Looking forward to working with the fire serviceBy Tom Weber | August 15, 2014
When I was hired as a firefighter by the City of Sunrise, Florida Fire Department in 1977, I never thought my career would lead me here — National Director of Community Hazard Mitigation Services for ISO/Verisk Analytics. I am honored, and I’d like to introduce myself to you.
My path to National Director was filled with excitement, challenges, opportunities, and horrific situations — as faced by all firefighters. Many of my opportunities were mentor driven, for which I am grateful, and there were many challenges to overcome. Both experiences strengthened my desire to succeed, a desire originally inspired by my dad, a career firefighter in Linden, NJ. He gave me my first understanding of the fire service and not only motivated me to become a firefighter, but to be the best one I could be. He died too young from a cardiac condition that resulted from fighting a house fire.
Unbeknown to us in 1977, I was part of a special group of 60 firefighters in that Sunrise department. 33 percent of us became chief officers and recognized fire service leaders throughout Florida.
From Sunrise I went to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue where I became a Battalion Chief. There I managed the computerization of the department and was involved in introducing computer-aided dispatching, trunked radio systems, and the advanced life support system. I lead the training division and functioned as operations chief. During that period, I participated in the Masters of Public Administration Program at Florida Atlantic University and the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy. I met many instructors, firefighters, and students who helped shape my career.
Working and taking classes wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, so my wife Mary and I became the proud parents of triplet daughters, Michelle, Sarah, and Trudy.
In 1997 I became Fire Chief in Manchester, Connecticut, a great opportunity to lead a department that was extremely professional and willing to get better. We began providing the community neighborhood paramedic programs, emergency management coordinators, fully renovated stations, and a full apparatus replacement program. We grew into a modern, full-service emergency department. I was also elected President of the Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association, a great honor.
The desire for a new challenge motivated me to return to Florida as Fire Chief for Port Orange. There we greatly improved firefighter safety through protective clothing, additional radios, annual physicals, and building two new stations. Experiences I never could have imagined became the norm: hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. I had the opportunity to deploy in and out of state on numerous hurricanes including Ivan and Katrina. I went with the National Fire Academy to the Santiago Fire in Orange County, California for Incident Management Team training. In 2008, I was doubly honored by my peers: They elected me President of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association and chose me as Florida Fire Chief of the Year.
In 2011 I thought I had retired, but then Robert Andrews of ISO offered me the opportunity to continue in a career that I have greatly enjoyed. He asked me to become National Director of ISO Community Hazard Mitigation Services and accept the challenge to help emergency services providers make communities as safe as possible. My mantra is simple. Every time firefighters respond to a call someone is physically, emotionally, or financially hurt. Our job is to help prevent incidents from occurring.
ISO has a lot of tools to offer fire departments, and we’re creating new ones all the time. I look forward to bringing these tools to every department in the country, making you better prepared and your communities safer. I am excited for the future.
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