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  • April 14-15, 2023
  • This event has ended.

Executive Fire Officer and Leadership Symposium

  • National Emergency Training Center
  • Emmitsburg, Maryland

The symposium is open to all fire and emergency medical service leaders and leaders from related professions.

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Photo of EFO students on campus in Emmitsburg, MD

The Executive Fire Officer (EFO) and Leadership Symposium is an annual event for EFO Program graduates, current and future fire and emergency medical services (EMS) leaders, and students at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

2023 presentations

The 2023 EFO Symposium Committee prepared a fantastic 2-day program with an amazing lineup of presenters. This year's symposium had something for everyone.

Character Based Leadership and How It Influences How We Lead

Director Kimberley Milani of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at the Ivey Business School at Western University (London, Ontario, Canada) and Jamie Rychard from the Burlington Fire Department (Ontario, Canada)

Leadership is always a combination of 3 elements: competence, commitment to the leadership role, and character. Unfortunately, character has traditionally received the least attention of these 3 pillars — in research, in leadership development programs and in the leadership discourse in general — even though it is foundational to good judgment.

During this presentation, Kimberley Milani and James Rychard will explore what character-based leadership is and how it influences how we lead. They will debunk the myth that it is something we are born with or set in place at an early age but, akin to a muscle, can be exercised and strengthened throughout one's lifetime. They will also reveal how character reaches far beyond the realm of ethics and is a powerful component of leadership that supports superior performance, underpins effective decision-making, and contributes to individual and organizational well-being.

Download presentation 6 MB

From the Laboratory to the Fireground: Leading the Change in Modern Fire Control Strategies

Dr. Dan Madrzykowski, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI)

The future of the fire service is being driven by changes in our own environment. With new technologies, building materials and alternative energy systems creating new challenges, the fire service continues to prove that it is resilient in the way it adapts to the changes in the world around it. This session for leaders will share the latest work taking place at UL FSRI and how this information can be implemented by fire service leaders back home.

Download presentation 609 MB

Leadership Lessons From the Battle of Gettysburg

Dr. Michael McGough, D.Ed, educator, author and leadership development speaker

Few events in history provide a better setting for a study of organizational leadership than the Battle of Gettysburg. The leadership lessons associated with the Gettysburg Campaign are as numerous as they are profound. A study of this historic engagement produces abundant examples of strikingly simple and highly intricate leadership strategies.

There are stunning examples of successes and failures in the decision-making process and a host of actions that serve as vivid illustrations of the consequences of effective and ineffective leadership initiatives. The battlefield at Gettysburg was a crucible in which 19th century strategies of military, political and interpersonal leadership were tested in the intense heat of war. The leadership strategies employed at Gettysburg are relevant and closely tied to contemporary, research‑based studies on the motivations, approaches and complex intricacies of interpersonal and organizational leadership.

Leadership Lessons on Valentine's Day

Charlie Dickinson, former chief of the Pittsburgh Fire Department and former deputy U.S. fire administrator

On Valentine's Day 1995, 3 Pittsburgh firefighters died at a fire in a small, 4-story, wood-framed dwelling at 8361 Bricelyn Street. What most would have considered a routine house fire, turned into an unimaginable tragedy. This presentation will look at combined causes and actions with their outcomes and at leading changes in fireground operations, equipment, and command and control.

Orienting: Retooling the Front Seat Rider's Brain to Take Deliberate Action and Resolve Crises with Intent

John B. Tippett Jr., director of fire programs, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health identifies 5 recurring “failures” in firefighter fatalities. These failures occur in communication, incident command, accountability, standard operating procedures and risk assessment. The element all 5 have in common is that they are the result of human omission or commission.

A common theme in why they occur lies in the decision-maker's absorption of external stimulants and the decision-maker's ability to properly react to or orient to what they are absorbing. Failing to orient properly in an environment is the silent sixth failure in firefighter death and the initiating link in the chain of nearly every calamity. This presentation will introduce attendees to the premise of “orienting,” its critical role in outcomes, and strategies to promote proper orienting.

Download presentation 870 MB

Red Team Thinking

Bryce Hoffman and Jayson Coil

Bryce and Jayson will talk about how fire commanders can use Red Team Thinking — a powerful decision-making methodology first developed by the military and intelligence communities — to make better decisions faster, both in the field and at the station. In the first session, they will provide an overview of what Red Team Thinking is, the science and psychology behind it, and how it works. In the second session, they will talk about the lies fire officers tell themselves and teach participants a simple‑but‑powerful red teaming tool: Six Strategic Questions™. In the final session, Bryce and Jayson will talk about why plans fail and teach another important red teaming tool: basic PreMortem Analysis.

Download presentation 1 MB  Download workbook 15 MB

Remember, We All Rise When We Lift Others… Keys to Well-Being and Building Resilience in Ourselves and Others

Dr. Michael Diller, licensed psychologist, speaker; director, WellSpan Employee Assistance Program

In a time where multiple storms have coincided with the larger COVID pandemic storm, people continue to struggle with myriad challenges and ongoing uncertainty that touches all areas of one's life. This presentation offers insight into recognizing that adversity affects us all, and if we can offer a little hope, inspiration and support to others, why wouldn't we do that, whether it be for our own team members or those from the broader community?

In the end, it reminds us that the thread which binds us all together is that we are human, and we need each other especially in times of challenge and adversity. This presentation provides insight into how we can weather challenging storms together.

Download presentation 2 MB  Download health inventory 315 KB

Working Fire: Recruitment and Retention of Women Firefighters

Division Chief Heather Marques of the Alameda County Fire Department

Women comprise only about 4% of the U.S. fire service's career firefighting workforce. Currently, there are approximately 14,800 women, while 360,000 men serve as professional firefighters. This presentation examines the 4 major gates women confront in their career path: physicality, sociocultural dynamics, parental issues and promotional obstacles.

Through evaluation of similar vocations, and the use of a gap analysis, we discuss where we are now and our desired state, and offer recommendations and best practices to bridge the gap. Designed for policymakers and fire service leaders, this presentation provides critical frameworks for understanding the unique challenges women face and the positive impact they bring to the workplace.

The data indicates that we will never significantly grow our enrollment numbers much beyond the 4% pattern. We do have a significant opportunity to improve women's quality of life and shift focus away from recruitment efforts and toward retention through improved standards and practices.

Download presentation 5 MB  Download thesis 1 MB

Scenes from the 2023 EFO and Leadership Symposium