Legislation Would Limit Liability of Donors to Volunteer Fire Departments

WASHINGTON, DC –The Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighter Assistance Act (H.R. 1919), recently introduced by Representative Mike Castle (R-DE), would limit the liability of donors of surplus equipment to volunteer fire departments.

Liability concerns have led to the annual destruction of millions of dollars worth of quality fire equipment, including hoses, fire trucks, protective clothing, and breathing apparatus that could have been donated to volunteer fire departments, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council.

H.R. 1919 is modeled after a bill passed by the Texas state legislature in 1997. As a result of this legislation, companies and wealthier fire departments in Texas donate their surplus equipment to the Texas Forest Service, which then certifies the equipment and passes it on to volunteer fire departments in need. The donated equipment must meet all original specifications before it can be distributed to the departments. The program has already received contributions in excess of $6 million worth of equipment.

Arizona and South Carolina have also passed similar legislation.

Under H.R. 1919, the donor’s liability protection would be waived if personnel of a recipient fire department were to be injured by faulty equipment if the donor’s actions constitute malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. It also waives liability protection if the individual or agency making the donation manufactures the equipment.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The NVFC is asking members of the fire service to contact their representatives and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 1919. Congressional members’ addresses and telephone numbers are available at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials. You may also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

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