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April 18, 2018

By: Bill Webb

The Congressional Fire Services Institute hosted the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner in Washington, DC, on April 18 and 19. The event provided an opportunity for fire service leaders to engage in discussions with their members of Congress and federal agency officials about federal programs and legislation, and also offered a series of seminars on current national fire service issues.

The theme of this year’s program was “Engaging Future Leaders.” CFSI placed heavy emphasis on attracting new attendees, primarily rising leaders who are expressing an interest in advocacy work. Over 25 “future leaders” registered for the program, some of whom were sponsored by fire organizations, including the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, ISO, and Lion.

CFSI conducted seminars designed specifically for this group. A Town Hall session provided a forum for future leaders to discuss the benefits they have derived through their active involvement in their fire departments or associations. A second session was conducted by a panel of veteran advocates, including former FEMA Director Dave Paulison. They directed their message on advocacy work, describing why the fire service needs a new generation of advocates to step forward and become engaged. CFSI also conducted 11 other seminars that covered a broad range of national fire service issues. Attendees were eligible for continuing education units (CEUs) from Columbia Southern University in most of the seminars.

Following the 2017 program, CFSI conducted a survey and convened a task group to seek ideas for enhancing the two-day event. The biggest changes were noticed in the dinner program, including more music. The sounds of bagpipes greeted guests as they entered the ballroom. Patriotic music performed by a young opera singer brought dinner guests to their feet. And while dinner was being served, country music singer Tony Jackson entertained guests with some of his hits.

Another noticeable difference in the program was the introduction of videos during award presentations. The videos captured the true measures of the recipients’ achievements as described by the recipients and their peers.

Award recipients included:

  • Steve Austin and Tony O’Neill – recipients of the CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award
  • International Society of Fire Service Instructors and the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute – recipients of the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award
  • Mike Weller – recipient of the CFSI/IFSTA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education
  • Alpena (MI) Fire Department and the Illini Emergency Medical Service/Illinois Fire Service Institute – recipients of the CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award

Please visit CFSI’s Facebook page to view the videos. You’ll quickly understand why these individuals and organizations were honored.

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, delivered the keynote address. She spoke of the challenges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confronts in protecting our homeland, and she praised the fire service for always being ready to keep our communities safe. She was followed by Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, one of our strongest voices on Capitol Hill. The program covered a lot of ground, but it was entertaining and educational, with plenty of time left in the evening for dinner guests to attend receptions afterward.

CFSI appreciates the support of FEMSA and FAMA. Both organizations, through their Governmental Affairs Committee, continue to provide an important role in Washington, DC helping members of Congress understand the benefits of the equipment, apparatus, and training provided to the fire service by FEMSA and FAMA member companies.

I look forward to attending your joint conference in Austin. Stay safe and I’ll see you in September.