IAFF Legend Set to Retire

Rich Duffy, Renowned Firefighter Safety Expert

Richard Duffy

Sources report that Rich Duffy, the man who created modern safety and health at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) will leave the union at the end of 2012.

Duffy has been at the IAFF for over 33 years and has been instrumental in every advance in firefighter safety during that time. He has been the “safety guru” for four IAFF General Presidents beginning with the legendary William “Howie” McClennan.  In addition, he is an authority on firefighter line-of-duty deaths having assisted dozens of IAFF locals after catastrophic events such as NY after 9/11 and Worcester, MA.

No information was immediately available on his decision to leave though it is thought that the Union’s safety and health program will likely be in dis-array for sometime as any replacement would lack Duffy’s extensive institutional knowledge and contacts.

Among Duffy’s widely known and respected accomplishments,  as noted on Drexel.edu:

He has been involved in numerous committees involving fire fighters’ and other workers’ safety and health, including those of the federal government, state governments, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization.

He has authored numerous books, manuals and articles on worker occupational health and safety issues.

Duffy has been actively involved in addressing protective clothing and equipment for workers. He served as the Chairman of the NFPA Technical Correlating Committee for Fire Service Protective Clothing and Equipment and as the Secretary of the NFPA Technical Committee for Career Fire Service Deployment and Organization.

He also served as a member on the NFPA Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health Committee and the NFPA Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials Response Personnel.

He also directed the NASA/FEMA program Project FIRES (Firefighters Integrated Response Equipment System), which under the auspices of the IAFF continues to work towards the development of state-of-the-art protective clothing and equipment, including the management of the new IAFF initiative Project HEROES (Homeland Emergency Response Operational and Equipment Systems) and the new IAFF initiative addressing light weight pressure vessels for SCBAs.

He is responsible for the coordination and technical aspects of the IAFF/IAFC Joint Wellness/Fitness Initiative for Fire Fighters, including the Wellness-Fitness Program, the Candidate Physical Ability Test Program, the Peer Fitness Trainer Certification Program and the recently released Fire Ground Survival Program.

He has been directly responsible for IAFF efforts in addressing infectious diseases, including pandemic flu and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations.

Duffy follows Ron Kuley who left recently after revamping the IAFF Muscular Dystrophy Charity effort and serving as its operations manager for over a decade.  Kuley was responsible for the IAFF raising record sums during his tenure.

While staff turnover is normal, especially in the latter stages of a presidential administration, such losses can be substantial and difficult to overcome.


  • Jeff Zack says:

    What you wrote about Rich’s work is true. Kuley, too. But if the message you were really attempting to deliver to those who worked with you (and whom you worked for) at the IAFF is that gutless pot shots from the comfort of your retirement (thanks to the pensions and fully paid health care you earned) are to be expected, you succeeded.

    • Eric Lamar says:


      You inadvertently described your own writing. Are you suggesting that your current circumstance (firmly on the IAFF teat) allows you a high ground from which to hurl moral thunderbolts?

      My fire service involvement did not end when I left the IAFF. The IAFF was but a chapter. I became a firefighter in 1971 and since then my interest has been constant. And, I have been and remain, a strong IAFF member of 36 years.

      My new found (and costly) freedom allows me to say what I think and feel. Costly because the price tag, the difference between my IAFF compensation and my pension, is approximately $112,000 each year. Steep, but TOTALLY worth it. Don’t ever forget that I left because I wanted to.

      Though I am loathe to say it, I proved my guts and my mettle for 22 years every time I crawled into a fire in the middle of the night to search a building. (It’s probably more accurate to say that I conquered my fear, but conquer it I did, again and again.) And, you call me gutless from your cozy office.

      Before closing this out, I’ll return to the notion of “gutless potshots” and morality. In February of 2009 you were involved in the release of a private letter to the Omaha World-Herald and other news outlets about Darren Bates that helped to ruin his reputation and to make it more difficult for him to receive a fair trail. To employ the vernacular, you put his shit on the street. You betrayed the basic confidentiality he was owed both as an IAFF member and someone who was employed. Now, that’s a gutless potshot. You conspired to rob him of basic due process, both inside and outside the IAFF, all for some fallacious morality that was as mythical then as it is today. Unluckily for you and yours, it took a jury just 2.5 hours to find Bates not guilty. Were you forced into a brief bout of self recrimination? Probably not.

      Eric Lamar

  • Peter Brain says:

    I like the story of a man dedicated to one of the most brilliant and respectable professions – firefighter. Assistance in the development of strategies for saving lives worthy of the greatest respect. Of course we all grow up and grow old and comes point where you have to give ourselve a deserved break. Thank you hero!

  • Joe Blow Firefighter says:

    Wow! $112,000 pay cut to retire from the IAFF? No wonder the dues are so high and the service to individual members practically non-existent without personal compensation.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe the IAFF does some good things. I also believe Mr. Duffy has done some great things. But for the increasing amount of money all the members cough up each year, you would think we would have reduced the number of FF deaths by half by now.

    It may be time to re-evaluate the focus of our time, money, and efforts.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Dear Joe Blow-

      And, I was worth every penny of it.

      What rock have you been hiding under? Fire fighter deaths have dropped way more than half and Rich Duffy played an important part in that.

      Now, if we could get knuckleheads to buckle up and if we could increase cardiac risk awareness, they would be halved yet again.

      Welcome to the party, if a bit late.

      Merry Christmas.


  • Bill Hand says:

    Eric, in spite of some of the pot shots that Rich has taken over the past 33 years, he has made some very significant contributions to firefighter health and safety. Like you, I was there for the whole ride and I witnessed where we were and where we are now. We still have a long way to go on the issues you mentioned above, but if we keep working on this new generation of firefighters, we will get closer to the goal. Being so called “Retired” does not keep us from contributing to that cause in whatever way we choose or for whatever organization we choose to “work for”.

    • Jerry Stengel CIH-retired says:

      I came upon this a bit late, but as a former Certified Industrial Hygienist and college of Rich’s, I want to state that the firefighters could not have been protected by a more professional and dedicated representative than Rich. When I met him in my Health and Safety Research associations as an employee both of the US Bureau of Mines and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory he was an inspiration and a reminder to me of what it is that we as health and safety professionals are trained to be: protectors and advocates for the workers. Typically that means a Masters Degree. Mention was made of his salary as if it were inflated-it was not. It was very much in line with our profession and if anything low pay, in my opinion, for the many long hours and frequent travel involved in being there when you needed him. I sincerely hope his replacement has all of this in mind when he/she attempts to fill such important footsteps. I wish you firefighters well for the future.

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