Each year, a very diverse group of fire service leaders gathers in Washington, DC, to pay special attention to the political aspects of moving the fire service forward and supporting the nation's firefighters. This year was no exception, but it was special.
The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) held its annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner, seminars and related events April 6–8. The theme of this year's program was "Remembering Honor, Courage and Sacrifice." The program included a remembrance to Bob Barraclough, who was a member of the CFSI Board of Directors and a beloved fire service icon. He passed away just a few months ago.
The events began on April 6 with the "9/11 Memorial Stair Climb" co-hosted by the CFSI and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). This event was held in honor of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. April 6 also brought a full day of other activities and events. Many of the attendees took advantage of the day to visit their congressional members on Capitol Hill, while others chose to attend CFSI educational seminars. The seminars conducted on April 6 covered the following topics:
- Federal Support for Local Responders: Insight into Establishing Budget Proposals for Homeland Security Grant Programs
- Strength in Numbers: Working Together on Capitol Hill
- Protecting Our Own: Comforting the Survivors
April 7 brought more opportunities for attendees to take advantage of visits to the Hill and choose from even more excellent seminars. This set of seminars included the following topics:
- Controlling Wildland Urban Interface Fires with Water, Shovels and Policies
- Hearing the Call for Enhanced Emergency Communications
- Grassroots Advocacy for the Fire and Emergency Services
- Fire Service-Based EMS: Educating Policy Leaders about the Critical Role of Fire Departments in Delivering Emergency Medical Services
- Protecting Our Homeland: The Role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) in Homeland Security
- Protecting Our Own: Firefighter Roadside Safety
- An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure: Saving Lives Through Prevention, Education and Code Development
- The Federal Role in the Advancement of Professional Fire and Arson Investigations
- Automatic Fire Sprinklers: Activating Solutions at the Local, State, and National Levels to Protect Our Communities
- Economic Challenges Facing America's Fire and Emergency Services
All of these seminars were directed toward national-level efforts. The speakers also emphasized the application of their concepts and information at the state and local levels of government. Each seminar was 50 minutes in duration, which gave the participants the opportunity to attend several of their choices.
The dinner took place during the evening of April 7. This special event provides participants with incredible networking opportunities, as well as a very enjoyable program and dinner. The keynote was delivered by FEMA Director Craig Fugate. Other speakers on the program included the Congressional Fire Services Caucus honorary co-chairmen, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Congressman Peter King of New York. The audience was also treated to remarks from the Congressional Fire Services Caucus honorary chairman, Congressman Robert Andrews from New Jersey.
The dinner program included the presentation of several prestigious awards as follows:
- The CFSI/Motorola Mason Lankford National Fire Service Leadership Award was presented to Ronny Coleman
- The CFSI/National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award was presented to The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition
- The CFSI/Safe Kids USA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education was presented to Peg Carson
- The CFSI/Medic Alert Foundation Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award was presented to three fire departments — Odessa Volunteer Fire Company in Delaware (Volunteer Category), Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department in Texas (Combination Category) and Northwest Fire/Rescue District in Arizona (Career Category).
The CFSI National Advisory Committee (NAC) conducted its spring business meeting on the morning of April 8. This meeting brought together the leaders of more than 45 NAC member organizations to discuss current issues and participate in several important presentations and discussions.
Each year, the CFSI offers a quality opportunity for people from the fire service to attend an exceptional series of events geared towards making the fire service more effective. Educational opportunities, networking opportunities and a fantastic dinner event filled the three days, but the question is, where were you April 6 through 8?
To be informed (and perhaps involved) in major national fire service issues, leaders must go where opportunities to do so present themselves. One of the best places to do that is the annual CFSI Seminars and Dinner Event. Where do you plan to be May 2–4, 2012? I suggest you strongly consider Washington, DC. That will give you the chance to take advantage of next year's CFSI-sponsored opportunity to learn, network and be involved in a process that is critical to the success of the American fire service, politically and otherwise. To be involved you must be present, so I hope to see you there.
DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including his new Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools. He has also authored the When in Doubt, Lead! series and Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers. Compton was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and as assistant fire chief in Phoenix, AZ, where he served for 27 years. Compton is past chairman of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee. He is currently chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the Board of Directors of Safe Kids Worldwide.