A Volunteer's Volunteer
NFPA Journal®, September/October 2010
Over the course of one week this summer, I spoke at a summit on health care standards, at our Electrical Inspectors Forum, and at the annual meeting of the Marine Chemists Association. As president of NFPA, I am continually struck by the breadth of issues we deal with, and the talent we attract to do the hard work involved in fulfilling our mission.
When you consider that everything we do to reduce deaths, injuries, and property losses is driven by our volunteers—more than five thousand people who serve as Section Members and sit on our Technical Committees, Standards Council, and Board of Directors—you begin to realize what a remarkable system NFPA represents. We are grateful to all of those who volunteer within that system. I have been involved at NFPA for almost two decades, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know so many people committed to such an important mission.
Vincent J. Bollon is someone I have known and worked closely with since my earliest days at NFPA. Vinnie is a man who has made a huge difference for the good with every organization he’s been involved with. He joined the New York City Fire Department in 1959, and throughout his career was admired for his bravery, professionalism, and leadership abilities. His period of service included some of the most tumultuous years in the FDNY’s storied history, as it grappled with an out-of-control fire problem while the city slid toward financial collapse. While serving as a firefighter, Vinnie was also moving up in the ranks of the union. He became an officer in Local 54 of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, and later served as president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
Those experiences, and his commitment to making the job safer for all firefighters, brought him to NFPA. He became a well-known and well-respected participant in the standards development process. He was instrumental in helping establish NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program. That experience made him a true believer in the NFPA process and led to his election to the Board of Directors. He became one of our longest-serving directors, and during his tenure there was never any fear that the Board would fail to understand how an issue might affect firefighters. And he had other talents that we needed at NFPA. As general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Fire Fighters, he possessed a financial acumen that helped us enormously, especially when the financial waters were choppy. His expertise in pension matters made it possible for NFPA to make the right decisions to secure our employees’ futures.
The thousands of hours he spent working on NFPA matters were motivated by his belief in our organization and our safety mission. I’ve attended every NFPA Board meeting for the past 20 years, and during that period the Board has made decisions that were crucial to our future. When Vinnie spoke, every member of the Board listened; everyone respected his judgment, his experience, and his commitment to making NFPA a great organization.
This year Vinnie Bollon retired from his position at the IAFF and from the NFPA Board. After his long and distinguished service to both organizations, he’s earned the break. But speaking as someone who has seen what a difference he has made in improving firefighter safety and keeping NFPA strong, we will miss him.