Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, is cosponsoring H.R. 2269, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011, which renews the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Safety and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants programs offered through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 I stood shoulder to shoulder with local fire and police personnel as we all pledged to never forget that tragic day,” said Congressman Higgins.   “We owe it to those lost to take the lessons we learned and provide our selfless and brave first responders with the best possible tools to answer the call.”

Congressman Higgins has long been an advocate of the Assistance to Firefighters Program which has provided nearly $15 million in support to fire departments in his district over the last 6 years.

According to a needs assessment report released by the US Fire Service:

  • Half (51%) of all fire departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), down from 70% in 2001 and 60% in 2005.
  • Nearly half (46%) of all fire department engines and pumpers were at least 15 years old, down from 51% in 2001 and 50% in 2005.
  • Two out of five (39%) fire departments do not have enough personal alert safety system devices (PASS) to equip all emergency responders on a shift, down from 62% in 2001 and 48% in 2005.
  • Nearly half (46%) of all fire departments that are responsible for structural firefighting have not formally trained all their personnel involved in structural firefighting.
  • Half (51%) of all fire departments do not have enough portable radios to equip all emergency responders on a shift, but this is down from 77% in 2001 and 65% in 2005.

The report credits the Assistance to Firefighters program for the decline in needs since 9/11, but as evidenced by the report, more must be done. 

H.R. 2269 has bipartisan support and will reauthorize these critical programs for the next 5 years.  The legislation is supported by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.