Conn. fire inspector named 2021 NFPA Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year
Windsor's Lauri Volkert is the first individual from the state to receive the national honor
Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
WINDSOR, Conn. — Fire Inspector Lauri Volkert was named the 2021 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year by the National Fire Protection Association, making her the first individual from Connecticut to receive the national honor.
The award is given out annually to one individual who works for a fire department or fire marshal's office in the U.S. or Canada that demonstrates excellence and innovation in educating the community about fire safety and prevention.
"I was very excited and definitely surprised," Volkert said.
It was not as much of a surprise for Fire Marshal Robert Bolasevich, who said Windsor is lucky to have Volkert as its fire inspector.
"She's very committed, passionate," Bolasevich said. "She's what you would call a one-in-a-million hire."
After earning a degree in fire administration from the University of New Haven in 2007, Volkert served as an intern with the town of Windsor, then was hired in 2009. Prior to that, she briefly served as a volunteer firefighter alongside her father with the North Coventry Volunteer Fire Department.
Throughout the year, Volkert travels around town leading fire extinguisher trainings, smoke detector and alarm trainings, and other general information sessions. She has organized these training programs for preschool-age children to seniors, "and everybody in between."
In the 12 years Volkert has worked for Windsor, the town has seen notable improvement.
Windsor has seen a 50 percent reduction in structure fire calls since 2015, along with a 15 percent decline in reported false alarms and a 27 percent drop in reported cooking fires for the same time period, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Town Manager Peter Souza said these efforts did not go unnoticed.
"We have definitely seen a reduction," Souza said. "That is in part due to Lauri."
Volkert was quick to acknowledge that she could not do it alone.
"It's a really great team here," she said.
She was also quick to applaud the residents of Windsor for making her job easier.
"The citizens have really taken what they've learned to heart," Volkert said. " Windsor is just a great place to work."
She emphasized that point, adding that even when difficulties arise she embraces the opportunity to solve a new problem.
"One of the things I like about this job is that there's always new challenges," she said.
Volkert is looking ahead to the month of October, when her department will celebrate Fire Prevention Week beginning Oct. 3.
In addition to the national recognition, Volkert will receive a $1,000 honorarium, compensated travel to the National Fire Prevention Association Conference and Expo in Boston next June, and an engraved "Sparky" statue. The town fire marshal's office will also receive a $1,000 donation to support its public education activities.
Adam covers the towns of Enfield and Suffield. For more updates, follow Adam on Twitter: @AHushinJI and Facebook: Adam Hushin.
(c)2021 Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.