Members will hear testimony regarding the reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Senator McCain will preside. Witnesses will be announced at a later time.
The Honorable John McCain
· Good morning. The Committee meets today to examine S. 2411, the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004. This legislation was introduced by Senators Dodd and DeWine, along with myself and 37 cosponsors, to reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. · Over the years, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program has gained a reputation for being an effective way to help local fire departments meet their basic needs for responding to all hazards. These grants (known as “Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) grants”) are made directly to local jurisdictions. Applications undergo a competitive, merit-based process, which helps to ensure that the funding is spent responsibly and productively. The grant program includes a matching requirement to ensure that the local community is committed to using the grant to fulfill a specific purpose. These grants are used for a variety of purposes, including personal protection and firefighting equipment; training; firefighting vehicles; fire prevention campaigns; fire code enforcement; and arson prevention and detection. I would like to emphasize that these grants are dedicated to improving the local response to “all-hazards,” including natural disasters, structural fires, and acts of terrorism. · For Fiscal Year 2004, the program received over 20,000 applications from local fire departments around the country. These requests totaled approximately $2.3 billion in federal spending. The program received a similar number of applications in each of Fiscal Years 2001, 2002 and 2003, which clearly demonstrates the continued need and importance of this program to the firefighting community. · Last year, the Office for Domestic Preparedness replaced the U.S. Fire Administration as the agency tasked with administering the FIRE grant program. This has raised some concerns in the fire service community that the focus of the program would be changed from responding to all hazards to only anti-terrorism preparedness. In addition, concerns have been raised that the peer review process would eventually be dropped and that the FIRE grant program would be combined with existing state block grant programs. I look forward to hearing how the Department of Homeland Security is addressing these concerns. · In addition, I look forward to hearing any recommendations that the witnesses may have regarding this legislation. S. 2411 would make a number of reforms to the existing program in addition to reauthorizing the program through Fiscal Year 2010. It will be helpful to know how these reforms will affect the administration of the program and the local fire departments that benefit from it. · It is my intention to mark-up S. 2411 in the hope that it can be included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. I believe that we should work to pass this legislation this year in order to ensure that our nation’s firefighters continue to have access to this critical grant program. As is demonstrated by their ongoing efforts to control the wildfires around Mt. Graham in southern Arizona, our nation’s firefighters face a myriad of threats. We should ensure that they are adequately equipped and trained to meet them. · I welcome all of our witnesses here today.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. C. Suzanne Mencer
Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Hollings and members of the Committee, my name is Sue Mencer. I serve as the Executive Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP). On behalf of Secretary Ridge, it is my pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the current status of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and the legislation before the Committee to reauthorize the program. Mr. Chairman, the Department supports the Committee’s effort with respect to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and we look forward to working with you to provide critical support to the nation’s fire service. As you know, the State and local first responder community has for some time been calling for consolidation of, and better accountability for, federal preparedness assistance to the public safety community. Secretary Ridge’s recent consolidation of the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) with the Office of State and Local Government Coordination is an important step and demonstrates the Secretary’s commitment toward creation of a “one-stop-shop” for America’s first responders. As the Committee is aware, the Secretary’s consolidation decision places administration of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program within OSLGCP. OSLGCP administers this program in full coordination with the United States Fire Administration (USFA). As the Committee is also aware, the Secretary’s assignment of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to OSLGCP follows action taken by the Congress with the passage of the Department’s fiscal year 2004 Appropriations Act, which provided for OSLGCP administration of the program beginning in the current fiscal year. I am happy to report that the administration of this critical program under OSLGCP is moving forward with great success. On behalf of all of us at DHS, I want to thank this Committee, and the Congress, for your ongoing support for the Department, OSLGCP and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The Congress has entrusted us with a great responsibility, and we are meeting that responsibility with the utmost diligence. OSLGCP is responsible for preparing our nation against terrorism by assisting States, local jurisdictions, regional authorities, and Tribal governments with building their capacity to prepare for, prevent, and respond to acts of terrorism. Through its programs and activities, ODP equips, trains, exercises, and supports State and local homeland security personnel -- our nation’s first responders -- who may be called upon to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. OSLGCP has established an outstanding track record of capacity building at the State, local, territorial, and Tribal levels, by combining subject matter expertise, grant-making know-how, and establishing strong and long-standing ties to the nation’s public safety community. Since its creation in 1998, as the Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support, this office has established strong ties to the emergency response community, including the fire service community. And since its inception, the importance of the fire service to our nation’s preparedness has been recognized by this office. One of the first training initiatives undertaken by what is now OSLGCP was the provision of direct funding to the United States Fire Administration for the development of a train-the-trainer course entitled Emergency Response to Terrorism: Basic Concepts, a course specifically developed to support the fire service. Additional funding was provided by this office to expand this first-of-its-kind, train-the-trainer awareness course to the more advanced operations level. More recently, we have worked closely with U. S. Fire Administrator David Paulison to review USFA-developed courses for delivery with our State Homeland Security and Urban Areas Security Initiative program funds. Through this effort, several USFA courses are eligible for delivery with these OSLGCP program funds, including attendant support costs that include overtime and backfill costs for trainees. We continue to work with Chief Paulison to review additional course materials developed by USFA’s Emergency Management Institute and National Fire Academy. OSLGCP has provided assistance to all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories. Through its programs and initiatives ODP has trained nearly 550,000 emergency responders from more than 5,000 jurisdictions and conducted more than 380 exercises. And, by the end of Fiscal Year 2004, we will have provided States and localities with more than $8.1 billion in assistance and direct support. OSLGCP’s support to State and local public safety comes through a number of different programs, including the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, commonly known as the Fire Act program. Fiscal Year 2004 funding available for the program is $745,575,000. The President’s FY 2005 budget request for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program will focus on those authorized program categories that support the homeland security role of America’s fire service. The administration will continue to prioritize this mission in the future. As part of the transfer of the Fire Act grants to OSLGCP, and to ensure a smooth and seamless transition, we have worked very closely with DHS’ Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (EP&R) and the United States Fire Administration. We have conducted regular meetings and had continuous contact with EP&R and the United States Fire Administration’s financial, information technology, regional, program, and legislative affairs staffs. This year, the Application Kit and Guidance for the Fiscal Year 2004 grant funds opened on March 1st, and closed on April 2nd. To better serve the fire service community, application materials, as well as additional information and resource materials, were posted on the Department and USFA Websites. The FY 2004 Fire Act Grants will provide funding in three program areas, which were selected based on discussions with the fire services community. These areas are: Firefighting Operations and Safety (which includes Training, Equipment, Personal Protective Equipment, Wellness and Fitness Programs, and Modification of Facilities); Fire Prevention; and Firefighting Vehicles. In administering the FY 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, OSLGCP, in consultation with fire service organizations, consolidated the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program area into the Fire Operations and Safety program category. This change was made because, in most fire departments, firefighters have multiple roles, including suppressing fires, performing rescues, and providing EMS services. The Department anticipated that this change would increase the number of requests for EMS equipment and training, since it permits departments to request EMS funding without excluding funding from other support areas. We believe this change has been successful. We have seen a twelve-fold increase in EMS-related applications – from 216 in FY 2003 to over 2,500 in the current fiscal year 2004 application cycle. Funding requests for EMS-related purposes increased from $14 million in FY 2003 to over $66 million in the current application cycle. Additionally, in FY 04, in an effort to provide local fire departments with greater flexibility and discretion to meet their equipment needs, they may also use Fire Act Grant funds to purchase additional equipment related to WMD response similar to what may be purchased under OSLGCP’s State Homeland Security and Urban Area Security Initiative grant programs. This type of equipment has always been eligible for funding under the Fire Act Grants, but, given the dual-use nature equipment, the Department believes it important to highlight the acquisition of this type of equipment. In instances where a fire department is requesting equipment or training that is related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives, (CBRNE), the Department asked the state’s homeland security office to review the application to ensure that it is consistent with the state’s homeland security strategy. Each State was asked to provide the Fire Act program office with a representative to carry out a technical review of applications from the State that include CBRNE-related requests and that had been rated as fundable by OSLGCP’s peer review panelists. During this technical review, the State homeland security representative attested to, and certified that, any CBRNE-related requests were consistent with the State’s homeland security plan, and that the requests did not duplicate Department assistance already provided or about to be provided. The transfer of the Fire Act Grant Program has been highly successful. This year, OSLGCP received 20,348 applications, which is slightly more than the number received last year. • 66% of these applications requested funds for the “Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety program;” • 33% were for Firefighting Vehicles; and • 1% were for Fire Prevention. I would like to clarify for the Committee this last figure. The authorizing statute allows the Department to make grants for fire prevention to organizations that are not fire departments, provided, that these organizations are recognized for their work in fire prevention. The Department will open an additional application period this fall for both fire department and non-fire department organizations that may wish to pursue fire prevention activities. This second application period will surely bolster fire prevention activities under the Fire Act Grant program. During the current year’s application cycle, the Department received applications from different types of fire departments, including: • 67 percent from “volunteer” fire departments; • 19 percent from “combination” departments; that is, departments whose members are comprised of both volunteer and career firefighters; • 9 percent from “career” departments; and • 5 percent from “paid on call” departments, whose members are available in an emergency but are paid only when called upon to respond. Through these applications, fire departments across the country requested more than $2.3 billion in federal support. The average request for funds varied according to the type of department. For instance, the average request for funds from urban fire departments was $180,991. Suburban fire departments requested on average $155,439, while rural fire departments requested on average $107,445. The Department fully supports the use of peer-review panels for reviewing Fire Act Grant applications. This year’s panels were convened on April 13 and finished their reviews on May 7. As in past years, the panel sessions were conducted at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in coordination with USFA and members of the fire service. Based on the work of the panelists, and the number of applications that we received, the Department anticipates that the awards, begun in early June, will continue through the calendar year. Throughout the FY 2004 application period, the Department was committed to a successful program. In an effort to better prepare the fire service, we provided new resources that were not available in the past. We developed a CD-ROM that contains all pertinent FY ‘04 program information, including a self-study tutorial on the grant application process. The on-line tutorial received over 80,000 unique visits. OSLGCP, along with EP&R and USFA, continued the successful practice of holding local workshops for fire departments across the country in order to provide valuable information and guidance on the application process. These workshops provide invaluable assistance to fire departments as they complete and submit their funding applications. During the FY 2004 application period, OSLGCP, in coordination with USFA and the FEMA Regional Field Offices, conducted nearly 400 workshops, which were attended by almost 10,000 fire department officials. Let me assure you that we at OSLGCP recognize the importance that continued support for the fire service through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program represents, particularly to rural and volunteer fire departments, as well as to urban and suburban departments. Funds provided through this program are critical to the operations of many fire departments. The Department of Homeland Security supports your effort, Mr. Chairman, to reauthorize this important program. And we especially appreciate that the legislation before this Committee, the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004, will allow Secretary Ridge the discretion he will need to ensure a streamlined and well-administered Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program over the years to come. Detailed Department comments on S. 2411 will be provided to the Committee in the near future. We at OSLGCP look forward to continuing to provide the fire service with the valuable resources available through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The President's FY 2005 budget request includes $500 million specifically for the Assistance to Firefighters program for the first time as a request separate from other “first responder” programs. The President’s budget request for FY 2005 focuses Assistance to Firefighters grant funds on those categories of equipment and training meant to better assist fire departments respond to terrorist incidents. These categories of equipment and training, much of which are dual use in nature, were initially authorized by Congress in an amendment to the Assistance Firefighters Grant Program passed in late 2001. The administration will continue to emphasize the provision of homeland security-related assistance to our nation’s “first responders” as we move forward. I am confident that by working with you and with our colleagues in the fire service, we will make this an even more successful program in the future. This concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman, and I would be happy to answer any questions the Committee may have.
The Honorable R. David Paulison
Good Morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is R. David Paulison. I am the Director of the Preparedness Division and the United States Fire Administrator in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today on behalf of Secretary Ridge. Each year, fire injures and kills more Americans than the combined losses of all other natural disasters. Death rates by fire in the United States are among the highest in the industrialized world. The U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) mission to reduce loss of life and property because of fire and related emergencies is a sobering challenge, but also a hopeful challenge, since most of these deaths are preventable. As a part of DHS, the USFA staff works diligently to prevent deaths, injuries, and the damage to property through leadership, advocacy, coordination and support in four basic mission areas: fire service training, public education and awareness, technology and research, and data analysis. To accomplish this mission, USFA works with the fire service, other emergency responders and State, local, and tribal governments to better prepare them to respond to all hazards, including acts of terrorism. USFA also listens to State, local, and tribal governments and works with private industry to provide standardized, practical, and compatible emergency response equipment. USFA assists first responders and emergency managers at the local, State and Federal level as they practice and refine their response plans. USFA continues to provide training and education programs to prepare for all routine hazards as well as the emergent threats posed by weapons of mass destruction and terrorism incidents. USFA ACCOMPLISHMENTS USFA is a national leader in fire safety and prevention and in preparing communities to deal with fires and other hazards. USFA works to support the efforts of local communities to reduce the number of fires and fire deaths, champions Federal fire protection issues, and coordinates information about fire programs. In terms of our preparedness programs, USFA recognizes the importance of training as a vital step toward establishing a first responder community that is prepared to respond to any kind of emergency, ranging from a small fire to a terrorist attack involving a large number of victims. We continue to administer training and education programs for community leaders and first responders to help them prepare for and respond to emergencies regardless of cause or magnitude. FEMA provides training in emergency management to firefighters, law enforcement, emergency managers, healthcare workers, public works, personnel, and State and local officials at our Emergency Management Institute. DHS provides equipment, vehicles, and training and wellness programs through the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program to help first responders perform their duties. For FY 2004, Congress appropriated over $745 million for DHS to provide grants directly to fire departments to build their basic response capabilities for all types of emergencies, including suppressing fires. This brings total funding for this grant program to over $2 billion since the program began three years ago. This program benefits communities as a whole and benefits other first responder entities by building the base capabilities of local fire departments to respond to all types of incidents. Today, I will focus my remarks on the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, known as FIRE Act grants, which USFA had the privilege of administering from its inception in Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 through FY 2003. ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS GRANT PROGRAM The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program provides competitive grants to address training, safety, prevention, apparatus, personal protective gear and other firefighting equipment needs as well as wellness and fitness issues of local fire departments. DHS has streamlined the online application process for fire grants and sped up the flow of resources to first responders, while ensuring that the funds are used effectively and appropriately. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, FEMA’s US Fire Administration received over 20,000 applications each year, from fire departments across the country. In an effort to offer “One Stop Shopping” to the applicants for FIRE Act grants—local fire departments—the Secretary of Homeland Security, with support from the Congress, consolidated all first responder grant award programs within the Office for State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP). This created a single point of entry for States and localities into the Federal Government seeking first responder assistance. In 2004, OSLGCP, with USFA assistance and subject matter expertise, managed the FIRE Act grants program within DHS. USFA continues to work closely with OSLGCP to ensure the continued success of this vital program. In addition, DHS is contributing to government wide efforts to facilitate the Federal grants application process by posting summaries of grant announcements on the Federal Government’s Grants.gov website. As an example of the cooperation between OSLGCP and USFA, for FY 2004 and FY 2005, we have discussed the need to undertake a study to attempt to quantify the program’s impact on local fire departments and fire safety. Both USFA and OSLGCP believe such a study is necessary and will yield valuable information as the Department continues its efforts to support the nation’s fire service. Beginning with the 2001 Grant Program, the Emergency Education NETwork (EENET), a satellite-based distance learning system used by FEMA to bring interactive training programs into virtually any community nationwide, broadcast valuable information on the grant programs and process. Prior to the application period in FY2003, EENET broadcast an actual applicant workshop, which was rebroadcast several times during the application period. FEMA heard from many organizations that this eased the application process. We began announcing the FY 2003 awards to successful applicants in June 2003 and completed them three months ahead of schedule in February of 2004. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program in its short three-year existence has provided a tremendous amount of equipment, training and educational programs across the Nation. At present, there has not been an evaluation of this grant program’s impact because of the nature in which these projects are undertaken, completed, and the resulting impact on public safety. In many cases the vehicles purchased are just coming on line, the training provided is just now being internalized, and the public education campaigns are underway. Lauded by many, the peer review process for the fire grants process has been a tremendous success. The process allows a diverse sample of the national fire services community to review and rank the applications. It allows over 400 fire services members, both career and volunteer, from large and small communities, from rural, suburban, and urban areas to play a significant role in making award recommendations. This allows the fire services, who best know the needs of their communities, to have a substantive role in the decision making process. The present process of outside groups and individual firefighter involvement significantly enhances the entire grant program. Currently, S. 2411, the “Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004,” has been introduced and would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters (Fire Act) grant program for the Fiscal Years 2005 through 2010. The Department is reviewing this proposed legislation and looks forward to providing the committee with comments on the bill in the near future. CONCLUSION Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me this opportunity to appear before you today. Your continued support is greatly appreciated. I will be glad to answer any questions you and other Members of the Committee may have.
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Billy E. Shields
Mr. Chairman. My name is Billy Shields and I serve as President of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters, Local 493 and Vice President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, both affiliates of the International Association of Fire Fighters. I appear before you today on behalf of General President Harold A. Schaitberger, and the 263,000 men and women of the IAFF. The IAFF is by far the largest fire service organization in the nation, and our members protect over 80% of the United States population. Before beginning my statement, Mr. Chairman, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to commend you and thank you for your long history of championing fire service issues. Many of us will never forget the invaluable contributions you made to the legislation that originally created the FIRE Act. Your support of the SAFER Fire Fighters Act was crucial to its passage. And, perhaps most important, every fire fighter in this nation owes you a debt of gratitude for the leadership and diligence you displayed in passing the Firefighting Research and Coordination Act. I personally believe that ten years from now we will look back on that achievement as one of the most significant enhancements in public safety our government has ever undertaken. I appreciate this opportunity to share our views on reauthorizing the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, more commonly known as the FIRE Act. The FIRE Act was a true landmark in the history of the fire service. Prior to its passage, the federal government had never fully acknowledged a responsibility to help protect the health and safety of its citizens from fires and other emergencies. With this initiative, the federal government for the first time became a partner with localities and with America’s fire service. Mr. Chairman, four years ago I appeared before you and testified about the great challenges our fire fighters face in responding to millions of calls for help from our fellow Americans. These calls range from fires to hazardous materials incidents to search and rescue operations to emergency medical care. In my previous testimony, I stated the job of fire fighting was the most dangerous in the world and we continue to accept that. I also told you we could not accept that our safety was being recklessly and needlessly endangered because too many fire departments were unable to provide the most basic training, equipment and staffing. Today, four years later, I am here to say the FIRE Act has made a difference. I can testify that in Arizona and nationwide, the FIRE Act has provided direly needed funds for equipment and training to local fire departments. It has been a model of efficiency. By sending funds directly to the local fire departments using a peer review process, the FIRE Act has distributed over $1 billion in just three years. There have been more than 15,000 grants awarded to fire departments across the nation. Arizona alone has received over $12.5 million in grants. In the last fiscal year, our departments received over $7.6 million. These grants have purchased equipment, provided desperately needed training, enhanced fire fighter wellness, and educated children and others about fire safety. Americans are safer today as a result of this program. Nevertheless, there are still large needs and areas that can be improved. Just as in 2000, Arizona today remains a state that is unique. Its varied demographics and geography make it a microcosm of almost every region of our nation. In addition to Phoenix, which is now the fifth largest city in the country, Arizona is home to mountain forests with significant wildland/urban interface dangers and shares hundreds of miles of border with our Mexican neighbors. The Colorado River which is the single most important source of fresh water in the western states, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Plant with its three reactors, and one of our nation’s greatest treasures, the Grand Canyon, all belong in whole or part to our state. While we are proud of our state’s resources, we are also cognizant, as fire fighters, of the response problems as well as the threats to the safety of our communities that come hand in hand with these important state and national assets. Arizona, like every other state, is dotted with cities and towns, farms, highways and railroads. As you know, Mr. Chairman, since 2000, the population of Arizona has increased by over 9%. During the same period, income to the State’s General Fund has fallen by more than 13%. This results in a greater demand on our fire departments. We have more people to protect with less local resources. While the FIRE Act has most definitely made a difference, many of our fire departments in Arizona are still plagued by the kind of problems they faced at the time of my appearance in front of this committee in 2000. Most of our 60 full-time professional departments are deficient in one or more essential areas, such as minimum safe staffing levels, apparatus and equipment maintenance, and training provided to new hires. Our trucks are going out without sufficient personnel on them, and without adequate back up support. Most of our departments cannot provide new hires with the basic level of training identified by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as necessary to perform the job of a fire fighter safely and effectively. These jurisdictions lack funds for instructors, training equipment and training facilities. National and local issues such as the transportation of thousands of tons of hazardous materials every day through our ports of entry at Nogales, San Luis and Douglas, major forests fires driven by extreme drought, and emerging public health issues such as the West Nile Virus and Anthrax scares continue to be national and local concerns for all of us. And added to these ongoing threats are the additional responsibilities we face in the wake of September 11, 2001. Next to our Armed Forces, the greatest impact of 9/11 has been on our public safety providers -- our police officers and fire fighters. Understandably there has been a considerable focus on preventing terrorist attacks in Arizona and nationwide. But despite our best efforts at prevention whether it is in the field of public health, fire prevention or international peace treaties, emergencies will occur. And when emergencies occur, a response is required. Fire departments must be prepared to respond to the emergency with proper equipment and trained staff regardless of the cause. Mr. Chairman, I would like to go back for a moment now if I may and discuss the impact FIRE Act grants made to two of the Arizona cities that I discussed in my testimony before you in 2000. Bisbee Four years ago, I testified that the historic, mountainous copper and silver mining town of Bisbee had a fire department with no ladder truck and fire fighters wearing ten year old personal protective equipment. Today I am pleased to report that Bisbee has used a $130,000 FIRE grant to help them purchase a piece of fire fighting apparatus. This previously unaffordable fire truck will be used to protect one of Arizona’s most historic cities. A second grant for $41,000 was used to upgrade personal protective equipment for fire fighters. This grant helps replace the decade old coats, helmets, gloves, safety ropes and other critical gear that is crucial to fighting fires. While these grants are indispensable, the department still has major problems due to a century plus old water system, narrow winding streets and aging buildings. A new opportunity for one of Bisbee’s neighbors and a challenge for Bisbee’s under staffed fire department is the likely re-opening of an old mine where newly found ore deposits will likely make it one of the most productive copper mines in the world. Research for redeveloping the mine is ongoing, yet the Bisbee Fire Department cannot afford to train or equip a hazardous materials team that will be needed. Nogales As I pointed out in 2000, Nogales is one of the busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexican border for the shipment of hazardous materials. Millions of tons of dangerous cargo pass through Nogales every year. Nogales highlights how the risk to a local community is impacted by federal policy and national issues. Thanks to the FIRE Act, Nogales received an Emergency Medical Services grant for $82,050. This award has already proven critical for equipping the fire department with the necessary emergency needs in case of accident. While the Nogales Fire Department also obtained some hazardous materials training funds from the state of Arizona, their hazmat needs are still enormous. Every member of the department was trained to the Technician level in Hazardous Materials, yet its effectiveness is limited by the fact that the department cannot afford ongoing training or the advanced tools, apparatus and protective suits that match the hazards which are constantly in their community. FIRE Act program While the FIRE grants program has been successful we believe the program can be improved. When the program was first developed, there was a fear that smaller communities and volunteer fire departments would not be able to compete with large municipalities for grants. As a result, several provisions were added to the legislation to ensure that small jurisdictions received a fair share of the funding. The IAFF fully endorsed these provisions, and worked with other fire service organizations to address issues of fairness. Based on the experience of the last four years, we now know that those initial fears were unwarranted, and the protections added to the legislation have had a detrimental impact on larger municipalities. Fire departments that are composed entirely of professional fire fighters protect roughly half of the US population, yet last year they received only 17% of the funding. In Arizona, 55% of all FIRE grants were approved for volunteer departments even though they protect only 15% of the population. Together with the other national fire service organizations, we put together a proposal to begin to address some of these inequities. We are grateful that a number of those proposals were included in S. 2411, the bill authored by Senators Dodd and DeWine to reauthorize the FIRE Act. While we believe some fine tuning is warranted, the IAFF supports the FIRE Act improvements contained in S. 2411, and we are pleased to endorse the bill. Let me discuss some of the key subject areas of the FIRE grant, and the adjustments proposed in S. 2411. Size of Grants One of the most important provisions designed to protect smaller jurisdictions in the original law was a cap placed on the size of grants. By limiting the size of any single grant to $750,000, the authors hoped to increase the number of grants that would be awarded. Many smaller grants were viewed as better than a few larger ones. There were two flaws in this reasoning. The first is simply the notion that the same cap should apply to all jurisdictions regardless of size. Larger fire departments require more funds, and the cap proved to be a disincentive for major cities to participate in the program. The second flaw is that the cap fails to consider the differences in organizational structure between volunteer fire departments and professional fire departments. Volunteer departments are often comprised of a single fire station, while professional departments are more likely to have multiple stations. As a result of these different systems, the FIRE Act has a built-in bias favoring volunteer fire companies. Consider, for example, two counties of approximately equal geographic size, both of which are protected by 20 fire stations. In the more populous, more industrialized of the two counties, the 20 stations are organized into a single fire department, while the less populated county has 20 separate volunteer fire companies. Under the current formula which limits the amount a single fire department may receive, the larger of the two counties would be eligible for $750,000, while the smaller one is eligible for a total of $15 million. This is true regardless of the number of emergency calls that come in, population served or property protected. The cap on the size of grants must be raised and linked to population served. We are appreciative of the language in S. 2411, which addresses this need by creating three levels of grants linked to population, with the largest cities eligible for up to $2.25 million. Nevertheless, we would support raising the cap even higher. The House bill, for example, raises the cap to $3 million, and even at this elevated level, we feel obliged to note that it is just a step. The fire departments in America’s largest cities protect millions of people, while some smaller fire departments number their constituencies in the hundreds. Allowing the largest areas to apply for less than 3 times more funding in the face of such vast disparities in need is a problem we believe will need further attention in the years ahead. Local Match Another provision of the law intended to protect smaller jurisdictions is a lower local match for communities of less than 50,000 people. Currently, larger jurisdictions must match 30% of the federal funds, while smaller communities need only a 10% match. The 30% match has proven to be problematic for many communities. In our own city of Flagstaff, Arizona, population 60,000, we have a perfect problem case. Earlier in my testimony, I highlighted two Arizona cities that benefited from FIRE grants. Unfortunately, another city whose problems I highlighted in my 2000 testimony, Flagstaff, has had quite another experience. The fire department in Flagstaff has not received any FIRE Act funds because it is barred from applying. Flagstaff’s mayor has simply forbidden the department to apply for funds because it cannot meet the local match. Yet the city continues to have great challenges. It sits at the junction of two interstate highways, I-40, which is a nuclear waste transportation corridor, and I-17. The fire department is responsible not only for the safety of the citizens of the community, but also for the millions of travelers and commercial vehicles passing through to the Grand Canyon, historic Route 66 and Mexico. It has responded to everything from wildfires to blizzard rescues. And the fire department continues to be understaffed and underequipped. While the Flagstaff Fire Department is protecting its forest community during our severe drought, it is also involved in planning preparations to treat the sick and injured should there be terrorist incidents on Interstate 40. And due to a shortage of funding for staff, one fire station has already been closed. The city would be a perfect candidate for a FIRE grant, yet because of other budgetary constraints, it simply cannot come up with the local matching funds. And Flagstaff is not unique. In Austin, Texas, the City Manager told the local fire fighters union that he will never apply for a FIRE grant because he views the 30% match as excessive. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city was forced to decline a FIRE grant it had already been awarded because it could not come up with the matching requirement. In Cincinnati, Ohio, the city was only able to afford the 30% match for a flashover simulator it had requested by reducing funding for other fire service needs. As a result, the city has been unable to afford to use the simulator in training exercises. Tragically, a Cincinnati fire fighter lost his life in flashover while this technology sat idle in a nearby warehouse. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the City Council was poised to vote unanimously to decline a FIRE grant it had been awarded because it could not afford the 30% match. At the urging of the local fire fighter union, the Council agreed to postpone the vote to give the fire fighters a chance to find an alternative. Ultimately, the fire fighters were able to convince City Council to float a bond to pay the matching requirement. It was the second consecutive year a special bond was necessary to receive FIRE Act funding. S. 2411 begins to address this problem by reducing the local match for larger areas from 30% to 20%. While we thank you and applaud this step, we encourage a further reduction to create parity and place all fire departments on a level playing field. The rationale given for the lower match for smaller communities is that smaller communities have fewer resources. While that may be generally true, smaller communities also have fewer emergency response needs, and therefore apply for smaller grants. We are aware of no evidence that shows that smaller communities have fewer resources on a percentage basis when compared to larger areas. Moreover, the notion that smaller means poorer is simply not true in many cases. There are affluent rural areas and very poor urban ones. We are even aware of some volunteer fire departments that have more financial resources than urban professional fire departments. While they are likely the exception, some volunteer fire companies have proven extraordinarily adept at fundraising. Conversely, elected officials in some larger municipalities are either unable or unwilling to provide additional resources to fire departments due to severe budget shortages and demands for increased spending on a variety of other public needs. Significantly, we have been unable to identify any other federal grant program that has different matches based on population. Such a rigid formula has been deemed inapt for federal assistance in other areas, and we urge that the FIRE Act similarly adopt the generally used practice of a single rate. If different matches are warranted, we urge that the distinction be based on more relevant criteria than population. Expansion of the FIRE Act to EMS Providers While the IAFF strongly supports the use of FIRE Act funds to improve emergency medical services, we nevertheless have reservations about expanding the FIRE Act to agencies other than fire departments. While we understand and appreciate the argument to include EMS providers in jurisdictions where fire departments do not provide EMS, we are concerned that expanding the program to non-fire departments will open the door for other public safety agencies, such as police departments and private sector response organizations. The majority of emergency medical services in our nation are provided by fire departments, and we believe that enabling fire departments to apply for EMS grants is the best way to improve pre-hospital patient care in our nation. If you choose to retain this language in the bill, the one amendment we urge you to consider is to remove the limitation that only volunteer EMS providers are eligible. While not many in number, there are public, professional, single role EMS agencies, and there simply is no reason to deny them access to this funding solely because they choose to hire and pay professional paramedics rather than ask people to work for free. Measuring Effectiveness While the anecdotal reports on the effectiveness of the FIRE Act have been overwhelmingly positive, we are mindful that anecdotes alone do not warrant continuation of a program. For this reason, we support two provisions in S.2411 that will help us more accurately measure the true value of the program. The first provision is an update of the Needs Assessment authorized under the original FIRE Act legislation. While the first Needs Assessment clearly demonstrated the need for federal assistance to local fire departments, we believe a second survey will enable us to measure the progress that has been made in the four years since the FIRE Act was created. Second, S.2411 contains language requiring that the General Accounting Office (GAO) report to Congress on the effectiveness of the program. We are optimistic that GAO will be able to identify clear measurements and specific benefits of the FIRE Act. Administering Agency We note that, unlike the House bill, S. 2411 formalizes the role of the Secretary of Homeland Security in administering the FIRE Act in consultation with the U.S. Fire Administrator. We are aware that many organizations and Members of Congress strongly support returning authority to administer this program to USFA. Other Members of Congress and the Bush Administration want the program administered by a different office in the Department of Homeland Security to create a one-stop-shop for all grants. While we concur with USFA supporters that the agency has done an extraordinary job of running this program to date, we disagree that only USFA is capable of administering the FIRE Act effectively and efficiently. We believe the model and procedures developed by USFA can be replicated, and we have received repeated assurances from Secretary Tom Ridge, ODP Director Suzanne Mencer and others that whatever agency runs the FIRE Act will do so in the same manner as USFA. We have no reason to doubt their word. We therefore concur with authors of S.2411 that the Secretary should be granted the authority to determine which agency within the Department of Homeland Security is best suited to administer the program. We also support the inclusion of language guaranteeing that USFA will continue to play a role in the program, regardless of which agency has formal authority over it. This will ensure that DHS will make full use of the fire service expertise housed at USFA. Non-Discrimination Against Volunteer Fire Fighters Mr. Chairman, there is one issue that we feel compelled to raise even though it is not contained in S.2411. The House version of the legislation contains an unfortunate provision which dramatically alters the very essence of this program, and which has caused us to oppose the House bill as currently drafted. The provision would bar a fire department from receiving FIRE Act funding if it contains in its collective bargaining agreement a clause prohibiting paid fire fighters from serving as volunteer fire fighters in another jurisdiction. While a perhaps well-intentioned effort to increase the number of volunteer fire fighters, the actual impact of this proposal would be detrimental and far-reaching. I would like to begin my discussion of this issue by offering some background. First, it is important to note that very few fire departments in the nation, perhaps one percent or two percent, have such clauses in their contracts. Most of them have been in place for several years, and have never been a source of any controversy. There is no controversy about this in Arizona that I am aware of. Why would a fire department have such a clause in their bargaining agreements? While the issues may vary from place to place, I believe the most typical answer can be found in the agreement between the City of West Allis, Wisconsin and the fire fighters union in the city. The West Allis example is especially helpful to understand this issue because the contract language includes a clear explanation of the provision’s intent. Allow me to quote from it: “For the reasons stated below the Chief of the West Allis Fire Department shall prohibit employees of the West Allis Fire Department from performing fire fighting duties for municipalities operating a paid or volunteer fire department other than the City of West Allis. 1. The provision of fire protection services to the public is a dangerous occupation requiring highly trained, capable personnel using appropriate methods and equipment under the direction of experienced supervisors. As such, the performance of fire protection duties without the requisite training, methods, equipment or supervision may threaten the health and well being of employees and the public. 2. Employees who perform fire protection duties on a voluntary basis or as the result of outside employment are subject to increased exposure to hazardous conditions that may result in a greater incidence of illness or injury. Consequently, the performance of such duties for other municipalities may have a direct bearing on employee’s ability to perform fire protection duties for the City of West Allis. 3. State statute has established a presumptive relationship between an employee’s fire suppression duties and heart and lung disability the employee may develop. The City of West Allis and its taxpayers are financially liable for the employee’s duty disability benefits, and must be confident that such disabilities are the result of the employee’s work for the City of West Allis and not for other municipalities.” In short, the City of West Allis has chosen to bar its fire fighters from serving as fire fighters in other jurisdictions—either on a paid or volunteer basis—to protect the health and safety of the fire fighters and protect the city’s taxpayers against unnecessary financial liabilities. For similar reasons, the City of West Allis also prohibits fire fighters from smoking off duty. While I am not entirely clear why the city’s desire to protect its fire fighters and taxpayers is so objectionable, from our perspective whether such a prohibition is good public policy or not is beside the point. There are much broader issues at stake, and we ask that you oppose including it in the FIRE Act reauthorization. First and foremost, the language would mark the first time Congress has attempted to use the FIRE Act to dictate local fire department policies. To date, the only requirement is that a department has a legitimate need. Once we begin the process of placing restrictions on how fire departments choose to manage themselves, we are leading down a very thorny path. I do not mean to imply that the federal government has no legitimate interest in fire department policies. Indeed, there are many, many fire department policies that we believe may warrant federal oversight. Our question, however, is whether the FIRE Act is the appropriate venue to address these issues. For example, many fire departments fail to comply with OSHA standards for safe fireground operation. This failure clearly jeopardizes the lives of fire fighters, and we believe every department should come into compliance with these basic safety standards. Many fire stations have bars that serve alcohol to fire fighters and others. We believe alcohol should never be present in a working fire station. Hundreds of fire departments in this nation refused to grant rank and file fire fighters the opportunity to discuss with management their concerns about their own health and safety. We believe all of these issues are as important, if not more so, than whether a handful of fire departments have clauses barring people from volunteering in other jurisdictions. We have not, however, previously advocated using the FIRE Act to address these important matters because the program was never intended to compel changes in local Fire Department policies. Singling out this one restriction for inclusion in the FIRE Act opens a door that invites federal micromanaging of fire departments. Does this extraneous issue truly warrant a radical redefinition of the FIRE Act’s purpose? Second, the language establishes a precedent with implications far beyond the FIRE Act. Since this issue arose, we have been researching other federal grant programs, and we have yet to find a single instance in which a limitation was imposed on a federal grant based on language contained in collective bargaining agreements. While there are numerous limitations placed on federal grants, we are not aware of any other attempts to redefine the scope of bargaining. The potential implications for this precedent are staggering. Shall Congress address the complex issue of health insurance coverage by denying federal funds to employers whose health benefits are deemed inadequate? Shall we compel more teacher involvement in student activities by cutting off education funding because a teacher contract limits the number of evening events teachers can be required to attend without additional compensation? The issue of how to define the scope of permissible bargaining is extraordinarily controversial, and the debate has raged for decades. The notion of removing that debate from the context of labor law and addressing it through grant limitations is a breathtaking reach. I can only conclude that the advocates of this language do not fully comprehend the magnitude and unprecedented nature of the proposal. I hope you agree, Mr. Chairman, that this issue is far more complex than merely protecting the rights of people to volunteer. It is for these reasons, that when the national fire service organizations met to discuss a draft version of the House bill, we unanimously agreed to request that the provision be stricken. Even the National Volunteer Fire Council joined in expressing opposition to the proposal. Finally, placing a restriction on issues contained in collective bargaining agreements must be viewed as part of the larger issue of collective bargaining rights of the nation’s fire fighters. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the federal government does not grant fire fighters the right to bargain collectively. Where bargaining does occur, it exists because fire fighters have won the right at the state or local level. The IAFF has for many years advocated a federal right to bargain for public safety employees, but to date the federal government policy remains that such rights are outside the scope of federal authority. So the provision in the House bill contains something of a cruel paradox. On the one hand, the legislation retains the current position that the federal government does not have the authority to address bargaining rights of public employees, while on the other hand, the legislation would have the federal government restrict what we can bargain over in those places where we have won the right. We have to ask: is fire fighter bargaining a federal issue or not? The double standard inherent in restricting bargaining issues without also granting bargaining rights is egregious and unsupportable. Mr. Chairman, for all the foregoing reasons, I urge you to oppose inclusion of this language as we move through the process. Conclusion The FIRE Act program is a good one, one that is making a difference in Arizona and in communities across the nation. I am hopeful, Mr. Chairman, that our suggestions for improvement will become part of your final bill. I look forward to working with you on these and other fire service issues in the days ahead. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. ###
Mr. Jim Monihan
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is E. James Monihan and I am the former Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and currently serve as the Delaware State Director and Chairman of the Legislative Committee. The NVFC represents the interests of the nation's more than 800,000 volunteer firefighters, who staff over 90% of America's fire departments. I currently serve as a volunteer firefighter with the Lewes Fire Department in Lewes, Delaware. I have served as a firefighter for 44 years and still respond regularly to calls. I have had experience in all phases of the life of a first responder, including chemical and hazardous materials incidents, EMS, rescue and fire. In addition to serving as Chairman of the NVFC’s Legislative Committee, I have represented the NVFC on a variety of panels and committees, including the 1998 Blue Ribbon Panel, which provided recommendations on improving the operation of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). I earn my livelihood in hospital administration, which has allowed me to get a unique view of the emergency services from both the medical and fire service perspectives. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly 75% of all firefighters are volunteers. In most years, more than half of the firefighters that are killed in the line of duty are volunteers. In addition to the obvious contribution that volunteer firefighters lend to their communities as the first arriving domestic defenders, these brave men and women represent a significant cost saving to taxpayers, a savings sometimes estimated to be as much as $37 billion annually. On behalf of our membership, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the needs of America’s volunteer fire service. More specifically, I would like to express our strong support for S. 2411, the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004, which will reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, also known as the FIRE Act, through fiscal year 2010. In addition, this bipartisan legislation will make some changes to the program, which will build upon its tremendous effectiveness and success. The events of September 11, 2001 was a stark reminder to all Americans that the fire service is the first responder to all terrorist attacks this country may face. As America’s domestic first responders, the fire service will be on the front lines of any incident and must be prepared to respond to and defend our citizens from a terrorist attack involving conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction. However, we cannot lose sight of the 21 million calls the fire service responds to annually involving structural fire suppression, emergency medical response, hazardous materials incidents, clandestine drug labs, search and rescue, wildland fire protection and natural disasters. Many of these emergencies occur at federal facilities and buildings and on federal lands. In addition, these incidents can damage America’s critical infrastructure, including our interstate highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels, financial and agriculture centers, power plants, refineries, and chemical manufacturing and storage facilities. We as a fire service are sworn to protect these critical facilities and infrastructure. Often, local governments alone are unable to afford the extensive training and equipment that these challenges require. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program assists local fire departments by providing a percentage of the needed funds to pay for these necessities, while not supplanting local responsibility to provide adequate fire and emergency medical services. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (AFGP) has proven to be the most effective program to date in providing all fire departments - both large and small, volunteer, career and combination - not only with the tools they need to perform their day-to-day duties, but it has also enhanced their ability to respond to large disasters as well. As we move to prepare for terrorist incidents at home, we must first ensure that local fire departments have the basic tools they need to do their jobs on a daily basis. This legislation will address these concerns by continuing to ensure that the program will meet the basic firefighting and emergency response needs of our fire departments, rather than becoming an additional anti-terrorism grant program. The federal government must not forgo its commitment to the basic needs of America’s fire service in the name of Homeland Security. The program has been successful because it is the only federal program that provides funding directly to fire departments. In addition, the program's success is directly attributed to the fact that members of the fire service have been involved in nearly every aspect of the program to ensure that it addresses our current needs. We have helped to set the criteria for each funding category, and have staffed panels to grade the applications through an excellent peer-review process. Program Reauthorization As I stated earlier, passage of S. 2411, the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004, is a top priority for our organization. The bill authorizes $900 million for fiscal year 2005, $950 million in fiscal year 2006, and $1 billion annually in fiscal years 2007 through 2010 for the grant program, for a total six-year authorization of $5.85 billion. As written, the bill codifies many of the current program regulations that have made it so successful. The legislation would mandate the current peer-review process, guarantee national fire service organizations are represented in setting the criteria, and ensure that the program continues to address basic fire department needs. In addition, it improves access to the program for departments serving rural communities, and eliminates barriers to participation faced by departments serving heavily populated jurisdictions. Specifically, the bill would: · Reduce the current local fire department matching requirements from 30% to 20% for departments serving communities of 50,000 or more. For departments serving 20,000 or fewer residents, the local match is reduced from 10% to 5% in order to address extreme budgetary difficulties and encourage increased participation by such departments. · The current FIRE Act caps grant amounts at $750,000, regardless of the size of the fire department. The reauthorization bill re-structures these caps so that they better reflect the needs and the size of the department. The bill has a ceiling of $2,250,000 for departments serving one million or more, $1,500,000 for departments serving between 500,000 and one million, and $1,000,000 for departments serving fewer than 500,000 residents. While we feel that the cap increases will clearly result in a shift of funds from smaller departments to larger ones, the NVFC supports these changes and we believe that these figures will help target the areas most in need while still ensuring that the program makes a wide impact across the country. The legislation also opens the program up to volunteer, non-profit emergency medical service (EMS) providers. Although many jurisdictions maintain separate fire and EMS departments, under current law, only emergency medical services that are part of fire departments are eligible for funding. To ensure that these agencies do not siphon off too much funding, the legislation caps the amount these entities may collectively receive to 3.5% of appropriated funds. The bill also creates an incentive for fire departments to acquire automated external defibrillator (AEDs) for every first-due emergency vehicle. The NVFC has been a long-time advocate for wide proliferation of AEDs within the fire service and this bill will help further our efforts. Finally, the legislation commissions a comprehensive assessment by the National Fire Protection Association to help identify the areas of greatest need among departments nationwide and requires the Government Accounting Office to report to Congress regarding the effectiveness of the program. I would also like to address certain provisions, which we support, that were included in the House version (H.R. 4107) of this legislation, but were omitted from this bill. In an effort to consolidate first responder grant programs, the AFGP was transferred to the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) in FY 2004. However, the U.S Fire Administration (USFA), under the leadership of Chief R. David Paulison, has spent the last four years developing and refining the program and has clearly demonstrated the capability to efficiently distribute these funds to local fire departments. This is no surprise to us because the personnel at USFA know the fire service like no other agency and many of their personnel have emergency services backgrounds themselves. In addition, there is a substantial concern within our organization that because ODP’s mission only deals with terrorism preparedness and because the agency does not have experience working with local fire departments or local jurisdictions, this shift could be detrimental to the program. Therefore, we support all efforts to once again have USFA administer the program. The House version also includes important volunteer non-discrimination language prohibiting a fire department that receives grant funds from discriminating against, or prohibiting its members from engaging in volunteer activities in another jurisdiction during off-duty hours. This clause, similar to the language that was included in the SAFER Bill passed in Congress last year, begins to address the growing concern we have about an individual’s right to volunteer. Cities such as Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Waterbury, Fairfield, New Britain, Connecticut, West Allis, Wisconsin and Ft. Wayne, Indiana currently prohibit their firefighters from volunteering. We feel that these types of provisions are a violation of the basic First Amendment right of free association. It is very alarming that any city would try to a tell a firefighter how they should or should not spend their off-duty time, especially when they are spending that time doing good in their community. This comes at the same time there is a revived push for volunteerism across our country led by President Bush. Moreover, many career firefighters who work in larger cities often live in smaller communities and belong to their local volunteer fire departments at their choice. These individuals should be able to provide their invaluable skills, knowledge and expertise to their local departments, which are responsible for protecting their own homes and family, without harassment and retribution from employers. Some proponents of this type of prohibition contend that it is a health and safety issue and that firefighters must be given time off to recoup and relax. However, we have not heard anything about fire departments that bar their firefighters from strenuous and equally hazardous second jobs in construction and other trades. In addition, there appears to be no fire departments that prohibit their firefighters from partaking in potentially dangerous hobbies like skiing or skydiving. Volunteer fire and EMS are the only activities that appear to be singled out. I would like to also stress that this clause does not affect any local unions who may attempt to prevent their members from volunteering. It simply would give incentives to municipalities to allow their employees to volunteer in their hometown fire departments. We understand that S. 2411, the Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004, has been attached as an amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (S. 2400). We look forward to quickly passing this bill and working in Conference to craft final legislation that will benefit the entire fire service in its efforts to protect our nation and its citizens. FY 2005 Appropriations I would also like to take this time to encourage members of the Committee and your colleagues in the Senate to support the program in the upcoming fiscal year. On February 2nd of this year, President Bush sent Congress his FY 2005 budget, which requested only $500 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Although this was the same amount the Administration requested in the FY 2004 budget, it represented a cut of $250 million (33 percent) from the final amount that was appropriated by Congress. While the budget called for the grants to continue to be made directly to fire departments and awarded through a competitive, peer-review process, priority was to be given to applications that enhance terrorism preparedness. It also only requests funding for the training, apparatus and equipment sections of the FIRE Act, leaving out funding initiatives for fire prevention and education, EMS, firefighter wellness/fitness and station renovation. The NVFC is not only concerned about the proposed cut from FY 2004 funding levels, but we are also worried about the potential shift in focus of the program exclusively to terrorism. This program, which was created before September 11, 2001, maintains its objective to bring every fire department up to a base-line level of readiness, which in turn will prepare them for large-scale incidents. This budget request only strengthens our argument that Congress needs to take action to ensure the program is protected. Quick passage of the reuthorization bill will once again reiterate to the Administration that the Assistance to Firefighters grant program is intended to address basic fire service needs and enhance the capability to respond to all hazards. On June 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their FY 2005 House Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4567). While providing a $1.6 billion (5.3 percent) overall increase for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the bill reduces Assistance to Firefighters Grant program funding to $600 million for FY 2005, down from nearly $750 million. The Senate version of the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (S. 2537) passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 17. The Senate bill funds the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program at $700 million for FY 2005, $100 million more than the House but still a cut over FY 2004 levels. Considering that nearly $3 billion in applications were submitted for the current program year and while also taking into account a variety of recent reports outlining the tremendous needs of America’s emergency services, including the NFPA Needs Assessment Survey, the NVFC requests that Congress work to fund the program at or near the fully authorized amount of $900 million. A History of Success After this current grant cycle (FY 2004), the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program will have distributed nearly $2 billion to almost 16,000 fire departments across the country for apparatus, personal protective equipment, hazmat detection devices, improved breathing apparatus, wellness and fitness programs, fire prevention and education programs and interoperable communication systems. This is the basic equipment our fire departments need to effectively respond to all hazards. In FY 2003, the program received $750 million and awarded nearly 8,700 grants to fire departments. There are no discrepancies as to the location of this funding. It is all in the hands of local fire departments. The federal government is not blaming the state government. The state government is not blaming the county and local governments. The program simply works. Many of these departments who are receiving aid are rural volunteer fire departments that struggle the most to provide their members with adequate protective gear, safety devices and training to protect their communities. In these difficult times, while volunteer fire departments are already struggling to handle their own needs and finances, they are now forced to provide more services. The funding problems in America’s volunteer fire service are not just limited to rural areas. As suburbs continue to grow, so does the burden on the local fire and EMS department. Even though many of these departments have the essentials, they are unable to gain access to new technologies. At no other time have advances been greater in equipment to protect them and make their jobs safer. Yet because the newer technology is so expensive, many volunteer and career fire departments are forced to forgo the purchase of the new technology or use outdated equipment. Conclusion The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program is one of the most effective programs in the Federal government because it provides local fire departments with the tools they need to respond to any incident they may encounter, no matter what the origin of the emergency. It ensures local support through a matching requirement and allows firefighters themselves to play a large role in the process. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Hollings, Senators Dodd and Dewine and all of the fire service’s supporters in the U.S. Senate for their strong leadership on this issue as well as other issues important to the fire service. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your time and your attention to the views of America's fire service, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. E. James Monihan, FACHE Professional · Graduated from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in Philadelphia Degree: Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Post-graduate studies in Pharmacy at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science Registered Pharmacist - State of Delaware · Residency in Hospital Pharmacy - Memorial Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware · Staff Pharmacist - Memorial Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware · Director of Pharmacy and Supply Services Beebe Hospital, Lewes, Delaware Emily P. Bissell Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware · Assistant Administrator / Vice President, Operations Beebe Hospital Beebe Medical Center · Acting Administrator / Interim President Beebe Medical Center, Lewes · Vice President, Professional Affairs & Quality Commitment Beebe Medical Center, Lewes · Currently Vice President, Administration/CCO (Chief Compliance Officer) Beebe Medical Center, Lewes · Fellow and Past Regent for Delaware – American College of Healthcare Executives · Member and Past Delegate to the House of Delegates - American Society of Hospital Pharmacists. · Founding Secretary, Vice President and President Delmarva Council of Hospital Executives Fire Service · President and Deputy Chief - Lewes Fire Department · President Sussex County Volunteer Firemen’s Association · President, Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association E. J. Monihan Page two · Chairman, National Volunteer Fire Council (12 years) · Chairman, Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations · United States Director, Federation of World Volunteer Firefighters Association · Currently Delaware Director, National Volunteer Fire Council and Chairman, Legislative Committee Associations · Represent Delaware Healthcare Association (appointed by Governor) Delaware Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (DEMSAC) Delaware Paramedic Advisory Council · Founding Chairman, Association of Delaware Hospital Committed Group Purchasing Program (10 years) · Chairman, City of Lewes (Delaware) Project Impact Hazard Mitigation Steering Committee Publications “Improved Productivity through Cooperative Planning,” Published in the International City Management Association’s publication, Fire Management. Awards · “Board of Hygeia,” 1975, Delaware Pharmaceutical Association for Community Service · American Red Cross Service Award · Personality of the Year, 1994, The Coast Press · Regent’s Award, 1998, American College of Healthcare Executives · First Annual Mason Lankford Award for Fire Service Leadership from the Congressional Fire Services Institute, April 1999.
Chief Ernest Mitchell
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Mitchell's remarks.
The Honorable James M. Shannon
Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Hollings and members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before this Committee today. My name is James M. Shannon, and I am President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA is a non-profit organization; founded more than 100 years ago, with a mission to save lives through scientifically based consensus codes and standards, fire and life safety education and training, and fire research and analysis. NFPA consensus codes and standards are adopted by state and local jurisdictions throughout the United States and widely used by the federal government. Today NFPA has nearly 300 codes and standards addressing safety, each accredited by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and developed by technical experts, the fire service, and others participating as volunteers in a consensus process. This process ensures that all interested parties have a say in developing standards. Congress affirmed its support for voluntary consensus standards in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (P.L.104-113) and reaffirmed that support in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the law that created the new department. Just a few months ago, the Department of Homeland Security adopted five of our standards for personal protection equipment for use in the FY 2005 state and urban area security grant programs, and this past May Secretary Ridge in testimony before the 9-11 Commission cited NFPA’s national preparedness standard (NFPA 1600) as the foundation that the private sector can use to improve readiness. As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, known at the FIRE Grant Program, I wish to testify in support of S. 2411, the “Assistance to Firefighters Act of 2004.” This legislation ensures that the work the United States Fire Administration (USFA) has done in administering this crucial grant program to best meet the critical fire protection needs of the nation will continue. First, let me state emphatically that the reauthorization of FIRE Grant Program is extremely important to the effectiveness of the fire service throughout the United States. This program addresses every element of the fire service including fire suppression, prevention, code enforcement, and emergency medical response. While it is not specifically a terrorism program, the FIRE Grant program provides the foundation on which terrorism preparedness must be built. These basic levels of preparedness, which we know so many departments lack, must be adequately met. In 1973 the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, transmitted to President Nixon its final report "America Burning." In that report the Commission recommended establishment of the United States Fire Administration to, among many other functions, provide grants to state and local governments. Before Congress created the FIRE Grant Program, USFA was unable to perform that key function with the scale and breadth needed to help America’s fire service achieve full effectiveness in its role of protecting the public. Now, with the continuing support of Congress, and with diligent administration by USFA, this program is addressing the needs of the fire service and promoting public safety. The staff at USFA has done a tremendous job in administering the FIRE Grant Program. Since its creation in FY2001, this program has provided more than $1 billion in financial resources directly to fire departments. Fire departments, however, have applied for more than $7 billion, and, as I shall discuss, the real needs are even greater. It is crucial that the FIRE Grant Program be maintained as a separate and distinct funding source where fire departments can receive direct funding from the federal government and avoid unnecessary red tape. I would also urge the Congress to fund the program at a level no less than its authorized amount of $900 million dollars. When I said the needs are much greater than the currently authorized and appropriated amounts for the FIRE Grant program, I was speaking on the basis of the “Needs Assessment Survey” of the fire service, which was commissioned by Congress as part of the FIRE Act and published by NFPA in cooperation with FEMA/USFA in 2002. Let me share with you a few of the major findings from that survey. Ø Only one in every 10 fire departments has the local personnel and equipment required to respond effectively to a building collapse or the release of chemical or biological agents with even minimal to moderate casualties; Ø 50% of our firefighters involved in "technical rescue" lack formal training, but technical rescue involving unique or complex conditions is precisely the skill they would need to respond to a terrorist attack; Ø There are other huge gaps in training – There has been no formal training for 21% of those involved in structural firefighting; for 27% of those involved in EMS work; and for 40% who are sent in to deal with hazardous materials; Ø And we don’t protect our firefighters as we should. One third of the protective clothing worn by firefighters sent into a burning building is more than 10 years old, and an estimated 57,000 firefighters lack any protective clothing at all; Ø On a typical fire department shift, 45% of first responding firefighters lack portable radios; 36% lack self-contained breathing apparatus; and 42% answer an emergency call without a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device that is critical in locating an injured or trapped firefighter; Ø Finally, at least 65% of cities and towns nationwide don’t have enough fire stations to achieve widely recognized response-time guidelines. Those guidelines recommend that firefighters be on the scene of any situation within 4 minutes, 90% of the time. There are those that have called for the establishment of national preparedness standards for our first responders; surely meeting the basic needs of our fire departments is one standard we can’t afford to leave unfulfilled. Later this summer, NFPA will release a needs assessment for each of the 50 states, based on further analysis of the data collected for the national fire service needs assessment. We fully expect these reports to demonstrate that fire departments in every part of the nation share in the national needs and require the help this grant program has been providing. The Needs Assessment began before the horrific events of September 11, 2001, but because of the foresight of USFA and our fire service advisors, the survey included extensive attention to terrorism preparedness. When the Council on Foreign Relations began an exercise, under former Senator Warren Rudman, to develop cost estimates of terrorism preparedness for the entire first responder community at all levels of government, the Needs Assessment permitted NFPA to develop and substantiate the fire service portion of these cost estimates with unusual detail. In its report released last year, the Council estimated that it would take $98.4 billion in additional funds above current spending (estimated at $26-76 billion) over the next 5 years, or $19.7 billion per year, to meet the needs of our first responders to handle the additional responsibilities of homeland security. The fire service portion of this, based on the Council’s use of NFPA’s analysis of the Needs Assessment Survey, was $26.5 billion in initial costs and $7.1 billion per year in ongoing costs. Chairman McCain, this legislation takes the next, appropriate step, and that is to provide the resources to update the original needs assessment. Now that the FIRE Grant Program is in its fourth year, it is important to have the empirical data to show how this program is addressing the needs documented in the original assessment. This updated study will measure the impact of the FIRE Grant program on the shortfalls identified by NFPA’s original assessment. S. 2411 continues the fire prevention and education portion of the FIRE Grant program. Although, it is only five percent of the total funding, fire prevention and education activities conducted by our fire departments, educators, and other community leaders address a pressing need. These programs often reach out to high-risk groups who disproportionably die in fires: children, older adults and the disadvantaged. Some disturbing statistics about these groups: Ø Children five and younger and adults sixty-five and older have a death rate from fire and burns that is roughly twice the rate of the population as a whole Ø These two groups account for over 40% of all civilian fatalities Ø Fire risk is highest in rural areas and large urban areas- the same communities where poverty and other high-risk conditions are most widespread Fire protection has always been and always will be primarily a local responsibility. The FIRE Grant program does not change this. However, our firefighters, who are nearly always the first responders in any crisis, need more help. When we’re telling the nation’s fire departments to prepare and be ready for attacks on our homeland, whether initiated from abroad or domestically, we can’t expect them to pay for sophisticated equipment and training by relying solely on local taxes and fundraisers. The federal government must continue to provide adequate resources through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and to support our firefighters to meet the many challenges they face every day. This legislation will help to ensure that this program does just that. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify here today. I am happy to answer any questions you have.