Biggert Sponsors Renewal of Firefighter Programs

U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today introduced legislation to update and reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a component of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responsible for fire preparedness and serving the needs of firefighters.  The USFA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6229), cosponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11th), will extend federal fire fighter training programs, as well as public education, data collection, and research initiatives.
“Whether it’s a fire, a vehicle crash, a dangerous spill, or even a terrorist attack – our fire fighters are first on the scene, protecting public safety”, said Biggert, Member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “They put their lives on the line every day, and our legislation will help to ensure they have the training and resources to accomplish their mission as safely as possible.  This legislation also supports public safety awareness, and it will help local departments train for less common emergencies like a hazardous spill or wildfire.”
USFA manages the National Fire Academy, which provides training to firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel.  It operates the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), which collects and disseminates data on fires and other emergencies.  USFA also advises FEMA on the distribution of Assistance for Firefighting Grants (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grants to local fire departments.  Last reauthorized in 2008, authorization for USFA is currently set to expire at the end of September 2012.  Biggert’s bill will reauthorize funding for these programs for five years, through fiscal year 2017.
“The fire administration plays a central role in bringing resources to help local fire departments hire and train new employees,” said McNerney.  “We need to be focused on creating good jobs that will serve the public interest and help people persevere in today’s economy.  In addition to being a critical partner in bolstering our economy and creating jobs, the USFA provides important public safety information that helps prevent costly and damaging fires.  Increasing preparedness and keeping our friends and neighbors safe is a responsibility we all share and this bill will make sure that local first responders have the tools they need to keep us out of harm’s way.”
In addition to extending the program, the legislation makes several modest changes recommended by experts who testified at a May 17, 2012 hearing of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation within the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, where Biggert is a senior member.  The bill clarifies that the Deputy Administrator of USFA does not require Senate confirmation; it authorizes USFA to support public education about fire prevention; and it remove limitations on the use of funds for upgrading the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
“I am pleased to join Representatives Biggert and McNerney in support of the U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act,” said International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger.  “This important legislation will help ensure USFA has the resources it needs to continue supporting America’s fire and emergency services.”

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