Trending Topics

FDIC 2023 Quick Take: ‘Our calling is high’

Continuing the mission of emergency services legends, leaders and champions


Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Ernest Malone speaks during the opening ceremony of FDIC 2023.

Photo/Kerri Hatt

INDIANAPOLIS — The Opening Ceremonies for the 2023 FDIC began with a tribute to the late Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton, who passed away in December. David Rhodes, who was announced as the incoming editor-in-chief for Fire & Rescue Media and the educational director for FDIC International, noted this was the last FDIC with Halton’s personal stamp on it.

Memorable quotes from the FDIC Opening Ceremony

“We need to be strong and united – we need unity of purpose.” — David Rhodes

America is still burning. We must talk about it.” — U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore Merrill, citing 1.2 million structure fires a year, lithium batteries and new ignition sources, and the fact that more than one-third of the population now lives in the interface in danger of wildfires

“We don’t do the easy, we do the necessary.” — Chief Ernest Malone, Indianapolis Fire Department

The mission of saving lives

In his inaugural opening speech as FDIC educational director, Rhodes refused the notion that he will stand in Halton’s shoes, but vowed to continue his mission by standing on his shoulders.

Rhodes shared his vision for how he will serve, “unapologetically” standing for:

  • A search culture to remove victims within 6-10 minutes
  • Extinguishment by occupying the interior
  • That the structure is not clear until the fire department searches it
  • Research to challenge beliefs and tactics
  • Allowing firefighters to make decisions on scene

“To honor Bobby and others like him, you sacrifice and suffer, you do good work, you build on success, you carry on and you do it better,” Rhodes said. “Our calling is high … we go not just to execute tasks, but to save lives. How dare us be anything but the best?”

Rhodes encouraged attendees to remember that they are not in the firefighting or EMS business – but in the people business, and to continue to remain in constant motion to define the future – through continuing the work, the constant goal of self-improvement, to inspire a new generation to build lives, and to be the responders that you would want to show up to your house.

6 keys to fire prevention and control

U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell also took the stage to share the mission of the USFA, which was created in 1974 after the America Burning report. While FEMA is created to help people before, during and after disasters, the USFA mission is to prepare first responders, Moore-Merrell noted, through:

  • Fire and EMS training
  • Research
  • The National Fire Data Center – “to make sure you have the data you need at all levels.”
  • Community risk reduction. “That’s where we need to be, so we can prepare our communities – making the environment safer when you need to respond,” Moore-Merrill said.

U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell.

Photo/Kerri Hatt

Moore-Merrill shared the 6-part strategy her team is focusing on in their fire prevention and control mission:

  1. WUI: prepare firefighters for climate-driven changes
  2. Recruitment and retention: invest in national apprenticeship program
  3. Cancer: establish a comprehensive occupational cancer strategy
  4. Behavioral health: provide behavioral health/suicide resources and to address stress before it becomes PTSD, through building resilience
  5. Elevate the fire service: achieve policy development at the same level with law enforcement
  6. Building codes and standards: implement and enforce codes and standards. “The best fire is the one that doesn’t happen in our structural environment and we can change that,” Dr. Moore-Merrill stressed.

Moore-Merrill encouraged attendees, saying if we come together with one voice and stand together, we can change the trajectory of the fire service.

Kerri Hatt is editor-in-chief, EMS1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts. Prior to joining Lexipol, she served as an editor for medical allied health B2B publications and communities.

Kerri has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. She is based out of Charleston, SC. Share your personal and agency successes, strategies and stories with Kerri at