WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Shea-Porter today sponsored an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The amendment, the "Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act," would guarantee job protection to Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who volunteer in the case of a natural emergency. The amendment passed on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Addressing her colleagues in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Shea-Porter gave the following remarks:
"I rise as a proud sponsor of this amendment, the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Protection Act. The amendment will provide job protection to the brave men and women who volunteer their time as firefighters and EMT's during national disasters.
Some volunteers put their lives on hold to help others. Others literally put their lives on the line.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, our nation's emergency services were overcome by the enormity of the disaster. Almost 400,000 people were displaced from their homes. The images of this tragedy will be seared in our minds forever.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, I went to New Orleans along with thousands of other volunteers. I saw the devastation. I did my small part to help.
But in a disaster of this magnitude of Katrina or the recent tragedy in Kansas, we need more than an extra pair of hands. When our nation's emergency services are overwhelmed, we need highly-skilled professionals who can step in to provide such help.
More than 800,000 skilled first-responders volunteer for such emergencies each year.
Volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians - EMTs-- are a critical part of this effort. They are fighting fires and providing essential medical care. They are saving lives.
But under current law, when volunteer firefighters and EMT's return to their homes, there is no guarantee that they will still have their jobs. They can do the right thing for America and find out that they are out in the cold.
In effect, when disaster strikes, these first-responders are forced sometimes to decide between helping others and having the security to know they still have jobs when they go home.
This amendment would change all that. It would guarantee volunteer firefighters and EMTs the right to keep their jobs when their service in a national emergency.
It allows them to volunteer 14 days per calendar when they act in an official capacity.
Our nation absolutely needs highly-skilled professionals who are willing to leave their homes and their jobs to help save lives.