Ohio Congresswoman Betty Sutton receives a tour of Akron Brass from David Durstine, VP of marketing, during Ohio Fire & Emergency Home Day.
It’s a common refrain to wonder if politicians in Washington, D.C. are really listening. The better question may be, are you giving them something to listen to?
Lawmakers are inundated with requests for favors, bill proposals, volumes of information on a wide variety of topics—and special interest money. That’s hard to compete with, at least as an individual. But as a group, as a special interest of your own, your voice carries weight. It’s how things get done in Washington, and it’s what EMS providers need to do to ensure their own voices can be heard above the din.
For three years running, the governmental affairs committees of both the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) and the Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association (FEMSA) have made it a mission to maintain their reputation as a strategic partner for governmental entities. Together they have hosted Ohio Fire & Emergency Home Day in an effort to make the decision makers in Washington aware of the important role the fire and emergency industries play in the U.S. economy. Also important is recognizing the importance of continuing to fund programs such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG, also known as the FIRE Act) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grants.
“Such funding has a direct impact on Ohio manufacturers,” says Kimberly Morrow, director of marketing for Akron Brass & Weldon, a division of Akron Brass, which hosted the event this past fall at its Wooster, OH location. “The goal of the event is to heighten awareness of legislative issues that affect the fire service and showcase emergency response equipment that has been purchased through federal funding. The fire and emergency equipment manufacturing industry in Ohio is the sixth largest in the nation, directly impacting thousands of jobs.”
Morrow offered tips for EMS providers in other states looking to replicate the event to showcase the EMS industry for their local lawmakers.
“First we developed a list of invitees to include Ohio’s congressional delegation, members of the Ohio General Assembly, policy makers, community leaders and economic development officials,” Morrow says. “We sent out an e-mail invitation about 8–10 weeks prior to the event. We then began follow-up calls to those who had not responded.”
Additionally, fire and emergency vehicle manufacturers in Ohio were contacted to participate as vendors, allowing them the opportunity to showcase their products to federal, state and local officials.
“We implemented the logistics of hosting a luncheon, presentations and plant tours, and put packets together to be given at the event which included statistics in the fire service, AFG/SAFER funding granted for their district and a FAMA-FEMSA member contact list. After the event, we sent a “thank you for coming” or “sorry we missed you” letter.
The hope was to get any member of Ohio’s congressional delegation to attend, even it if meant just having one of their advisers attend to represent them.
“We were successful, as Congresswoman Betty Sutton from the 13th Congressional District and Congressman Jim Renacci from Ohio’s 16th Congressional District were both in attendance,” says Morrow. “We also had representation from other districts, as well as state and local delegates. (And) local media gave us good press on the event.”
Sutton spoke about the importance of protecting funding levels for fire safety programs and why new jobs need to be created within this critical industry. “It is important for you to know that you have representatives in Congress who appreciate the value of your contributions and who will fight just as hard for you and what you do as you fight to keep us safe,” stated Sutton.
Having experience as a firefighter, Renacci conveyed his support of the fire industry to the audience, which also included local fire chiefs. “I am a big supporter of firefighters,” said Renacci. He went on to say, “Some of the fire trucks are 15 to 20 years old and they need to be updated. If we are going to send people into burning buildings, they have to have the right equipment necessary to make sure they’re safe.” He closed by committing to always giving back to the communities and first responders and to be their voice as a member in Congress.
Those kinds of comments proved the worth of hosting such events, not only for the fire service but also for EMS providers across the nation. And Morrow credited the successful event to the planning that went into it ahead of time.
“Start early in planning and getting in contact with your federal, state and local representatives,” she says. “Get on their calendars early. Things change rapidly so you have to be very flexible. Make sure your message is clear for both internal and external stakeholders.”