"Legacy of Leadership" In Challenging Times

It was April 25-26, 2012, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. Front and center was the 24th annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) seminars and dinner. Nearly 2,000 representatives of the fire and emergency services were in attendance to celebrate the efforts of our nation’s firefighters in their ongoing commitment to protecting lives and property. The audience included leaders from the fire and emergency services community, as well as elected officials and other supporters. It was truly the place to be at that point in time and was indicative of efforts to bring members of the vast fire and emergency services community together to work on behalf of the industry overall.

The CFSI encouraged attendees to meet with their elected officials on Capitol Hill about current issues and needs of the fire and emergency services. In addition to making these visits, seminars were conducted throughout both days. A cadre of excellent speakers covered these topics:

• Automatic Fire Sprinklers

• Public Safety Communications Systems

• Adopting Model Codes and Standards

• Wildland Urban Interface Fires

• Responding During the Economic Downturn

• Fire Service-Based EMS

• The Role of FEMA and USFA

• Firefighter Roadside Safety

• Transitions in Volunteer and Combination Departments

• Working Together on Capitol Hill

• Vision 20/20

• Congressional Roundtable

• Budget Priorities for DHS Programs

• Everyone Goes Home Town Hall Meeting

This curriculum of seminars offered something for everyone and provided many sessions to choose from, depending on a person’s specific areas of interest.

The theme of the dinner this year was “Legacy of Leadership.” This theme recognized the tremendous contributions of those who have led the American fire service since its beginning. The program was dedicated to all of those who have led – and continue to lead – our fire departments, major fire service membership organizations, state fire offices, affiliate organizations and, of course, the CFSI.

The dinner program was highlighted by a tribute to Hal Bruno, a tremendous fire service leader and Firehouse® political columnist who passed away in November 2011. The touching tribute was delivered by Honorary Fire Service Caucus Co-Chairman Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland). Other speakers on the dinner program included:

• Chief Ernest (Ernie) Mitchell Jr., the U.S. Fire Administrator

• Louis J. Amabili, America Burning commissioner

• Congressman Peter King (R-New York), honorary Fire Service Caucus co-chairman

• Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware), honorary Fire Service Caucus co-chairman

• Congressman Rob Andrews (D-New Jersey), honorary Fire Service Caucus chairman

The dinner program also included presentations of the following national fire service awards:

• CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award presented to Marcine Goodloe, president of the Montgomery County, MD, Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association (see page 20)

• CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award presented to the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training for its Skid Avoidance for Fire Apparatus Drivers (SAFAD) program

• CFSI/IFSTA at Oklahoma State University Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education presented to Meri-K Appy, former president of the nonprofit Home Safety Council and an advocate for public safety education

• CFSI/Medicalert Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Awards presented to the Mesa, AZ, Fire Department; Center Point, AL, Fire District; and Selden, NY, Fire Department.

Speakers throughout the evening made it clear it is through strong leadership, as well as the unwavering commitment of fire service members and partners, that fire organizations continue to innovate and perform well in all aspects of their missions. In keeping with the leadership theme, it was noted that all aspects of fire and emergency services are being significantly challenged by reductions in fire department budgets created by the nation’s ongoing economic struggles.

Whether fire service officials, elected officials, business leaders or others – all leaders must be committed to delivering the best possible service to the public, while at the same time trying to ensure that “Everyone Goes Home” safely at the end of every emergency response. These are (and will remain) critical responsibilities of fire service leaders at all levels, no matter what the condition of the economy and fire department budgets may be.

The leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, along with the CFSI and its National Advisory Committee, renewed their commitment to ensure that decisions made at the federal level are the best possible for the nation’s fire and emergency services. It was stressed throughout the evening that the leadership and decision-making taking place at the national level directly enhances the overall safety of the public and of firefighters at the local level.

I hope you were there at the CFSI seminars and dinner this year. It is important that the entire fire and emergency services community gets behind the efforts of the CFSI and offer their ongoing support. At the CFSI National Advisory Committee meeting on April 27, 2012, CFSI Board of Directors President Bill Jenaway issued a challenge for next year: “2,500 attendees at the 25th dinner.”

Let’s all commit to be among that group of attendees and make that showing of unity and support a reality for the political community in Washington, DC, to see. n


Dennis Compton will present “Creating and Inspiring Exceptional Fire Department Leaders” at Firehouse Expo 2012, July 17-21 in Baltimore, MD.

DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a speaker and the author of Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools, the When in Doubt, Lead! books, the book Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers, and many articles, chapters and other publications. He was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and assistant fire chief in Phoenix, where he served for 27 years. Compton is past chairman of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s National Advisory Committee. He is currently chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors.