WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Yet another powerful struggle is underway in the nation's capital. This time, however, the participants aren't elected.
They are among the Who's Who in the nation's fire service.
During the initial session Monday, it was evident that identifying a national strategic agenda for fire prevention was not an easy task.
They were passionate. There were poignant, but professional disagreements about language and semantics.
"We knew this would be a challenge," said Jim Crawford, project manager of Vision 20/20. "We have really heavy hitters here, leaders in their own right."
Funded by a $238,000 DHS Fire Prevention grant, planning for the two-day session has been in the works for two years. The Institution of Fire Engineers -- USA Branch has been spear-heading the project.
In addition to fire service officials, there were a number of educators and others involved in the discussions.
When it's over today, the group is expected to identify five specific strategies and associated action items.
Crawford said they have modeled the mission using the concept followed by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation when it established 16 Life Safety Initiatives following a similar gathering.
"We'll take back what the different groups have established, and prepare a report," Crawford explained. "We'll determine what is doable..."
The participants were divided into specific groups based on their expertise and spent the afternoon discussing issues, and establishing priorities. Later today, they will have the opportunity to sit in on another session to offer suggestions.
This evening, each group's work will be presented to the full body.
The groups included:
- EDUCATION AND MARKETING -- Kathy Goldin, training and development specialist from the City of Vancouver, acted as facilitator. The group suggested establishing a comprehensive, broad-based national campaign.
- ADVOCACY -- Facilitated by Ronny Coleman, president of the ICC Residential Sprinkler Code Coalition, the participants attempted to identify the role of a fire prevention advocate. "We are woefully inadequate of data. We are about 30 years behind law enforcement," Coleman said.
- TECHNOLOGY -- "We are assessing what technology is out there and how it relates to fire prevention. One thing, residential sprinklers, are really not on the radar screen as they should be," said the facilitator, Dr. Harry Carter, editor of ResponderSafety.com.
- CULTURE -- The group that included a number of fire chiefs agreed that people don't join departments to promote fire prevention or teach life safety education. "We have to initiate that change to move fire prevention to a level playing field with suppression," said Scott Kerwood, of Orange County Emergency Services District in Texas.
- CODES and STANDARDS -- Facilitated by John Granito, of Florida, the group that included fire marshals, inspectors and engineers outlined the need for education and enhanced codes. They also suggested that in addition to a cause investigation, a probe be conducted to determine how the building held up during the fire.
Crawford said he's been impressed with what he's hearing. "There's a lot of work going on here."