Guest Commentary: A Successful Gathering with a Straightforward Call for a Unified Voice

On April 5 and 6, 2006, more than 2,100 members of the fire and emergency services converged on Washington, DC to attend the 18th annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) seminars and dinner. The theme this year was "Leadership Saves Lives...So...


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On April 5 and 6, 2006, more than 2,100 members of the fire and emergency services converged on Washington, DC to attend the 18th annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) seminars and dinner. The theme this year was "Leadership Saves Lives...So Everyone Goes Home." The 2006 events were perhaps the best attended and most successful in the history of the CFSI. It provided many opportunities to learn, network, visit with members of Congress and their professional staffs, as well as meet with federal agency officials.

The event also presented the opportunity to deliver a straightforward message to all attendees and members of the CFSI National Advisory Committee: "We must all work through our individual members of Congress and collectively through our various fire service organizations and the CFSI to deliver a consistent message. Fund the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), including the National Fire Academy (NFA), as well as the FIRE Act and SAFER grant programs, to their authorized levels."

The seminars get better each year, providing timely and professional updates from a talented and informed cadre of speakers on current national fire service issues. This year, the content covered important subjects that included the legislative process, firefighter health and wellness policies and initiatives, federal response to wildland/urban interface fires, panel discussions with members of Congress, the role of the American fire service, interoperable communications, federal funding for the fire service, prevention and public education national public policy issues, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation "Everyone Goes Home" program, National Incident Management System (NIMS) update, fire service research and development, and the Fire Corps program.

Following the seminars, attendees met with members of Congress and/or their staffs to interact and deliver the unified message concerning authorized funding levels for the USFA and NFA, the FIRE Act and SAFER. These seminars and congressional meetings provided a busy and exciting series of events leading up to the CFSI Dinner.

Those of us who have attended all (or many) of the previous CFSI dinners tend to take them somewhat for granted, and perhaps view the content as repetitive. However, I always make time to visit with new attendees to get their thoughts on the process. Invariably, they are impressed with the content and thrilled to have had the opportunity to be present. Many say it was the professional opportunity of their lifetime.

This year, the dinner featured an impressive cadre of speakers moderated again by Hal Bruno, including new FEMA Director R. David Paulison and members of Congress Rob Andrews, Joe Biden, Sherwood Boehlert, Mike DeWine, Jane Harman, Steny Hoyer, Paul Sarbanes and Curt Weldon.

Several awards were made to very deserving recipients:

• The CFSI Legislator(s) of the Year Award was presented to Congresswoman Jane Harman, Senator John McCain and Congressman Curt Weldon.

• The CFSI Fire Service Organization(s) of the Year Award was presented to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) International.

• The CFSI/Motorola Mason Lankford National Fire Service Leadership Award was presented to Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

• The CFSI/Home Safety Council Safety Education Hero Award was presented to Peggy Harrell of the Plano, TX, Fire Department.

At the CFSI National Advisory Committee meeting on April 7, new National Advisory Committee officers were selected. Elected as the CFSI NAC chair was Richard Patrick of VFIS, and elected as vice chair was Kevin O’Connor of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). They can each serve a maximum of two one-year terms.

The Call for Unity

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