Monroeville expo sure to spark firefighters' interest
By Melanie Donahoo
Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 7:44 a.m.
With more than 60 fire trucks, ambulances and other apparatus on display, the Monroeville Convention Center will give firefighters a chance to kick the tires on some new equipment.
“They can walk up to the fire trucks and see the construction,” said Harold Katofsky, 57, chief of Monroeville Volunteer Fire Company No. 6 and a helper at the Pittsburgh Fire Rescue & EMS Expo. “If they want to, they can stand or hang on the doors and see which one is better.”
Visitors to the 26th annual expo will get to see the newest equipment, learn about new rescue techniques and network with fellow responders among 300 exhibits. It's the third-largest such event in the United States, said Kelly Simon of Greensburg, owner of Simon Event Management and expo organizer.
“This is the show they come to and make their purchases,” Simon said.
Jason Burns, chief of the North Apollo Volunteer Fire Department, said he goes to the expo every year to see the newest technology and equipment.
“There is always something new out there,” said Burns, 26. “And when you get everything under one roof, you can compare it.”
The show provides exposure and a chance to network for Fire Force, a Butler County-based equipment supplier, said company vice president Robin Pittman. The firm also sells smaller items such as boots and gloves.
“We're always trying to give fire services what they want to see at the fire show,” said Pittman, of Seven Fields.
A group of firefighters from Breezy Point, N.Y., will make a presentation about their struggles during Superstorm Sandy.
“It's a really good learning experience for our volunteers,” Simon said. “So they can come to shop and also sit in on a presentation of lessons learned.”
Marty Ingram, chief of the Point Breeze Fire Department in Breezy Point, said he and his team have done presentations for churches, but this will be their first time talking to other firefighters and emergency personnel.
“We're not only going to talk about the events but also the recovery efforts,” Ingram said. “We were deeply involved in helping the whole community.”
A slide show will help people understand the fire department's obstacles, but they can't comprehend the damage and desolation unless they have been there, Ingram said.
The expo has hosted groups such as Hurricane Katrina volunteers and workers from 9/11's Ground Zero, Simon said.
“When there is a disaster and rescue attempts are successful and there are lessons to be learned, we do try to incorporate that into the program in addition to the exhibits,” Simon said.
Booth space also is set aside for fire companies at no charge so they have room for fundraising activities, including a used-equipment flea market at which specialized fire and emergency equipment can be bought and sold for good prices, Simon said.
Chris Grimes, vice president and lieutenant of Monroeville Volunteer Fire Company No. 5, said his department sells T-shirts to raise money and uses the event as a recruitment tool.
“You don't always need to buy something,” said Grimes, 38. “But the camaraderie and seeing old friends is what I always look forward to.”
Simon started the expo after her father, a volunteer firefighter for more than 50 years, suggested that Pittsburgh have a fire show.
It began at the former Monroeville ExpoMart in 1988 and briefly declined in attendance when the ExpoMart closed about five years ago, and Simon had to move the to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown Pittsburgh.
It moved to the Monroeville Convention Center in 2010, and Simon said she plans to keep it there.
“It's a great place for these men to get together and talk about what they've learned and how they can help each other,” Simon said. “They are volunteers, so we try to do whatever we can to provide a great event for them.”
Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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