2017 – The Pivotal Year
By Dave Gatton
I doubt if the Fire Service has faced such a pivotal year as the one we have entered. Our two stalwart programs, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (AFG) and the SAFER (hiring) program are
both up for reauthorization in 2017. If Congress fails to authorize the programs again, they will expire in January of 2018. Hundreds of local fire and rescue departments that depend on AFG and SAFER to fill critical equipment and staffing gaps would find that the federal government had abandoned them, even though these very departments form the first line of responders in our nation’s National Response Plan.
Whether it’s a major weather event, a terrorist act, a hazardous spill, or other catastrophes, it is our local fire and rescue departments that are on the scene for the first 72 hours, and then remain there throughout the response. This critical role fulfills a federal and national need to protect the public from forces foreign and domestic. For this reason alone, Congress should reauthorize the AFG and SAFER programs with full bi-partisan support.
2017 Hill Day
FAMA and FEMSA members understand the importance of Congressional action this year. Fifty-two members convened in Washington DC, April 5-6, for our 2017 Hill Day, where 11 FAMA and FEMSA teams met with 117 Congressional offices to promote reauthorization and encourage funding the programs at $405 million each for FY 2017 and FY 2018.
These teams met with the decision makers, including members and staff of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, the Senate Government Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee which have jurisdiction over the reauthorization. These meetings were substantive and timely. Only FAMA and FEMSA members can uniquely articulate the manufacturing and economic benefits of the two programs, along with their fire, rescue and response rationale.
During the first day of Hill Day, Senators McCain (AZ), Tester (MT), Carper (DE) and Collins (ME), all senior senators, introduced S. 829 which reauthorizes AFG and SAFER. The bill is a straightforward reauthorization which keeps the essential structure of the existing programs, minus the sunset provision. Many thanks to the Congressional Fire Services Institute for their leadership in the introduction of S. 829. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is expected to hold hearings soon on their reauthorization package.
All told, it will be our responsibility, along with all the other Fire Coalition members, to push Congress to act this year. This means now is the time to arrange for your Congressional delegation to visit your facility this summer, so they can witness first-hand the economic and jobs impact of our industry on communities all across the U.S.
We are the industry that helps first responders save lives; we simply now must do all we can to make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs.
CFSI … Forging New Relationships
By Bill Webb
On April 5th and 6th, fire service leaders from across the country were in Washington, DC to attend the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program. Hosted by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the event provided a unique opportunity for fire service leaders – including over 60 FEMSA and FAMA members – to interact with federal legislators and federal agency officials on a broad range of issues impacting our nation’s fire service and the fire service industry.
The issue first and foremost on the minds of the 1,500 attendees is the reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs. Senator John McCain, an original Co-Chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced reauthorization legislation on April 5th which was co-sponsored by the three other Fire Caucus Co-Chairs: Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator Tom Carper (DE) and Senator Jon Tester (MT). During the two-day program, fire service officials were omnipresent on Capitol Hill, attending meetings with their members of Congress to express support for the reauthorization of the two grant programs.
“Many FEMSA and FAMA members have often heard me use the quote from former House Speaker Tip O’Neill that ‘All politics is local,’” said CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb. “That is why it was critical to have a large presence of fire service officials on Capitol Hill during our event conducting meetings with their elected representatives. FEMSA and FAMA have such an important message to share with Congress about these two programs – how they provide jobs for businesses that strengthen our local economies. We thank FEMSA and FAMA members for sharing that message with their representatives. It will make a difference.”
On the evening of April 6th, everyone gathered together in the ballroom of the historic Washington Hilton for the National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner. Three Co-Chairs of the Fire Caucus – Senator Collins, Senator Carper, and Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) – were the featured speakers, delivering important messages to the audience about engaging in the legislative process.
The program also featured four award presentations. Jim Dalton, a 50-year veteran of the fire service and former government affairs director of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, was the recipient of the CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. The International Fire Service Training Association received the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award. The CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award recognized the Orange County (FL) Fire Rescue Department and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. And the final award presentation, the CFSI/IFSTA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety, recognized Marsha Giesler of the Downers Grove (IL) Fire Department.
Plans are already in the works for the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program which takes place on April 18-19, 2018. CFSI is offering a number of sponsorship and branding opportunities for companies seeking to elevate their presence at the event. Please contact CFSI at 202-371-1277 for details.