Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) is a former volunteer fire chief in Marcus Hook, PA, and founder of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI), which is dedicated to educating members of Congress on issues of fire and life safety. He is a graduate of...
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Congressman Curt Weldon
On March 4, 2002, I had the privilege of talking one on one with Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) via telephone. This interview was conducted the night prior to the congressional hearing on Crisis Procurement, which Weldon served as chair.
I specifically asked Weldon, "How do we enhance fire service technology and how do we transition military technology to the fire service?" First, Weldon reminded me that the main reason for our limited success of the past was a direct result from the lack of solidarity between fire service agencies. He said that when the fire service agencies came together in a unified effort, it made a resounding statement to legislators. The result was the FIRE Act Grant program.
In contrast, Weldon stated, "Law enforcement has had its act together for many years." He further reemphasized, "Unification of the fire service and awareness of elected officials and the public is essential - that crystallized following 9/11."
Next, Weldon focused on his vision of how he proposes to push military technology to the fire service. "We need a national focus of transferring every type of technology that applies to health and safety for the military to the fire service," he said. "I propose a national technology transition center with research labs in a coordinated research effort that could potentially facilitate $38 billion in new research that would benefit the fire service. We could be further developing the multidimensional GPS that would prevent future firefighter deaths like those tragically lost in Worcester. Research from NASA and the Navy could benefit the design of cutting edge technology for better protective clothing. The miniaturization of thermal imaging could be expanded to the fire service. Such a technology transition center would open an interactive dialogue between all of this research and various fire and emergency service agencies."
Weldon also explained that he had been working with Dick Healing, who works on "Safety and Survivability" for the U.S. Navy. He said that Healing has been taking technology off the shelf and researching ways of putting them into real-life uses to improve safety and survivability. Weldon has asked for Healing's help to develop a game plan that would identify military research that could be quickly transitioned for use by the fire service.
I asked Weldon, "How do we overcome the top-secret classifications of this technology?" He replies that he had that very discussion with Healing, who said he believes that 50% or more of current classified military technology could be declassified for the fire service. Weldon gave an example of technology that was used to identify rocket launches by satellite.
"That same technology was and can be used to detect the early ignition of forest fires and provide invaluable information to wildland fire commanders and we could use existing military staff to facilitate those notifications and exchange of information," Weldon said. "If it's good enough to protect our soldiers (international defenders), its good enough to protect our firefighters (domestic defenders). It's time we all become one team for our nation's defense."