The International Society of Fire Service Instructors recently delivered a paper to the Clinton Administration describing its position on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Fire Administration, and the National Fire Academy. In its 44-page document, Implementing America Burning: The Final Attempt, the society uses 20 years of lire service history as the basis for recommendations to the Administration concerning those federal organizations.

The society charges that attempts to implement America Burning, the landmark fire service report published in 1973 by the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, “have fallen far short of the intended goal in terms of both programmatic implementation and funding sources.” It further states, “The needs and concerns of the fire service community have received less than adequate attention at the federal level” and therefore firefighter safety has been compromised.

The society states that it “will work with the Clinton Administration for a reasonable period of time to establish an effective Fire Prevention and Control Program at the Federal level as intended by America Burning. If the program cannot be revitalized and ISFSI cannot reclaim its advisory role and make an impact on the National Fire Academy in that period of time, ISFSI will work to dismantle the Federal Fire Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recommending that its function be given to other branches of government….”

Following are recommendations from the ISFSI paper, excerpted verbatim (but with acronyms inserted where necessary to conserve space):

Recommendations Regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • The United States Fire Administration should become the major focus within FEMA.
  • Focus primarily on becoming response-oriented to meet the demands of disasters as they occur.
  • Develop a relationship with the fire service groups that have national constituencies, rather than responding exclusively to smaller, more fragmented special interest groups.
  • Allow the ISFSI to reclaim an advisory role relative to training and education issues within FEMA and the National Fire Academy. This advisory capacity would be marked by free and open access to the Director of FEMA, the U.S. Fire Administrator, and the Superintendent of the NFA. In addition, the operations of the NFA shall be conducted as a partnership between the NFA and the ISFSI —the lead fire service training and education organization.

Recommendations Regarding the United States Fire Administration

  • Elevate the position of U.S. Fire Administrator to a Deputy Director of FEMA for Fire.
  • Facilitate the physical move of the entire functioning entity of the USFA into FEMA Headquarters.
  • Position a Senior-Level Administrator within each of the ten Federal Regions. Under that official, place both a Senior Fire Specialist and a National Fire Academy representativeto enhance the visibility and accessibility of the USFA.
  • Take a lead role in interfacing
  • with the EPA to instill an awareness of the need for exemptions of air and water quality regulations within the training realm of the fire service and to enable live-fire training.
  • Provide to every firefighter— whether career or volunteer—the opportunity to experience live-fire training before being allowed to fight fires.
  • Reallocate federal monies to provide funding that is not presently available at the state level to supplement the purchase of firefighter personal protective equipment.
  • Initiate the development of a supplemental funding program to relieve communities of some expenses incurred through the purchase of equipment, apparatus, etc. Such a program presently exists that allows law enforcement agencies to retain forfeiture monies to enhance the personal safety of law enforcement officers.
  • Take measures to ensure that OSHA regulations become universal for all fire and emergency service personnel…
  • Take a leading role in the development of standards and regulations that would be implemented universally throughout the U.S. fire service to ensure that every firefighter is safely and properly trained.
  • Focus efforts on promoting realistic, modern training and education to fire departments, and making proper and adequate training available to all firefighters.

Recommendations Regarding the National Fire Academy

  • Regain a position of prominence as the foremost institute of training and education for the nation’s fire service.
  • Recirculate instructional staff from among the pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals available throughout the country to provide a rich and diverse instructor base.
  • Conduct a “reality check” of the curricula and programs of the NFA to gauge the quality, integrity, and usefulness of the NFA’s work.
  • Focus more clearly on the overall human resource development process in place at the NFA.
  • Ensure the quality of education by implementing a program that would require the certification and recertification of all individuals who serve as instructors at the NFA or any of its outreach programs.
  • Review existing high-quality training programs at the state and local levels and use those as models to implement new, innovative, and supportive curricula. The work of the NFA should enhance, rather than replicate, the programs available on the state and local levels.
  • Alter the composition of the Board of Visitors to reflect the actual constituency of the NFA… by seeking active instructors from within the general fire service community, firefighters, and Academy students, i.e., the “end users” of the NFA.
  • Shift funding priorities within the NF’A to disperse monies at the state level for the development and conduct of state training programs In the first year of this shifted funding, a total of $30 million in federal monies should be distributed at the state level.
  • Institute a funding program such as that already in place within the Department of Agriculture, whereby the Federal Fire Programs would fund percentages of the salaries of State Directors of Training, full-time statelevel instructional personnel, and adjunct faculty members.
  • Require state agencies to submit a state training plan in order to prove eligibility for funding through the NFA.
  • Consider contracting with an objective evaluator for a period of six to nine months for the purpose of conducting an “impartial review” at the NFA. .. At the conclusion of said impartial review, the evaluator shall be required to report his or her findings to both Congress and the nation’s fire service.

ISFSI stands ready to assist and advise the White House, the Clinton Transition Team, Congress, the Director of FEMA, the United States Fire Administration, and the National Fire Academy in achieving these recommendations.

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