IAFF: President’s Investment in Public Safety Will Create Jobs and Boost National Security

President Barack Obama’s call for a national investment in public safety in his speech September 8 will put firefighters and paramedics back to work and will create safer communities around the country, generating a strong environment for local businesses to prosper and create even more jobs, according to a press release from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

“President Obama proved to the public safety community that he gets it. His jobs proposal will put firefighters back to work and prevent layoffs,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said.

As part of his jobs plan, the president proposed providing $1 billion in the form of federal
grants to municipalities across America to rehire firefighters whose jobs have been eliminated, prevent further layoffs and fill positions that have been left vacant due to lack of funding. Nearly 15,000 firefighter and paramedic jobs have been lost, are targeted for elimination or have been left unfilled after a vacancy. The $1 billion in proposed funding is in addition to the $405 million already available through the FY 2011 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response [SAFER] grant program to hire new firefighters and rehire laid off firefighters. The president’s bill also reaffirmed his support to use the same waiver language used for FY 2010 SAFER grants, which gave municipalities complete flexibility to use the funding to rehire laid off firefighters, fill vacant positions and hire new firefighters.

“The tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks serves as a reminder that firefighters don’t just respond to house fires anymore. They respond when natural disasters like Hurricane Irene threaten people’s lives, when there’s a mass casualty event like the Tucson shootings, a medical emergency or a hazardous chemical spill, and we must invest in the safety of our communities because too many have fallen behind. Public safety isn’t just vital to people, it is crucial to economic development as well. Businesses flee when public safety is poor, and many communities are struggling to maintain public safety while the recession lingers,” Schaitberger said.

Schaitberger applauded the president for rejecting “the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.”

The president’s jobs bill also proposes allocating the D block of spectrum to public safety and invest $10 billion from other spectrum sales to build out the public safety broadband network. The 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center exposed deep problems with the communications systems used by firefighters and other first responders. Fire fighters again had difficulty communicating during the September 11 attacks, and the 9/11 Commission subsequently recommended creation of a national public safety network.

“The president’s plan to invest in public safety communications will improve the ability of firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement to respond more effectively to all kinds of emergency calls,” Schaitberger said. “We will work to push Congress to end the partisan nonsense that is holding our country back because the president’s plan to improve public safety and put firefighters back to work is too important to let die because of the political posturing that kills every good idea put before Congress and which has pushed the American economy to the brink.”

The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, D.C., represents more than 300,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics and is the leading advocate for the health and safety of first responders. More information is available at
www.iaff.org.

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