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Elevation of the Fire Service in Federal Policy Development

This is 1 of 6 critical issues identified at the 2022 U.S. Fire Administrator’s Summit on Fire Prevention and Control for immediate action on the part of the federal government.

There may be updated information on this topic found from the 2023 U.S. Fire Administrator’s Summit on Fire Prevention and Control.

Involve the fire service in federal policy development on an equal basis with law enforcement.

Issue: The fire service must be included in federal policy development on an equal basis with law enforcement when federal agencies develop policies and programs related to public safety, such as first responder behavioral health, building and fire codes, and the 5 mission areas of the National Preparedness Goal (prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery).

Impact areas

The White House Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal includes $1.97 billion in discretionary funding to support state and local law enforcement, an increase of 12% over the previous fiscal year.1 This represents a significant investment in local law enforcement and is much needed. Despite the significant fire problem our nation faces, the Biden Administration requested $740 million for grants to local fire departments.2 The NFPA estimated the total cost of fire in the United States in 2014 was $328.5 billion, approximately 1.9% of the U.S. gross domestic product.3 Federal investments in fire protection and response are not sufficient to address the scope of the problem.

In addition to supporting local law enforcement, federal law enforcement agencies have a significant presence in the federal government. These agencies include the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; Army Criminal Investigation Division; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Coast Guard Investigative Service (Department of Defense); Customs and Border Protection; Federal Protective Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Secret Service (DHS); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Marshal Service (Department of Justice); U.S. Park Police (Department of the Interior); IRS Criminal Investigations Division (Department of Treasury); U.S. Postal Inspection Service (U.S. Postal Service); Probation and Pretrial Services (Judicial Conference of the U.S.); and U.S. Capitol Police (United States Congress).

Nearly every department and agency in the federal government touches upon fire and emergency services. These departments are responsible for engaging with fire service stakeholders — inside and outside of the federal government — when developing policies and procedures impacting fire and life safety. Despite the fire service's significant footprint within these departments' missions, there is a lack of coordination and cohesive policy development among these agencies. Consistent, competent and effective leadership at the USFA level can coordinate these policies and ensure that the fire service stakeholders can effectively operate at the national level.

The USFA should be elevated within FEMA and transformed into a multidisciplinary response, preparedness and mitigation agency. As many response agencies already have, each FEMA region should have a dedicated USFA specialist to assist in the planning and response to disasters. The USFA must be fully funded and appropriately staffed in order to execute its mission.

  • 1 FACT SHEET: President Biden's Budget Invests in Reducing Gun Crime to Make Our Communities Safer (White House; March 28, 2022)
  • 2 Fiscal Year 2023 President's Budget
  • 3 Total Cost of Fire in the United States (NFPA; October 2017)

The federal government has numerous agencies and programs impacting the nation's fire and emergency services. Nearly every department in the federal government touches upon fire and emergency services. Here is a snapshot of some of the various programs in the federal government impacting fire and life safety.

Department of Defense
Military firefighter health and safety
Department of Justice
Bureau of Justice Assistance
Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program
Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Wildland firefighting
Department of Agriculture
U.S. Forest Service
Wildland firefighting
Department of Commerce
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
National Firefighter Registry
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Public and Indian Housing
Safe and affordable housing for our most vulnerable populations
Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of EMS
Department of Energy
Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security
Fire Protection Program
Department of Education
Office of Postsecondary Education
Campus Safety and Security
Department of Veterans Affairs
Safe and affordable housing for veterans and their families
Department of Homeland Security
National Fire Academy
Assistance to Firefighters/Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response/Fire Prevention and Safety Grants