Lawmakers Participate in National Fire Conference

Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305

Contact: State Rep. Mike Sanders
Capitol: (405) 557-7407

OKLAHOMA CITY (September 28, 2010) – Over the days of September 21 to 24, twenty Oklahomans participated in an annual conference located in Washington, D.C.

This trip, organized by the Office of the Oklahoma Fire Marshall, allowed persons involved in the fire service to meet with Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation and others about the needs facing firefighters in Oklahoma.

Two Oklahoma state legislators, Reps. Joe Dorman and Mike Sanders, were included in the group this year. Dorman and Sanders work closely with fire protection issues at the State Capitol and in their districts.

“This was an amazing trip for learning more about what is occurring in fire service programs at the federal level,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “The opportunity to visit with the Congressmen and Senators, along with the US Fire Administrator and the Superintendent of the National Fire Academy, provided great insight at the programs and equipment available for fire protection.”

“I was honored to be on the trip with many of my local fire chiefs and learn along with them about training and issues facing fire service,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I was also humbled to be in Washington at the same time my local fire chief, Randy Poindexter, received the Public Safety Medal of Valor for efforts in the 2007 Kingfisher floods.”

The group spent one day of their trip visiting with officials at the seven offices of Oklahoma’s federal delegation and personally met with U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressmen Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and John Sullivan. The conference attendees also met with staff members from the other members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, then spent the evening with Washington, D.C. firefighters learning about how they handle situations through each department, including meeting officers who deal specifically with firefighting from the Potomac River and Dennis Rubin, Chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services for Washington, D.C.

“This trip allows Oklahoma firefighters to interact directly with US Fire Administration, FEMA and other federal officials and also puts a face on who these programs affect for the federal officials when meeting these Oklahomans,” said Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Robert Doke. “Another important aspect is the opportunity to provide knowledge of new programs and new technology like the lightweight air pack vests and fire-safe compasses that help when a firefighter becomes disoriented.

“One portion we cannot forget is sharing the success stories of the Fire Act Grants and the importance of maintaining these opportunities with our federal elected officials,” Doke continued. “These grants prove invaluable when Oklahoma fire departments apply for them each year and the winners receive the award.”

The remainder of the trip consisted of meetings with federal officials regarding geographic information systems and mapping terrain for fire protection, learning how social media is impacting fire protection and emergency management efforts, and new technology soon to be available to departments. Meetings were also held with FEMA, Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines and the Superintendent of the U.S. Fire Academy Denis Onieal.

This was the eighth year for the Oklahoma Fire Marshall to host a conference in Washington, D.C. Efforts from this trip have led to increased participation in training by Oklahoma firefighters. Over the past two years, 150 fire service personnel attended the National Fire Academy (NFA) resident courses on the Emmitsburg, MD campus and 755 personnel participated in off-campus NFA courses in the region, state or local community, with $56,000 offered in grants. According to the National Fire Academy, 21,245 Oklahoma personnel have been trained through the NFA's State and Local Partner Sponsored Off-Campus Delivery since 1982.

Dorman and Sanders used their own resources to pay the costs associated with this trip. No state dollars were expended.

“I felt this trip was important due to the nature of legislation I file for my local firefighters and is was especially important for me to learn more about fire service from these national experts and the firefighters in attendance,” said Sanders. “I had seven fire chiefs from in my district and close by my area who attended this conference and I wanted to learn from them while they in turn learned more about federal efforts in fire protection.”

“The men and women who serve as firefighters put their lives on the line every time they answer a page,” said Dorman. “We as elected officials need to be up to speed on local, state and federal issues so we can in turn help our firefighters receive the best training at an affordable cost and work to replace equipment as new technology is available.”

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