Hot Topics in Fire Service Politics

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) recently held the 22nd Annual CFSI Seminars and Dinner event in Washington, DC. The turnout was excellent, and the attendees had the largest menu of seminars to select from that the CFSI has ever offered. The intent is to present current national fire service issues from the political arena in a concise format, delivered by leading experts in the particular subject areas. This unique learning opportunity is not duplicated anywhere in the fire service. Each of the subjects has political implications.

The series began with a presentation by Chief Billy Goldfeder that he developed around the theme of the 2010 event, which was "Making the Right Decisions." The seminars offered were as follows: "Challenges & Solutions in the Wildland Urban Interface"; "The Federal Role in the Advancement of Professional Fire and Arson Investigations"; "Infectious Diseases: How a Pandemic Can Affect America's Fire and Emergency Services"; "Protecting Our Own: Firefighter Roadside Safety"; "Working Together on Capitol Hill" (a panel discussion describing how the national fire service organizations work together to advance the national fire service agenda); "CFSI Congressional Roundtable" (featured members of the Congressional Fire Service Caucus discussing the fire service legislative agenda during the 111th Congress); "Emergency Communications Systems: Communications Systems for First Responders in Disasters"; "Funding Our Nation's Fire and Emergency Services: The Federal Commitment"; "Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates: The Coalition's Work Continues"; "Protecting Our Homeland: The Role of FEMA and USFA in Homeland Security"; "Automatic Fire Sprinklers: What's Happening Nationally?"; "Fire Prevention, Public Education and Code Development: National Public Policy and Programs Update"; "Preserving Benefits for the Volunteer Fire Service"; "…So Everyone Goes Home" Town Hall Meeting (a 1½-hour overview of what the fire service might do to better support the 16 Life Safety Initiatives; also included was a discussion of what the federal government is doing to assist the families of firefighters who become disabled or die in the line of duty).

The "Fire Prevention, Public Education and Code Development" seminar covered three major accomplishments that will have national impact. The panelists were Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council (HSC); Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) vice president of communications; and Gary Keith, NFPA vice president of field operations and chairman of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). Meri-K discussed the new HSC Start Safe Program. Funded through a federal grant, Start Safe provides resources for pre-school teachers and administrators to work hand-in-hand with fire departments to deliver life-saving lessons to pre-school children and their parents or caregivers. (See Lorraine provided an update on the work of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. The coalition reports that fire-safe cigarette legislation has now been passed in all 50 states. The coalition is working to support states in developing strategies to implement and enforce fire-safe cigarette laws. (See

Gary presented the results of a recently completed research project by FM Global titled "The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers." Gary stated that "these new scientific findings round out the facts we have known for decades about home fire sprinklers — that they save lives, prevent injuries, and protect property and possessions. Now we know with scientific certainty that sprinkler technology also offers valuable environmental benefits. This new information will be a boon to fire departments that include sprinkler education in their local fire safety outreach." (See

These are but three of the many subjects addressed at the 2010 CFSI seminars. Being informed professionals is important to all members of the fire service, especially those in leadership posts. Perhaps this information will inspire you to investigate these and other issues more frequently and in more depth.

DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including the When in Doubt, Lead series: Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers, and many other articles and publications. He is also co-editor of the current edition of the ICMA textbook Managing Fire and Rescue Services and the author of the soon-to-be-released book Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools. 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 the past chair of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee. He is also chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors and the chairman of the Home Safety Council Board of Directors.