Fire Politics: CFSI Events Unite The Fire Service

The strength and unity of our nation’s fire service was once again on display in Washington, DC, on April 30 and May 1. A large and diverse group of representatives from throughout the fire and emergency services community joined together to participate in the 26th Annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) seminars and dinner.
While doing so, many of them took full advantage of the opportunities this gathering affords them to visit Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and discuss major issues of importance to the fire service. They also had opportunities to visit with one another, catching up on personal and business-related items of joint interest.

The need for unity

Many members of the fire service recognize the importance and benefits of political activism. They also realize that to be successful in this endeavor, major fire service organizations must unite on issues deemed to be of great importance to the fire service. CFSI provides a springboard for facilitating that unification of voice and effort. The institute does not receive any federal funds or other grants to sustain its efforts. Rather, CFSI relies on fire service members, organizations and partners for the funding required to perform its mission. The small staff works throughout the year – every year – to communicate with the leadership and membership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, other members of Congress and their staffs and a host of federal agencies to further the effectiveness of the fire service and the safety of its members. So, once a year, it is only fitting that upwards of 2,000 people come to Washington, DC, to support CFSI, learn from the best and clearly display the unity that is so important in the political process.
The theme for the CFSI event this year was “Cultivating Relationships.” The willingness of fire service organizations, including CFSI, to build successful relationships among our organizations, with Congress, federal agencies and other partners has served the fire service well. But these efforts must continue into the future as we work together to build a stronger, more effective and safer fire service. Many of us learned long ago in our careers that you deal with day-to-day issues through policies, procedures, contracts, etc. – but the really big issues that arise are resolved through relationships.
At the 2014 CFSI seminars and dinner event, there were relationships among attendees that have been in place for many years; however, the rooms were also rich with new relationships being formed – right there on the spot. It is the responsibility of the current fire service leaders, both individually and collectively, to help these new relationships mature and become the foundation for our future and the continuing success of the fire service.
The annual CFSI events in Washington, DC, offer a platform for learning as well. Current national policy issues are presented and discussed in a series of seminars that all participants are encouraged to attend. The CFSI and the seminar faculty are committed to making the content current, informative and useful. The 2014 seminars included:
• Preparing for and Responding to Active Shooter and Mass-Casualty Incidents
• Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service
• The FCC and Public Safety Communications
• The Importance of Fire Prevention and Education Programs in Your Community
• Federal Funding for First Responders
• National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
• The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Opportunities for Fire Service-Based EMS Within Integrated Health Care
• Strong Building Codes – Our First Line of Defense
• CFSI/National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Town Hall Meeting on “Everyone Goes Home”
Speakers for the dinner were outstanding this year and included:
• A keynote address by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson
• Remarks from co-chairmen of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, including Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5); Congressman Peter King (NY-2); Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (NJ-9); and Senator Tom Carper (DE) 
Four national awards also were presented:
• The CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award was presented to James M. Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); a former member of Congress and attorney general for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Shannon served as NFPA president for the past 12 years and retires this month
• The CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award was presented to two recipients: the Office of the State Fire Commissioner, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and the Oklahoma Council on Firefighter Training and Integris Heart Hospital
• The CFSI/IFSTA at Oklahoma State University Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education was presented to Mary Marchone of the National Fire Academy
• The CFSI/MEDICALERT Foundation Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award was presented to three recipients: the Cullman County, AL, Association of Volunteer Fire Departments (Volunteer Category); Howard County, MD, Department of Fire and Rescue Services (Combination Category); and Memphis, TN, Fire Department (Career Category)
Attending the CFSI events should be on the calendar, or “bucket list,” of all present and future fire and emergency services leaders. Make a commitment now to attend in 2015 on April 15 and 16. You may also consider nominating your own organization or someone else you think would be a worthy recipient for one of the CFSI national awards in 2015. 
You have a stake in the political success of the fire service at all levels of government. Your ongoing support of CFSI is critical if it is to continue to build on its success. Visit to learn more about CFSI and ways you can support it. So, see you at the 27th Annual CFSI Fire and Emergency Services seminars and dinner in 2015 in Washington, DC – you’ll be glad you were there!                      n

Dennis Compton presents “If You’re an Officer, Be a Leader” and moderates the “Chiefs/Commissioners Panel” at Firehouse Expo 2014.

For more news and training on fire service politics, visit: