What I’ve done since I retired as a fire officer

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Recently, my fire service colleague and fellow contributor to FireRescue1 (FR!), Linda Willing, had an article, Institutional fire knowledge: Sharing what you know, posted on FR1. In her piece, Linda wrote about how firefighters and officers can, and should, continue to share the organizational knowledge they’ve acquired after they retire from active service.

Linda Willing, author and owner of RealWorld Training & Consulting

I found the topic and Linda’s points to “be spot on” considering my own situation and experiences as a retiree who spent 26 years with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS department before retiring as a battalion chief in December 2007 (Yep, it’s hard to believe it’s going to be 15 years this December!).

It took me five years before I found my “2nd career) as a freelance writer. During those first five years, I took positions as an operations chief for a small private ambulance company, a fire instructor and course developer at the Georgia Fire Academy, and finally as a contractor with a management services company providing services to U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command (Where I got to do an 11-month stint as a staff officer for the Army’s Fire Chief).


One of the downsides of working for a private sector company as a contractor is that once there are no longer any contracts where the company can use your skill set, you’re out of a job! And that’s the situation I found myself in after two and a half years.

So, I started my own blog, this one, as a means of (1) staying busy while I was unemployed, (2) searching for another job, and (3) creating content for networking purposes on social media.

After about four months of pumping out two or three posts a week, I received an e-mail from a LinkedIn connection, Rick Markley, who was an editor for FR1 at the time. Rick wrote that he had been reading my blog and that he really liked my content and writing style. But more importantly, he asked if I’d be interested in writing articles for FR1. When he said yes, I’d get paid for my work, I jumped at the opportunity. One of the best jumps I’ve ever made!

Rick Markley, the guy who got it all started for me in my 2nd career!

In the almost 10 years that I’ve been working with FR1, I’ve had the pleasure of working and learning so much from editors like Rick, Greg Friese, Kerri Hatt, and my current boss, Janelle Foskett. new paragraph

Writing for FR1 has also made me a true “student of the fire and EMS world” as I’ve written on a wide variety of subjects (e.g., fire apparatus, PPE, safety, hose nozzles, you name it) for which I must do the necessary research (Thank you Internet and Google!) to ensure that the facts are current and accurate. I speak with company representatives and subject matter experts for the topic I’m assigned to write about to get their knowledge and insights. For a typical article I’ll spend about four to six hours doing my research and writing the piece.

After I’d been working with my editors on the “content side” of FR1 for a few years, I receive an “inside referral” to the folks on the Product Branding side of the “FR1 house.” There I really got involved in writing articles for companies who contracted with FR1 to have content created for their websites and marketing materials. Another great opportunity, especially getting to work with great editors like Mary Rose Roberts, Rachel Zoch, Sarah Calams, and my current editor, Laura Neitzel.

The hits just kept coming when I received another internal referral, this time to FR1’s online FR1 Academy. This gig involved writing course content for FR1 Academy to add to its online course catalog.

But this was something really special! The job involved creating continuing education level content for Firefighter I and II, Fire Officer I, Motor Pump Operator, Hazmat, and Technical Rescue. One challenge was that the contents should follow the applicable NFPA standards, but not simply be a “rehash” of content from entry-level certification training. The other was that I was not a subject matter expert in all those subjects!

Each of those courses had 12 to 16 modules and each module required enough content necessary to produce a module one-hour in length for delivery online (That amount of content takes at least eight thousand words per module!). Now, this all took place over a three-year period; each course typically had a three-to-four-month window for completion.

I astutely realized that I could not crank out that kind of output and have it be of high quality without quality help. So, I learned another “postretirement skill”: Contracting with other subject matter experts for their services in writing course content that was in their “wheelhouse.” I posted job ads on LinkedIn and Facebook and a number of fire service professionals answered my call—and they came from all over the USA and Canada. While far too numerous to list them all, and at the risk of leaving someone out, let me take this opportunity to say THANK YOU TO ALL THEM.

And thank you again to the Internet and e-mail—and whoever invented the “cloud”—because without those tools, I’d never have been able to work with all those professionals to communicate, share content, review course drafts, and pay them! And thank you to the wonderful staff–Star Franz, Jenny Ashley, and Holly Bluett–that patiently worked with me and provided great editorial guidance.

And that’s a wrap. Just a short summation of one fire service retiree’s second career that’s enabled me to stay engaged with great people in our profession, learn from great people at FR1, and share the knowledge and insights from my fire service career and beyond.

And a big THANK YOU to Linda Willing for the content that she wrote in her piece which served to prompt me to write this article.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].