WHAT A YEAR!
BY BILL MANNING
What a year!
It was the year…
We said no to the deteriorating conditions caused by a leadership vacuum at the United States Fire Administration.
We celebrated the 25th anniversary of America Burning by vigorously pursuing dialogue on the federal government`s stake in our national fire problem.
We said the USFA administrator should have a degree in fireground blood, sweat, and tears–not home economics.
We said, “You need us, James Lee Witt, and you can`t ignore us any longer.”
The concussive NFA White Paper complaint was publicized and we picked up the ball from the NFA program chairs who had the courage to deliver a long-needed wake-up call.
We were supported by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1983 in Emmitsburg, who published a paper, Building a Fire Safe America: The Campaign for a Stronger USFA, that articulated in hard facts just how far the USFA had fallen.
FEMA Director Witt appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel to make recommendations on solving the USFA/NFA problems. The Blue Ribbon Panel delivered an intelligent, comprehensive document that advocates fire service needs to the Washington bureaucracy.
A first-term congressman from New Jersey introduced a bill aimed at significantly increasing federal funding for badly strapped local fire departments. He wasn`t fully supported by the major fire service organizations.
The National Fire Academy Alumni Association became a reality, gaining 5,200 members in its first year.
The small coalition of firefighters known as the Northeast States Fire Consortium continued to bang on Washington doors and make a difference.
The federal government for the first time inserted itself into the local fire department response equation with its controversial OSHA “Two In-Two Out” rule.
The application of the Federal Labor Standards Act to volunteerism again was a hot issue.
The National Fire Protection Association decided there should be separate fire department response/deployment standards for the paid and volunteer sectors–as if the fire knows the difference.
The push for a single national fire prevention code effort went belly-up for the same reason it began: because it was a profit-driven–not life safety-driven–enterprise.
A true change agent from Massachusetts was defeated for the second consecutive year in his aggressive bid for second vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, thereby preserving the status quo. His margin of defeat two elections in a row was 300 votes out of several thousands cast.
E-mail and the fire service Net became prominent everyday tools and our communications improved.
The fire service embraced the “customer service” movement, redefining what it means to help victims–I mean, serve customers.
We kept hammering home the importance of the technical and artistic side of firefighting–“the basics.”
RITs stopped being a “novelty” and became for most of the fire service a necessity.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission forced the recall of Central Sprinkler`s Omega brand of automatic fire sprinklers.
Fire Engineering showed that its first year`s success at reestablishing the Fire Department Instructors Conference as the leader among all national fire conferences was no accident.
It was again a year our efforts at prevention/protection were disproportionate to the American fire problem.
It was a year firefighters again showed their great courage and know-how by saving countless American lives and property every day.
It was again a year that too many firefighters died in fires and responding to fires: trapped in collapses, disoriented in smoke, killed in explosions, killed in their own cars.
It was the year I rediscovered myself and rediscovered my children and realized how many friends I have in this fire business, and I thank you.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us at Fire Engineering, and may the New Year be safe, prosperous, and fulfilling.