Washington Doing Something About the Fire Problem
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Thirteen years ago when we first joined Fire Engineering this issue would not have been possible. At that time the only things that came out of the federal government that concerned the fire service had to do with civil defense. Occasionally the National Bureau of Standards would grind out a highly technical paper involving fire protection or prevention that no one in the fire service would bother to read—and justly so because it wasn’t really directed to him.
Today, however, we have a different story. The federal government is involved with the fire service in so many ways that the service, on occasion, would like to say “Get lost!”
HEW, OSHA, DOT, DCPA AND HUD are just some of the federal agencies that have their fingers in the fire service pie. And like it or not, they are with us to stay, as you will find out by reading this issue. Some of these agencies are regulatory, some are financially supportive, and some are both. None of them, however, was originally established to serve only the fire service.
The Department of Transportation, for instance, which was set up to improve motor vehicle safety wound up telling us how fire apparatus should be designed and constructed. It also can, if certain conditions are met, provide funds for ambulances and rescue vehicles. Health, Education and Welfare has its obvious functions, but it becomes involved with the fire service via paramedic training. The Office of Safety and Health Administration hasn’t had too much effect on the fire service up to now, but it must be considered a sleeping giant that might eventually have the greatest influence of all federal agencies. Then there is the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972 (revenue-sharing) which has had a considerable impact on the fire apparatus industry.
What all these alphabetical agencies indicate is that the fire service and the national fire problem have finally caught the attention of our federal legislators. It wasn’t easy and we owe it all to just a handful of people. How bills fare in the Washington legislative mill always depends on the interest shown in them by the people who will benefit from the bills.
Unfortunately, and according to at least one legislator, interest in the bills that apply to the fire service runs from poor to mediocre. No telegrams, no mail, no phone calls. And he was talking about the first bill directed solely to the fire service—the fire prevention and control bill. This bill has now been passed by both the Senate and the House but in different forms which are now being ironed out in a Senate-House conference committee. Both bills had roughly the same goals, but the bill passed by the Senate authorizes the expenditure of $42.5 million, the House $7.5 million. Quite a difference!
Just how much the final figure will be will depend on just how much interest (and pressure) the fire service gives to its own bill—a bill that actually had its beginning way back in 1968 when the Fire Research and Safety Act was passed.