by Brian J. O’Connor (Summer 2017)

In early April 2017, I was fortunate to be a member of a delegation of fire chiefs and trustees from Illinois visiting Washington, D.C. during the annual Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI). It was a tremendously impactful visit as a result of thoughtful planning efforts by Northern Illinois Alliance of Fire Protection Districts (NIAPFD) Legislative Liaison Ron Kubicki.

The delegation was primarily fire chiefs and trustees, also representing not only their districts and departments but many statewide organizations: the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, the Northern Illinois Alliance of Fire Protection Districts, the Illinois Association of Fire Protection District, the Illinois Fire Service Organization, and the Illinois Fire Service Institute.

In a whirlwind of two very active days, the delegation met with a number of Members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL 8th Dist.), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL 3rd Dist.), Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL 12th Dist.), Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-IL 10th Dist.) as well as Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL 15th Dist.) pictured to the right. They also met with the congressional staffs for seven other representatives whose schedules precluded an in-office meeting. 

All members and staffers were keen on interactions with delegation members within their congressional district. All, regardless of party affiliation or location in the State, were very interested in and supportive of concerns and initiatives championed by the delegation. Noteworthy among the concerns and initiatives shared with the senators and representatives and their staffs were the following.

  • Continued funding of AFG (Assistance to Firefighter Grant) and Safer Grant Programs to help with     training, staffing, equipment, and other resources needed and used by the fire service.
  • Reinstating and increasing a federal income tax deduction for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders.
  • Protection from federal regulations proposed restrictions on fire department access to and use of medications regularly carried in ambulances and used by emergency medical personnel pursuant to standing orders or medical director authorizations.
  • Reauthorizing the medical ambulance payment extenders set to expire January 1, 2018. These payment    authorizations are critical for continuation of service in smaller communities.
  • Improving monetary (tax) incentives for installation and use of fire sprinklers in commercial and residential buildings.
  • Implementing a national registry to track cancer related deaths of firefighters during and after service.

This is a very worthwhile effort, and I would encourage all to attend. Recognizing the impracticality of that idea all should at least share with delegation representatives their fire service interests and concerns. Understand to that while the annual CFSI effort focuses on Congress and national level issues similar efforts regularly occur with the General Assembly in Springfield, and perhaps locally in your districts and departments. Take advantage by informing and educating our elected representatives in Congress and the General Assembly.

In closing I have two additional personal observations.

  • First, I want to thank all the members of the CFSI 2017 delegation, as I learned a lot from their professional expertise and demeanor greatly disproportional to the short time of the visit.
  • Second, I now understand why the site is referred to a “Capitol Hill.”