USFA Administrator Paulison comments on proposed FY-06 budget
In a February release, R. David Paulison, administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), said he was aware of “the concerns expressed by organizations representing the fire service regarding the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2006 (FY-06) funding for the USFA.” He explained that he wanted “to reassure first responders across the country that the President is committed to ensuring that America’s firefighters have the equipment, training, and planning resources to support their communities.”
Among the statistics Paulison cited were the following:
• When the 2005 grant process finishes, almost $2.6 billion will have been awarded to more than 22,258 local fire departments through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (FIRE Act). The amount will grow to $3.1 billion with the additional $500 million requested to fund grants in 2006.
• The President’s budget includes a $1.3 million increase for the USFA as well as additional funds for the National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute for developing and providing training for first responders on the new National Incident Management System and the National Response Plan.
• The USFA’s virtual campus has been expanded, and an average of more than 2,000 students a day are accessing online training.
• Since its creation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has allocated or awarded $13 billion in grants to first responders and state and local governments.
Fire service organizations also have released comments concerning the FY 2006 proposed budget. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), for example, says it is “carefully evaluating the budget and will work with Congress throughout the appropriations process to ensure that first-responder programs are fully funded.” IAFC President Chief Bob DiPoli noted that Congress determines the actual funding levels for each program and that the process takes several months.
The IAFC pointed out the following “facts” related to the FY 2006 budget proposed by President Bush:
• The budget request of the Department of Homeland Security is $34.2 billion, a 7 percent increase over the FY 2005 budget.
• The budget request for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is $500 million. Although the President proposed the same amount in the 2004 and 2005 budgets, Congress ultimately appropriated $650 million for 2005 and $750 mission for 2004.
• There is no funding for SAFER in the President’s budget, as was the case last year. Congress, however, appropriated $65 million for the program.
The IAFC has urged the fire service to withhold any action pertaining to USFA funding until “facts can be solidified and there can be a unified effort that will be effective.” In January, it released a multistep plan for addressing funding concerns pertaining to the NFA and announced that it was convening a meeting with other national fire service organizations on February 24 in Washington, D.C. to address the funding issues (see “IAFC sponsors fire service summit” below).
IAFF expresses disappointment
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), AFL-CIO/CLC, on the other hand, has expressed “disappointment that the FY 2006 budget proposed by President Bush cuts funding for the FIRE Act (Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program) by 30 percent.” (The President has proposed $500 million for FY 2006, the same as he had proposed for FY 2004 and 2005, according to the Congressional Fire Services Institute.)
“These reductions represent a continuing pattern in which President Bush has either not included any funding for the FIRE Act or substantially reduced funding below what Congress appropriated the prior year,” according to IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. He said the IAFF hopes it can work with members on both sides of the aisle in Congress “to bring the funding for emergency preparedness in our nation’s communities back to levels that begin to address the major shortages we see in more than two-thirds of the communities in America.”
The IAFF opposes any cuts in FIRE Act funding and is working to establish “a productive dialogue” with the new Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, and the White House concerning additional funding and the quick and efficient distribution of the funds that are ultimately appropriated. It referred to the Boston Globe report (see “Boston Globe report says firefighters not meeting response time standards” below) that noted a decline in the nation’s fire response capabilities (www.boston.com/news/specials/fires/) and studies by the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Council on Foreign Relations, reported in 2003, that found “our nation’s emergency response capabilities critically underfunded and our first responders understaffed, undertrained, and ill equipped.”
NVFC Asks for Full Funding
Finally, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has asked Congress and the Bush Administration to fully fund the USFA in the approaching fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2005. The United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act (Public Law 108-169), signed by President Bush in December 2003, authorized funding for USFA activities through FY 2008, setting FY 2006 funding at $64.85 million. If the USFA is not funded fully, notes NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg, “the activities of the Fire Data Center, various prevention and fire service outreach initiatives, National Fire Academy course development and revision, and more, will be impeded.” The NVFC is encouraging fire service members to contact their legislators and ask for full funding for the USFA. ■
Boston Globe report says firefighters not meeting response time standards
Barely over a third of fire departments nationwide are meeting national standards for response time, according to a Boston Globe report. The newspaper based its findings on an analysis it made from reviewing National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data pertaining to 3.3 million building fires. Among the information presented in the two-part series was the following:
• Only 35 percent of departments reached 90 percent of building fires within six minutes, in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards.
• The percentage of departments that met the six-minute response time in 2002 dropped to 58 percent from 75 percent in 1986, when data on response were collected for the first time.
• More than 4,000 people died in fires in which firefighters took more than six minutes to respond.
In a January 30 emsnetwork report (article 13779), retired Fire Department of New York Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn pointed out that “response times outside the center cities are too great, and the personnel responding inside and outside the center cities are too few.”
The Globe used U.S. Census data to estimate that spending for fires dropped from an average of 6.1 percent of municipal spending in 1987 to 5.7 percent in 2003. www.emsnetwork.org, article 13779, Jan. 30, 2005 ■
IAFC sponsors fire service summit
Representatives of 18 major fire service organizations and the fire service media met in Washington, D.C., on February 24 to discuss funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA)/National Fire Academy (NFA) and the need for an expanded role for the fire service within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The event was hosted by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
The objective of the meeting, according to IAFC President Chief Bob DiPoli, who chaired the summit, is to speak with one voice “to better demonstrate to the Administration, to Congress, to the press, and to the public our [the fire service’s] solidarity in preserving the funding and missions of these critical institutions.”
USFA Administrator R. David Paulison briefed the group on the status of the USFA/NFA initiatives and said that even though the USFA budget has been cut in recent years, “it has remained manageable since September 11, 200l.”
He also noted that no courses have been cancelled at the NFA and that the number of first responders receiving USFA training “has been growing tremendously, exceeding our capacity at times, particularly during peak hours of the day.”
Attendees also met with a panel of Congressional staff to present the fire service’s perspective on funding and the fire service’s relationship with the DHS.
The following goals were established and adopted:
• Fire chiefs and other senior fire service officials must represent the fire services within the office of the Secretary of Homeland Security and in key positions throughout the department.
• The USFA’s position and function within the DHS should be proportionate to the fire service’s responsibilities relative to responding to incidents of terrorism and all- hazard events.
• The Office of Management and Budget and the DHS need to recognize and designate the USFA and the NFA as “homeland security critical in the federal budgeting process.”
• The USFA and the NFA must be fully funded to the authorized levels to support the ongoing mission; funding should reflect contemporary issues and community risks.
• To ensure the most effective use of training resources, the DHS should be required to work more closely with the NFA and state and local fire training academies regarding the use of curriculum and the delivery system for terrorism response training.
The unified American fire service organizations will work to develop a strategy pertaining to these goals by April 7, the date of the National Fire Emergency Services Dinner. Additional details are at www.iafc.og/ news/article.asp?id=211. ■
Nextel to reconfigure 800 MHz spectrum
Nextel Communications has formally accepted the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Report and Order to eliminate interference at 800 MHz, to achieve the ultimate goal of interference-free communications for public safety agencies operating within the spectrum. Under the FCC’s reconfiguration proposal, public safety and commercial operations would be separated and additional spectrum would be made available for first responders at 800 MHz. According to IAFC President Chief Bob DiPoli, the Nextel consent “culminates three years of hard work and collaboration to find a comprehensive solution to 800 MHz radio interference.”
A group of public safety organizations supported the plan. In addition to the IAFC, the group included the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association. The group called the agreement “a triumph for public safety in America.”
The group noted, however, that the process to eliminate interference is far from finished and that all must “diligently work together to see that the FCC’s order is successfully implemented.” Additional information on wireless communications for public safety is at www.iafc.org/government/index.asp#wireless/. ■
Sprinkler extinguishes university fire
A fire sprinkler knocked down a fire in a dormitory room at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, averting a tragedy. The fire, which broke out around 8:30 p.m., was caused by a student’s cigarette. The fire was contained to the third-floor room. Reportedly, the student flicked the cigarette ashes on the dormitory room floor. The incident is under investigation.
Some 150 students were unable to return to their rooms until the next day; water damage kept about 25 students away for a longer time. University officials said they are reviewing policies concerning residence hall smoking.
Drew University had completed installing fire sprinklers in 2003. The sprinklers had been mandated by the state after the January 2000 fire at Seton Hall University in New Jersey in which three students died and several were seriously injured. Daily Record News, Jenna M. McKnight, email@example.com, Feb 16, 2005 ■
Jersey City (NJ) tests new interagency communications system
A new interagency communications system implemented in Jersey City, New Jersey, can eliminate the communications problems experienced among emergency responders during the 9/11 attacks, according to officials. The system was first used during the “orange alert” issued last year relative to terrorist threats to the Prudential Building in Newark. It allows for communication among city, county, state, and federal first responders.
The state’s first chief public safety communications officer, Raymond Hayling II, used a single handheld radio to establish contact with the vehicles of representatives from 12 fire, military, law enforcement, medical, and government agencies.
A central dispatch center at the Essex County Sheriff’s Department patches together existing frequencies, according to Hayling. A backup is at an undisclosed location. Redundant equipment is installed at numerous locations, and backup equipment is ready to be deployed as needed.
The system includes the cities of Jersey City and Newark and the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, and Union. Any agency can request activation of the system.
With the new system, Jersey City meets the RapidCom standards of 9/30, a Department of Homeland Security initiative announced in July designed to enable first responders in 10 cities identified as high-threat urban areas to communicate in an emergency. The nine other RapidCom areas are New York City, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami, and Boston.
So far, New Jersey has spent $1 million to bring the system online. The long-term plan is to expand the system throughout the state; the anticipated cost would be between $150 and $200 million. www.nj.com,art3/ 110621599373120, Jan 20, 2005 ■
“Best practices ensure homeland security,” author Kemp reports
Roger L. Kemp, city manager of Vallejo, California, and author of Homeland Security: Best Practices for Local Government (ICMA, 2003), has been tracking the best practices in homeland security among the various levels of government since the 9/11 attacks. He reports that cities and counties are “forging best practices in this new field.”
In his update, Kemp noted the following:
• States are working to develop relationships and plans with the regions, counties, cities, and special districts within their jurisdictions.
• All units of government have worked to enhance intergovernmental cooperation to ensure national security in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
• Before the advent of the DHS and immediately after 9/11, the Office of the Attorney General (USAO) in every district in the country formed an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council to coordinate efforts aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks against the homeland.
Today, every state has a branch of the USAO and a recently formed Council, which is coordinating the necessary city, county, regional, state, and federal resources to help ensure homeland security. Public safety representatives from various public and nonprofit agencies meet on a regularly scheduled basis to discuss precautions, safeguards, and best practices for protecting their respective areas from future terrorist attacks.
Among the federal agencies participating are the following: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Federal Air Marshal Service; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Immigration and Customs Service; the Transportation Security Administration; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Environmental Protection Association; the Internal Revenue Service; the Marshal Service; the Secret Service; the U.S. Postal Service; and the Social Security Administration. State and municipal government participating agencies include public health and safety, homeland security, emergency management, the Attorney General’s Office, other criminal justice administration agencies, the National Guard, public colleges and universities, state and international airports, independent water and utility districts, nuclear power plant companies, regional transit authorities, and major private hospitals and universities.
Among the precautions and safeguards discussed at these meetings are those pertaining to the following: local and regional train stations, nuclear power plants, municipal harbors and ports, state and municipal airports, national and state military installations, tribal nation properties (major gambling casinos, for example), major post offices and mail-handling centers, private military contractors, major intra- and inter-state transportation centers and corridors, special districts and their facilities, and other government properties with “target rich” environments.
Much of these homeland security efforts have been directed at protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure and to ensure that essential public services are provided during an emergency. To help achieve this goal, Kemp recommends that fire chiefs work closely with city and county managers to ensure that their staffing levels and equipment are sufficient to limit the loss of life and property during a disaster. ■
GAO releases new report on wildfire management
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior provide Congress with a cohesive strategy for developing wildland fire policies. The recommendation was included in the GAO report “Wildland Fire Management: Important Progress Has Been Made, but Challenges Remain to Completing a Cohesive Strategy” (GAO-05-147).
The report was produced for the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health as a follow-up to a 1999 report. The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (OR), was to hold an oversight hearing on the report in February, after press time.
The Healthy Forests Act has been an effective tool for reducing the threat of catastrophic fire, Walden said, but he noted that the report acknowledges that a significant amount of progress must still be made. In 1999, the GAO report “Western National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy Is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire” stated that accumulated vegetation is the number one threat to the health of our national forests. In its new report, the GAO found that implementing the Healthy Forests Act has contributed to an upward trend in hazardous fuels reduction projects.
Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (CA) notes that much work still needs to be done to correct the nation’s wildland fire problems and that it is vital that Congress continue to improve and expand the abilities of the Forest Service to treat hazardous fuels on national forestland.
In early February, Pombo, Walden, and other members of Congress joined to support a bill that would reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act of 2000. The bill reauthorizes the cooperative partnership between citizens in rural forest counties and federal land management agencies to simultaneously stimulate community development and stability and develop forest health improvement projects on public lands.
Reauthorizing the legislation would allow students in rural schools to continue receiving educational opportunities comparable to urban and suburban students, according to Pombo. More than 4,400 schools receive funding through this Act. The legislation also calls for continued assistance with rural county roads and projects on federal forestlands that have included fuels reduction, reforestation, maintenance, and rehabilitation. The law creates a local Resource Advisory Committee that interacts with the management of neighboring national forests. ■
U.S. DOT establishes two new agencies
Two new agencies created at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began operating on February 20. The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) will focus on advancing innovation and research in transportation technologies and concepts. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will oversee the safety of the more than 800,000 daily shipments of hazardous materials in the United States and 64 percent of the nation’s energy transported by pipelines.
RITA, which will house the Secretary’s Office of Intermodalism and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, will be composed of staff from the RSPA’s Office of Innovation, Research and Education and will include the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Transportation Safety Institute in Oklahoma City. Members of the former Research and Special Programs Administration’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety and the Office of Pipeline Safety will staff PHMSA. ■
Governors assess homeland security progress, challenges
The “Homeland Security in the States: Much Progress, More Work” report released by the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices concludes that governors have made great strides in enhancing their states’ homeland security processes and requirements since 9/11 but still have much more to do. “Homeland security is such a new and fluid discipline that all the lessons we learn are in real time,” observes John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center.
The survey was completed in August 2004 by 38 of the 55 state and territorial homeland security directors.
According to the survey, respondents said that states have made great strides in protecting their borders and preventing future attacks even though there is “a general lack of precedent to assist their work.” Recognizing that each state tailors its homeland security strategy to its specific needs, the following “like-minded strategies” have been employed:
• Establishment of statewide emergency operations centers (100 percent of respondents).
• Development of exercises for training first responders while identifying weaknesses in agency response plans (98 percent).
• Focusing attention on bioterrorism preparedness and acting to amend policies and laws related to isolation and quarantine practices (95 percent).
• Developing mutual assistance agreements with neighboring states for sharing National Guard resources, equipment, and personnel (94 percent).
Respondents were also asked to identify the top 10 priorities for their states that still must be addressed to meet the homeland security challenges. The following top three priorities were named:
• Interoperability-the need for the ability for emergency responders to communicate with one another during an incident.
• Intelligence sharing-the need to enhance states’ ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence by creating “fusion centers” for intelligence sharing among federal, state, and local government.
• Protection of critical infrastructure-this would include identifying and protecting essential daily functions such as telecommunications, transportation, and banking. ■
More fires occur in spring, say USFA
“The daily incidence of fire is at its highest during the spring months-a seasonal average of nearly 5,000 fires each day is reported,” according to “The Seasonal Nature of Fires” report developed by the National Fire Data Center, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration. The findings are based primarily on National Fire Incident Reporting System data averaged over the 2001-2002 period.
The report also found an increase in daily fires occurred during and around the holidays of Independence Day (the greatest number of fires is reported), Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holiday period that includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day.
A copy of the full report can be downloaded at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/pubs/seasonal.shtm/. ■
CPSC would like electrical panelboards and receptacles for study
Fire investigators are asked to send to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) any electrical panelboards or receptacles (all types) in which there has been a performance failure. The CPSC will examine these items from the perspective of making recommendations to code-making organizations. For additional information, contact your regional CPSC office, or call (800) 638-8095. You can read the details on the CPSC study in FIRE FINDINGS, Winter 2005, 13:1, 4-5, www.firefindings.com/.
December 14, 2004. Captain William J. Briggs, 52, INEEL Fire Department, Idaho Falls, ID: heart attack.
January 3, 2005. Captain Ornell E. Fuller, Jr., 40, Midway Volunteer Fire Department, Dexter, NM: heart attack.
January 26. Firefighter Donald Conner, 74, Brooken Volunteer Fire Department, Stigler, OK: collapsed at a forest fire; cause of death to be determined.
February 3. Captain William Hudson, 50, Salem (MA) Fire Department: from complications of hepatitis C, contracted on the job several years ago.
February 5. Captain William “Bill” Goodin, 56, Mt. Victory Fire Department, Somerset, KY: collapsed after an EMS call.
February 6. Firefighter Todd Smith, 31, New Paltz (NY) Fire Department: cardiac arrest.
February 10. Firefighter William Pierce, 53, Ogdensburg (NJ) and Hardystown Township (NJ) Fire Departments: possible heart attack-he became ill while working a handline at a residential structure and collapsed outside by the apparatus; autopsy pending.
February 12. Chief Engineer Angelo Petta, 46, City of Garfield (NJ) Fire Department: collapsed (suspected heart attack) outside of single-family structure while evacuating occupants on a call for an odor of natural gas.
February 13. Captain Mark McCormack, 36, Santa Clara County Fire Department, Los Gatos, California: apparently was struck by a fallen power line dangling across the driveway from a tree limb while at a residential fire.
February 13. Staff Sergeant-Firefighter Ray Rangel, 29, Dyess AFB, 7th Civil Engineer Squadron: drowned while attempting, with another firefighter and a medic, to save two soldiers trapped in a Humvee that had overturned in a canal while on assignment as a firefighter in Iraq.
February 15. Lieutenant Michael Lee Crawford, 51, Carroll County Fire Rescue, Carrollton, GA: heart attack while returning to fire station.
February 18. Firefighter Michael Mercurio, 52, Urbandale (IA) Fire Department: heart attack.
February 19. Captain Grady Burke, 39, Houston (TX) Fire Department: in roof collapse at structural fire.
Source: National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Database, United States Fire Administration.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued the following special reports as part of its Topical Fire Research Series: “Fire Risk,” “The Fire Risk to Children,” and “The Fire Risk to Older Adults.” Developed by the National Fire Data Center, part of FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration, the reports assess factors that influence risk and are based on 2001 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and U.S. Census Bureau data.
According to the reports, children under the age of five and adults over the age of 54 are at the greatest risk of death in fires. Individuals in the 20-to-44 and 85+ age groups are at highest risk for fire injury. The reports can be downloaded at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/pubs/tfrs.shtm/.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has released the following reports:
• Health Care Fire and Life Safety Roundtable. Experts from the fire service and health care industries address major life safety concerns in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities. Recommendations pertain to training, education, and the processes necessary for improving life safety and preventing injury in health care facilities; improving consistency in the application of codes, regulations, and laws; developing a plan that addresses evacuations and the “defend in place” concept. The report is at www.iafc.org/grants/documents/healthcare.pdf.
• Emerging Codes Issues Roundtables. These two reports address catastrophic fires involving public assembly occupancies. The IAFC convened these Roundtables in 2004 to develop strategies for enacting building code changes with an emphasis on life safety and reducing the threat of fire in nightclubs and other places of public assembly.
Fifty diverse fire service representatives met to develop strategies directed at creating a model uniform fire and life safety code to prevent tragedies such as the 2003 tragedies at the West Warwick (RI) nightclub and the Chicago (IL) dance club. The report is available at www.iafc.org/grants/documents/codes.pdf.
The above reports were supported by a Department of Homeland Security/Office of Domestic Preparedness grant awarded under the Assistance to Firefighters’ Fire Prevention and Safety Program.
Seat belts saved 160,000 lives in U.S. since 1960. A government analysis shows that safety belts saved 160,000 lives in the United States, more than half the lives saved by auto safety features adopted since 1960. Among safety features assessed were braking improvements, air bags, energy-absorbing steering columns, and child seats. Most of the gains from safety belts were noted in the late 1970s, when shoulder belts were introduced, and in the 1980s and 1990s, when states began adopting mandatory safety belt laws. www.medscape.com, article 497871, Jan. 19, 2005
● Rep. Curt Weldon named Homeland Security Committee vice chairman. The Pennsylvania representative is serving his ninth term in Congress and has been part of committees pertaining to intelligence, national security, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, and first responders. He also has been prominent on the Congressional Fire Service Caucus, which he founded in 1987.
● Chertoff is new DHS head. Judge Michael Chertoff has replaced Tom Ridge as secretary of Homeland Security. He previously had been a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
● Negroponte new national intelligence chief. President Bush named John D. Negroponte as his choice for the new intelligence chief in February. Negroponte was formerly ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations. He will oversee 15 intelligence agencies. At press time, Negroponte was not confirmed by Congress.
● NJ legislators seek to increase funding for homeland security. U.S. Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Robert Menendez have proposed changing the formula for allocating funds for homeland security to the states. They suggest that states receive funding based on threat risk instead of general revenue sharing. Corzine calls the proposed legislation “the common-sense Homeland Security Act.” He said “it is designed to reflect the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that all funding should be based on threat and vulnerability.” The legislators announced their proposal at a press conferences in response to the federal government’s cutting New Jersey’s Homeland Security budget from $93 million in 2004 to $61 million in 2005. Homeland Security funding for Jersey City, the second largest city in the state, was cut from $17 million in 2004 to $6.7 million in 2005. Under the current program, New Jersey receives almost four times less than Wyoming. The officials noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the two-mile stretch between Port Newark and Newark Airport as the most dangerous area in the country. Changes to homeland security funding would not affect grant programs such as Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (FIRE Act). www.nj.com, article 11007781816223650, Feb. 7, 2005
● Firefighters form association for hazardous materials technicians. The International Association of Hazardous Materials Technicians (IAHMT), founded by two Georgia firefighters, is open to hazardous materials technicians in the fire service and private industry. Firefighters Chris Smith and Ben Holley, members of a hazardous materials response team, attended COBRA training on weapons of mass destruction for hazardous materials technicians and said they realized there was some work to be done to be fully prepared for a weapons of mass destruction incident. They contacted other fire departments in the country and found many in the same situation. The objective of the association is to establish communication among haz-mat technicians nationwide. Membership is free. Its Web site is www.iahmt.com. The IAHMT also instituted an awards program for Hazmat Technician of the Year, Hazmat Team of the Year, and Hazmat Product of the Year.
● Cleveland (OH) Fire Department’s haz-mat unit awarded NFPA’s 2005 Warren E. Isman educational grant. The department’s Fire Prevention Bureau’s Haz-Mat Team will use the National Fire Protection Association $5,000 grant to attend the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ International Hazardous Materials Response Team Conference in Hunt Valley, Maryland, June 2-5, 2005. The award must be used for specialized training in hazardous materials.
●LaSala replaces Caldwell as IAFC head of Government Relations. Ken LaSala will take over as head of government relations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He replaces Alan Caldwell, who held that position for more than eight years. Caldwell will now serve as senior advisor to government relations. In this role, he will focus on wireless radio communications and other issues. LaSala was a member of Senator John McCain’s professional staff and has spent more than seven years with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
● FCC chairman resigns. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael K. Powell resigned in March. He has served on the FCC since 1997; he was named chairman in 2001.
● IAS offers building department accreditation. The International Accreditation Service (IAS), a subsidiary of the International Code Council, is offering a new accreditation program for building departments. A team of independent evaluators will determine if the codes the community has adopted are being effectively enforced to provide public safety and protect property. James Lee Witt, CEO of the International Code Council, notes that the IAS accreditation is a tool building departments can use to document strengths, identify areas in need of improvement, and implement solutions that result in safer communities. The Insurance Services Office, Inc. has signed a memorandum of understanding that supports the IAS Building Department Accreditation Program. Additional information is at www.iasonline.org, or call (1-866) 427-4422, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org/.
● Orlando (FL) firefighter stabbed in attempted robbery at fire station. The firefighter was thrown to the ground and stabbed. According to a report from Local 6 News, one individual stuck a knife in the firefighter’s side and had his knee in the firefighter’s back as another individual was cutting open the firefighter’s back pocket to get the wallet. The men were apparently scared away before they could steal the wallet. The firefighter was transported to a hospital with moderate injuries. He was walking at the rear of his station, going for the morning newspaper, when the attack occurred. At press time the suspects were still not apprehended. Yahoo!News, Feb. 17, 2005
● Fire damages Chicago fire station. Some 40 firefighters and paramedics on Chicago’s South Side were working out of temporary quarters in January after a fire damaged part of their station. The fire occurred at about 10:46 p.m. on a Sunday. Reportedly, an electrical service panel “blew,” according to a fire department spokesman. The fire was contained to a first-floor kitchen and entertainment room. It was expected that it would take about three months to complete repairs to the station. Personnel will be assigned to three nearby fire stations in the meantime.