By Dave Gatton
Our successful Hill Day this year was made possible by the 43 FAMA and FEMSA members who traveled to our nation’s Capital to meet with 85 congressional offices. Their purpose? To educate Congressional members on the current status of the Fire Service, and to encourage full funding of FAMA and FEMSA’s priority programs: Assistance to Fire Grants, SAFER, the U.S. Fire Administration, and the Urban Search and Rescue system.
When the FAMA/FEMSA Government Affairs Committee (GAC) began Hill Day over 15 years ago, little did we know it would become one of the premiere advocacy events for the Fire Service. While the other key groups of the Fire Service Coalition represent the public, state and local governments, and volunteer fire departments, only FAMA and FEMSA are the voice of the coalition’s private sector, which increases its reach and influence within Congress.
FAMA and FEMSA members boast over 100,000 private sector jobs within communities of all sizes across the nation. The Congressional offices are always keen to learn the economic impact of FAMA and FEMSA member companies which contribute significantly to the local economies of their congressional districts.
While the AFG, SAFER, USFA, and USAR are all programs justified by their protection of the public, the reality is they contribute to jobs and the quality of life in communities nationwide. This makes a huge difference in how the programs’ benefits are measured and viewed within Congress.
That is why it is critically important for FAMA and FEMSA members to participate in our bi-annual Employment Survey, which allows us to build the “economic message” into our Hill Day agenda. I cannot count the time’s Congressional members and staff have leaned forward to peer into our FAMA/FEMSA Employment Map to see how many jobs have been created in their states.
The message is even more compelling when a FAMA/FEMSA member talks about these economic impacts in a face-to-face meeting during Hill Day. Couple this with FAMA/FEMSA’s AFG reports outlining the recipients and the number of AFG grants awarded to their state or congressional districts, and we have a compelling and dynamic story to tell.
So please, plan to attend Hill Day next year and, most importantly, participate in the FAMA/FEMSA Employment Survey.
Hill Day’s companion, Home Day, means you don’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to establish an effective relationship with your Senator or Congressional representative. (See GAC Co-Chair David Durstine’s article on p ___.) You can invite your Senator or Representative to tour your facility to see first-hand how you support first responders. Or you can go for a cup of coffee with the District or State office staff to educate them on the fire service and your contribution toward it.
The bottom line: This is an election year. Members of Congress will be home, especially in the months of August and October. Give their District offices a call and invite them to stop by to see your operations first-hand and most importantly, the jobs you contribute.
Our work to support the Fire Service never ends. Our voice is central because we are the coalition’s economic message. Whether its Hill Day or Home Day, or both, we all have a voice and a role to play.
Thank you for your service!