We all know that members of the fire service should work to stay competent in their particular roles and jobs. This is not easy, because there is so much information to be learned and the need to practice a full range of skills is critical to performance. Keeping up on the details of our areas of responsibility can be a challenge in and of itself, but doing so is key to individual and team competence. With this said, finding the time to stay informed about national-level fire service issues often gets put on the back burner. That's a shame, because it really is important that we are up to date on at least the major issues facing today's fire service as a whole.
One way to get current and background information on fire service issues being processed by Congress or federal agencies is to visit the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) website, www.cfsi.org. Information is provided relating to many specific issues and links to other related websites are also available from the CFSI site. The latest resolutions passed by the CFSI National Advisory Committee (NAC), as well as several White Papers are posted there as well. The NAC consists of more than 45 organizations, all of which can be useful resources to fire service members, depending on the subject of interest and information being sought. Current government affairs information is also available on the websites of all the major fire service membership organizations.
I'd like to provide a brief update on some issues currently on the radar screen in our nation's capital. First, nine major fire service organizations have signed a letter sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Those organizations are the CFSI, International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD). The letter addressed the collective position of the organizations concerning federal aid to improve readiness and enhance the overall capability of the fire service in specific areas.
The letter provided background on the capability of the nation's fire and emergency services and asked for congressional funding for the following program needs:
- Fiscal year 2011 funding for the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program. The letter encourages Congress to fund both grant programs at the same level, which is $420 million each in fiscal year 2011. This would maintain the fiscal year 2010 funding level for SAFER and increase the FIRE funding level by $30 million over the fiscal year 2010 appropriation. In recognizing the difficult economic environment facing the nation, it was stated in the letter that these requested appropriation levels were modest and prudent, and would greatly assist fire departments and other fire and emergency services organizations at all levels.
- Amid an increased need for urban search and rescue (USAR) response capability, the letter asked for an increase in USAR funding from the fiscal year 2010 level of $32.5 million to a fiscal year 2011 appropriation of $50 million. This would help local sponsors of the 28 USAR teams maintain the response capability of USAR at a time when we simply cannot afford to lose it.
Many major issues impacting the fire and emergency services are moving through the various processes at any given time, and I encourage you to research information and enhance your awareness of them. These include the Collective Bargaining Act, Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, allocation of the D Block spectrum to public safety communications and many others.
Bottom line, the fire and emergency services is always in need of support. You never know when you (personally or professionally) may have the opportunity to speak to one or more decision makers about issues that could be important to you and/or the fire service in general. When those opportunities come about, they can be lost if the member involved is not familiar with positions that fire service organizations have taken on these issues.
People often ask how they can help with the efforts of the fire and emergency services at the national level. One way every member of our service can help is to become and stay an "informed fire service professional" so you're ready should the opportunity to represent a national fire service issue come your way.
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.