April 11, 2022 Washington DC by Joel Wright
I had the chance to visit Washington DC for two days to share with my congressional representatives from Iowa and Illinois some fun facts about the firefighting industry. The annual event was very well organized by our industry association FAMA/FEMSA. Here are five things I learned.
1. There are about 1.1 million firefighters in the United States. Of the total, 33% are career firefighters and 67% are volunteer. Career firefighters generally serve communities with populations over 25,000 and volunteers protect areas with less than 25,000 people. If we had to replace all the volunteers with career firefighters, it would cost our country $150 billion per year and it would displace 737,000 people from their day jobs.
2. First responders in the United States purchase $6 billion of fire trucks, loose equipment, and PPE every year. The federal government helps fire departments purchase some of this equipment through a fund called Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). For the last several years Congress has funded AFG with about $360 million or 6% of what is spent. This year our delegation asked that it be funded for the full $750 million for which it was authorized.
3. The companies who belong to FAMA/FEMSA employ about 110,000 workers in the United States. These are the companies that help first responders save lives. Together with our 1.1 million local responders, that’s a lot of people manufacturing and using tools to save lives and property. When I shared this with my colleagues at FOL-DA-TANK it reinforces our drive to build durable, high-quality products every day.
4. I have been to Washington DC many times as a tourist and I had no idea where the congressional offices were. The museums, monuments and memorials take center stage and without a purpose I had not explored the senate and house office buildings. There are three Senate office buildings to the north of the capitol and three buildings to the south of the capitol that house all the representatives. They are connected by tunnels to each other and to the capitol building. It’s a fascinating city within the city and I was glad to take the tunnels a few times. Without a host we walked from building to building outside and yes it was raining most of the two days.
5. I was partnered with another FAMA/FEMSA member Cory Hohs. His company, HAAS Alert, has built a system that will put an alert on your vehicle’s on-screen display when an emergency vehicle is approaching. How many times have you heard a siren, but you cannot figure out where it is and how to get out of the way? Safety Cloud has the answer. It will save the public and first responders from many collisions while responding to emergencies. I admire the creative application of technology to solve real problems. Congratulations Cory!
I was pretty nervous about going to Capitol Hill. Like many new experiences, once I was there it was not as scary and intimidating as I had imagined. Our organization put together a great packet that made me feel prepared. The staffers were friendly and helpful, and my experienced hill partner Cory set a great example. I hope to do it again because it’s a privilege to be able to go talk to my elected representatives and to actively learn more about our industry and our government. See you next April on the Hill visit!