On April 28–29, 2010, the annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars will be held in Washington, DC. The theme this year is "Making the Right Decisions," and there couldn't be a more important time for us to come together and focus on current issues that will impact our service, not only today, but for years to come.
Fire departments and state fire agencies are struggling just to maintain the resources to deliver a bare minimum level of service to their customers. This situation makes it difficult, at best, to provide services effectively and safely. Most would agree that as a result of the economic downturn, very tough decisions regarding funding are being made at all levels of government. That means, in some cases, that the quality of fire and life safety services is being compromised, and so is the level of training and safety of our firefighters.
The fire and emergency services community must do everything possible at the local, county, state and national levels of government to effectively tell our story and represent our resource needs. There is not a better national setting to do this than the CFSI Dinner and Seminars held in our nation's capital each year. The environment is one of learning together and sharing our collective needs and concerns with those who make legislative and policy decisions on behalf of our nation. We all know that in order to be heard and accounted for, it helps to be present.
A key part of the CFSI experience is the opportunity to attend current, dynamic seminars conducted by leaders from the fire service and government who are involved in political and policy processes every day. Each seminar is held to 50 minutes in duration so that the content is concise, current and meaningful to those in attendance. This also lets attendees go to several policy-level seminars that draw their interest rather than have their choices limited to only a couple. Seminar topics currently planned to be included in the program this year are:
- An opening session on April 28 conducted by Chief Billy Goldfeder that addresses the program's theme, "Making the Right Decisions"
- Challenges in the Wildland/Urban Interface
- Fire Investigations (a focus on the federal role)
- Preserving Benefits for the Volunteer Fire Service
- National Issues in Firefighter Roadside Safety
- The Importance of the Fire Service Working Together on Capitol Hill
- Roundtable Discussion with the Congressional Fire Services Caucus
- Emergency Services Communications Systems and Challenges (with a national focus)
- The Federal Commitment to Funding Fire and Emergency Services
- The Continuing Work of the nation's Fire Service-Based EMS Coalition (and how to join)
- National Efforts Regarding Automatic Fire Sprinklers
- National Public Policy and Programs in Fire Prevention and Fire and Life Safety Education
- How a Pandemic Can Affect America's Fire and Emergency Services
- A Town Hall Meeting on the "Everyone Goes Home" Program
- The Role of FEMA and the USFA in the Homeland Security Arena
These seminars are offered in addition to receptions, other networking opportunities and, of course, the dinner itself. In past years, the keynote speakers at the dinners have included presidents, vice presidents, congressional leaders and administration secretaries. Last year, the keynote speaker was Vice President Joe Biden, and there is sure to be excitement over who will deliver the keynote in 2010.
The stakes have always been high in the national political arena for the fire and emergency services, but never have they been higher than now. Members of the fire and emergency services community must make the commitment to travel to Washington, DC, and attend the 2010 CFSI Dinner and Seminars. While you're there, plan to visit the offices of your congressional leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives to share your concerns and needs with them. They truly care about what constituents from their states and districts think, and hearing it directly from home really helps form their opinions and guide their votes.
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 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.