Since 1981, America has honored its fallen firefighters at an annual ceremony held on the National Fire Academy campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1990, Congress passed legislation making the Memorial site in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the "official national memorial to volunteer and career firefighters who die in the line of duty."
In 1992, the United States Congress established the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to honor and remember those firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty. The major national fire service organizations endorsed the creation, which was included in the Fire Administration Authorization Act of 1992. President Bush signed the legislation into law on October 26, 1992. The mission statement of the NFFF reflects its Congressional mandate to honor fallen firefighters and provide programs to assist their survivors.
Early in 1997, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director James Lee Witt transferred responsibility for the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service and all related issues to the NFFF. The Foundation continually strives to remember America's fallen heroes, and to provide emotional support and necessary resources to assist their survivors in the rebuilding of their lives.
The NFFF is proud to sponsor various programs and services that lead a nationwide effort to honor America's fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the Foundation has developed and expanded the following programs to fulfill its congressional mandate.
Sponsor the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend
Each October, the Foundation sponsors the official national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. Thousands attend the weekend activities held at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Weekend features special programs for survivors and coworkers along with moving public ceremonies.
Help survivors attend the Weekend
The Foundation provides lodging and meals for survivors of fallen firefighters being honored. This helps survivors participate in Family Day sessions conducted by trained grief counselors and in the public tributes.
Offer support programs for survivors
When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, the Foundation provides survivors with a place to turn. Families can receive emotional assistance through a Survivor Support Network. This Network matches survivors with similar experiences and circumstances. This contact can be an important part of their healing. Families receive a quarterly newsletter and specialized grief resources through a Lending Library. Our web site provides information on benefits, the Memorial Weekend, and other resources.
Award scholarships to surviving spouses and children
Spouses and children of fallen firefighters are eligible for scholarship assistance for education and job training costs.
Help departments deal with line-of-duty deaths
Under a Department of Justice grant, the Foundation offers training sessions to help fire departments handle a line-of-duty death. Departments can receive numerous materials and support through the Foundation. Immediately after a loss, a Chief-to-Chief Network provides professional and personal support from another chief who "has been there."
Create a National Memorial Park
America's fire service has a rich heritage based in community involvement. The Foundation is expanding the official National Memorial site in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to create the first permanent National Park honoring all firefighters. The park includes a brick Walk of Honor that will connect a Visitors Information Center, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel, and the official national monument.
Assist in World Trade Center Tragedy
Immediately after the disaster, the Foundation coordinated resources from across the country to provide logistic and peer support to FDNY's Counseling Services Unit. Mounting an unprecedented response effort, the Foundation helped families and coworkers through the critical early days. The Foundation is now providing long-term emotional support for the fallen firefighters' families and FDNY personnel.
When Congress created the Foundation, it provided no funding or financial assistance. Therefore, the Foundation depends on donations from corporations, foundations, grants, small businesses and caring individuals to maintain its programs. The Foundation encourages donations of all sizes to help honor the brave men and women who gave their lives in duty to their country and to assist the families left behind. The Foundation is a non-profit corporation exempt from federal income tax under Section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
An Executive Director and seven staffers who work to fulfill policies established by the Foundation Board of Directors manage the Foundation on a day-to-day basis. The Board consists of nine members appointed by the United States Fire Administrator and an Advisory Committee made up of three individuals who provide unique perspectives to the functionality of the organization. Listed below are the individuals who make up the foundations Leadership Structure.
Board of Directors
- Chairman Hal Bruno, ABC News - Retired, Chevy Chase, Maryland
- Vice Chairman Jerry Scannell, President Emeritus, National Safety Council, Venice, Florida
- Mary Ann Gibbons, Maryland State Firemen's Association, Annapolis, Maryland
- Art Glatfelter, Chairman/CEO, Glatfelter Insurance Group, York, Pennsylvania
- Steve Robinson, State Forester, Nevada Division of Fire, Carson City, Nevada
- Harold Schaitberger, General President, International Association of Fire Fighters, Washington, D.C.
- Treasurer Seth Statler, Congressional and Public Affairs, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Department of Treasury, College Park, Maryland
- Philip Stittleburg, Chairman, National Volunteer Fire Council, Washington, D.C.
- Susan Watkins, CPCU, Vice President, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Bloomington, Illinois
- Chief David Paulison, U.S. Fire Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration, Emmitsburg, Maryland
- Chief Michael D. Chiaramonte, Lynbrook Fire Department, Lynbrook, New York
- Vina Drennan, Fire Service Survivor, New York, New York
- Chief Mario H. Trevino, San Francisco Fire Department, San Francisco, California
Chief Ronald Jon Siarnicki, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Emmitsburg, Maryland
In the next issue of this column, a complete review of the criteria for determination of Line of Duty Death Status will be covered.