by James Long
The City of Toronto, Canada played host to the 2019 FEMSA/FAMA Annual/Fall Conference marking the first time the gathering has been held north of the U.S. border. The event drew 224 attendees, guests and speakers from 127 member companies with 37 first time members.
On Tuesday, the FEMSA and FAMA Boards of Directors wrapped up final conference details while members, with passports in hand, rolled into the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel and began enjoying the sights and sounds of a truly, world class city.
The official kickoff started Wednesday morning with a warm welcome from Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kay of the Toronto Fire Services, followed by opening keynote speaker, Dr. Todd Dewett, sharing his thoughts on “Authenticity in Leadership.”
The audience later received insights from Kirby James on “Building Resilient Organizational Culture” and Dr. Brian Brauer on “Human Behavior and Innovation.”
Earlier that morning, spouses and member guests reveled in a special brunch and a private tour of Toronto on a double-decker bus.
Anirban Basu, always a crowd favorite, presented “To All the Economists I’ve Loved Before” addressing the tangled web of economic forces that influence business today and their potential impact in the future.
Basu’s report was consistent with political updates from Bill Webb, Dave Gatton and John Granby on legislative events affecting the fire service in Washington, DC. For the Canadian attendees, a session moderated by Michelle O’Hara, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, was provided to focus on current topics and issues facing the fire service in Canada.
Thursday’s highlights included a very informative discussion from the Chiefs Panel on the “Future of the Fire Service with a Focus on Fire-Based EMS and Transportation Technology.” Assistant Director J. Gordon Routley (Montreal Fire Department) moderated the panel that included: Division Chief of Mechanical Rob Anselmi (Toronto Fire Services), Chief John S. Butler (Fairfax County, VA Fire & Rescue), Chief Darnell Fullum (DeKalb County, GA Fire & Rescue), Chief Mark Puknaitis (Naperville, IL Fire Department) and Chief Deryn Rizzi (Vaughan Fire & Rescue Service).
The afternoon Fire Lane presentations gave attendees the opportunity to select from several different speakers and topics including Richard Bryan on “Family Businesses,” Tammy Rimes on “Make Purchasing Your New BFF!,” Nathan Calabrese on “Podcasting,” and Jim Crawford on “Partnering in Community Risk Reduction.”
While members attend the conference to gain education and inspiration on ways to grow their businesses from respected speakers, they often rank the valuable networking opportunities as one of the main reasons they join the FEMSA and FAMA organizations.
The program concluded with a reception and banquet featuring a highly competitive Canadian trivia contest and a request from the FEMSA President Bill Van Lent to see everyone in New Orleans September 7-9 for the 2020 conference.