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Convention Speakers

 

Tom Merrill Bio:
 
Tom Merrill is a 38-year fire department veteran and serves with the Snyder Fire Department, which is located in Amherst, New York (first ring suburb of the City of Buffalo). He served 26 years as a department officer including 15 years in the chief officer ranks. He was chief of department from 2007-2012 and currently serves as a Fire Commissioner for the Snyder Fire District. Tom has conducted various fire service presentations throughout the country including FDIC, The National Volunteer Fire Council Training Summit, VCOS and many other national, state and regional conferences. His popular presentation "The Professional Volunteer Fire Department" is based on the series of articles he has written for Fire Engineering regarding developing and maintaining a professional reputation in the volunteer fire service. In addition Tom delivers keynote addresses and other presentations focusing on leadership, officer development, engine company operations and fire service history, heritage and pride.  Tom also hosts a regular podcast sponsored by Fire Engineering titled “The Professional Volunteer Fire Department” and he is employed full time as a fire dispatcher for the Town of Amherst Fire Alarm Office.

Nick Martin Bio:

Nick Martin is presently a Battalion Chief with the City of Salisbury Fire Department in North Carolina. Previously I served as the Chief of Training for the City of Columbia, South Carolina and as a Lieutenant with the District of Columbia Fire Department. My career began in 1994 in my hometown of Swarthmore, PA. Since then I have been privileged to be surrounded by great, motivated firefighters who have taught me everything I know. My passion is for firefighting excellence, driven by our uncompromisable responsibility for excellent service to our citizens.

Since 2010 I have been privileged to present at FDIC as a classroom presenter and hands-on instructor. Since 2004 I have had the opportunity to
travel the country and share thoughts, learn from others, and see many different ways of firefighting operations. I have received a BS in Fire Science from the University of Maryland and a MS in Public Safety Management from Johns Hopkins University.

With the help of some great friends and other talented instructors, I enjoy passing on the information, classroom and hands-on, that I have learned from my mentors and from good and bad experiences on the fireground. My goal is to pass on what was passed to me with the hopes that I can improve the skill and experiences of other firefighters. I am proud and honored to help organize this team of motivated, passionate firefighters.

David Karlunas Bio:

Dave Karlunas is a 32 year veteran of the Delaware County Fire Service and has served in various capacities in multiple fire departments in both career and volunteer capacities.  He is accredited as a PA State Fire Academy Suppression Level Instructor as well as adjunct college faculty for St. Joseph’s University and Delaware County Community.  He previously served as Deputy Chief for the Parkside Fire Company and Career Lieutenant for the East Lansdowne Fire Company.  Dave attained his B.S. in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati as well as his M.S. from Saint Joseph’s University in Public Safety.  In his spare time, Dave is a college football enthusiast and enjoys vacationing at the Jersey Shore Towns.

Michael Dryden Bio:

Michael Dryden is proud to battle on the side of working people, striving to make sure they get the workers compensation benefits they are entitled to when they incur workrelated injuries or fall ill to a work-related disease. His work in the seminal case of City of Philadelphia v. WCAB (Sladek), before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, led to a favorable decision that will benefit firefighters and their dependents in current and future cancer claims. Mike’s earlier work in another case helped to raise evidentiary standards employers must meet when claiming an employee’s known occupational risk for a disease is not the cause of that employee’s illness. Because of his reputation as an authority in the field of law, he was in 2017 appointed to serve on the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Workers’ Compensation Panel. He is one of only two attorneys from Southeastern Pennsylvania to represent the Philadelphia Eagles players and one
of six workers’ compensation panel lawyers from the state of Pennsylvania.

Mike’s service to clients includes representing them in workers’ compensation and pension matters before the Philadelphia Civil Service Commission. He is actively engaged in the firm’s management of Heart & Lung Act cases throughout Pennsylvania, including occupational disease claims for cancer, heart disease and toxic exposures. Mike’s work has helped hundreds of workers, from firefighters to machinists to truck drivers, claim benefits for all types of work-related injuries and diseases. He has successfully challenged pension offsets that employers claim against workers’
compensation in an attempt to reduce injured workers’ benefits. He derives great satisfaction from securing workers’ compensation and other benefits to which hardworking individuals and their families are entitled under the law. For employees of certain state-run correctional and penal facilities and mental hospitals, those benefits include the protections of Pennsylvania Act 534. Mike counsels clients on the benefits available under Act 534, which provides an additional layer of workers’ compensation protections that exceed those afforded by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation
Act. Mike also has secured compensation for workers whose illnesses or injuries were covered by the Pennsylvania Heart & Lung Act. The Act provides a powerful set of income protections to police officers, firefighters, corrections workers and certain other state and municipal employees who become sick or injured on the job. Some of these workers may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as well as benefits under the Heart & Lung Act. Whenever a worker believes that he or she has developed cancer, lung disease or any other illness as a result of job duties, Mike has the
knowledge and experience to help. Mike is certified as a specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the
Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Law Section, one of fewer than 50 such lawyers in Philadelphia, and he serves as the chair of the Workers’ Compensation Department for Willig, Williams & Davidson. He has been called on to testify before state and city legislative bodies on issues involving workers’ compensation, occupational disease and hearing loss. The son of a Teamster, Mike is a sought-after presenter by labor organizations throughout Pennsylvania regarding workers’ compensation, disability, pension laws and related issues. He trains union leadership on issues involving injured members and conducts educational seminars for union stewards, always putting his clients first, working hard to advance his own knowledge and share it with others.

WHAT INSPIRES ME ABOUT MY WORK
“My father was a truck driver, and a member of Teamsters Local 107; my mother is still receiving a pension that he earned through the Teamsters’ union. That inspires me to make sure that people injured by their work are treated fairly and with dignity.”

AWAY FROM WORK
“I coached youth sports for years, including the Abington Raiders (football) and the Abington lacrosse club. My youngest son is now a senior in high school, so I’m not coaching right now. I played small college football and high school football and know the benefits first-hand. If you coach, you put it on your calendar and you’re part of a team with your kid. Coaching helps you keep your priorities intact. I can’t wait to have grandkids so I can do it again.”

Practice Areas

  • Workers’ Compensation for Unions
  • Union Officer Training and Education
  • Social Security Disability
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Heart & Lung Benefits
  • Act 534 Benefits

Personal Injury

Education

  • Temple University, James E. Beasley School of Law (J.D. , 1993)
  • Lebanon Valley College (B.A. , 1990)


Honors and Awards

  • Selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2010 to Present
  • Selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers—Rising Stars list, Philadelphia Magazine, 2005 to 2007
  • Member, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100


Associations

  • Pennsylvania Bar Association, Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Workers Compensation Section, 2003
  • Huntingdon Valley Activities Association, Coach
  • Philadelphia Municipal Court Emergency Services Program, Hearing Master
  • Pennsylvania Association for Justice (formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association), 2001 to Present
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association, 1994 to Present
  • Philadelphia Bar Association, 1994 to Present

Adam Thiel Bio:

In May 2016, Mayor James Kenney appointed Adam Thiel to serve as the 20th Fire Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia. Commissioner Thiel is responsible for leading the Philadelphia Fire Department’s almost 3,000+ members in every facet of protecting our Nation’s 5th-largest city from fires and emergencies arising from all hazards. Adam also serves as Director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

From 2014-2016, he was a Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In that role, he helped provide strategic direction, policy advice, management oversight, and operational coordination for eleven agencies with an overall budget of more than $3.1B and 30,000 employees. Deputy Secretary Thiel was directly responsible for the Departments of: Emergency Management, Fire Programs (including the State Fire Marshal's Office), Military Affairs (Virginia Army/Air National Guard), and State Police, along with the state’s Homeland Security and Resilience portfolio.

Adam also served as the Governor’s deputy Homeland Security Advisor (dHSA), deputy Chief Resilience Officer (dCRO), Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), and FirstNet State Single Point of Contact (SPOC). He facilitated the Secure Commonwealth Panel and Rail Safety/Security Task Force, co-led the state's National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) project team to a $121M Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant award, and collaborated with myriad local, state, federal, NGO, private-sector, and other partners across all aspects of Virginia’s homeland security enterprise.

Commissioner Thiel was the fire chief for the City of Alexandria, Virginia from 2007-2014 and chaired the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System (NVERS) Steering Committee.  Adam’s 29 years’ experience spans five states (MD, NC, VA, AZ, and PA) as a chief fire officer, incident commander, company officer, fire and emergency services instructor, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter, swiftwater rescuer, and rescue SCUBA diver; he has directly participated in planning, response, and recovery efforts for multiple Presidentially-declared disasters and National Special Security Events (NSSEs), including the 9/11 tragedy, hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, an earthquake, major blizzards, international sporting competitions, and political events.

In addition to public service, he co-founded two successful consulting practices advising a wide range of clients on crisis management, leadership, organizational development, risk analysis, and strategy. Adam is a widely published author and has spoken at events around the globe; he has also developed and taught college courses at multiple universities.

Commissioner Thiel is currently enrolled in the Organizational Dynamics graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania; he completed doctoral coursework in Public Administration and Public Policy at Arizona State University (ABD) and George Mason University, respectively; earned his M.P.A. degree from George Mason University; received a B.S. in Fire Science from the University of Maryland University College; and earned his B.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Additionally, he has completed the Virginia Executive Institute, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government, and the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security Executive Leaders Program.

Adam is a Fellow of the Institution of Fire Engineers (FIFireE), a former Certified Emergency Manager® (CEM), and holds several National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)-standard professional qualifications. He currently serves on multiple boards and committees, including: the NFPA Technical Committee on Emergency Service Organization Risk Management; Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Fire Council and Firefighter Safety Research Institute; Auburn University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security Board; the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region Board; and the Philadelphia Police Athletic League Board. Commissioner Thiel is a former chair of the National Fire Academy Board of Visitors and served on the NFPA Fire Service Section Board. Adam is a 2017 Leadership Philadelphia Fellow and a 2018 USA Eisenhower Fellow.

   

 

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