Approximately 1,500 fire service officials from across the nation gathered together to engage their peers and federal leaders in discussions on a broad range of issues being addressed on Capitol Hill and by the Trump Administration. At the end of the two-day program, they assembled in the Washington Hilton ballroom to pay tribute to fire service leaders and organizations for their outstanding leadership in addressing the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters and emergency services personnel.
Each year, the Congressional Fire Services Institute has the distinct honor of hosting the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program. For two days, fire officials spend their time in Washington, DC walking the halls of Congress and meeting with their representatives to discuss local and national issues impacting the fire service. The presence of 1,500 fire service leaders in Washington, DC captures the attention of our elected representatives and delivers an important message about the political strength of the fire service.
The theme of this year’s program was “Engaging Future Leaders.” Like other organizations, CFSI recognizes the need to get the next generation of leaders involved in its work. The schedule of events included seminars specifically for young, aspiring leaders. One seminar featured a panel of veteran fire service advocates, including former FEMA Administrator Dave Paulison, who discussed the importance of advocacy and why the fire service must maintain an active presence on Capitol Hill. A second seminar provided a forum for “future leaders” to talk about what drives the interest of the younger generation to the fire service. CFSI conducted 11 other seminars featuring panels of experts on a broad range of public safety issues. Attendees were eligible for continuing education units (CEUs) from Columbia Southern University in most of the seminars.
CFSI delivered on a promise to make this year’s Dinner something special. Music was a prominent part of the program. Bagpipers performed as the guests entered the ballroom. A young, aspiring opera singer inspired the audience with a performance of patriotic songs. And country music star Tony Jackson entertained the audience during the dinner hour, performing several of his hits.
Significant changes were made to the award presentations. CFSI produced videos highlighting the achievements of each of the recipients. The videos can be seen on our Facebook page. The recipients, themselves, were all very deserving of the honors they received. They include Steve Austin and Tony O’Neill, the recipients of the CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award; Mike Weller, recipient of the CFSI/IFSTA Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education; the International Society of Fire Service Instructors and UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, recipients of the CFSI/NFFF Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award; and the Alpena (MI) Fire Department and the Illini Emergency Medical Services/Illinois Fire Service Institute, recipients of the CFSI/Masimo Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Award.
Our keynote speaker was the Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Homeland Security. She and Congressman Steny Hoyer, Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, spoke of some of the work being done at the federal level to support of our nation’s fire and emergency services, in addition to expressing their appreciation for our firefighters.
The National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner is CFSI’s major fundraising program. The proceeds from the event enable CFSI to perform its mission of educating members of Congress about the challenges and needs of our nation’s fire and emergency. We thank all the organizations and individuals who attended the program and encourage others to join us next year on April 24-25, 2019.