The fire service needs USFA/NFA assistance

The fire service needs USFA/NFA assistance

Burton W. Phelps


Society of National Fire Academy Instructors, Inc.

Deputy Chief, Retired

Anne Arundel County (MD) Fire Department

I wish to take issue with the comments by Daryl D. Sensenig. His assertion that the U.S. Fire Administration be closed shows his complete lack of understanding of what the USFA/NFA has done for his own department over the past 17 years. Anne Arundel County has enjoyed working within the incident command system since 1982. Without the NFA, there would be no ICS, prefire planning programs, or haz mat response teams in that county. Every arson inspector has been through the Arson Investigation course; most fire inspectors have had one or more of the inspection courses at the NFA. All the plans reviewers have taken the Plans Review course. Chiefs and lower officers have attended the command and control courses. His department just finished a program in which every member took the terrorism self-study course. Could all this have been developed by just one state or local entity? How many times would we reinvent the wheel within the states if each state developed training materials and programs on its own?

No, I don`t want the Feds to do for us what they have done in the areas of housing, education, and social programs. The fire service wants them to do the same thing they have done for law enforcement–spend millions of dollars to alleviate a public safety need at the local level.

What Sensenig fails to understand is that at the state and local levels, there is not sufficient experience and expertise to develop programs needed to force the fire service into the next century. The USFA/NFA brings to the fire service a record of excellent courses and programs that state training agencies and metro-sized fire departments are given at no cost. I can attest to the fact that the Anne Arundel County Fire Department is better trained and more efficient than it could ever have been simply because the USFA/NFA provided a place to get excellent training.

No, the Feds cannot fix all the problems in the fire service, but they do provide the foundational materials needed by America`s fire service and other emergency response personnel. The American fire service has been transformed by the graduates of the NFA. I cannot imagine where we would be nationally (or in Anne Arundel County) if it had not operated for the past 19 years.

To “keep the money at home” is not a practical solution. The amount of money from the USFA/NFA budgets would be so small when we consider the size of these budgets and the 40,000 American fire departments that would share these funds.

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