Advancing the mission: The value of fire service partnerships

Connect with organizations like UL FSRI, working to advance the fire service safety mission


An examination of the current state of the fire service cannot effectively be conducted without a discussion of partnerships and politics. Creating and maintaining positive momentum in our business is one of the hardest, yet important, things we should strive to do.

One of the key ways we can propel such momentum – which is also tied into the political part of our jobs – involves developing partnerships with organizations that have mutual interests and cultures of progressiveness. With this in mind, I’d like to focus on one particularly progressive organization that has been brilliantly cultivated over time.

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) works to advance fire research knowledge and develop cutting-edge, practical fire service education aimed at helping firefighters stay safe while more effectively protecting people and property.

Metro Chiefs President Chief Mike Duyck presents UL Vice President and UL FSRI Director of Research Stephen Kerber with the President’s Award at the 2019 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference in Edmonton. (Photo/Edmonton Fire Rescue Services)
Metro Chiefs President Chief Mike Duyck presents UL Vice President and UL FSRI Director of Research Stephen Kerber with the President’s Award at the 2019 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference in Edmonton. (Photo/Edmonton Fire Rescue Services)

UL Vice President and UL FSRI Director of Research Stephen Kerber was recognized with the President’s Award at the recent 2019 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Award recognized his tireless efforts in promoting firefighter safety through research.

This is one organization that every department should consider a partner – a partner in a shared mission to reduce fire service injuries and deaths.

A little more background on UL FSRI: Guided by a global advisory board comprised of fire service personnel, UL FSRI investigates residential, commercial and industrial fires through full-scale testing, field-testing and modeling to replicate actual fires faced by firefighters. Research results are shared through interactive training courses that have reached hundreds of thousands of firefighters globally.

Kerber’s roots stretch back to my fire service alma mater, Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire Department (PGFD), where he served as a volunteer with the College Park Volunteer Fire Department. The CPVFD provides one of the premier opportunities for fire science students to learn through both the University of Maryland environment and practice at the fire station across the street.

The partnership built between UL FSRI and allied agency the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a backdrop for momentum and success. I’ve personally been involved with both groups’ research efforts for nearly 30 years, reaching back to the PGFD 13-story acquired structure live-burn project in the 1990s. The opportunity to learn from UL and NIST is priceless.

For their most recent award, Kerber and UL FSRI were recognized for their work on several projects:

UL FRSI has already made a positive impact on each of our careers, paid or volunteer. It created momentum in the arena of firefighter safety and an emphasis on research – invaluable elements of our business that can only further our mission of bringing firefighters home at the end of every shift.

I encourage each of you to follow the research that UL FSRI continues to conduct and report on daily. I also encourage chiefs to empower your members to examine the data and reach out for help. Neither progress nor partnerships will develop if we allow ourselves or other leaders to operate on territorial islands of isolation. Get connected!

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