Issue Position: Fire Fighters
"The image I have of September 11th is of that fireman, coming out of the debris of the World Trade Towers with that determined look on his face. President Bush stood there with his bull horn, promising fire fighters on behalf of the Nation we would give them what they needed to face new dangers. The President hasn't, but where I come from, a promise made is a promise kept."
Joe Biden: Supporting Fire Fighters
Increase Support for the FIRE Act
Joe Biden believes that no priority is higher than keeping Americans safe. In 2001, Joe Biden co-sponsored the original FIRE Act to better equip fire fighters. Nationwide, more than 33,000 fire departments have used FIRE Act funds to obtain new equipment and improve training. When President Bush repeatedly tried to slash the program, Joe Biden worked to restore the funding. The role of fire fighters has expanded since September 11th from providing local response to being prepared for a national disaster. Joe Biden's Homeland Security Trust Fund Act includes $500 million for FIRE Act grants every year for the next five years.
Increase SAFER Grants
Joe Biden was an early supporter of the SAFER Act, which has helped 400 local departments - large and small - hire additional fire fighters. When President Bush attempted to eliminate the program, Joe Biden worked to restore it and increased federal support for hiring both paid and volunteer first responders. But more needs to be one, as two-thirds of our fire departments are still understaffed and many first responders are overworked. Joe Biden's Homeland Security Trust Fund Act, includes $500 million to fund the SAFER program every year for the next five years.
Help First Responders Communicate
America's first responders still cannot easily communicate with the military, police and other first responders in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. Why? The communications equipment between a unit of the National Guard, the local fire fighter or cop, or other first responders is not interoperable. Joe Biden supports giving first responders the equipment they need, so if there is a Katrina or a 9/11, the dedicated professionals or volunteers can do their jobs. He is also a strong supporter of establishing a hard date for broadcasters to return their analog spectrum so emergency personnel can use it to improve communications.
Fire Safety on America's Campuses
Since 2000, some 100 people have died in campus-related fires - and many of the tragedies could have been prevented with proper safety measures. So Joe Biden annually introduces a resolution declaring September Campus Fire Safety Month. It encourages college administrators and local elected officials to implement educational programs, evaluate living conditions on and around campuses, and increase the use of fire detection systems.
Joe Biden: A Fire Fighter's Senator
A Very Personal Bond
For 35 years Joe Biden has had a personal bond with fire fighters. His local Delaware volunteer fire fighters helped in what he calls three of the most consequential events in his life. In 1972, after his wife and three children were broadsided by a tractor-trailer, the fire force was able to save his two young sons trapped in the automobile. In 1988, after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening cranial aneurism, his local fire fighters drove him in the middle of a snowstorm from Delaware to Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington, D.C., for major surgery. And a few years ago when lightning struck his house, again fire fighters were there and saved his home.
Head of the Fire Caucus
Because fire fighters have played such a special part in Joe Biden's life, his mission is to help them in communities across America as much as they have helped him. In 1989, he became a Founding member of the Congressional Fire Caucus and assumed its chairmanship in 1996, a position he still holds today as the Senate's staunchest supporter of legislation to help fire fighters. Joe Biden also is President Emeritus of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen's Association.
Memorials to Fire Fighters
He co-sponsored legislation creating the Public Safety Office Medal of Valor, the Nation's highest award for fire fighters and other public safety officers who act with extraordinary valor. The Award is presented by the President. Throughout his career, Joe Biden also has supported numerous measures to honor fallen fire fighters.
Benjamin Franklin Commemorative Coin
To celebrate the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin, who started America's first fire company, Joe Biden sponsored legislation enabling the Treasury to mint special silver coins with Franklin's image. Proceeds went to various fire safety organizations.