INDIANAPOLIS — After being canceled last year and postponed earlier this year, the Fire Department Instructors Conference is back in Indianapolis.
FDIC, the largest firefighter conference in the world, is underway downtown with the latest firefighting technology and techniques on display.
Organizers here say they are thrilled to have firefighters from across the country. They also say they’re closely following health guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“To have everybody back, it really was a breath of fresh air,” said Capt. Joseph Alvarez with the Maplewood, N.J. fire dept.
The conference exposes firefighters from around the nation and overseas to training and tools that they can bring back to their home towns.
“Seconds count when it talks about getting inside of a building, stretching that line, getting that to the seat of the fire, doing a primary surge, explained Alvarez.
COVID-19 canceled the conference last year and pushed it back from April this year.
The conference normally adds more than $30 million to the local economy, although that number is expected to be down this year.
“So we’re down about 25%, maybe 30%, but we’re at about 21,000 folks. Normally we’re at about 35,000 folks,” said Chief Bobby Halton, education director of FDIC International.
Even with lower attendance, Halton says the return of the conference sends a strong statement about the fire service and a dedication to handling the current rise in COVID-19 cases.
While masks are not required at the conference, FDIC organizers are following health and safety protocols outlined by the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. Those include social distancing guidelines, health and safety signage, hand sanitizer stations, pre-packaged food, low-contact at registration counters and hospital-grade cleaning and disinfecting every hour in common areas.
“And it doesn’t mean that many of us aren’t walking around carrying masks. If someone feels uncomfortable, I’d be happy to put it on. We want to be good neighbors,” said Halton.
Organizers say the extra steps are worth the effort to send the lessons learned here back to communities across the country.
“Even though the pandemic is still very real out there, we still have buildings that are burning, we still have people getting trapped in car accidents,” expressed Alvarez.
FDIC runs through August 7. Click here for a complete schedule of events.