Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: Oct. 23, 2007
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (Senate - October 23, 2007)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, in February of this year, I sent a letter to the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services regarding a report from the Centers for Disease Control that actually blocked an investigation into the death of six firefighters whose personal safety equipment had failed them between 1998 and the year 2000. In the response to me, the inspector general reported that funding of the current funds that exist in the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Fund within the National Institutes of Occupational Health and Safety is flat. Their resources are such that they have had to pick and choose where they can conduct those kinds of investigations.

Every year, about 100 firefighters die in the line of duty in America and about 87,000 are injured. This fund is an investigative fund that helps find ways in which we can protect firefighter lives--whether there is a certain kind of equipment that might have made a difference or a certain procedure that might have made a difference. Obviously, for those fire stations, fire houses with the losses or those that face a future risk, to know we are selectively choosing where we investigate and where we do not does not do the job. We need to investigate all of those fatalities, and we need to do everything possible to provide our firefighters the procedures and equipment necessary to save lives.

This funding will add an additional $2.5 million to that investigative fund and allow us to complete our responsibility to those courageous firefighters across the country.

I ask unanimous consent a letter from the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

October 18, 2007.
Hon. JOHN F. KERRY
304 Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, DC.

Dear Senator Kerry: On behalf of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, representing nearly 13,000 chief fire and emergency officers, and the International Association of Fire Fighters, representing more than 280,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, we are writing to express our strong support for your amendment to the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act providing $5 million for the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Of the 1.1 million fire fighters who selflessly serve their communities and their country, approximately 100 die on the job each year. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 80,100 fire fighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2005 alone. The FFFIPP is instrumental in discovering the primary factors contributing to fire fighter deaths and recommending ways to prevent future deaths and injuries.

Since its inception in 1998, the FFFIPP--in cooperation with fire departments and fire fighters around the country--has conducted over 300 fatality investigations. The findings and recommendations of these investigations have led to increased awareness of fire fighter safety and health hazards, and led to numerous cooperative efforts among and between the fire service and NIOSH to improve fire fighter safety and health.

Despite such successes, fatality investigations are not as common nor as comprehensive as they should be. According to a recent report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, such shortcomings are caused, in part, by a lack of resources.

Congress clearly intended for NIOSH to thoroughly investigate every fire fighter line-of-duty death. By doubling the funding allocated for the FFFIPP in FY 2007, your amendment will allow NIOSH to better fulfill its Congressional mandate and help prevent fire fighter injuries and deaths.

Thank you for your leadership in protecting the health and safety of our Nation's first responders. We look forward to continue working with you to prevent future deaths and injuries among fire fighters.

Sincerely,

Chief Steven P. Westermann, CFO,
President, International Association
of Fire Chiefs.
Harold A. Schaitberger,

General President, International
Association of Fire Fighters.

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Mr. KERRY. I think both sides have now agreed to this amendment.

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