Volunteer job protection bill passes House of Representatives

On May 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act as part of H.R. 1684, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act. This Act provides job protection for volunteer emergency services personnel responding to a Presidentially-declared disaster for up to 14 days per calendar year.

“Volunteer first responders shouldn’t be put in the position of having to choose between their jobs and responding to a major disaster,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Executive Director Heather Schafer. “Passage of this bill eliminates the threat of termination or demotion.”

The legislation also reduces pressure on emergency managers who rely heavily on the availability and performance of the more than 800,000 volunteer first responders around the country. Pre-emergency planners must know what assets they have available to them so the deployment process can move as smoothly and quickly as possible.

The Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act was introduced as H.R. 1643 on March 22 by Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) along with original co-sponsors Michael Castle (R-DE), Randy Kuhl (R-NY), and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). The bill language was then offered as an amendment to H.R. 1684 by Congressmen Andrews and Pascrell, along with Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

“I’d like to thank all of our supporters in the House of Representatives for working with us to get this legislation passed,” said Schafer. “This bill means peace of mind for volunteer first responders and improves our nation’s emergency response capacity.”

The legislation only applies to emergency responders acting in an official capacity. “Self-responders” would not be eligible for job protection under this bill, and employers have the right to ask for documentation from the official supervising the response to verify that the employee was involved in an official capacity.

H.R. 1684 now goes to the Senate. The NVFC will continue to work to with our allies on the Hill and with other fire service organizations to ensure passage of the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Job Protection Act in the Senate so that it can be sent to the President and signed into law.

More NVFC: www.nvfc.org

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