David vs. Goliath

I can only hope that the next President would appoint qualified leaders at the U.S. Fire Administration that "want to do something, not be somebody."


Do most Americans realize this? No, but it is up to us to provide them that information. Through our public education efforts we must inform our public about the total cost of fire in our country. I truly believe, that if the public and their representatives on Capitol Hill were aware of the real magnitude of our country's fire cost year after year, they would pay a lot closer attention to address the fire problem in our country.

We in the fire service realize the importance of our mission in reducing the fire fatalities and the life-scarring fire injuries in our communities. But, we must also recognize our professional obligation and patriotic duty to acknowledge our responsibility in decreasing our country's total fire cost.

As mentioned in my previous article titled "Aim Higher", the leadership role of USFA is instrumental in addressing the fire problem in our country. And that leadership role was established more than 35 years ago by the 1973 America Burning Report.

In that article I suggested a Congressional "review" of the USFA. After all, it was the Congressional investigation that helped revive FEMA in the aftermath of their failures three years ago, wasn't it? So why wouldn't a "review", similarly help revive the USFA?

"Let's get the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), or the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do an independent evaluation of our efforts in implementation of the "Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974", Public Law 93-498 (PL 93-498). No I am not talking about an "Audit", or "Investigation". I am merely talking about an independent "Review".... Such an independent "Review" can be extremely beneficial in helping an agency better accomplish its mission. Although "Reviews" by their very nature must look back over time, but their outcomes are essentially future-focused.... We must strengthen the USFA, if we are indeed serious about addressing the fire problem in our country. Our professional obligation and our patriotic duty, demand that we acknowledge the true magnitude of the total cost of fire in our country. We need to provide our national Incident Commander with adequate resources to accomplish the tasks. If we are indeed serious about addressing the fire problem, then we can't afford being complacent and settle for the current insufficient funding levels for the USFA."

FEMA's David Paulsion and USFA's Greg Cade have both done an admirable job during their time at the helm of their respective organizations. But the work is not done yet. USFA must be revived, just as FEMA's revival has successfully been accomplished.

With the new President and his administration taking command this January, we need to find great new leaders to fill the void, and to provide for the continuity of the work that David and Greg have initiated. I strongly believe that an independent "review" could only help those future leaders.

In his excellent article titled "Warning Labels", my friend Robert Rielage quoted from the speech that the secretary of defense, Robert Gates made to the students of the Air War College.

"In it, the secretary called for a different type of military officer. 'The Armed Forces will need principled, creative, reform-minded leaders who want to do something, not be somebody,' Gates said."

In the not too distant past, both FEMA and USFA have experienced serving under disappointing leaders such as FEMA's Mike Brown, or USFA's Carrye Brown. I can only hope that the next President would appoint qualified leaders that "want to do something, not be somebody". Leaders that could step up to the plate and serve their nation, just as David did in battling Goliath.

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AZARANG (OZZIE) MIRKHAH P.E., CBO, EFO, 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 amirkhah@lasvegasnevada.gov.