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Robert J. Brady: Fire and EMS Audiovisual Training Pioneer


Robert J. Brady, Sr. (1919-1992), an audiovisual pioneer, combined new and developing training technology with Fire and EMS content to form the Robert J. Brady Company, one of the world's largest Fire and EMS publishing companies.

His love and respect for the Fire/EMS service continued in his retired years. There he chose to spend a large portion of his time as a volunteer in his local Fire-EMS Department assisting with fundraising and other events. His volunteer efforts earned him an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company & Rescue Squad in College Park, Maryland.

Robert J. Brady Sr., a native of New York, enlisted in the Navy when WWII broke out. He was immediately sent to Washington, D.C., where he served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy Publications facility handling many highly classified projects. He was held over at the conclusion of the war, and he spent additional time in Washington, D.C. and Maryland and grew to love the area.

In 1948, he decided to start a new private printing and lithography company. Later in September of 1952, he incorporated all his business activities into a single enterprise that would eventually become known to the Fire and EMS community as the Robert J. Brady Company. Their first offices were diagonal across from the White House at 1715 Pennsylvania Avenue. Later they moved to larger quarters at 3227 M Street, NW in Georgetown and later to 130 Que St, NE. Finally, due to continued growth, the company relocated in 1973 to a newly constructed world headquarters in Bowie, Maryland.

In early 1950, the Chief of Naval Operations contacted Brady to produce a transparency that was to be used on a "revolutionary device" called a "Scribe Visualizer" or, as it is known today, an "overhead projector." Brady and his staff developed the first self-contained-border transparencies that enabled them to be mass-produced on a special clear plastic sheet produced for Brady by Eastman Kodak. The original transparencies were only 7," but as the overhead projector capability increased to 10" image platform, there was much more acceptance by users. Brady then acquired the original manufacturer of the "VisualCraft" overhead projectors so that they could provide both the machine and the creative content for training courses.

A significant event occurred in 1957 when Brady lured George D. Post away from the New York Fire Patrol. Post, a trained artist, served in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII and remained in the Naval Reserve. He joined the New York Fire Patrol and spent ten years there, and reached rank of Sergeant. During this time, he was asked to teach at the New York City Fire School. His first overhead series for Brady was "Sprinklers" and he then started work on a complete Basic Structural Fighting Series authored by experts in each individual discipline.

Post was such a valuable part of the Brady Firefighting and EMS portfolio that the Brady Company sponsored an award given annually as the "George D. Post Instructor of the Year" by Fire Engineering and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.

Brady relied on continued support and advice from two stalwarts in the fire service training communities. John W. Hoglund, Director Emeritus at Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and Louis J. Amabilli, Director of the Delaware State Fire School, were instrumental in developing many of the Fire-EMS training packages that Brady developed and published.

Brady met with fire service leaders around the Country and reviewed their textbooks which were soon published with audio/visual training materials to be used in the classroom presentation. Brady published dozens of firefighting training and prevention programs, for example, "Firefighting Operations in Garden Apartments and Townhomes," by Glenn A. Gaines, "Engine Company Fireground Operations," and "Truck Company Fireground Operations," by Harold Richman, "Vehicle Rescue," by Harvey Grant were published by Brady and were the foundation of the Brady Firefighting Series. These publications and associated training materials became the go-to in training firefighters around North America, and the name "Brady" is still associated with firefighter training today.

With the popularity of the Brady Firefighter Series also came the ongoing need for new products. Brady contacted fire and emergency medical service (EMS) leaders, and dozens of potential authors contacted Brady to have their textbooks and training programs reviewed for publication. Brady was introduced to Harvey Grant (DSFS) and Robert Murray (MFRI), who had jointly authored an Emergency Care textbook to train the very first "Emergency Medical Technicians." In addition, Brady obtained the services of J. D. Farrington, MD, Chairman, Subcommittee on Emergency Services-Pre-Hospital Care of the American College of Surgeons to provide a detailed medical review. The First Edition of "Emergency Care" by Grant and Murray helped define a new discipline and opportunity for those in the Fire and EMS service.

Brady was always ready to help further the Fire/EMS professions, including finding them a new home.

When the Daughters of Charity decided to close St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as of June 1973, they quietly reached out to their community of friends and family. One of those was Robert J. Brady Sr., who had two daughters in this religious community. Additionally, he had four daughters and two daughters-in-law attend Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland.

The college was initially looking for someone to lease the campus, perhaps as a home for the elderly, and hoped that Mr. Brady could use his business contacts to help find a compatible use. However, in his meetings with members of the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration (NFPCA), he was made aware of their interest in a permanent site for a National Fire Academy. Believing that St. Joseph College Campus was a perfect location, and that firefighters and EMS personnel would be the best possible neighbors to support and respect the separate historical and religious shrines of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, he contacted the Daughters and told them about the opportunity. The Daughters of Charity felt this was a perfect use for the campus and the Emmitsburg community. At Brady's urging, they spoke with the Search Committee headed by David McCormack, and their proposal was ultimately successful.

Robert J. Brady, Sr., was inducted into the National Fire Heritage Center's Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders: Class 2022.

This blog article was a collaboration with Mark E. Brady and Christopher Baker, GIFireE (PIO).

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  • The National Fire Heritage Center
  • Physical Address: 17701 Creamery Road, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727
    Mailing Address: P.O. Drawer 76, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727
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