By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 11, 2004
HAMPTON - Fire Chief Hank Lipe is back where he belongs in the town of Hampton.
Three weeks ago, Lipe was in Emmitsburg, Md., where he attended the 16th Executive Fire Officer Program Graduate Symposium.
Lipe was joined by 200 of his senior fire peers from across the United States and Canada for the annual gathering to discuss one of the most important aspects of being a fire chief - leadership.
"It's a chance for all the alumni to come back and to professionally recharge our batteries," said Lipe. "This year's focus was basically on coaching and to mentor concepts throughout your organization. Making sure you are planning for your successor and offering officer development programs."
The three-day conference was held at the National Fire Academy (NFA), a place Lipe knows all to well.
In 1993, Lipe graduated from the NFA's Executive Fire Officer Program, where just to be selected into the course he had to meet stringent professional criteria, including receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in fire and safety engineering technology.
Lipe worked full time when he attended the four year program.
"We had to attend two weeks each year," said Lipe. "We graduate after the fourth year and we have an applied research papers and projects at the end of each year."
Lipe said Deputy Chief Chris Silver is in the program and has just wrapped up his second year.
"He's finishing up his second research paper as we speak," said Lipe.
The three-day conference and reunion opened up with a keynote presentation titled "Integrity Based Leadership" delivered by Dr. James Reese of Williamsburg, Va.
Reese, who has devoted his professional life to the prevention of violence, coping with change and adversity, and stress management, offered insight on what it takes to be a leader.
Lipe said there was also a presentation on the memorandum of understating (MOU) between the United States Fire Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Fire Protection Association Metropolitan Chiefs.The MOU was designed to establish a roadmap to ensure all departments have local and regional metropolitan incident management teams to further protect their residents and communities they serve.
Lipe said the most memorable event at the symposium was watching the play "The Guys."
"It's a story about a captain of the New York City Fire Department that lost a lot of men on 9/11," said Lipe.
The story centers on the captain, who lost eight fireman in the fall of the World Trade Center, and a journalist who helps him compose eulogies for these men.
It's only a week after the attack; their bodies haven't yet been found, but the families are holding services. The writer cajoles the sometimes inarticulate and plain-spoken captain into talking about the men - who range from the captain's best friend to a newcomer he'd known only a few weeks - until she's gleaned enough to piece together a tribute.
Lipe said the message of the play from a fire service perspective was that its OK to grieve and to show emotion.
"We see so much fatalities, trauma and damage and we become immune to it," said Lipe. "In the fire service business we always have our masks or blinders on because otherwise we can't do our jobs."
Lipe said he learned that it's OK to take a step back and to show emotion.
"Being able to express yourself is part of the grieving process," said Lipe. "In this business, we need to make sure that our employees have an opportunity to share their feelings with their brothers and sisters of the fire service."
Lipe said he would like to bring the play to Hampton - not only for his firefighters but also for the public.
One of the most underrated parts of the symposium was the chance of reuniting with the men and women whom Lipe graduated with a decade ago.
"It was good to meet with other fire chiefs to talk about contemporary issues and how we are dealing with them," said Lipe. "It's also a good time to meet new chiefs and building upon are network of professionals. Each year we go back we see new faces."
Every time Lipe goes to the symposium, he said he likes to take something back for the community.
This year, Lipe said, he found some useful information that he plans to give to the graduating class of Winnacunnet High School.
"I was able to bring some information home on college fire safety," said Lipe. "We are sending a letter to the graduating seniors at Winnacunnet and we are showing a program on cable about it."