October is the fire prevention month. In my mind, the most significant event that undoubtedly will have a direct positive impact on fire prevention and in addressing the fire problem in our country took place back at the end of August. The ceremonial swearing in of the newly appointed United States Fire Administrator, Kelvin Cochran, was one of the highlights of Fire-Rescue International (FRI) in Dallas. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate made presentations at that event.
No doubt the fact that the leadership of the FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration is in the competent hands of two of our own peers is great news and provides a sense of pride. It is also comforting to know that there will be continuity to the admirable work that David Paulison and Greg Cade performed in those positions under the previous administration.
I truly enjoyed Craig Fugate's pragmatic views on emergency management in his speech. He talked about teamwork and said that "FEMA is not the team; it's part of the team. You're the team." He asked "why are we not the leader in fire safety amongst the industrial nations?" And then underlined the importance of the USFA in addressing the fire problem in our country and made the commitment that he will "put the fire back in the USFA."
Hearing that was indeed great. To me that is a sign of the visionary leadership that we need at the helm of the FEMA. Was that the politician in him talking? I don't think so. I think it was the fire service leadership in him that came out loud and clear.
In all my articles, I heavily emphasize the important role of the USFA. Because, in my mind, the USFA is in a sense our incident commander (IC) in addressing the fire problem in our country. Yet, as you all know quite well, not even the best and the most experienced of the ICs can successfully address the problems without having developed a solid incident action plan (IAP), and of course not without having the adequate resources necessary to accomplish the tasks.
That being said, in my mind "putting the fire back in the USFA" dictates that we actually "put our money where our mouth is."
Last year, in my article titled "Aim Higher", I focused on this very specific issue. In it, I explained the history and the legislative efforts (the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, Public Law 93-498) that finally led to the establishment of the USFA. I strongly underlined the importance of the responsibilities and the leadership role of the USFA in addressing our country's fire problem. And, I pointed out to the historic lack of funding and the inadequacy of the resources that has plagued the USFA ever since its inception.
A strong and vibrant USFA will benefit the fire service in better serving our communities across the land. And that of course requires a strong leadership at the helm of the USFA, especially during these turbulent times of economic hardship and uncertainty.
Many months ago, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) had scheduled then Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran to be their keynote speaker at FRI. It was indeed even a higher pleasure to listen to our newly appointed U.S. Fire Administrator, Kelvin Cochran, deliver his presentation titled "Becoming Fully Involved."
Kelvin's mastery and passion for the subject poured out on the stage. The following excerpts from his speech are inadequate in truly describing his powerful delivery; yet provide some insight to the vision, the organizational mission and the direction he intend to lead the USFA. He explained: