lifelong process of education, training, self-development and experience that one gains during their development. In the fire service, professional development is a critical element of being a leader and a professional. When we step up to accept the responsibility of leadership, we also accept an obligation to continue our training, education, learning, personal experience and growth as we strive to improve our effectiveness. This program will help students with a guide to developing themselves as well as the ability to develop an organizational professional development model for their department.
Doug Cline, Assistant Chief, Horry County (SC) Fire Department

From the Xbox to the Box Alarm
How do we motivate today’s recruits away from the Xbox™ long enough to answer the box alarm? This facilitated conversation builds consensus that, “Most of the fires we fight are in the firehouse, not on the fire scene.” Together we’ll learn to combat these challenges with solutions that are within our reach, focusing not on generational gaps – but more importantly, the opportunity for creating connections between generations of firefighters.
Tiger Schmittendorf, Chief Recruiter, Erie County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services

 



The VCOS Symposium is the ONLY conference that allows participants to interact face-to-face with leaders of rural and suburban combination departments. This is the best conference available for combination organizations.

– Ken Preston, Commissioner, North Greece (NY) Fire District