Senate Approves Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

(May 11, 2018) – On Thursday, May 10th, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  The bill, which was amended by the Senate prior to passage, was unanimously approved by the House on September 12, 2017.

The bipartisan legislation creates a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources needed to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.

H.R. 931 was introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9).  Similar legislation, S. 382, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK).  

The amended bill will now go back to the House for final passage.  

 

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.

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.  

“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.

Registration Now Open for the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner

Registration is now open for the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner, hosted by the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) on April 18-19, 2018 in Washington, DC. Attended by approximately 1,500 fire and emergency services leaders from across the country, the event is the largest and most prestigious gathering of fire service officials, featuring important seminars and opportunities for interaction with federal policy makers.

30th Annual Symposium and Dinner Additional Sponsorship Opportunities

Now you can make a positive difference for CFSI by becoming a sponsor of the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner. Each year, we offer a number of sponsorship opportunities. Ranging in values, they offer a number of unique benefits that will capture the attention of our 1,500 guests. Take a look at the complete list of sponsorship opportunities we are now offering for our 2018 program and let us know which appeals to you. If you have questions, do not hesitate to give us a call at 202-371-1277.

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 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.  

CFSI Participates In BuildStrong Coalition Thought Leaders Forum

(June 9, 2017) – On Wednesday, June 7th, the BuildStrong Coalition hosted the National Thoughts Leaders Forum on Disaster Mitigation Resiliency for a Stronger and Safer America.  The forum, featuring members of Congress, fire service leaders, code and standard organizations, and representatives of the construction and insurance industries, examined the impact strong building codes can have in saving lives and taxpayer dollars and explored incentives for strengthening buildings and mitigating damage from natural disasters.   

Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11), Congressman Lloyd Smucker (PA-16), and Senator Ron Johnson (WI) addressed the forum.  The members of Congress largely focused their comments on the need to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster assistance programs to better protect the public while simultaneously safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

The Forum also featured a Stakeholder Roundtable, which included subject matter experts from a variety of fields, including the fire and emergency services.  Members of the roundtable emphasized the need for federal incentives to encourage state and local governments to adopt model building codes.  Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, participated in the roundtable discussion.  

“Studies, research and real-life events make a compelling case for greater adoption and enforcement of nationally recognized building codes,” said Mr. Webb.  “Providing incentives to encourage more states to adopt these codes, as part of a national mitigation strategy, will reduce the cost of natural disasters for government at the local, state and federal levels and greatly reduce the risk of death and injuries to citizens caught in pathway of these disasters and the first responders who put their lives on the line to save others.”  

CFSI has been a member of the BuildStrong Coalition since 2011 and continues to advocate for the adoption of strong building codes at the federal, state and local levels.