INDIANAPOLIS – Firefighters, EMTs and other first responders from around the world are back in Indianapolis for what organizers hope will be a significant return from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1998, Indianapolis has hosted the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in downtown and surrounding areas. Every year, FDIC International brings first responders together for the latest training, education, safety and equipment for the fire service.  From April 25 to 30, the conference will include 27 Hands-On Training (HOT) classes, 91 workshops, more than 190 classroom sessions and over 800 exhibitors. Activities this week will take up every square foot of the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and various training locations around central Indiana and beyond. This year’s event will also include the addition of the JEMS Conference and Expo, which will bring fire and EMS education and training together.

“This is our home away from home, we just love it here,” said FDIC Senior Vice President and Executive Director Eric Schlett. “Things seem and feel like they did back in 2019, and that’s just amazing.”

Part of the excitement surrounding this year’s FDIC is the prospect of returning to pre-pandemic level attendance. In recent years, the conference has attracted between 30,000 and 35,000 attendees. FDIC’s 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 disruptions. The 2021 event was postponed to August and saw roughly 24,000 attendees, Schlett said.

This year however, pre-registration numbers point to attendance getting back on track.

“We’re really cautiously optimistic,” Schlett said. “We’re pacing ahead of where we did in 2019 when we finished with 35,000.”

“I think we’re going to be in the 33,000 range, and I think we can get there,” Schlett continued. “That’ll make me super stoked.”

Based on those numbers, Indianapolis tourism officials believe the 2022 FDIC International could be a major shot in the arm for downtown hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses.

“Nearly 35 million dollars in economic activity, just over this long four or five day period,” said Visit Indy Senior Vice President Chris Gahl.

That kind of economic impact would put the week back on par with levels seen before COVID-19 disrupted the tourism industry around the world. According to Gahl, Indy’s tourism industry is already roughly 85 percent recovered from the pandemic. A successful FDIC this week would be another significant step toward complete pandemic recovery.

“We believe, from a tourism perspective, by the end of 2022 into the first part of 2023, we’ll be 100 percent recovered from this pandemic,” Gahl said.

“This is really the first time we’re having a huge, large coming together since the pandemic started,” Schlett said. “So I think there’s a lot of people that are very very excited to be coming back.”