Turning Interest into Action
F.I.E.R.O. (Fire Industry Education and Resource Organization) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, organization which operates under the guidance of an all-volunteer Board of Directors comprised of members with a rich history in the fire service. F.I.E.R.O. exists to improve firefighter health and safety and accomplishes this through educational conferences and workshops and participation on research projects. In the past five years, we have partnered with the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation to study contamination control and with N.C. State University to study heat strain caused by personal protective equipment (PPE).
F.I.E.R.O. was formed in September 1990 and was modeled after three west coast organizations: SAFER (Southern Area Fire Equipment Research), NAFER (Northern Area Fire Equipment Research) and CAFER (Central Area Fire Equipment Research). Though based in California, these organizations reached into Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Of those three original organizations, SAFER is the only one still in operation. The general concept was to create a network for fire service professionals to connect with each other and with equipment manufacturers to improve the products used in the fire service--amazingly, the fire service discovered that their problems were not unique. Through these organizations, products such as disintegrating PPV fan blades are no longer in the market and locking Storz couplings are now the standard. The fire service and related manufacturers all benefited from improved products and better service because of these organizations.
The first F.I.E.R.O. meeting was held at the Cobb County Fire Department in Georgia with close to 100 people in attendance and Captain Doug Miller of the Atlanta Fire Department (who later became Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department) spoke about PPE selection. F.I.E.R.O. continued to meet throughout the Southeast with Captain Dart Kendall (Cobb County Fire Department) serving as the first President and Battalion Chief Brenda Nishiyama Willis ("Nish") of the Atlanta Fire Department serving as the first treasurer.
With the emergence of the Internet and email, communications about product problems spread through the industry very quickly and F.I.E.R.O. re-invented itself. The board realized there were other areas where the fire service needed to learn more about and create stronger connections in. In 2000, F.I.E.R.O. hosted the first-of-its-kind, and F.I.E.R.O.'s first (what would become annual) Fire Station Design Symposium in Charlotte. Through the symposium, F.I.E.R.O. provided fire station design education and exposure to experts in fire station design to the fire service. Through 2018, F.I.E.R.O. has hosted 17 Fire Station Design Symposiums in both Charlotte and Raleigh. In 2009, again recognizing an unmet need, F.I.E.R.O. hosted the first-ever Fire PPE Symposium, also in Charlotte. This symposium focuses on disseminating the results of research and scientific studies, creating a better understanding of the performance requirements set for firefighting PPE, and the limitations of firefighting PPE. In March 2019, the seventh biennial PPE Symposium will be held in Raleigh. Attendance at these symposiums increases for every event, illustrating the broad reach F.I.E.R.O. has in the fire service. In 2014, to broaden that educational reach, F.I.E.R.O. conducted its first Regional Fire PPE Workshop at the DFW Fire Research & Training Facility in Texas. The focus of these smaller workshops is the selection, care and maintenance of PPE.