[cifnmedia] Fire Service Hears About Future Direction

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 01:07:36 -0700 (PDT)

Updated: 05-07-2004 04:07:32 PM

Fire Service Hears About Future Direction

Firehouse.Com News

The fire service got some of what it wanted when politicians and members of the 
Bush administration discussed with them the direction and future of the 
service. Members had gathered in Washington, D.C. for the CFSI dinner with the 
Vice President as keynote speaker, and a presentation of prestigious awards. 

At the invitation of the White House, three key administration members spoke to 
a group of about 100, describing the focus of the administration toward the 
fire service. Dave Paulison, USFA Administrator, Richard Falkenrath, Deputy 
Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, and Sue 
Mencer, Director of the Office of Domestic Preparedness. 

It was Falkenrath and Mencer who emphasized that the fire service should expect 
terrorism to be the bottom line when the administration talks about first 
responders. Falkenrath reiterated that his boss calls himself "a war 
president". And Mencer said the focus at ODP is weapons of mass destruction 

With the administration’s all out effort to combat terrorism, it is obvious 
the resources, or a good part of them, will be directed to that effort. And 
while resources provide for a stronger and more encompassing fire service, the 
feeling is focusing on terrorism preparedness is best for the country and the 
fire service at this time. 

“The individual character of the enemy is different”, Falkenrath said. The 
fire service, along with law enforcement (“not either, or, but both”) must 
be ready to respond regardless of scale. A national response plan currently 
being put together has become a big part of his job. As DHS matures, he said, 
it will become more forward leaning in incidents, to get better at responding 

Mencer emphasized that any use of WMD will probably overcome the capability of 
first responders anywhere. And determining preparedness and capability on a 
national and local level is extremely important now. “What do you need for 
basic capability? What exists? What scenarios will you face?” she asked. 

Mencer said she would bet that the nation will face another terrorist event, 
noting that this is a high profile year with the national political 
conventions, etc. Future funding, she said, to some extent would be driven by 
what they see as gaps and needs. “Training, training, training” and 
“shared responsibility” were key words for her. 

Both Mencer and Falkenrath comments reiterated the need for terrorism 
preparation. It was left to Paulison to bring forth the familiar issues of 
concern of the fire service. His ten points, the basis of his efforts in the 
coming year, include: growing number of LODDs along with civilian deaths and 
high property loss; national system for credentials; Web based training; and 
National Incident Management System (NIMS). 

Paulison repeated a number of times that those with him there, as well as the 
entire administration, are supporting him thoroughly as he carries the 
additional duties as Director of FEMA’s Division of Emergency Preparedness. 

Questions about funding were less clearly answered or not answered at all. At 
one point Mencer suggested that the next federal budget was not due for four 
months, so anything could happen and she would not be pinned down. Paulison 
pointed out that there was a lot of time left for lobbying for money. 

Starting out a day of funding related seminars on Capitol Hill May 5, was the 
Congressional Roundtable Discussion. The discussion was moderated by Steve 
Austin, director of Governmental Relations for the International Association of 
Arson Investigators, (IAAI) and centered on current legislation affecting the 
nation’s fire and emergency services. 

Congressman Jim Turner, (D -Texas) ranking member of the House Select Committee 
on Homeland Security, started of the discussion, focusing on how grant money is 
being allocated to the nation’s fire departments. He said that money is going 
out in an arbitrary manner with no sense of order and priority. Turner talked 
about establishing a “definition of preparedness” by creating a task force 
that would help decide where the money goes. His proposed task force would be 
composed of local responders and Homeland Security Officials. Turner believes 
that the men and women in the fire departments need to be involved in the 
process. “You are the front line soldier in war against terror,” he said. 
Turner also stressed that his “definition of preparedness” would not 
interfere with the FIRE Act. 

Representative Nick Smith (R-Michigan) focused on building up our ability to 
react to terror by developing legislation that was also separate from the FIRE 
Act. The discussed number of $750 million given this year in grant money was 
mentioned often during the session, as was the higher number of $900 million by 
next year. He also said it is “very important” to get the reauthorization 
of the FIRE Act done. 

Congressmen Bill Pascrell, (D-New Jersey) who authored the FIRE Act stated that 
the biggest issue facing the fire service is lack of manpower. He reported that 
2/3 of departments operate with not enough responders and rural departments are 
often neglected. Pascrell called attention to the fact that fire departments 
are being closed in New York, but being built in Iraq. “I don’t understand 
that, we need to do both,” he said. “We passed the Safer Act last year, 
this year we need the money.” 

Alex Furr, director of the National Fire Data and Research Centers said that 
participation in data sharing by departments is up. She went on to discuss a 
questionable survey that has shown up at departments asking sensitive 
questions, and said it should not be confused with theirs and confirmed that 
her department in looking into its source. 

Dr. Denis O’Nieal, Superintendent of the National Fire Academy, reported that 
there are currently over 8,000 students enrolled each year and discussed 
creating a standard fire curriculum for two-year, four-year and graduate 
programs. He also stated that for the first time there will be published fire 
based textbooks and hopes that these facts will help students be able to 
transfer credits from fire courses to other college programs. 

The Federal funding For America’s Fire Service seminar also discussed the 
different types of funding availing for fire departments. Sitting on the panel 
was Suzanne Mencer, Director of ODP and her deputy, Andy Mitchell. Brian Cowan, 
Director of Grants Program for ODP, and Time Beres, Director of State and Local 
Programs Division, were also in attendance. 

Mencer discussed the transition of the FIRE Act to ODP and assured the room 
that it’s a “seamless” one. She discussed that there should be a “one 
stop shop” for states seeking grants. 

Cowan called the FIRE Act a successful program that is competitive where any 
department can apply and gives balances. The state Homeland Security grants 
were also discussed. They are given based on population and the state must come 
up with strategies for grant spending and must spend them accordingly. Urban 
programs where cities at risk get funding were also a point of discussion. The 
panel said that the administration is asking the state to determine what part 
of their states funding goes where. 


Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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