Fire & Emergency Services Program Holds 25th Anniversary Summit

Friday, May 10, 2024
By: Kyle Niblett

With a building full of some of the most distinguished members in the field, the University of Florida M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management held a summit this past Thursday celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UF fire and emergency services program. Taught via the top ranked UF online program, Rinker offers a bachelor’s degree in fire and emergency services and a master’s degree in fire and emergency sciences.

The event began with opening remarks from Rinker Director Robert Cox, Ph.D., and FES Coordinator Jeffrey Lindsey, Ph.D. Following the UF Police Department Honor Guard presenting the colors, the trio of Rand Napoli, Ron Nutter, Ph.D., and Barbara Klingensmith, Ph.D., spoke on the history of the FES program.

“Back in 1999 we put the pieces together at Rinker to build a curriculum,” said Napoli, who served more than a decade as the director with the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office. “Back then the internet was kind of a new thing, so we had to help local fire departments get online with the proper equipment. That never would have happened without Rinker.”

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate served as the event’s keynote speaker.

“The idea that UF can offer leadership training and education is special to those running and leading complex multi-million-dollar organizations that deal with everything from human resources to equipment that costs fortunes,” Fugate said. “The fact we can grow our own leaders and not have to outsource leaders from other states shows that the opportunities here in Florida are even greater.”

After a riveting keynote and remarks from various dignitaries from UF, the College of Design, Construction and Planning and the State Fire Marshal, the room became emotional with testimonials on the impact of the FES program. Former FES Advisory Board Member JoAnne Rice and FES graduate David Kennedy then shared their fondest memories on the program, while a letter was read from Acting State Bureau of Fire Training Chief Eugenia Tucker.

Following a great lunch sponsored by Scorpio Construction, the first part of the afternoon was spent in breakout sessions with topics ranging from the relationship between FES and the construction industry to mobile integrated healthcare as it relates to the opioid crisis. After the sessions, panel discussions took place with topics such as how the emergency management industry could benefit from the widespread distribution of cognitive digital twins technology.

Ending the event was a shadowbox presentation, recognition of FES’ first bachelor’s and master’s graduates and distinguished recognition for both alumni and instructors. A wonderful reception sponsored by IEM concluded the day.

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