Ever heard of the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease?  No where does that hold more true than in Washington, DC.  Letters from constituents and special interest groups inundate members of Congress on a daily basis.  It is the most effective means to capture their attention and gauge public sentiment about particular issues.  But if written in haste, a letter can do more harm than good.

   Here are some useful tips for writing your member.  Whether you elect to follow them or not, just remember that your letter is one of many received each day.  The way you present your concerns in a letter will determine to a large extent the reply you receive.

    1)    Keep the letter brief and to the point. 2)    Write on office, fire department or personal letterhead, and sign your name over your typed name at the end of your letter.
    3)    Write only about one issue per letter, stating your position in the first paragraph.  Personal experiences are the best supporting evidence.
    4)    Avoid combative or argumentative language.  Threatening political retaliation on Election Day often leads to political hibernation for you and other associated with your cause.
    5)    If you have met the Member of Congress personally or have some connection or association beyond being a constituent, highlight it in your letter.
    6)    Ask the Representative to state his or her position in the reply.
    7)    Write as soon as possible to give your representative the timely opportunity to make an informed decision.
    8)    Know your facts.  Erroneous information will hurt your credibility.
    9)    Express your own ideas and opinions.  Do not use standard phrases which often give the appearance of a form letter.
    10)    Do not write on impulse.  Have someone review your letter for content and grammar.  Show that you put some time and thought into it.  You might reveal something for the first time which can heavily influence

Sample Letter to a Member of Congress 

Salem Fire Department
1234 Main Street
Salem City, OR  97303
July 1, 1997

The Honorable John Smith
Chairman, House Commerce Committee
123 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Congressman Smith:

As fire chief of the Salem City Fire Department that represents the interest of 50 fire and rescue personnel, I write to you with a sense of urgency.  No federal issue is as important to all first responders than the reallocation of broadcast spectrum.  While conference members from the House and Senate Commerce Committees attempt to resolve differences between their respective measures pertaining to broadcast spectrum, firefighters and other rescue personnel respond to countless disasters and emergencies with inadequate communication systems.  You can change that.

As you know, the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) released a report in 1996 that draws attention to the critical shortage of spectrum for public safety agencies.  The report called for the immediate reallocation of 24 megahertz from broadcast channels 60-69 exclusively for public safety agencies.  Since that time the Federal Communications Commission and the White House have followed suit.

I have appreciated the willingness expressed by committee members to address the concerns of many emergency responders with certain provisions in the Senate and House measures.  During conference negotiations, I request your support in one important area.  Both the House and Senate bills do not establish a deadline for the transition period, which will delay the reallocation of spectrum indefinitely in certain areas such as the Northeast and West Coast.  Public Safety use of the 24 megahertz will be delayed in these areas until the end of the DTV transition due to existing analog and proposed digital stations on channels 60-69.  When responding to fires, bombings, natural disasters, even the slightest delay can mean more casualties.  Like PSWAC, I request the 24 megahertz be reallocated immediately.

It is not often that the American Fire Service calls upon Congress for support.  The fire service is primarily funded at the local level through various means.  We train most of our personnel at state and local training academies.  If there was ever an issue during the 105th Congress where your support is so critical to our nationís first responders, this is it. I urge you to address my concerns with Conference members, pressing upon them the need to give the fire service the appropriate resources to perform their work by reallocating 24 megahertz forthwith.

If you have any questions regarding my letter, you can reach me at 202.371.1277.

Thank you for your consideration.


William W. Madison

Fire Chief

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Congressional Fire Services Institute
900 Second Street, NE, Suite 303    Washington, DC 20002
Phone 202.371.1277    Fax 202.682.FIRE (3473)
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