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Times aren’t easy in Washington, DC, these days when it comes to maintaining federal support for issues that are critical to the fire service in the United States. For that matter, times are tough across the board for all groups advocating in the nation’s capital for the needs of the people and/or causes they represent.
That’s why – once each year – members throughout the fire service gather in Washington to meet with members of Congress, congressional staffs and federal agencies representatives to lobby for the federal resources needed by the fire and emergency services to function effectively and safely. During their visit, they also have the opportunity to attend excellent seminars designed to provide updates on current policy issues facing the fire service as a whole. This is such an important gathering because the fire service representatives who attend have a unique opportunity to impact/influence federal legislation and programs that will affect their fire departments and other fire service organizations. Were you there this year?
Show of solidarity
On May 8 and 9, 2013, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) hosted the 25th annual Fire and Emergency Services Seminars and Dinner at the Washington Hilton. Approximately 2,000 members of the fire service – representing the full spectrum of the industry – came together for the common cause of demonstrating solidarity and support for the needs of the fire and emergency services community. They visited Capitol Hill, the White House and federal agencies to educate and carry messages important to sustaining the critical institution we call the fire service. These efforts produce practical outcomes that focus directly on fire suppression, fire service-based EMS, fire prevention, public education, hazardous materials response, technical rescue and training.
The emphasis of their messages is on providing federal support to make fire departments throughout the United States more effective in all of these service delivery areas. The end result is funding for initiatives such as FIRE and SAFER grants, the U.S Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Academy (NFA), urban search and rescue (USAR), fire prevention and education programs, support for integrating fire service-based EMS systems within the implementation plans for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other critical needs of the fire service in general and fire departments specifically.
The 2013 CFSI seminars covered the following important and current topics:
• Protecting Our Homeland: The role of FEMA & USFA in Homeland Security
• Responding to the Call During the Economic Downturn
• America Burning: Renewing Our Commitment to a Federal Role in Fire Service Preparedness
• Prevention, Education and Code Development: “Fire Is Everyone’s Fight”
• Public Safety Communications: The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)
• Fire Service-Based EMS: The Impact of Federal Policies on the Delivery of Emergency Medical Services
• The Changing Severity of Home Fires
• CFSI Congressional Roundtable
• Federal Funding for First Responders
• CFSI and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Town Hall Meeting
The 2013 CFSI dinner featured a keynote address by Vice President Joe Biden, comments from leaders from the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, the CFSI Board members and prominent fire service leaders and the presentation of prestigious national awards. Also included in the dinner program was a tribute to the late Arthur J. Glatfelter, former board member of CFSI and NFFF and philanthropist.
The following awards were presented:
• CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award to Chief Ron Siarnicki, NFFF executive director
• CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award to Tualatin Valley, OR, Fire & Rescue; Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal; and Oregon Governor’s Fire Service Policy Council
• CFSI/IFSTA at OSU Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education to Jim Crawford; former fire marshal and planning chief in Vancouver, WA, and the Vision 20/20 project manager
• CFSI/MedicAlert Foundation Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award to Miami-Dade, FL, Fire Rescue; Montgomery County, MD, Fire & Rescue Services; and Snokomish County, WA, Fire Protection District Number 1
“What can I do?”
This 25th anniversary of the CFSI seminars and dinner was special in many ways. I am often asked by members of the fire service, “What can I do to support the fire service efforts at the national level?” There are many options, but one that is especially obvious and available to anyone in the industry is to participate in the CFSI seminars and dinner each year. The larger and more active the group of attendees, the more clear the message is that the fire service needs and appreciates the support of Congress and the Administration.
Make a commitment to yourself now to be there in 2014. The work of the CFSI and its National Advisory Committee (NAC) is critical to the success of the entire fire service, but they need your help. Therefore, go to their website at www.cfsi.org and learn about the organization and ways to support them. Each day brings different groups of individuals to Washington, DC, to advocate for their agendas. The larger the group, the more Congress is likely to pay attention.
In 2014, make an effort to attend the CFSI program on April 30 and May 1. Your presence can make a difference for your fire department – and for that matter, all the fire departments across our nation.