Author(s): Gregory Cade. Published on September 1, 2017.

The Good Fight

A fond farewell from NFPA’s head of government affairs—and a rallying call for continued federal vigilance

As head of the Government Affairs Division at NFPA over the last seven years, I’ve had the honor of working in our nation’s capitol to build NFPA’s influence with our federal partners. It is with mixed emotions that I leave my post to accept a new role as NFPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional director. Before I officially sign off, however, I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts on where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what I’ve learned during my time leading NFPA’s efforts in Washington, D.C.

This job has made it clear to me how important it is for NFPA to be engaged with decision makers. Looking back, we’ve had many successes over the 2,555 days of my tenure, but to me the biggest return on investment has been the ever-increasing demand for NFPA’s presence at the table. The NFPA Government Affairs Division phone is always ringing. Sometimes the caller needs accurate data to help inform a decision, sometimes they need an advocate, sometimes they simply want to make sure NFPA isn’t opposed to a measure. We get calls from the White House looking for NFPA’s expertise and input in shaping policy initatives—everything from community resilience to new technologies such as energy storage systems. We get calls from Congressional offices seeking help supplying their districts with disaster preparedness information, and from federal agencies looking for expert witnesses for their projects. We get calls from other standard developers, from nations across the globe, and even from concerned citizens trying to learn more about fire safety. The busy phone lines show NFPA’s strong influence on fire and life safety policy at all levels of government.

I’ve worked to expand that influence during my time in Washington, and I believe we must continue to be proactive. The battle is never ending, and we cannot let our guard down. This is especially true in advocating for safety improvements and regulation, where our successes over the years have also had the unintended effect of breeding complacency. I often hear our adversaries say we no longer need “X” because the problem no longer exists—they tend to overlook why the measure was enacted in the first place. The stakes are particularly high right now. The desire for less federal regulation under the Trump Administration means our efforts at the state and local levels need to be stronger than ever. That’s one reason I jumped at the chance to become NFPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional director and bring my expertise into that arena.

I’ve often felt like a ringmaster trying to keep all of NFPA’s governmental efforts moving at a proper pace and direction, but I couldn’t have done it without NFPA staff support. I am reminded daily how talented, knowledgeable, and engaged the cadre of people who work for NFPA truly are. With the sheer number of NFPA codes and standards, no one person can possibly have an intimate understanding of each, but I have been able to connect inquirers with the right NFPA experts for the answers—a required talent for anyone looking for success in government affairs.

It has been my honor to work for you at the federal level. I have also enjoyed providing my perspective in this column on the role of NFPA’s partnerships with the federal government and numerous other coalitions. The Government Affairs Division has worked steadily during my tenure to make sure that NFPA stakeholders voices are heard loud and clear on the numerous safety issues that impact all of us, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so long into the future.

GREGORY B. CADE is division director, Government Affairs for NFPA.