Robert Doke started the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Ambassador program seven years ago. He believes that the prevention side of the USFA has suffered financial difficulties over the years. That being the case, his office took a "what can we do for the USFA" approach, in advocacy for the financial stability of the USFA, and its role at the leadership of our country's fire service.
In his own words, Robert explains:
"The Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Ambassador group has traveled to Washington D.C. every September since 2002. The first purpose of the group is to acquaint accompanying elected officials and community emergency first responders with the challenges that emergency first-responders face at home in Oklahoma. The second purpose is to acquire information of various opportunities for federal funding and other special programs.
This government-to-government link opens the door to funding opportunities for the Oklahoma fire service. This mission helps us boost the fire service in Oklahoma and that means additional grant opportunities to our local fire departments. The Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Ambassador group seeks to cultivate allies and relationships in the development of Oklahoma fire departments each September.
Oklahoma fire departments reap a number of benefits from our discussions in Washington D.C. By participating in substantive economic talks with top-ranking government officials, we are able to build the kind of relationships that are essential to effective economic development.
The meetings are of great importance to the State of Oklahoma in the form of acquisition of new technology and grants, allowing "Emergency First Responder" techniques and capabilities in Oklahoma to keep pace with the changing social atmosphere and demands on firefighters and their departments.
The group (35 to 40 Oklahomans) consists of: the Lieutenant Governor, Governor's Cabinet Secretary of Security and Public Safety, select members of the State Senate and select members of the House of Representatives, fire officials representing several organizations such as: IAFF, IAFC, NASFM, IFSTA, IFMA, Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Commission, Emergency Managers, EMS representatives, fire and EMS instructors, fire retirees and law enforcement.
The Oklahoma delegation meets with the U.S. Senators and Representatives on the Capitol Hill, Director of FEMA, U.S. Fire Administration, National Fire Academy-Superintendent, AFG Grants Director, Director of the Emergency Management Institute, terrorism experts representing the FBI, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Staff of the Office of the Joint Director of Military Support at the Pentagon, General Services Administration, specialist in the disciplines of training, public fire education, instructional systems and fire programs.
The Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Ambassador group has covered a tremendous amount of topics while meeting with numerous agencies and organizations during the past six years in requesting support for our Nation's Fire Service. Two topics that are always addressed each year since 2002 are Interoperable Communications, and the burden of federally non-funded mandates on the fire service.
Last year, two topics of request for federal support were continued financial support for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), and continued financial support for the USFA and the National Fire Academy (NFA).
The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations.
Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders to obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. Since 2001, AFG has awarded over 40,000 grants to local fire departments with a federal share of over $4 billion.
The Grant Programs Directorate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency administers the grants in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. At the start of federal fiscal year 2005, Congress reauthorized the Assistance to Firefighters Grants for an additional 5 years through FY 2009.