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T here are always things going on in Washington, DC that directly impact the fire and emergency services community – including individual fire departments. I thought it would be useful to dedicate this month’s column to two important happenings that should be on our collective minds. What goes on in the Nation’s Capital has a lot to do with what transpires at the state and local levels of government. We should all make an effort to stay informed – and to the degree possible – participate in efforts to improve the lot of the fire service.
Congressional Fire Services Caucus
A new co-chair was recently selected to join the leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, which remains one of the largest in Congress. Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) is no stranger to anyone who follows national fire service politics, so his willingness to serve the Caucus as a co-chair should come as no surprise. He was first elected to Congress in 1996 and has been a long-time supporter of the fire service in New Jersey and across the nation.
Congressman Pascrell played a key leadership role in creating the F.I.R.E. Act, which became law in 2001. This is now known as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His leadership was also critical as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program was conceived and passed into law. Many fire departments have benefited from these two federal grant programs in the past, and will hopefully continue to do so into the future. Congressman Pascrell’s accomplishments on behalf of the fire service, and our nation, are simply too numerous to mention. He is an excellent addition to the leadership of the Caucus.
As a reminder, the Caucus was formed by former Congressman Curt Weldon in 1987, uniting Republicans and Democrats in support of legislation that benefits fire service first responders, not only in fire departments within their home states and districts, but throughout the United States. The current Caucus co-chairs include:
• Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
• Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
• Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
• Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
• Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
• Congressman Peter King (R-NY)
• Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
• Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA)
I urge you to go to the website of the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) at www.cfsi.org and check to see if your members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. If they are – thank them for their support. And if they are not – encourage them to join.
2014 National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars
I want to remind you once again that the 26th annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Event will take place in Washington, DC, April 30 and May 1, 2014. This represents your best opportunity of the year to join with more than 2,000 people to show support for our nations’ fire service. The dinner and seminars are brought to us each year by the CFSI, and is their most important fundraiser for this critically important organization.
The theme this year is “Cultivating Relationships.” This theme essentially defines one of the key roles of the CFSI within the fire service. Attending this event offers a menu of opportunities that simply are not available to us in any other single venue:
• Meet with your members of Congress
• Attend high-quality seminars featuring national fire service leaders and federal agency officials
• Establish important contacts within the fire service community and with industry leaders
• Learn how federal policies are implemented and federal legislation is enacted
• Attend a wonderful dinner event that features leaders from the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, a keynote address and the presentation of prestigious national fire service awards
Visit www.cfsi.org to get all the information about attending this outstanding event.