NATIONAL FIRE SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS: REVIEW AND PREVIEW `95-`96
Editor`s note: The following organizations did not respond to our survey as of press time: International Association of Fire Fighters; Alliance for Fire and Emergency Management; National Volunteer Fire Council; National Association of State Directors of Fire Training and Education; International Association of Arson Investigators; National Association of State Fire Marshals; International Marshals Association of North America; International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters; and the IAFC EMS Section.
Positives outweighed negatives for the fire and emergency medical services in 1995, say representatives of key fire service-related organizations who responded to Fire Engineering`s invitation to review 1995 and preview 1996. However, some caution, the year was also a “transitional” one in that some of the issues highlighted during 1995 will present challenges to the fire and medical emergency services–and the country in general–for some time to come. Consequently, respondents` agendas and objectives for 1996 reflect the changes in attitudes and approaches that will best enable them to maintain their priorities in a national environment that has been evolving the familiar and traditional into the unknown and untried. “The fire and emergency services are being driven by radical change, as is the rest of society,” observes Doug Brown, director of government relations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). “More and more the forces of change are external to the fire and emergency service itself.” These are times, counsels William M. Webb, executive director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI), when the fire/emergency medical service is in the position where it must “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
(Editor`s note: The information below is presented under headings that correlate to questions asked in our survey. In reality, however, the issues are interrelated and dynamic and therefore may be addressed under more than one heading.)
Following are summaries and excerpts from respondents` responses.
1995: THE POSITIVES
Among the events and developments that have enhanced/affected the fire/medical emergency service during 1995 are the following.
The professionalism and commitment of fire and medical service personnel. This item was most often cited with reference to the Oklahoma City bombing, which, respondents point out, brought worldwide recognition for the heroic response of the fire and emergency services. Responders` performance reflected the “continued improvement of standards and expertise,” observe John M. Buckman, chair, and F. C. Windisch, vice-chair, of the IAFC Volunteer Section. “By all regards, the Oklahoma City Fire Department probably did [more] to provide deserved recognition to the fire/emergency services than the TV shows Emergency and Rescue 911 together,” they say.
Other cited effects of the Oklahoma City bombing included heightening of the fire/emergency services` awareness of their strengths and weaknesses in responding to terrorism, validating the need for and benefit of urban search and rescue teams, and demonstrating that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the ability to manage disasters.
On another level, points out Terese M. Floren, executive director of Women in the Fire Service (WFS), the Oklahoma City disaster “radically altered our awareness of the possibility that any of us may have to manage this type of cross-jurisdictional emergency and its surrounding tragedy.”
A growing commitment to firefighter safety. This was cited especially in connection with bloodborne pathogens, traffic safety, psychological stress, and similar issues; the improved performance of fire apparatus and personal protective equipment; and apparatus chassis safety features such as enclosed cabs, antilock brakes, and transmission retarders.
Forging of interorganizational relationships. Generally, these relationships are being strengthened, even though there may not be agreement on every issue. Among examples given are the following:
–The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the IAFC “have been developing partnerships” and “the volunteer and career fire services have begun to recognize that public dollars are less available for expanded services,” note the IAFC`s Buckman and Windisch, who add that there are indications that smaller municipalities are moving toward combination-type emergency services in which a “base” staff prepared and available to respond to a major event will be supplemented by additional “on call” personnel–reducing overall expenses.
–Carrye B. Brown, administrator of FEMA`s United States Fire Administration (USFA), points to an “unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between FEMA and the USFA.” She relates the following as one example: “Immediately following the Oklahoma City bombing, FEMA Director James Lee Witt activated a USFA team, for the first time, to participate in the response and recovery.”
–The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA), reports Ronald L. Ewers, vice president, assisted the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in updating apparatus standards, expected to be completed and approved during 1996.
EMS curriculum. The 1994 EMT basic curriculum is being implemented nationally, the revised first-responder curriculum has just been released, and work on updating the EMT-paramedic curriculum is now beginning, reports Dan Manz, president of the National Association of State EMS Directors (NASEMSD).
The growing political clout of the fire service. The USFA`s Brown noted the strong support the fire and emergency communities received from President Clinton and Congress and the fact that “the USFA proposed fiscal 1996 budget will enable the USFA to adequately address the needs of the fire and emergency communities.” (“The U.S. House of Representatives,” Brown notes, “cut the USFA authorization level by three percent.”)
A growing professionalism on the part of fire service leaders. At the USFA, for example, newly appointed (March 1995) Deputy Administrator Don Bathurst has had more than 10 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter, has degrees in fire protection engineering and public administration, and spent more than 10 years as the manager of a federal fire program. Dr. Denis Onieal, the first career superintendent of the National Fire Academy (July 1995), has been a career firefighter for more than 20 years and has degrees in education, management, and fire science.
1995: AREAS OF CONCERN
Mary Grilliot, president of Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association Inc. (FEMSA), describes 1995 as a year that was “potentially transitional to a more challenging reality.” Perhaps a good indicator of this is that many of the issues, including the following, most commonly cited by respondents as areas of primary concern during 1995 were also listed as challenges for 1996 and beyond.
Firefighter fatalities. The NFPA 1994 report, released in 1995, revealed that 100 firefighters died while on-duty that year. “The USA still leads the world in fire deaths (although these were the lowest since World War II) and fire losses,” points out the IAFC`s Doug Brown. “We are still losing firefighters from injuries, which in many cases can be prevented.”
Economic and societal changes. These are addressed below.
Liability. The personal injury attorneys are increasingly focusing on the fire service in general, reports FEMSA`s Grilliot. “Particularly troubling were the articles that began appearing in legal journals on `How to Sue Fire Departments.` In the past, legal actions directed at the fire service tended to concentrate on manufacturers only,” she adds.
1995: ORGANIZATIONS` PRIMARY
Among the achievements responding organizations cited for 1995 are the following:
CFSI. (1) Informed congressional members about the needs and abilities of the fire service and educated them about fire and EMS issues. (2) Made a successful transition to its third executive director. (3) Instrumental in having proposed cuts in the U.S. Fire Administration budget restored and funding for the rural firefighting programs supported. (4) Assisted major national organizations in finding common ground and new ways and reasons for working together. (5) Assisted in the educational efforts in behalf of the Natural Disaster Protection Act.
FAMA. (1) Assisted the NFPA with new fire apparatus standards. (2) Provided three $2,000 scholarships to students relative to the fire industry. (3) Assisted on the NFPA 1500 Committee. (4) Assisted with committee work on the Emergency Vehicle Technicians (EVT) board. (5) Assisted with committee work on the CFSI steering committee.
FEMSA. (1) Negotiated a tentative deal with the ISO so that the NFPA standards on clothing at least (the first such standards to be considered) will be recognized internationally for purposes of U.S. bidding….(The GATT treaty, recently ratified by the U.S. Senate and House, stipulates that international standards, such as the ISO, will predominate when national standards are specified.) There were a variety of counterarguments centering on the safety issue, but the compromise does much to guarantee that U.S. departments will continue to receive NFPA levels of performance when they specify it. (2) Created an industrywide insurance and risk management program that will allow the input of human factor engineers, risk engineers, linguistic experts, and fire service end users in the review of fire-related products. The cost involved in such a professional in-depth review will be split among the many participating companies. (3) Helped to create and promote government-industry partnering projects, which will generate cost-effective research for the advancement of fire service products. (4) Created a labeling task force that will allow for the standardization and most appropriate design of fire service product labels. FEMSA member companies will share the benefits and cost of the project.
IAFC. (1) Completed its accreditation program, which is now available to members. (2) Championed an effort to get a $5 million funding amendment on the house antiterrorism bill (HR 1710) for training the fire and emergency service. The IAFC and FEMA hosted a major antiterrorism conference. (3) Sponsored labor/management consolidation and EMS workshop series. (4) Sponsored Fire-Rescue International and the International Hazardous Materials Response Team conferences. (5) Membership broke the 11,000 mark.
IAFC Volunteer Section. (1) Garnered the support of close to 1,000 IAFC members who joined the section. Developed a Super-FAX communication system and a monthly newsletter to keep members informed (and ask them for their help). (2) Gained a seat on the IAFC Board of Directors by an 85 percent favorable vote of the IAFC membership, which shows that the IAFC is ready for the challenges ahead by recognizing that the fire service is bigger than the names “paid” and “volunteer.” (3) Joined with the National Volunteer Fire Council to work together and use each other`s strengths to assist the volunteer and combination fire service. (4) Conducted a strategic planning session that identified the four major needs of the volunteer/combination fire service. The resulting plan is being implemented.
NAFI. (1) With the NFPA, cosponsored training seminars in Aurora, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Approximately 200 investigators attended. The curriculum was based on NFPA 921 and included a one-day module on the application of computer fire models to fire investigation. (2) In conjunction with the National Certification Board, certified 210 individuals as certified fire and explosion investigators (CFEI) and 25 individuals as certified fire investigation instructors. (3) Updated and revised the National Certification Board`s Evaluation Procedures and Examination. (4) Placed in operation in January the first electronic bulletin board (BBS) dedicated to fire investigators` needs. This BBS to date has 460 active users and has been accessed 1,534 times. (5) Participated in “The Fire Pattern Research Project,” funded by the USFA and conducted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
NASEMSD. (1) Participated in and supported the “EMS Agenda for the Future” project. (2) Provided leadership for the EMS Alliance. (3) Worked with other national organizations on projects. (4). Continued to focus on improving state EMS communications systems. (5) Initiated an effort to organize and publish state/national EMS system data.
NFPA. (1) Published the 1996 edition of the National Electrical Code®. (2) Expanded regional representative program. (3) Announced plans to develop the all-injury prevention curriculum “Safety Sense.” (4) Funded tuition for the 1995 Harvard Fire Service Fellowship program. (5) Expanded activities in the international arena.
USFA. (1) “The accomplishment of which we are most proud is the quality and quantity of management training we provided to the fire and emergency communities. Training is our major function, and we continue to improve it, with the input of those who attend classes.” (2) The awarding of almost $2 million in arson grants to 12 states. (3) Functioned as partners with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on manufactured housing, the Department of Agriculture on wildland/urban fire interface, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission on fire data. (4) The Memorial Service honoring the nation`s fallen firefighters.
WFS. (1) Produced a videotape (the first of a planned series) for fire departments to use in recruiting women firefighter candidates. (2) Sponsored the Sixth International Conference of Fire Service Women, held in Fairfax, Virginia, in April. (3) Conducted a 1995 survey among women serving as firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and other positions in the fire service. The survey is conducted every five years. Data from the questionnaires, mailed out in November, are currently being tabulated and analyzed. (4) Expanded our office space, computer capability, and staff hours–made possible largely by donations from members and supporters. (5) Provided training sessions in organizational leadership and financial management for our board of trustees.
1996: PROBLEMS AND SUGGESTED
Summaries of respondents` views and suggestions include the following:
Issue: Fire and emergency service leaders are caught up in changes occurring as a result of the astonishing rate of evolution of society`s social, political, and economic institutions. Leaders must adapt and find solutions to problems that have no existing solutions.
Suggestions: Leaders and individual responders must (1) educate themselves about the issues and pressures forcing change, (2) connect the issues with their own value system and with the effect on their personal situation, and (3) join with like-minded peers and their associations and become politically assertive. To remain relevant, the fire and emergency service personnel and leaders will have to articulate and market that relevancy to the public and its public policy decision makers. (Webb, CFSI)
Issue: Changes in federal (state and local) spending undoubtedly will affect programs for fire research, training, prevention, and suppression activities, as well as the fire safety of occupants in federally funded facilities. All fire and emergency medical organizations will be affected in many ways. Medicare/Medicaid cuts will affect EMS program revenue. Congress eliminated the state grant program within the Division of Trauma and EMS at Health and Human Services, and state and local funding for EMS is being slashed. Competition for funds at the local and state levels will be keener, and workloads may increase. Consolidations and mergers may be used to achieve increased savings and productivity.
Suggestions: Be prepared to adopt codes and standards that can be enforced locally and will maintain or enhance the level of safety at the community level. Do not rely on federal regulations to dictate local fire protection requirements. Participate fully in the open standards-making system. (George D. Miller, president, NFPA)
–Look beyond traditional fire service methods and approaches. Revise the command structure to combine responsibilities in creative ways. Create public-private partnerships to support our work. Focus on training, particularly that of preparing officers to become professional fire service managers. (Floren, WFS)
–Find new and imaginative ways of solving the many problems we face. For many fire and emergency programs, that may mean merging and becoming a cohesive unit. For the USFA, it means having to do more training through “distance education.” A proposed incident simulation laboratory, which will take a couple of years to complete, will enable firefighters to sit at their desks anywhere in America, turn on a personal computer, and join the USFA staff in interactive simulation exercises for emergency response to disasters. (Brown, USFA)
–For the volunteer and combination fire service, there will be a continued increase in the customer service requirements and a continuing decrease in available dollars… service organizations must work smarter to become more efficient and work harder to justify our existence. For too many years, the fire service has not educated the public in all the good things it provides. There needs to be more emphasis on marketing our product “en total.” (Buckman and Windisch, IAFC Volunteer Section)
–EMS perspective: (1) Move beyond the premise that we are great people charged by society to defend lives and property. While that notion is absolutely true, it isn`t enough. (2) Explain what we do in quantifiable terms that illustrate the value of our work in both social and economic terms. The public needs to know that an investment in emergency services is a smart buy. (3) Be open to the possibility of new service delivery models–public and private partnerships, expanded scopes of practice, and working with managed-care organizations. (4) Focus on prevention. At all levels, the fire service is well postured to lead in changing the focus of EMS from merely responding to the critically ill or injured patient to preventing the illness or injury in the first place. (5) For today, we need to stand firm and speak loudly in situations where funding reductions will demonstrably reduce service delivery. (Manz, NASEMSD)
–The IAFC is developing a new grassroots lobbying network using broadcast fax capabilities to expedite timely information on legislative and regulatory issues.
Issue: There will be an increased challenge to workforce diversity in an environment of backlash against affirmative action.
Suggestion: Renew your department`s commitment to serving the community. The optimum workforce comes from the largest possible applicant pool, and multidimensional services can best be provided by a fire department that is diversity-positive and takes a multicultural approach. (Floren, WFS)
Issue: Fire loss in the United States must be reduced by getting the message of fire safety to those at greatest risk. That will be a major challenge in 1996 and future years.
Suggestion: We will collect and analyze data to show specifically where the fire risk is greatest and then develop public education programs in partnership with the state and local communities that will effectively target those groups at risk. Through this and other partnerships, we can reduce fire loss in the United States. (Brown, USFA)
Issue: With today`s new technology and changing standards, we could always use more education and training. Personnel injuries and deaths can be reduced and professionalism advanced only through training and meeting standards` requirements. All personnel must take training seriously, and training must be current.
Suggestions: FAMA will assist the fire/emergency service in making available educational and training materials pertaining to new standards. (Ewers, FAMA)
–Trainers must keep up with technology and be ready to use it. Abandon old methods and theories that have been shown to be invalid. Participate in the standards-writing process and comment on the standards as they are being written and after they have been adopted. (James H. Shanley, Jr., PE, Board of Directors; Laurie King, director of membership services, of The National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI)]
Issue: The legal explosion that has crippled other industries and services is threatening the American fire service and has led some manufacturers, such as those of small planes and sports helmets, to manufacture outside the United States, where the firms are unavailable to the discipline of the U.S. court system….Personal liability issues may also cause Americans to be afraid to serve as volunteer firefighters or career officers.
Suggestions: Recognize the challenge and do not run from it. Even though your department, or you personally, has not been affected by litigation issues, you can be sure that eventually they will arrive at your doorstep if we don`t work to minimize the risk of frivolous lawsuits….We need to explore the value and feasibility of extending “Good Samaritan laws,” which traditionally have been used to shield emergency care providers from legal attacks. (Recently, however, they are being circumvented in today`s aggressive tort climate.) (Grilliot, FEMSA) Issue: Unfunded mandates will continue. One example is the proposed OSHA respiratory standard requiring a fire department to purchase/supply each firefighter with two different brands of SCBA, the theory being that since masks and back frames are not “one size fits all,” the probability of better fit will increase. The standard also would require face mask fit to be tested. Of course, it`s just not realistic. (Isn`t it going to be more difficult and expensive not just to purchase twice as many SCBAs but also to train members to use two brands of SCBA?) We hear about OSHA fines for not doing this and not doing that. The primary concern is the paper trail vs. reality….There is definitely a problem with the definition of performance standards vs. following rules.
Suggestion: Define performance standards vs. following rules. Consider cost vs. benefit. (Buckman and Windisch, IAFC Volunteer Section)
Issue: We will see a continual downward trend of people who want to volunteer. When we add the combined requirements of firefighter expertise along with safety and health issues, and then pile all of that with the big “L” (liability), the fear is that people will not take the risks we want them to take. Economic conditions are also causing both parents to work (if they have jobs). If they can buy a house and if they choose to have children, then they are so busy they do not have time for the fire service.
Suggestion: Consider alternative staffing times and other creative methods. These arrangements will require management expertise and time to make them work. (Buckman and Windisch, IAFC Volunteer Section)
1996: ORGANIZATIONS` PRIMARY OBJECTIVES
CFSI. (1) Educate Congress on the role and function of the fire and emergency medical services both generally and specifically whenever any public policy issue has a fire or emergency medical services component or impact. (2) Monitor activities of the Congress and the Administration on fire and emergency medical services issues and keep the leadership of those services informed. (3) Develop a national consensus on fire/EMS-related policy through the CFSI`s National Advisory Committee. (4) Assist fire/EMS leaders to develop working coalitions when consensus is not proper or possible. (5) Increase funding for CFSI by implementing new fund-raising program (no federal funding is provided).
FAMA. (l) Continue to assist the NFPA with the developing of new fire apparatus standards and to prepare educational material for the industry. (2) Increase scholarships to four $2,000 scholarships to students relative to the fire industry. (3) Continue committee representation on the NFPA 1500 Committee, EVT board, and CFSI steering committee. (4) Promote working relationships between the fire apparatus and equipment industry and the end user, chassis manufacturers, component suppliers, accessory suppliers, and the regulatory and legislative organizations.
FEMSA. Continue multiyear program in the following areas: (1) insurance and risk management planning, (2) ISO representation from the U.S. perspective, (3) labeling and other legal issues, (4) government and industry partnering, and (5) international competitiveness for American fire service manufacturers.
IAFC. (1) Continue to provide top- quality information and education to members through timely, progressive workshops; seminars; and the Fire-Rescue International conference. (2) Provide information networks and communication media (“On Scene” and “ICHIEFS”) responsive to the current and future needs of members. (3) Actively participate in selective legislation and regulatory issues that affect the membership on Capitol Hill. (4) Develop a stable and diversified financial base and increase membership to enable growth in services and programs. (5) Involve membership in setting the IAFC`s future direction and evaluating the governance and organizational structure.
IAFC Volunteer Section. (1) Meet with fire service women`s organizations to examine methods for recruiting women into the volunteer ranks. Participate in the IAFC Diversity Task Force. Identify diversity issues in the volunteer fire service. (2) Develop a task force to identify new jobs for volunteers in the fire service. Publish the report in various media outlets. (3) Actively work to change the Fair Labor Standards Act within the scope of impact on the volunteer fire service. Influence OSHA regulations. Survey states to determine legislation occurring within those jurisdictions that help as well as hinder volunteer fire departments. (4) Survey states for leadership courses that deal with recruiting, retention, marketing, and leadership specific to the volunteer fire service. Develop a task force to evaluate courses in those states. Meet with the National Association of State Directors, Fire Training and Education. Implement an education series that includes incentives for volunteer chief officers to attend leadership and management courses.
NAFI. (1) Continue to offer, in conjunction with the NFPA, training seminars in the United States and Canada that will maintain NFPA 921 as the curriculum. (2) Continue to be the forerunner in the ongoing introduction and promotion of NFPA 921, which represents the decade`s most significant technological achievement by the fire and explosion investigation community. (3) Support basic fire pattern research in cooperation with the USFA. (4) Establish the NAFI BBS as a web site with full file transfer capabilities on the Internet.
NASEMSD. (1) Provide ongoing support for programs that improve the systems of care. (2) Become further involved in the evolution of national standard EMS training curricula. (3) Integrate prevention as a component of EMS. (4) Support EMS research, including outcomes research.
NFPA. (1) Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the NFPA, so the Centennial will be a top priority. (2) Continue to work toward our mission of reducing loss of life from fire. (3) Continue to work to build outreach to constituents. (4) Enhance commitment to public education, reaching out to wider audiences and continuing involvement with the fire service through the “Safe Cities” and “Champions” programs. (5) Continue to work collaboratively with allied organizations. (6) As always, serve as the official sponsor of the annual Fire Prevention Week commemoration.
USFA. (1) Institute an on-line budget system that, among other benefits, will bring a level of budget accountability from one year to the next so the impact of every policy decision, down to the lowest funding level, can be seen. (2) Implement a program to enhance distance education through the use of new technologies including the incident simulator and interactive CD-ROM, making more efficient and cost-effective training for the fire and emergency communities available throughout the United States. (3) Initiate a study of the impact of the Oklahoma City bombing and other such incidents on emergency responders. The final report will provide guidance and advice to local governments and fire and emergency services communities. (4) Initiate a study that will address one of the primary causes of firefighter deaths–becoming lost within a structure on fire due to disorientation or other factors. The research program will examine new technologies for locating firefighters in a burning building and will examine the Personal Alert Safety System (PASS), infrared and thermal imaging, and other technologies.
WFS. (1) Complete a contract with the U.S. Fire Administration to update its Handbook on Women in Firefighting (two documents: a revised Handbook, aimed at the needs of fire chiefs managing workforce diversification, and a new companion manual aimed at women firefighters and firefighter candidates). (2) Produce the second biennial Fire Service Women`s Leadership Training Seminar, providing training for women who are, or hope soon to become, fire officers. The conference will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, from May 31 to June 2. (3) Increase range of services, particularly with improved outreach to the volunteer fire/EMS community and the wildland fire service. (4) Continue to improve contacts with firefighters overseas. (5) Continue to work with other agencies and organizations to effect positive change for the fire and rescue service as a whole.