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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I asked Weldon about his thoughts on a national public safety radio system and the need for increased radio spectrum for emergency services. He responded, "It is the number-one national scandal that we do not have a national integrated public safety radio system - a national disgrace! This is another example of how military radio technology could benefit the emergency services for communication, command, coordination and the like. We must and will move forward to secure the necessary radio bandwidth that will enable the fire service to use this technology."
I also asked Weldon about his impressions of how other key government officials feel about technology, a national radio system and continued funding for the fire service. He answered, "First, I must say that (former FEMA Director) James Lee Witt did a great job at FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and he is a personal friend; however, he did not have the ear of the President as does (FEMA Director) Joe Allbaugh. Joe Allbaugh headed the Bush campaign and is very highly trusted by President Bush. Joe Allbaugh has a background in emergency services, he understands the needs and he has the ear of the President. Joe Allbaugh spent tons of time in New York City to fully understand the impact that the 9/11 tragedy had on the fire service and the nation.
"Furthermore, I have met with Tom Ridge and he is on board and is in full support of providing the fire service with additional funding for training and equipment and keeping the FIRE Act Grant a separate program. The new United States Fire Administrator, Dave Paulison (former chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue), will also make a great difference. Paulison is a man with a strong fire service background, great conviction and will definitely put the fire service first."
Fire Service Priorities
Ending the interview, I asked Weldon what main points would he like to impress upon the fire service. He responded with the following three main points:
- Demand transition of live-saving technology from military to fire service.
- Lobby for full funding of $900 million for the FIRE Act grant program.
- Build a national Fire/EMS Center much like that of the FBI, which would include a national fire museum, offices that would serve as a clearing house for emergency service agencies, including the U.S. Fire Administrator.
Weldon also urged every member of the fire service to send letters and e-mails and to make telephone calls to their elected officials in Congress asking that these three suggestions be supported.
A follow-up article will recap the Crisis Procurement subcommittee meeting that was held on March 5, 2002.
Charles Werner, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 25-year veteran and deputy chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department. He is a member of the Firehouse.com webteam and is the editor of the Firehouse.com Technology Zone. Werner serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Technology/Communications Task Force and is chair of the State Fire Chiefs Association of Virginia (SFCAV) Technology Committee. He is the webmaster for the SFCAV, the National Fire Academy Alumni Association, the National Fire Service Incident Management System Consortium and the International Association of Wildland Fire.