Attending the 29th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner


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Source:  Susan Ballou, MS, AAFS President-Elect

In response to an invitation received by the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), I had the pleasure of representing our AAFS President at the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CSFI), National Fire and Emergency Services Annual Meeting, April 5-6, 2017. This meeting was held in Washington, DC, and provides a venue for different fire associations to host booths and unite in training sessions to share their unique knowledge and experience while taking advantage of the proximity to Capitol Hill. During the event, hourly shuttles were provided to transport individuals for networking opportunities with their respective members of Congress.

Senator Susan Collins speaking during the symposium dinner.

Senator Susan Collins speaking during the symposium dinner.

When I think of our AAFS annual meetings, I realize that we have become accustomed to mingling with book authors, experts from forensic documentaries, and television personalities. When I attended several sessions during the CFSI annual meeting, I was taken aback at the number of Presidential appointees, Senators, and Congressmen speaking during the event. I was pleasantly surprised to have three former United States Fire Administrators, two appointed by President George W. Bush and one appointed by President Barack Obama, as part of a panel session. Their candid discussions on budgetary and staffing issues sounded very familiar to me. We seem to face the same issues in forensic science:  inadequate equipment, limited training resources, and reduced budgets while being asked to do more. Chief David Paulison, past United States Fire Administrator, shared a lesson he learned during his term. When dealing with the budget, you have to first accept what the budget is, then figure out how the work can get done with that amount. Wringing of the hands or whining for more money doesn’t benefit your staff. Showing what you can do with those funds is what gets noticed by the appropriators.

Symposium Dinner – 1,600 in attendance.

Symposium Dinner – 1,600 in attendance.

I met with Ms. Deborah Keeler, IAAI Executive Director, and Mr. George Codding, IAAI President, during the first day of the CFSI program. Since both IAAI and AAFS deal with fire debris, understanding fire characteristics, and providing accurate testimony, their desire is to explore the different opportunities for AAFS and IAAI to work more closely together. Essentially, their message was that IAAI would like to grow a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the two organizations. I look forward to discussing this further with the AAFS Officers and Board members for a mutually acceptable path forward.