Senator John McCain Named 2017 CFSI Legislator of The Year Award

(December 21, 2017) – The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) has named Senator John McCain (AZ) the 2017 Legislator of the Year.  An original co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Senator McCain has been a long-time advocate for the national fire and emergency services on Capitol Hill.

“For 30 years, Senator McCain has stood by the side of the American fire service, offering his leadership and support on a variety of issues,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “We are grateful for all he has done for our nation’s first responders and it is an honor to recognize him during the 30th anniversary of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.”   

Fire Sprinkler Provisions, LOSAP Reforms Included in Tax Overhaul Bill

(December 21, 2017) – On December 20th, the House and Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 1, the tax reform bill.  While the tax bill could have far reaching implications on individuals, businesses, and local governments, there are some provisions in the bills that have a specific impact on the nation’s fire and emergency services.

The bill classifies “fire protection systems” as an eligible property under Section 179 of the tax code.  This provision allows small and medium-sized businesses to fully expense certain types of equipment purchases like machines, equipment, vehicles, and computers.  With the expansion of Section 179 to now include fire protection systems, small and medium-sized businesses will be able to fully expense, up to $1 million, the retrofit of a property with automatic fire sprinklers.  

The cost of fire in America is enormous. In 2015, fire claimed the lives of 3,280 civilians and led to 15,700 civilian injuries. The direct property damage caused by fire was an estimated $14.3 billion.  One of the most effective ways to minimize the loss of life and property to fire is with automatic sprinklers. Current building codes require sprinklers in many of the most vulnerable occupancies, such as student housing, commercial and residential high-rise, and entertainment complexes. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of structures that were built and put in service before sprinklers were required. In many jurisdictions, these structures are grandfathered from current standards despite the dangers of these occupancies.  Providing an economic incentive to property owners to do the right thing and retrofit properties with automatic fire sprinklers has the potential to have a significant impact on addressing the nation’s fire problem.  

H.R. 1 also increases the cap on allowable annual contributions into a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) from $3,000 to $6,000 and establishes a mechanism for the cap to be raised over time with inflation.  The current cap was established in 1996 and has not been adjusted since. A LOSAP is a retirement account for volunteer emergency responders in which approximately 20 percent of the 814,850 volunteer firefighters in the United States are enrolled.  Many communities provide modest financial incentives to their volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to boost recruitment and retention and LOSAP is one of the most popular benefits.  

H.R. 1 will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by the President.  

Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act Becomes Law

(November 21, 2017) – On November 17th, President Trump signed the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act into law.  The legislation, which was introduced as H.R. 304 by Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-8), clarifies existing law to allow EMS providers to continue dispensing controlled substances under “standing orders”.  Senator Bill Cassidy (LA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

At the spring meeting of the Congressional Fire Service Institute’s National Advisory Committee, the committee unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Volunteer Fire Council calling on CFSI to support passage of the legislation.

Congressional Staff Participate in Ride Along Program

(November 21, 2017) – Throughout the year, CFSI arranges for congressional staff to spend an evening riding with DC Fire and EMS to actual emergencies.  Another successful program took place on November 17th as participants rode on apparatus to fires, emergency medical calls and other incidents.  CFSI extends a special thanks to DC Chief Gregory Dean and his personnel for providing this educational opportunity for the participants.  

This programs is an example of how CFSI continues to perform its mission of educating members of Congress about the challenges and needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services.

House Approves Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

(September 13, 2017) – On Tuesday, September 12th, the House approved by voice vote H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), creates a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources they need to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.

Studies have indicated a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of several major cancers, including colon, lung, melanoma, mesothelioma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate, rectal, testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancer. The heightened risk of cancer among firefighters has been attributed to their frequent exposure to a range of harmful toxins.

Unfortunately, studies examining cancer risks among firefighters have been limited by the availability of important data and relatively small sample sizes that have an underrepresentation of women, minorities, and volunteer firefighters. As a result, public health researchers have been unable to fully examine and understand the broader epidemiological cancer trends among firefighters. A specialized national cancer registry would expand access to vital epidemiological data and improve research outcomes.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Passes Firefighter Grants Reauthorization

(August 3, 2017) – On August 2nd, the Senate approved S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Reauthorization Act, by unanimous consent.  The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 17th, reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs through Fiscal Year 2023.  Additionally, the legislation removes a “sunset” provision in the current authorizing statute that would eliminate the programs on January 2, 2018.

S. 829 was introduced by Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senator Jon Tester (MT), both co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  Senator Susan Collins (ME), chair of the Fire Caucus, and Senator Tom Carper, a fellow Fire Caucus co-chair, are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

“We are very grateful to the Senate for taking action to reauthorize these critical, life saving programs that have had such an immense impact in communities across the entire nation,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “The passage of S. 829 is the result of a cooperative and unified effort by the national fire service organizations, as well as persistent grassroots engagement by fire service leaders throughout the country.  We strongly urge the House to approve the Senate bill as soon as they return from the August Congressional recess.”  

On July 12th, the House Science, Technology and Space Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology conducted a hearing on reauthorizing the AFG, SAFER and FP&S grant programs.  Unfortunately, the House adjourned for a five-week district work period before the subcommittee could take action on any legislation.  The House is scheduled to return on September 5th.  

CFSI Releases Fire Service White Paper: Document To Be Shared With Lawmakers To Increase Their Understanding of the Fire and Emergency Services

(July 24, 2017) – The Congressional Fire Services Institute has recently released a white paper that will be distributed to members of Congress and federal agency officials.  The title of the paper is “Understanding the Roles, Challenges, and Needs of Our Nation’s Fire and Emergency Services”.  Thirty-five member organizations of the CFSI National Advisory Committee (NAC) co-signed the paper developed by the CFSI staff and task group comprised of NAC members.

“This document contains important information that we want to share with members of Congress,” said CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb.  “It is intended to educate them about the challenges facing the fire service in protecting our communities and convey the importance of continued federal support for our local fire and emergency services departments.”

The White Paper is available on CFSI’s website.  Fire officials are encouraged to share it with their elected officials when discussing both local and national issues impacting the fire service.  By design, the document is brief, focusing on general information about the fire and emergency services.

Established in 1989, CFSI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy institute.  Its primary mission is to share information with members of Congress about the challenges and needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services to help them understand how certain programs and legislation can benefit our first responders.  The National Advisory Committee is comprised of a broad range of national fire and emergency services organizations.  Convening semi-annually, committee members discuss and develop consensus positions on federal issues that CFSI shares with members of Congress.

A privately-funded organization, CFSI is the host of the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program that takes place each year in Washington, DC.  Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the event.  Approximately 1,500 fire service leaders from across the country will assemble for the two-day event on April 18 – 19, 2018.  Additional details about the program will be available later in the year.

House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Homeland Security Spending Bill

(July 21, 2017) – On Tuesday, July 18th, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2018.  The $44.3 billion spending bill represents a nearly $2 billion increase in spending for the Department compared to the current fiscal year.  

The bill would fund the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs at $690 million, the same amount as the current fiscal year.  The United States Fire Administration (USFA) would receive a slight cut from $44 million for Fiscal Year 2017 to $43.41 million for Fiscal Year 2018.  The Urban Search and Rescue System (USAR) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) would both be funded at essentially the same levels as the current fiscal year.  The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) would receive $630 million, an increase of $25 million over the current fiscal year.  

Earlier this year, the White House released a Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal that recommend significant cuts to the USAR, SHSGP and UASI programs.  

House Subcommittee Conducts Hearing on USFA, Firefighter Grant Programs

(July 14, 2017) – On Wednesday, July 12th, the House Science, Technology and Space Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology conducted a hearing to the review the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program.  The hearing, entitled “U.S. Fire Administration and Fire Grant Programs Reauthorization: Examining Effectiveness and Priorities,” featured witnesses from USFA and a number of national fire service organizations.  CFSI submitted comments for the record, which can be viewed here.

USFA is the lead federal agency for our nation’s fire and emergency services. Its core mission is divided into four program areas: data collection, public education, technology development, and training.  Congress created the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs to address the baseline needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services. These two highly successful programs help ensure that our nation’s more than 30,000 fire departments have the necessary training, equipment, and staffing to respond to over 30 million emergency calls annually, and work to reduce community risk.  Legislation reauthorizing these critical programs is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks.  

On May 17th, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017.  The legislation reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs through Fiscal Year 2023.  Additionally, the legislation removes a “sunset” provision in the current authorizing statute that would eliminate the programs on January 2, 2018.

House Subcommittee Approves Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

(June 30, 2017) – On Thursday, June 29th, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  The legislation, introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), directs the Center for Disease Control to create a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources they need to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.

Studies have indicated a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of several major cancers, including colon, lung, melanoma, mesothelioma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate, rectal, testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancer. The heightened risk of cancer among firefighters has been attributed to their frequent exposure to a range of harmful toxins.

Unfortunately, studies examining cancer risks among firefighters have been limited by the availability of important data and relatively small sample sizes that have an underrepresentation of women, minorities, and volunteer firefighters. As a result, public health researchers have been unable to fully examine and understand the broader epidemiological cancer trends among firefighters. A specialized national cancer registry would expand access to vital epidemiological data and improve research outcomes.

H.R. 931 will now go before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.