About Me

Schmidt-profile-2My Mission

Simply put, I want to grow other leaders. I study, read, and talk about leadership because I think it is important. It’s important in every organization and at every level. It’s especially important when people’s lives are at risk. My mission is to spread the word about the most important niche in leadership thinking and analysis- leader influence in dangerous contexts. This concept is at the center of my professional mission. As a chief fire officer and educator, I am focused on helping develop leaders who are adaptable, agile and able to help organizations and communities survive and grow in an unpredictable environment.

What I Did

I recently retired as a battalion chief with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue in Florida, serving as commander of the 3rd Battalion, the department’s busiest battalion. Battalion chiefs at PBCFR are essentially the local fire chief. They work a 40-hour week (days) schedule and are on-call as command staff for major incidents involving multiple alarms or unique situations. As the local battalion chief, I acted as the bridge between battalion members and command staff, administration, support services, other agencies, and the community.

What I Do

Now, I research, write, speak, and teach on leadership and performance topics. I am a contributor to Firehouse.com and I am a member of the IAFC Safety Health & Survival Section. I teach incident management programs at the National Fire Academy and leadership graduate programs at Palm Beach State College. I am the author of FireGroundWorks, an education blog dedicated to growing adaptable and agile leaders.

Who I Am and My Qualifications

My Dad was a volunteer fireman and when I was just a young boy, I was often at his side at the firehouse, and on occasion at a few of the  fires. Over the last 31 years I have worked in a variety of positions and roles from backseat firefighter (yes, I began my service when we still faced backwards in an open cab), driver-engineer, paramedic, engine company officer, rescue officer, and a chief officer. In addition, I have worked as an instructor for the fire minimum standards and paramedic programs at Palm Beach Community College, a fire academy instructor at PBCFR, and currently as an adjunct instructor for the National Fire Academy and the Palm Beach State College Organizational Management program.

I am a published author and speaker on a variety of Fire Service issues and was a member of the editorial board for Fire Rescue Magazine. I have written several articles and columns in both traditional magazines and on-line publications, including Firehouse.com, Fire Rescue Magazine, Fire Engineering Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, and the IAFC’s On Scene newsletter. I was the 2005 recipient of Fire Rescue Magazine’s Company Officer of the Year Award, and I am a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Safety & Survival Section.

My academic background is as diverse as my career. I obtained an Associate of Science in Fire Science degree from Palm Beach Jr College in 1988 where I then completed the paramedic program the following year. I then began the long quest to complete a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management in 1994 and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership in 2009 from Palm Beach Atlantic University. I have completed the Command and Control curriculum at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The FireGroundWorks Blog

I like to think of this blog as a place where ideas and creativity meet people who are trying to operate safer and get better. The world is filled with challenge and uncertainty, and the real task is to develop adaptable and agile leaders. The “fire ground” is a complex and dangerous place, one that can provide leadership lessons on principles practiced at the point of intensity: where lives can be lost. The leadership insights I have uncovered working in this risk-filled setting are simple but bold; they are principles and practices that inform and can be applied to any organization or everyday life setting. At FGWs, you will see information and posts on leadership, learning, performance and professional development as well as general thoughts on the world around us. It is my desire to continue learning while sharing what I learn along the way.

Contact Me


E-Mail: billy@firegroundworks.com

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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