I was doing everything I could to not write today. You would have appreciated that. Today started with our LSFD crews responding to a cardiac arrest of a Mom (early 50's) while Dad and the teenage kids watched. The 7 FF/Paramedics due on the run did everything to save a life...I always hate "that scene" of the family watching, crying and kinda knowing what may or probably won't happen....
Then, I got home and did the lawn. Yeah-I know-I have teenagers who should do that...well, it's gonna rain later and usually "Young G" takes care of the lawn duties....I figured I would help'm out. Of course, at this point, it had been wayyy TOO LONG since I have been "on line" so I better check that too....
As I read through several articles in Firehouse.com, some stood out including one on a midwest FD that is laying off firefighters, another one about a volunteer FD that STILL has to do fund drive (BEGGING) in order to function and of course, the "last ditch efforts" of our Brothers and Sisters in FDNY trying to keep firehouses open. I then read through some articles about GOVERNMENT WASTE. I have been thinking a lot about that recently and have been trying to put some words down...the articles helped.
To me, it is all a matter of priorities and we've got some screwed up priorities in our Country. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE AMERICA as much as anyone else and I practice what I preach...but sometimes "stupid crap" just pisses me off.
In our Country, THE FIRE SERVICE, as a friend of mind said perfectly, has become the proverbial stepchild crawling around on our hands and knees begg'n & fight'n for any remaining bread crumbs that may have inadvertently fallen to the floor. And that may be OK, if everyone else needing funding is being treated equally. That's the problem, it ain't equal. And not just a little...but then, you probably know that by looking around at your own community. Maybe not-maybe, like at the FD I work at, you are treated pretty well and the Community appreciates you. But there are so many FD's where the LEADERSHIP (elected and appointed) as well as the FD themselves have failed to properly market and demonstrate WHY the public needs to fund them...so that when that same PUBLIC needs us, we are there quickly, professionally, well trained and adequately staffed.
Relax, this story isn't going to last much longer...I've got stuff to do. But, as a followup to what we wrote previously (you know, the part about THIS SUMMER, when your Federally Elected politicians are showing up at your events, slapp'n you on the back, saying "our firefighters are our heroes," kissing your asses etc) make sure THEY ARE taking care of you. Talk To Them and Ask Them. AND FOR THAT: We have some suggestions.
# 1-Thank them for what they have done for you. By doing that, the politician will start to listen. Basic communications skills, start by being NICE...even if they do nothing for you....they are now listening so move quick.
# 2-Ask them what their commitment will be to YOUR LOCAL FD to insure you will get what is needed. AND be prepared to clearly justify WHY you need it. In most cases, you will have no trouble doing it.
# 3-Ask them if they will CONTINUE to vote for and support FEDERAL FIRE PROGRAMS?...Programs managed and lead by FIRE (USFA) people, in the Dept of Homeland Security. Ask your federally elected politician WHAT THEY PERSONALLY DID when our funding was threatened this year? That includes: The National Fire Academy Funding, The FIRE ACT Grant continuing in the exact manner to which it has been operated (generally fair, seemingly honest and by FIRE people) and that the DHS MAINTAIN a VERY CLEAR FIRE presence and LEADERSHIP role....one we don't have to "look for" to find.
# 4-After you feel that they actually MAY do what you have discussed with them, as described above...ASK WHY WE HAVE TO FIGHT SO DAMN HARD? They will then respond with something about "many programs" and lot's of "mouths to feed" and although "firefighters are a high priority to me" we have to look at other programs as well. GENERALLY-when you hear that, you say thanks, walk away and DOUBT that ANYTHING will change. We have all been there....but wait.
I dug up the following facts that may get their attention....we found that Federal Government "Pork-barrel" spending for fiscal 2003 reached a record $22.5 billion, a 12% increase over last year! $22.5 BILLION...and there are STILL FD's begging for air packs and thermal imagers.
What counts as "pork" is open to debate--since one persons "pork" is another persons "crucial government service." "Pork"...Government waste that usually includes projects that aren't competitively awarded, not subject to congressional hearings, they serve only a local or special interest, etc....NOTHING that would ever happen in YOUR community. Much of this Federal spending takes place in the districts or states of those "powerful" members of congressional appropriations committees....of course it does! The same "powerful" elected officials you'll see this summer.
So the next time you respond to a FIRE or EMS run with less than adequate staffing, have no funding for training, have to "beg" for operational funding and $$ for all of the others tasks we take on in order to serve the public....keep this stuff in mind...and USE THIS as a questionnaire for YOUR FEDERALLY ELECTED OFFICIALS. Take a minute to ask them WHY they awarded $210,000 for hoop barns in Iowa, $200,000 for the "National" Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Alabama, $250,000 for the Vermont World Trade Center (THE WHAT???), $250,000 for the National Preschool Anger Management Project (Where DO WE sign up?), $500,000 for catfish health in Mississippi (I had a FF working with me a few years ago nicknamed "Catfish"...I'll bet HE would appreciate this), $600,000 for an oral history of the Nevada Test Site (from what I hear-there is a lot of ORAL history in Nevada...and it's all legal!), $1 million for the Alaska Native Justice Center...to name a few.
Some may say "in the big picture-this is not a lot of money"...We say: Tell that to the FD's that still beg, borrow and steal to get by....at a time when, in the constant words of EVERY Federally Elected Official: "Americas' First Responders and Homeland Security is our top priority." Is some of the above "pork stuff" important?---I don't know-it "might" be....AS LONG AS PUBLIC SAFETY is at an appropriate level and THOSE WHO PROVIDE it have the tools, training and staffing needed to safety do the job. And for those who do it for a living: A salary that allows you to live without working multiple jobs. And for those who volunteer: Funding so you don't have to beg.
Alright..I'm winding down. Sorry...this crap makes me nuts..and probably does you to. So I figured maybe you could use a little ammo as shown above. As a parting contribution, below is the Pig Book of 'Oinkers' for 2003...from the Citizens Against Government Waste. Maybe even cut'n paste this story, sign it as yours and send a letter. Whatever it takes....just do something. Abadah, abadah, abadah...uh...th-th-tha-thats ALL FOLKS!
The Halls of Shame Award for $750,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame; $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and $90,000 for the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
The Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut Award to Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) for $202,500 for the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan, Ala.
The Fiscal Unfitness Award for $6.8 million in YMCA and YWCA funding.
The Taxpayers Get Tanked Award for $3 million for the Department of Defense's Tanker Lease Pilot Program.
The Don't Step in It Award for $4 million for the International Fertilizer Development Center.
The Gold Rush Award to Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for his $393 million in pork in Alaska.
The French Fried Pork Award or $180,000 each to the Franco-American Heritage Center and the Forum Francophone Des Affaires in Maine.
The Sound of Pork Award for $800,000 for the GRAMMY Foundation and $90,000 for the American Film Institute.
The Early Byrd Gets the Pork Award to Senator Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) for his $298 million in pork for West Virginia.
The Fiscally Un-Bearable Award to Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) for a $1 million DNA study of bears.
The Deficit in My Diaper Award for the $250,000 to implement the National Preschool Anger Management Project.
The Our Money Lies Over the Ocean Award to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) for his $353 million in pork for Hawaii.
The Taxpayers Get Shellacked Award for $9.5 million in various wood research.