Why did I suggest an official federal "review" of the USFA? Because, I believe that such a review will clearly point to the chronic shortages of staff and resources that has plagued the USFA ever since its inception. After all, if you recall it was the Congressional "investigation" that helped revive FEMA in the aftermath of their failures four years ago, wasn't it? And believe you me that an "investigation" is a heck of lot more serious than a mere "review". So why wouldn't a simple "review" help revive the USFA?
Some might think that being below the radar might be good in the federal government. And, that bringing undue extra attention to any agency and putting them under the spotlight, could only be trouble and nothing good ever comes out of it, and you might end up losing more than gaining any.
There is a certain awkward logic to that. Then if for whatever reasons we might believe that the stigma associated with having an official federal "review" is not going to be quite helpful to our cause, then at the very least, let's get an independent private sector think-tank firm do the review and provide us with an unbiased "report card". Our military does it regularly. So can we.
Other federal agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have a well defined process to perform a Development Impact Assessment (DIA) on the many projects that they fund in the various countries all around the world. Wouldn't it make sense to do the same here at home for our own beloved USFA? If it works well for the third world countries, then why not for us here at home? Wouldn't such an assessment give us a clear understanding of where we actually are with respect to our original goals and what we have been able to accomplish and the things we haven't? Couldn't such an in-depth analysis serve as our guiding light to perform better in the future? My friends, such an assessment is not about pinpointing failures or placement of blames. It is merely about improving our performance and trying to do better in the future.
Get one of the major think-tank organizations such as the Rand corporation (or any other independent organizations who we deem to have the expertise and yet are not related in any way, shape or form to the fire service) to perform an in-depth analysis and develop that "report card."
Undoubtedly, there are plenty of experts and national organizations such as NFPA, IAFC, IAFF, etc. that could do an excellent job on this "review". But then my reason for suggesting the think-tank experts not having links to the fire service was, that there are no financial or other organizational ties that could be perceived by anyone as being biased.
I believe that such a "review" could serve Chief Cochran much more than the "report card" that he seeks. Knowing the roots of the problem and recognizing the exact reasons for the bad grades in the student's "report card", allows the educator to seek fundamental solutions to improving the student's grades. In this review, USFA might receive an average grade since we not have been able to accomplish all the goals set in the America Burning Report series, and that would show on the "report card". But, the "review" though, would go much further than that and could explain the very reasons for the poor grade; most importantly systematical lack of funding and resources.
I might be an optimist at heart, or "cured wood" as Kelvin might say. But, knowing his past performance serving on the IAFC Board, listening to his speech at the FRI, and most importantly reading his interviews and learning about his thoughts and his game plans for the USFA, I feel confident that he will actually walk the talk and serve our country well as our fire chief.
Blaze the trail Chief Cochran. Be the kindling for all the "cured woods" around the country that for decades have not given up the hope and waited optimistically for the USFA to rise up to the prominence as was originally intended by the Congress 35 years ago. No time to waste on the "dead wood" and the "petrified wood," get us all "fully involved."
AZARANG (OZZIE) MIRKHAH P.E., CBO, EFO, CFO, MIFireE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is the Fire Protection Engineer for the City of Las Vegas Department of Fire & Rescue. Ozzie served on the national NFPA 13 Technical Committee for Sprinkler System Discharge Design Criteria and serves on the IAFC Fire Life Safety Section Board of Directors. He was the first recipient of the IAFC's Excellence in Fire and Life Safety Award in 2007. To read Ozzie's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. Ozzie has participated in two Radio@Firehouse podcasts: Six Days, Six Fires, 19 Children and 9 Adults Killed and Fire Marshal's Corner. You can reach Ozzie by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.