ISFSI Member Spotlight: John Best

1. Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service

My name is John Best from Maryland. The influence to join the fire service began with my Dad, Martin, and his 30 year fire service career. I am a life member of the Silver Spring (MD) Volunteer Fire Department having joined the Department as a cadet at age 14. I aspired to Deputy Fire Rescue Chief for Montgomery County (MD) Fire Rescue Service, Fire Chief for Reedy Creek Fire Department protecting Walt Disney World, Florida, and serve as an Adjunct Distinguished Lecturer for John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management.

2. Who or What has inspired you as a fire instructor

I have been fortunate to experience timely mentors throughout my fire service journey. Chief James Dalton influenced me to join the ISFSI when the Society was headquartered in Massachusetts and conferences were in Memphis. My initial Society involvement included the “bunkhouse,” Ed and Mary McCormick, Lou Amabili, and teaching Company Officer Development (COD) with Chief Dan Jones. Late fire chiefs Warren Isman and David Gratz were mentors throughout my Montgomery County, MD career. Jim Dalton and Dave Gratz have been my personal and professional compass to this day.

3. What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that

My current instruction project is with John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), developing and facilitating their graduate student writing coach program. The last two COVID years have been challenging for higher education and the total reliance upon online learning. Many public safety students have had less than stellar writing skills outcomes when completing their graduate degree capstone responsibilities. The writing coach program is having a significant positive impact on student writing skills.

4. Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career

I am challenged to identify a single career project as “most significant.” I am taking the liberty to mention several projects I was fortunate to be part of:

Appointment by the President of the United States, Commissioner to the America Burning Re-Commissioned Project.
Fifteen year member of the N.F.P.A. Fire Service Training Committee.

Staff liaison for facilitating the Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Service Career Development program ultimately serving as an element of the N.F.P.A. Professional Qualifications Standards.

Staff liaison to achieving legislation to mandate the installation of residential fire sprinklers in new residential properties in Montgomery County, MD.

Facilitated the Montgomery County, MD Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force producing the “Seniors at Risk: Creating a Culture of Fire Safety” report reducing senior citizen fire fatalities in Montgomery County.

Staff liaison for the implementation of the 60 recommendations of the Montgomery County, MD Arson Task Force providing analysis of the County’s “Fire Problem” in the areas of fire safety education, prosecution, juvenile arson intervention, fire law enforcement, data collection, and resource allocation.

5. What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor and, when you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by

In addition to understanding and presenting the material first responders need to perform effectively and safely, I want to be remembered as respectful, supportive, helpful, and always taking time for each student.

6. What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started

Qualifying as a senior citizen, I have evolved through significant societal, diversity, generational, and gender attitude and culture “changes” influencing the fire service; mostly for the good. My observation over the years has shown those unable to embrace these “changes” have generally not done as well as those able to embrace them.

Changes in the interest of firefighter safety and welfare have benefited the service, as well as the fire service standardization and specialization afforded by the N.F.P.A. Professional Qualifications and other Standards.

Another major change I have observed is the evolution of EMS from a fire service “swoop and scoop stepchild” to a major workload, advanced life support element. EMS usually represents more than 70% of the workload of departments providing EMS.

7. What is something that most people don’t know about you

The joy of six grandchildren (one boy and five girls) and five great grandchildren (four boys and one girl). This joy and the blessing of international travel (before COVID) to Canada, China, Czech, Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Guatemala, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Africa.

8. If you could choose your title (Other than training officer or firefighter) that uniquely describes you in your posting; what would it be and why

“Learner/Instructor.” This question caused me to pause and reflect on my vocations and avocations over the decades. This reflection surfaced the fact that the ratio of learner to instructor continuously changes as time passes and responsibilities increase. As a fire cadet my learner “title” ratio was intense compared to my “instructor” title. While the ratio of a learner “title” has lessened, my instructor title as intensified. I acknowledge; however, the effective instructor must always be learning.

9. And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor

There are a platitude of books and references addressing this topic. This questions reminds me of the mornings I would welcome new recruits to our department and their first day of recruit school. All of their birthdays occurred after the date on my serving since pin. My point; acknowledge and embrace the new generation. They think different, they learn different, and they react different.


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