Members of Fire Service in Washington, D.C. for CFSI

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fire and emergency services personnel are usually the ones who respond for help.

Over the next few days, however, they’re the ones asking for help. And, they’re seeking that help from elected officials on Capitol Hill.

Specifically, responders attending the 24th annual CFSI confab are visiting their legislators about the importance of the AFG and SAFER grants.

“I hope you take advantage of this opportunity,” CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb told people Wednesday morning.

Webb added that their attendance shows they understand the importance of participating in the process, and promoting the issues.

He encouraged them to grasp the theme of this year’s event -- Legacy of Leadership. “We are recognizing previous generations of leaders.”

Chief Billy Goldfeder said there are leaders in fire houses all over the country, many of whom no longer hold an official rank. Those people should be tapped for their knowledge.

After showing various video clips of incidents, Goldfeder discussed the impact and implications faced by the chiefs and officers.

He said one of the toughest parts of being a leader is changing the culture. After something goes wrong, the chief said officers need to take the appropriate measures that it doesn’t happen again.

One of the worst thing an officer can hear is a family member say: “How in the hell did you allow this to happen?”

A leadership failure has far-reaching impacts on many. A number of seminars on a myriad of topics were conducted Wednesday.

Responding To The Call During The Economic Downturn

IAFC Executive Director Mark Light said what concerns him is the creation of a public safety department, one that combines police officers and firefighters. He said it’s imperative that chiefs be aware of the impact this consolidation can have.

Likewise, Kevin O’Connor said it appears fire and rescue personnel are in the crosshairs since the economy has been suffering.

The assistant to the IAFF general president added that he doesn’t see things getting better anytime soon, and spoke of the importance of all providers working together whether they get a paycheck or not.

O’Connor said the SAFER grant, which has been supported by all fire service agencies, has allowed 96 percent of personnel laid-off to be rehired.

Meanwhile, Phil Stittleburg said volunteer departments especially those in rural areas have been hit really hard by the budget crunch. The age of responders is increasing, while the number taking the training is dwindling.

He worries about departments that don’t have proper PPE or keep up on maintenance of SCBA and vehicles. “This is having a direct impact on safety.”

He pointed out that the distribution of AFG funds to volunteer departments has been decreasing over the past several years.

The panel agreed that educating the public about the fire and rescue service is vital.

Fire-Based EMS Issues

While the proposed field EMS bill has some good points, members of a panel said there are things that need to be re-visited.

While the legislation calls for the lead EMS agency to come from HHS, John Sinclair, of the IAFC, said he believes DHS should house it.

Sinclair went on to say that he supports the promotion of expanding data collection for EMS, saying they are lagging behind the fire service.

Ken Knipper, representing NVFC, spoke of the importance of NEMSAC, and said he would like to make sure the group stays intact.

The panel also discussed the proposed funding in the field EMS bill – giving all taxpayers an option to donate $1. They aren’t optimistic it would fly since a similar measure to pay for elections failed, and the block was removed from tax forms.