BOSTON- Senator John Kerry announced today that he and Sen. Sherrod Brown are introducing legislation to promote adoption of the highest safety standards for all of the nation’s fire departments, including hundreds of departments right here in Massachusetts.
Top standards address a wide range of issues including protective equipment, safe fireground staffing, training, fitness and incident command. Because these standards are voluntary, in an age of local budget cuts they’re often ignored. As a result many departments are using outdated equipment and practices. The Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act will work to promote industry wide standards to help reduce avoidable firefighter deaths.
“An ‘avoidable death’ is an unacceptable death,” said Senator John Kerry. “Helping fire departments comply with industry-wide standards is the bare minimum we can do to protect firefighters. We’re trying to tackle these growing problems head on and provide fire departments across Massachusetts with the knowledge and resources to keep every single firefighter as safe as possible.”
“The fight to reduce avoidable firefighters’ injuries and fatalities is one of the most critical issues facing the fire service today. The ‘Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act’ will help us accomplish this goal by ensuring that communities throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and across the nation have the tools and resources to keep firefighters safe,” said Bob McCarthy, President of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. “I am again proud to join with John Kerry in the fight to reduce firefighters’ unnecessary fatalities and truly thank him for his continuing dedication, commitment and leadership in sponsoring and enacting federal legislation on behalf of firefighters in the U.S. Senate.”
The International Association of Firefighters featured the Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act as one of its key legislative priorities at the 2008 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference last month.
The legislation requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine the current level of compliance with firefighter safety standards among fire departments; establish a task force to explore ways that governments can promote the adoption of such standards by fire departments; and require the task force to provide recommendations to Congress as well as to individual states and localities on how best to increase department compliance.
At this point, the bill does not require compliance with consensus standards, and would place no additional cost requirements on local or state governments. Instead the bill tasks the federal government with collecting data on standards compliance among local departments and studying ways to increase voluntary compliance.