HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES BILL SUPPORTING FIREFIGHTER TRAINING THROUGH USFA
The House of Representatives today unanimously passed an important bill authorizing funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), and supporting training and educational programs for many of our nation's firefighters.
The bill, H.R. 4847, is a bipartisan effort that passed out of the Science and Technology Committee that reauthorizes USFA's activities in training, fire education and awareness, data collection, research, and standards development and promotion. This legislation authorizes $291 million in federal funds for fiscal years 2009 through 2012 for the USFA. Upon final passage, H.R. 4847 was approved by a vote of 412-0.
Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation and the bill's lead Republican sponsor, made the following statement:
"The mission of USFA is to limit economic and life loss due to fire and related emergencies, through leadership, advocacy, coordination and support.' This organization provides vital assistance in the areas of training, fire education and awareness, and awards grants to a number of local fire departments across the country. These activities have made a substantial impact over the last 30 years.
"Because of the work of the USFA, smoke alarms are now standard issue in residences across the country; over a million firefighters have received advanced training; and firefighter equipment and safety continually improves.
"USFA should be proud of its record of achievement. However, it's also clear that improvements can still be made. In the last ten years, deaths related to fires have decreased by approximately 25%, from nearly 5,000 in 1996 to 3,675 in 2006. Although that decrease in fire-related deaths is commendable, the United States still has one of the highest death rates from fire in the industrialized world.
"Despite decreases in the numbers of fires, direct damage costs are increasing and have surpassed $10 billion per year. Put another way, in an average year, fires cause as much damage in the United States as hurricanes. The reauthorization of USFA will allow the agency to continue to improve our preparedness and reduce our vulnerability to fire.
"Unfortunately, last year we saw wildfires that ravaged Southern California and the need to develop a more cohesive way of combating these fires. I am happy to see that this legislation specifically addresses the issue of fighting fires in an urban-wildland interface by implementing methods to better respond and prepare for fires that move from wildlands to suburban and urban areas.
"I am particularly pleased that this legislation now includes an amendment that I offered at Full Committee that will allow the USFA Administrator to perform studies related to the management aspects of emergency medical services.
"Firefighters are called upon to extract victims from car crashes, building fires or collapses, or other emergencies. It is critical that patients receive consistent care under medical direction. While I do not expect USFA to pursue studies into the medical care EMS patients should receive, I believe that my amendment - which was accepted by the Full Science Committee - will give the Administrator the authority to conduct studies into training, system design, and on-scene patient management while making sure to work with appropriate federal agencies and existing medical services in these local communities.
"This legislation has been a bipartisan accomplishment of our Committee and is being supported by a number of fire-related advocacy groups - including the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Arson Investigators, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Fire Service Training Association, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the North American Fire Training Directors."