50 Years of FEMSA: An Association Success Story
By: Karen Burnham
A golden anniversary is not only a cause for celebration–it’s also an opportunity to strengthen relationships with current and prospective stakeholders. A 50-year milestone is worth recognizing when you consider that only one-third of small businesses survive more than a decade, according to the Small Business Administration.
2016 marks FEMSA’s 50 years of existence. In celebration, we honor those who molded the foundation upon which FEMSA stands, as well as those who carried the FEMSA banner through the years to make the association the success it is today. Throughout this year, we will share historical association benchmarks through newsletters, new releases, and other media, culminating in a grand celebration at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
When it all began …
Dateline: March 10, 1966 … State of Delaware, Office of the Secretary of State, acknowledged receipt of the Certificate of Incorporation of Fire Equipment Manufacturers and Services Association [original name] dated March 9, 1966, with its principal office located at 901 Market St., Wilmington, DE. This membership corporation was organized and operated exclusively as a non-profit, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, to:
- provide help and advice to the International Fire Chiefs Association and the fire service in general; and,
- improve industry standards.
Incorporators of FEMSA were Ira S. Pimm, Jr., Charles A. Adami, and Standish F. Hansell, all of whom resided in Philadelphia, PA, at the time of incorporation.
The first meeting of the incorporators was held on March 11, 1966, in Philadelphia, PA. At that meeting, Mr. Pimm was elected Chairman, and Mr. Adami was appointed Secretary of the meeting. The Secretary presented proposed bylaws for the regulation of the affairs of the corporation. An election was held resulting in the following individuals named as directors:
Retrieved from the FEMSA archives is a news release that published soon after the association was launched. It reads:
A new fire-service trade association, the Fire Equipment Manufacturers and Services Association (FEMSA) has made its debut.
Sponsor of a reception for more than 2,000 fire chiefs, wives, and representatives of equipment and apparatus manufacturers at the recent 93rd annual conference of the International Association of Fire Chiefs in Boston, Mass., the new non-technical, non-profit group already has 36 active members and a growing list of applicants. Aim of the group is to aid the IAFC at its annual conferences, relieve host cities of expenses connected with conducting IAFC meetings, obtain optimum product exposure for its member-exhibitors during IAFC conferences, and improve public relations.
Officers of the new FEMSA association are President Richard Bugbee (American District Telegraph Co.); Vice President Grace C. Clark (Circul-Air Corp.); and, Secretary-Treasurer Fred Fischl (Bi-Lateral Fire Hose Co.). Members of the association included:
This article appeared in the November 1966 issue of Volunteer Firefighter, and may be the only historical record of the first membership list that exists. Eight (8) original member companies of FEMSA, highlighted in bold above, continue to support the association through their memberships today … 50 years later.
There is no additional information about the first 20 years of FEMSA that has been discovered to date, but the research effort continues.
A New FEMSA Regroups in 1986 …
Product liability was the driving force that took FEMSA to a higher level in 1986. H.R. 1115, the Uniform Product Liability Act, singled out the fire and emergency industry with a provision making manufacturers of fire equipment and protective clothing presumptively liable in the event of injury to a firefighter. If enacted, the legislation would have drastically impeded manufacturers’ ability to obtain adequate liability insurance, dramatically increased legal defense expenses, and thereby devastated manufacturers’ ability to compete in the marketplace.
In a recent in-person interview with Kathleen “Kit” Cafaro, she recalled attending the 1985 Fall Meeting of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA). During that meeting, she cautioned FAMA members about this proposed legislation. Attorneys representing FAMA at the time considered the position as unconstitutional, and that “it would never fly.” Kit heard it said shortly thereafter that, “If you listen to Kit, you’ll be as crazy as she is!” When Kit returned home that night, there was a phone message from her Congressman. She called him back, he asked for her position on the issue, and she indicated that it didn’t matter as it would never get off the ground. The Congressman reported that it was flying through Congress and it was very much alive. With that information, Kit contacted then FAMA President Bill Darley. Suffice to say, this was the beginning of the end of FAMA’s then current legal and management representation by TBEA … the issue was very much real. [Of note, by 1986, FAMA – having no management association leadership – was invited by FEMSA to hold its Fall Meeting with FEMSA; this kicked off the combined FEMSA/FAMA annual conference as we know it today.]
By 1987, the movement was in full swing. Several industry manufacturers regrouped to form a “new FEMSA” with a focused mission and objectives. Doug McMillan (Task Force Tips) served as Chairman/President, and Roger Hannay (Hannay Reels) served as Chairman of the Legislative Committee. In 1988, Kit Cafaro (MC Products) was elected as President, and Mary Grilliot (Morning Pride) was elected Vice President. They worked with McMillan and Hannay to launch a powerful effort to divert the crisis. Other key players included George Freese (Globe Manufacturing), and Ray Ridler (VFIS). In 1989, FEMSA contracted with The Spence Group, an association management and lobbying firm, to mount its legislative defense and build up its association in the process. Sandra Spence was named Executive Director of FEMSA. She organized a membership and political action campaign, and by July of 1989, membership in FEMSA expanded to 124 companies. FAMA supported the issue as it directly impacted its then 60 member companies.
On June 21, 1989, H.R. 2700 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill included exactly the same language on presumptive liability affecting fire equipment and clothing as had been included in H.R. 1115 in 1988. A companion bill (S. 1400) was introduced in the Senate on July 25, 1989. This was a balanced bill with broad bi-partisan support that did not include any presumptive liability provision. In sum, it was critical that presumptive liability language be eliminated from the House bill. FEMSA member companies were encouraged to reach out to their Representatives and Senators with concerns about H.R. 2700, and the drastic impact it would have on their businesses. Section 3(e) of H.R. 2700 would pre-empt state negligence laws and establish a rebuttable presumption of liability applicable only to manufacturers of firefighting equipment and clothing, and those manufacturers would be presumed liable in product liability action for harm suffered by any firefighter performing interior structural firefighting. The law would be applicable only if:
- the harm resulted from the use of equipment or clothing which left the control of the manufacturer after the date of enactment of the bill; and,
- the equipment or clothing did not comply with the OSHA fire brigade occupational safety and health standard or a state standard more stringent than the OSHA requirement (and the equipment or clothing was provided for use in the state in which the state standard is in effect).
While these conditions made the legislation appear even-handed, the hard fact is that one needs the product to defend oneself. If the equipment or clothing were consumed in a fire, there would be no defense. In effect, it overturned the basic concept of American law that says one is innocent until proven guilty.
June 1989, 900 yards of black bunting was purchased (thanks to Morning Pride) and brought to the New York State Chiefs’ Show. Most booths and apparatus were draped with black to demonstrate how manufacturers felt they would be affected if the presumptive liability provision were enacted into law. The same fabric was used at the New England and Maryland shows thereafter. Fire trucks with black bunting were also staged on the streets of Washington, D.C. near the Capitol, and at Washington National Airport, coupled with a hearse and powerful signage reading, “The Death of Small Business,” “Product Liability is Killing US,” and “We hope we’ll be there when you need us.”
Dateline: September 5, 1989 … Filed with the State of Delaware, Office of the Secretary of State, a Certificate of Amendment to FEMSA’s Certificate of Incorporation. The certificate amended the nature of FEMSA’s business, objectives and purpose, to:
- operate as a business league as defined in Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, for the improvement of business conditions in the fire and emergency services industry;
- advance and protect the business interests of member companies serving the fire and emergency services;
- improve and enhance trade shows and other forums for the exhibition of member products and services;
- elevate the standards for industry products and services and to promote the effective dissemination of information regarding such standards; and,
- promote reforms in the law to achieve these objectives.
The first set of association bylaws found in the association’s legal/corporate records is dated as adopted in 1989. It appears this set served as the template for the current bylaws, although there have been modifications through the years. Of note, in 1989, the number of Directors serving on the Board was 15; some years later it was reduced to 13; and the three Officers – President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer – comprised the Executive Committee. Currently, there are five members of this committee that includes two Directors on the Board.
Senate Committee Acts on Liability Bill
FEMSA member Harry Featherstone (Will-Burt Co.) represented the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in presenting testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee during hearings on S. 1400 in April 1990. Featherstone said the impact of the current 50-state product system is “devastating.” He outlined how product prices have increased, products have been discontinued, innovation has slowed, plants have closed, and thousands of American workers have lost their jobs or opportunities for new jobs. “We need S. 1400 in the U.S.A.,” Featherstone said. “And we need it now, not later when more jobs are lost.”
In May 1990, The Senate Commerce Committee completed action on S. 1400 and supporters of reform were urging all manufacturers to contact their Senators urging speedy action in the Senate Judiciary Committee to send a bill to the floor. FEMSA strongly supported this action, and the Administration, led by Vice President Dan Quayle, came out in strong support of the Senate bill. Remember, S. 1400 did not contain the presumptive liability provision affecting fire equipment and clothing that FEMSA fought in the House bill.
Product Liability Bill Dies
Federal product liability legislation aimed at protecting manufacturers from facing a patchwork quilt of 50 different product liability laws died when Congress failed to act before adjournment in October.
S.1400, a bill strongly favored by the NAM and an alliance of large and small manufacturing interests, went all through the legislative process but didn’t make it to a floor vote in the Senate before adjournment.
H.R. 2700, the House bill that singled out fire equipment manufacturers never even had a hearing during the 1989-90 Congressional session.
Leaders of the Coalition for Uniform Product Liability Law [FEMSA was a member] reported that key Senate co-sponsors of S. 1400 were on board with strategy aimed for 1991, and since the bill already had been through the Committee process, they were hopeful an early start would get results in the next Congress. More on that front to come.
Dateline: June 3, 1991 … Certified by the State of Delaware, Office of the Secretary of State, that the name of the association, “Fire Equipment Manufacturers and Services Association,” is officially changed to “Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association,” the name as it exists today.
1989 … marked the fall of the Berlin wall, the Cold War came to an end, the stealth bomber was completed, CFSI held the first National Fire & Emergency Services Dinner, and the new FEMSA held its first Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
After transitioning from a social to a business organization in 1988, hard work was begun by a handful of professional business people who saw the need to put a new focus to FEMSA and the companies it represented. The first Annual Meeting in the fall of 1989 featured educational sessions on risk management, bar codes and a political education workshop. Following a reception, members were treated to riveting discussions on the costs to our society of product liability claims. “Unfortunately, there is no definition of how much security – safety – engineering – warnings – are enough, but the courts will be happy to tell you what wasn’t enough. Usually, it’s whatever your programs did that wasn’t enough,” stated Harry Featherstone, setting the tone for a panel discussion of liability and risk management issues. Panelists recommended a number of areas where member companies needed to be vigilant.
Members of FAMA (Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association) met in conjunction with FEMSA’s Annual Meeting allowing those companies that were members of both associations to attend both meetings, and enabling FAMA members to join FEMSA at the evening social functions.
“To build on the vitality we developed, we must broaden our program, involve more of our members, and ensure growing responsiveness to industry needs,” noted FEMSA President Kit Cafaro. “We’ve identified goals for each committee that the Board voted to establish, appointed chairmen, and have invited all members to join in the work we face in the coming year and beyond,” Cafaro stated.
The committee list was exhaustive and included: Awards (Steve Houchin, Super Vac); Bar Codes (Virgil Slagle, Slagle Fire Equipment); Congressional Fire Services Dinner (Ray Hawkins, VFIS); Disaster Register (Wayne Bennett, FireSoft); Ethics and Business Practices (Bill Barnes, Akron Brass); Finance (Harry Metcalfe, Vetter Systems); Goals (Kit Cafaro, MC Products); International Standards and Trade (Doug McMillan, Task Force Tips); Legislative (Roger Hannay, Hannay and Sons); Membership (Lila Gillespie, Electrosonics International); Nominating (Mary Grilliot, Morning Pride Mfg.); Overweight Truck Project (Bill Bruns, Grumman); Program/Education (Mary Grilliot, Morning Pride); and Trade Shows (Bob Barraclough, Span Instruments). Volunteers were then sought to work with committee chairs to engage actively in FEMSA.
Implementing recently adopted bylaws, the size of the FEMSA Board was expanded to add to the association’s leadership. FEMSA members elected:
President: Kit Cafaro (MC Products)
Vice President: Mary Grilliot (Morning Pride Mfg.)
Treasurer: Lila Gillespie (Electrosonics International)
Bill Bruns (Grumman Emergency Products)
Ron George (Red Head Brass)
Art Glatfelter (VFIS)
Steve Houchin (Super Vac)
Harry Metcalfe (Vetter Systems)
Tony Testa (Ranger Fire Apparatus)
Bill Barnes (Akron Brass)
Bob Barraclough (Span Instruments)
Paul Darley (W.S. Darley)
Tony Parrino (Fire Chief Magazine)
George Freese (Globe Mfg.)
Bruce Guard (Elkhart Brass)
FEMSA accepted an invitation to join the Technical Advisory Committee of the National Oversize/Overweight Truck Permit Project. Funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the project would develop a uniform permit that individual states could issue for oversize and overweight truck shipments. The project also aimed to enhance interstate trucking operations. Bill Bruns represented FEMSA in this effort.
1990 … the Hubble Telescope was launched into space, Nelson Mandela was freed, the United States invaded Nicaragua, U.S. President Bush announced that he doesn’t like broccoli, and federal product liability legislation aimed at protecting manufacturers from facing a patchwork quilt of 50 different product liability laws died when Congress failed to act before adjourning in October. A new bill would be introduced in both the House and Senate in 1991, and it was expected the Senate bill would be the model for the new legislation.
A proclamation declaring the week of October 7-14 as National Fire Prevention Week was signed by U.S. President George Bush. FEMSA Board members in attendance for the ceremony at the White House included Kit Cafaro, Bruce Bowling, Bill Bruns, and Ray Hawkins.
FEMSA’s 2nd annual membership meeting was held in November in Orlando. The full agenda of programs included trade, industry developments, and small business concerns. The business meeting updated members on FEMSA’s efforts to develop a liability insurance program, a legislative conference, and export day in Washington in the next year. Due to its extended growth, activities, and the need for financial stability, members were assessed $100 to offset basic association expenses. Several members donated over and above the assessment.
1991 … The Soviet Union ended, Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated, the World Wide Web was made available, and S.640 is introduced as the new focus for supporters of federal product liability legislation.
With strong bi-partisan support, Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Kasten (R-WI) introduced The Product Liability Fairness Act in March; it was identical to S.1400 which passed the Commerce Committee in 1990. It did not single out any industry and did not include the presumptive liability provisions contained in a House bill in the prior Congress that concerned FEMSA members. This bill was good news for manufacturers as well as distributors. FEMSA members were encouraged to write their Senators seeking co-sponsorship of S.640. In October, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 13-7 to support S.640. This vote was identical to the vote taken on the same bill in the same committee in 1990. With 13 more months before Congress would adjourn, there was sufficient time to get the bill to the Senate floor.
Union firefighters from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found a sponsor for a presumptive liability bill. S.193 applied to apparatus, equipment and protective clothing, but it was killed quickly thanks to FEMSA’s speedy response. FEMSA and FAMA were represented at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing by a South Dakota attorney who had represented FEMSA the prior year. Harold Boer (Central States Fire Apparatus) testified for the state Business & Industries Association, and a representative of the insurance industry opposed the bill. Steve Reedy (Luverne Fire Apparatus) got hold of a sheet of paper distributed at the hearing by supporters of the bill which indicated that several manufacturers listed were now supporting the bill. That list destroyed their credibility. Can you imagine companies like Morning Pride, Globe, MSA, Survivair, or Lion Apparel supporting presumptive liability? FEMSA staff immediately faxed the list to all FEMSA members named. By return fax, the message went out to South Dakota that the list was a farce. “We did not know such a bill existed and have not indicated our support. Now that we have read the provisions we strongly oppose this bill,” noted one member company.
The Committee killed the bill and observers in South Dakota believed it would be a long time before supporters got anywhere in that state.
FEMSA’s 3rd Annual Meeting held jointly with FAMA in Orlando in November attracted 100 attendees, the largest meeting to date.
1992 … Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, Quebec voted to remain part of Canada, Johnny Carson leaves the Tonight Show, and there’s movement on product liability legislation.
In spite of substantial bipartisan support, key Senate leaders continued to block and stall the reform movement throughout the 102nd Congress … until Senators Kasten and Danforth announced that S.640 was of such importance to the manufacturing community that they would circumvent the committee process and offer the bill as an amendment to unrelated legislation – the Motor Voter Bill – which had a high priority for the leadership. Senate leaders attempted to secure the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture – and shut off further debate. That would have immediately prevented consideration of S.640. They fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed; thus, victory for the Product Liability Legislation supporters! Two days later, Democratic leaders were able to secure passage of the motion to table S.640. Senator Kasten reminded industry representatives that unlike some other legislative debates, “we have an organized, monied, powerful, successful lobbying force against us – the trial lawyers’ lobby.” The 61,000-member Association of Trial Lawyers of America made defeat of product liability a top priority. Knowing how the Senators voted provided important information to prepare for the next vote.
FEMSA members staged “fly-ins” to Washington, DC, meeting with representatives and Senators, working with the National Association of Manufacturers, and testifying before Congress. In September, supporters of S.640 lost a critical vote in the Senate despite heavy lobbying by the NAM and FEMSA members from 32 states. Sixty votes were needed to invoke cloture in order to end debate and move on with the vote on legislation; only 58 votes were cast in favor of cloture and 39 against. The close vote showed increased support for product liability reform, reflecting years of consensus building and communications efforts on the part of coalition members. The voting trend indicated it would be passed the next year at long last.
The FEMSA/FAMA Annual Meeting was held in early October in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. A three-night package for attendees was $324 (hotel room for 3 nights plus breakfast each morning, tax and gratuities). The meeting focus was managing for quality performance.
Mary Grilliot is named FEMSA President, with Kit Cafaro serving as her Vice President.
1993 … The World Trade Center in New York is bombed, Lorena Bobbitt is tried in court, the final episode of Cheers is aired, and hearings continue on the latest Product Liability Fairness Act – S.687 … not passed in this session. Efforts continue.
FEMSA initiated efforts to produce a FEMSA Video Buyers’ Guide, enabling the association to take advantage of this then-future-oriented method of marketing products. As a product-driven industry, the video format had the potential of reaching more firefighters than any other mechanism. The video would include a message that end users should buy from FEMSA members, and stressed the association’s Code of Ethics.
The Annual Meeting was held in Tucson, AZ at the El Conquistador Resort. Speakers focused on “how-to” issues including customer service, employee relations, trade show effectiveness, video marketing and low-cost marketing techniques. FEMSA officially launched the new FEMSA Video Buyer’s Guide at this meeting and obtained commitments from member companies to participate. Planned release was for the spring of 1994 at the FDIC. The meeting location was so well received – highest attendance to date – that the 1994 Annual Meeting was booked before the meeting events concluded.
1994 … Los Angeles suffers a massive earthquake, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and former President Richard Nixon died, NAFTA was signed by Mexico, America, and Canada, and the heat is turned up on product liability legislation.
FEMSA continues its growth with a strong 150 member companies. Highlights of the year included the Annual Meeting program producing a roundtable discussion on the duty to warn and product liability, trade show management, educational programs, and the future of the fire service. The meeting brought together representatives from a cross-section of member companies, and was an excellent networking opportunity.
The Video Buyer’s Guide project was a good investment for the association as it gave FEMSA great exposure and resulted in new members.
Firehouse Expo received the most improved show award.
Efforts continued to develop a FEMSA-sponsored insurance program for the fire service industry.
The ISO Consortium was successful in achieving the goal of getting the international community to accept U.S. levels of performance, thereby enabling U.S. companies to compete globally. This was one of the more successful programs sponsored by FEMSA.1995 … Craigslist and Yahoo! are founded, O. J. Simpson jury delivers “Not Guilty” verdict, Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa, and Product Liability Reform sees light!
“It was a long time coming – over 13 years!” reported FEMSA Legislative Committee Chair Roger Hannay (Hannay Reels). Now comes the hard task of working out a compromise between the more comprehensive version in the House and the narrower version in the Senate. And then there is the President’s potential veto. But this is the best shot we’ve ever had at product liability reform and maybe something can be worked out. More to come.
Fire Service Warning Label Crisis: In May, representatives from 25 companies in the fire and emergency services industry met in Atlanta to discuss the future of warning labels. To date, over 75 firms have indicated they want to have more detailed information about the FEMSA warning label project. With the NFPA backing away from warning labels, FEMSA must now consider developing its own warning label to provide manufacturers in this industry with a defensive shield. The consensus of attendees was to proceed to the next step in development – to distribute a prospectus to all companies with products or services in this industry to generate commitments for funding the warning label effort. Approximately $100,000 was needed to complete the work that several FEMSA member firms have initiated and are willing to donate to the effort. “We are at a crossroads with NFPA. This is another impact of product liability suits. We have to come up with our own warning label and user guide to protect our members,” commended President Mary Grilliot.
Initial review of product warning labels and user information guides began in the summer. The review team looked at the state-of-the-art of warning labels for protective clothing. Next up for review would be fire apparatus followed by rescue tools – and so on – until the team has reviewed all products represented by participants. The prototype FEMSA warning label was unveiled at the Annual Meeting for attendees to critique.
FEMSA’s Insurance Program also kicked off at the Annual Meeting, and the #1 Booster Award for 1995 was presented to Mary Grilliot (Morning Pride) in recognition of her leadership efforts on behalf of the fire service industry.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Kit Cafaro, Doug McMillan, Roger Hannay, Mary Grilliot, Lila Gillespie, and Sandy Spence, who were contacted and interviewed for their recollections and records. Most especially, thanks to Kit Cafaro who spent four days with me going through four cases of her old FEMSA files to help recreate and chronicle FEMSA’s history.