CHRIS DODD: LEADING THE WAY IN SUPPORTING OUR FIRST RESPONDERS
We all understand that safety and security should be the number one priorities of an American President. But, as we have seen all too painfully, if we want the country to be ready, we need a President who is every bit as ready. We need a President we know we can trust to keep the country safe and our families secure. As the author of the historic legislation - before 9/11 - that helped bring billions of dollars to upgrade antiquated equipment in fire houses into the 21st century. Chris Dodd knows that in order to keep our country safe we must invest in our first line of defense - our first responders. Just as Dodd has spent a lifetime fighting to secure America, he offers proven leadership today. As President, Chris Dodd will ensure that: 1) our first responders have the tools they need to keep themselves and our communities safe; 2) we are able to keep and recruit first responders; and 3) our communities are prepared to respond to any emergency situation.
Chris Dodd's work on behalf of America's first responders has earned him numerous awards and honors from first responders themselves. These include:
* Being selected as co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus by his congressional colleagues
* Being named a "Legislator of the Year" by the Congressional Fire Services Institute for his work authoring the FIRE Act
* Being one of only two recipients of the International Association of Fire Fighters Lifetime Achievement Award
In order to keep our country and our citizens safe, we must protect those who protect our homeland. That is why a Dodd Administration will move first responder issues to the forefront of the national agenda.
THE DODD PLAN: PROTECTING OUR PROTECTORS AND OUR COMMUNITIES
Chris Dodd knows that in order to keep our communities safe, America's first responders selflessly risk their lives every day, and the unfortunate reality is that too many of our nation's heroes give their lives on the front lines. No one will ever forget those fire fighters who lost their lives in Charleston, Worcester, or the World Trade Center. Recent deaths in New York and Boston serve as a reminder of the significant sacrifice and commitment first responders make to us all when they go to work every day.
The death of a fire fighter or a police officer is a blow to a whole community. Too many of these deaths are unnecessary and preventable. In a Dodd administration, no first responder will die because they lack the tools or support they need to do their jobs. The Dodd Plan will protect our communities by giving first responders the tools and resources they need to be safe and save lives.
* Fully Staffing Fire and Police Departments: As President, Chris Dodd will ensure that the SAFER gets the funding it needs to ensure safe staffing levels in all public safety agencies. In addition, he will reauthorize and fund the COPS program to ensure that policy departments are fully staffed. Police and fire departments nationwide are desperately understaffed. Up to two thirds of fire departments lack sufficient personnel to respond safely and effectively to local emergencies. Short staffing not only threatens our communities but places the safety of our first responders at significant risk. At a time when our nation faces both natural and man-made threats, this is unacceptable. In 2003, Chris Dodd authored the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Fire Fighters Act to provide grants directly to local fire departments to help them hire additional fire fighters. He has also fought the Bush Administration's efforts to abolish the COPS program, which puts more police officers in local communities.
* Ensuring First Responders have the Equipment and Training they Need: As President, Chris Dodd will fund programs to better train and equip our first responders. American communities continue to suffer as police and fire departments experience a lack of modern equipment and up-to-date training to address their ever expanding missions. Chris Dodd wrote the FIRE Act in 1999 to alleviate this shortcoming for fire departments, but the program continues to lack sufficient funding to bring many departments into the 21st Century. Similar programs to provide updated equipment and training to police, including the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, the Byrne Memorial Grants, and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grants are also severely underfunded.
* Enforcing Strong Health and Safety Standards: As President, Chris Dodd will extend OSHA to cover public safety officers in all 50 states, and will strengthen and modernize the standards governing their health and safety to ensure that police officers and fire fighters are adequately protected against the dangers they face. Currently, police officers and fire fighters are covered by the federal government's workplace health and safety standards in only half the states. And even in those states, the standards themselves are outdated and don't reflect the dangers of a modern world.
* Enabling First Responder Communications: As President, Chris Dodd will make sure that every community is protected by fire and police department with state of the art communications systems to ensure that no disaster is worsened by the inability of first responders to communicate with each other. Of the 343 fire fighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a full third of them could have escaped the towers safely but didn't because their radios failed to work. Even more tragically, the leaders of New York City knew about the problem but refused to fix it. These same radios failed to work in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but city officials ignored recommendations to replace them. Similar communications failures were seen during the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma City bombing and dozens of other incidents.
* Developing New Technologies: As President, Chris Dodd will see that the federal government undertakes a major initiative to develop new gear, equipment and communications technologies that will protect our first responders against the dangers of the 21st Century. Technology has transformed the way Americans live and work, and it is past time to harness this spirit of innovation to better protect our public safety officers. Due to a lack of funding, research to develop new protective gear and equipment and to development new law enforcement and fire fighting technologies has lagged.
THE DODD PLAN: RECRUTING AND KEEPING FIRST RESPONDERS
Chris Dodd knows that America's communities rely on first responders for protection. They put their lives on the line every day to protect American lives, property, and way of life. Yet too often, elected officials reward the men and women who dedicate their lives to our nation with nothing more than parades and platitudes. First responders deserve to be treated with dignity both in their job and in retirement. And they and their families need to be assured that they won't be forgotten if they are harmed while protecting our communities.
Under a Dodd presidency, our communities will be protected by first responders who are afforded the respect they have earned. The Dodd Plan will strengthen our communities by giving our nation's first responders the workplace rights and benefits they deserve in return for their dedication.
* Providing First Responders a Voice in the Workplace: As President, Chris Dodd will sign the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act into law and prevent the National Security Personnel System from going into effect, guaranteeing all first responders the right to collectively bargain with their employers. But he will not wait for Congress to act. During his first week in office, Chris Dodd will use his authority as President to sign an executive order preventing NSPS from being enacted. Dodd believes that those who risk their lives to protect us every day deserve the right to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions with their employer. He has cosponsored the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act to grant collective bargaining rights to public safety officers and he opposes the NSPS that denies such rights from civilian Department of Defense public safety officers.
* Providing Benefits for Families of the Fallen: As President, Chris Dodd will ensure that the families of first responders who lose their lives on the job from heart attack or stroke will receive the benefits they deserve. As a nation, we owe a debt of gratitude to the families of those who give their lives protecting their communities. In 2003, Chris Dodd supported the Hometown Heroes Act to expand the Public Safety Officers Benefit program to award benefits to the families of public safety officers who die of heart attack and stroke on the job. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has undermined the program and refuses to provide families the benefits they are rightfully owed.
* Protecting Retirement Security: As President, Chris Dodd will preserve and strengthen first responder retirement systems. He believes that public safety officers who have spent an entire career protecting their communities should have access to a secure retirement.
* Providing Everyone in the Community with Affordable Health Care: As President, Chris Dodd will create a universal healthcare system using his Universal HealthMart in which all Americans will be covered, regardless of job status or ability to pay. First responders and the communities they serve will not have to worry about being covered, even if they retire early. The nation's first responders often face significant health care needs from years of working in dangerous, stressful environments. Furthermore, the men and women in these occupations generally retire earlier than other workers. As a result, most emergency responder leave employment long before they are eligible for Medicare. With the soaring cost of health care today, many first responders are finding it difficult to afford retiree health insurance.
THE DODD PLAN: KEEPING COMMUNITIES PREPARED
Chris Dodd knows that whether they are responding to a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the nation's first responders are our nation's domestic defenders, ready to place themselves directly in harm's way to protect their fellow citizens. From a police officer uncovering a terrorist plot, to a fire fighter responding to a chemical spill, to a paramedic trying to save earthquake victims, these brave men and women are on the front lines protecting Americans in the wake of major disasters. As the failed response to Hurricane Katrina made clear, significant work remains to be done to ensure that our nation's emergency responders have the resources and support structure they need to protect lives and property in a major disaster.
In a Dodd administration, first responders will have both the authority and the resources they need to do their jobs in the wake of a disaster. The Dodd Plan will support our nation's front line defenders by providing them with the funding they need to respond to natural and man-made disasters, and an improved framework in which to operate.
* Fully Funding Terrorism Prevention Efforts: As President, Chris Dodd will restore funding to LETPP. Since 9/11, we as a nation have become acutely aware of the threat to our homeland, and rightly taken urgent action to prevent further terrorist attacks. By providing funds to help state and local law enforcement officers better share intelligence, harden high value targets, and break up terrorist cells, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) helps reduce the threat of terrorism on American soil. Unfortunately, since 2004, LETTP allocations have declined more than 23%. In a time of increased threats to our nation, this is unacceptable.
* Preparing First Responders for Major Disasters: As President, Chris Dodd will fund the State Homeland Security Grant Program and renew focus on lessons learned from exercises. Chris Dodd understands that homeland security is a nationwide priority, and any gap in preparedness leaves America vulnerable to attack. TOPOFF and other exercises can provide first responders with valuable opportunities to practice terrorism response activities, but all too often, officials fail to conduct timely and comprehensive after-action reports to improve our response. Dodd also supports the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) which provides funds for every state in the nation to prepare for terrorist attacks involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Unfortunately, SHSGP allocations have declined by almost 75% since 2003.
* Providing for a Coordinated National Response: As President, Chris Dodd will implement a new national framework within FEMA to more effectively and efficiently deploy first responders to major disasters. The current manner by which first responders deploy to large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, are largely unorganized and chaotic. As a result, emergency response is often conducted in a haphazard, less than effective fashion. Creating a deployment model that pre-approves the use of fully credentialed first responders will ensure that fire fighters and police officers are better utilized during disasters, creating a safer and more effective response. Such responder would be highly trained and equipped, and share common terminology and common operational procedures.
* Ensuring Communications Interoperability: As President, Chris Dodd will allocate funds to help communities build "back-up" communications systems in case of disaster, and communities will be encouraged to adopt common communications standards. The lack of common standards among communications equipment continues to be an impediment to communication between first responders. In the event of a major disaster, responders who deploy to a disaster area are often unable to communicate with local responders. Although common standards are being increasingly adopted and deployed, tying grant awards to national voluntary consensus standards may help speed this process. Additionally, in an emergency such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, basic communications systems may be destroyed, hindering communications between responders.