Congressional Fire Services Institute’s 2018 Christmas Ornament Design Contest

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) is seeking designs for the first national fire service Christmas ornament. We are extremely excited about conducting this contest and developing an ornament that will capture the Holiday spirit and traditions of our nation’s fire and emergency services. Unveiling of the winning design will take place during the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner

Congress Reauthorizes Firefighter Grant Programs, U.S. Fire Administration

(December 21, 2017) – On December 21st, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 4661, the United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act. The House approved H.R. 4661 by unanimous voice vote on Monday, December 18th.

The bill reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration through September 30, 2023. It contains many of the key recommendations the fire organizations presented to Congress earlier in the year that were incorporated into S.829, the Senate bill to reauthorize the two grant programs that was sponsored by Senators John McCain (AZ) and Jon Tester (MT). The bill also contains a “sunset” provision that would eliminate the grant programs, but the sunset would not take effect until September 30, 2024 unless Congress renews the programs before the deadline date.

“For more than a year, the national fire services organizations have worked together to preserve the Assistance to Firefighters, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, and the Fire Prevention and Safety grant programs. The collective efforts of so many individuals and fire organizations made this outcome possible. CFSI takes great pride in playing an integral role in this process,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.

H.R. 4661 will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.

House Passes Disaster Supplemental, Included Disaster Recovery Reform Provisions

(December 21, 2017) – On December 21st, the House passed H.R. 4667, a disaster relief supplemental spending measure. The bill, which provides additional disaster assistance funding to assist communities recovering from the recent wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, also includes important provisions to improve the nation’s disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts.

According to the BuildStrong Coalition, recent hurricanes and wildfires have caused over 260 American deaths and more than $300 billion in projected damages. Research has demonstrated that $1 invested pre-disaster saves $4-8 on post-disaster recovery costs.

H.R. 4667 includes provisions from the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, legislation recently introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11). These provisions provide incentives for states to adopt national recognized model building codes and funding for post-disaster code implementation and enforcement.

The Senate is expected to take up the supplemental spending measure after the holiday recess.

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.

Official 2017 White House Christmas Ornament

The Official 2017 White House Christmas ornament honors the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as the thirty-second president of the United States from 1933 to 1945 and his remarkable journey to restore the faith of the American people. The ornament is crafted from shiny brass plated with nickel and 24-karat gold.

“Engaging Future Leaders” Reflecting on the Next Generation of Fire Service Leaders

One aspect of my job that I enjoy most is traveling to fire service events and having the opportunity to address audiences who are interested in learning about the work being performed by CFSI and the other national organizations on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t matter to me if I have two people in the audience or two hundred. I always look forward to sharing with them CFSI’s efforts to advocate for federal programs and legislation that address the needs and challenges of our one million firefighters and emergency services personnel.