By Maria Jose Subiria
So that emergency responders can get the job done when they're called upon, administrators like Randall Slaughter, assistant fire chief at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, make sure they're trained and ready.
Slaughter, who works in the Airport Fire Field Operations Division at Hartsfield-Jackson, said he manages the airport fire administration, and 230 people under his division. His responsibilities include preparing the budget, and executing it, reviewing and approving payroll, managing discipline that is both positive, and negative, and serving as incident commander on complex occurrences at the airport.
Slaughter, who has been assistant fire chief at Hartsfield-Jackson since July of 2008, reports to Nishiyama Willis, deputy fire chief of the Airport Fire Division.
Kelvin Cochran is the fire chief for the Atlanta Fire Department.
While he normally reports to Willis, Slaughter said he has temporarily assumed Willis' position, because she went on leave March 1. As deputy chief, Slaughter reports directly to Cochran.
"I enjoy it, and it is very challenging, and it requires a lot of one-on-one interaction with the fire chief," Slaughter said of working as a deputy fire chief. "It has forced me to grow as an administrator ... I correspond a lot with the Department of Aviation, and their officials. I meet with them almost daily."
He said some of the issues that are raised in the meetings relate to the budget, since the Airport Fire Division receives funds from the Department of Aviation.
Slaughter said as assistant fire chief, he was more focused on field operations, which is mostly related to emergency response.
As deputy chief "I am very removed from that right now," he said.
For Slaughter, who has been an Atlanta resident for 36 years, the most challenging part of his job is keeping his firefighters fully motivated and engaged, when there are few fire emergencies at the airport.
"You have to try to come up with ways, through training, to keep firefighters engaged," said Slaughter. "In airports ... we have low-frequency, high-impact events."
But the most rewarding part of his job is watching firefighters gain new skills that allow them to serve airport employees and passengers effectively and efficiently, he said.
"They learn skills sets while in training to become a firefighter," said Slaughter. "They go through drills so they maintain proficiency."
Slaughter was born in Detroit, Mich. He said he came to Atlanta, when he was 5 years old, because his mother was offered a job at the General Motors Lakewood Assembly Plant.
According to Slaughter, fire fighting runs in his family. He said his uncle, Leroy Norwood, was the first African-American fire captain in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Slaughter said he remembers, specifically, when he decided to become a firefighter.
"I was 21 years old, fresh out of the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp, and the military occupational specialty school, when I determined that I wanted to be a firefighter," said Slaughter.
He said while he was a Marine, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, at Parris Island, S.C., in 1987. A year later, he said he was moved to Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, and in 1989 he was transferred to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, in California.
Slaughter said he returned to Atlanta in May of 1990, and began firefighter recruit training six months later.
He said he served in Hartsfield-Jackson's Airport Fire Division as a lieutenant from 1998 through 2001.
In 2001, he said he was promoted to the rank of captain, and reassigned to Fire Station No. 18 and Fire Station No. 1, in Atlanta. In 2004 he was promoted to the rank of battalion chief.
"I was over six stations, and my district was the Midtown district," said Slaughter.
In late 2005, he became assistant fire chief, and was in charge of the support services division at the Fire Marshal's Office for the Atlanta Fire Department, he said. He was reassigned, and returned to Hartsfield-Jackson in July 2008, he said.
Slaughter said he obtained an associate degree in fire science technology from DeKalb College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in policy studies from Georgia State University. He said he is currently working on a master's degree in public administration from Columbus State University.
Advanced education, he said, "helped me in promotional exams."
"You've got to continue to push yourself in order to develop," he said.