Peters, Collins Provision Boosting Fire Departments Signed into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump signed into law the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act that included a provision authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to help fire departments save money by hiring and promoting trained first responders. The provision gives local fire departments around the country the flexibility to use Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grants to transition part-time or paid-on-call personnel who are already trained and equipped to respond to emergencies to full-time status. Previously, SAFER grants could only be used to hire and train new personnel.

“Part-time firefighters in Michigan – and across the country – use their valuable experience and training to save lives and protect our homes and businesses,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I’m pleased this commonsense, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law so fire departments can devote their limited resources to promoting trained, experienced firefighters who are already working to keep our communities safe.”

“Volunteer and part-time firefighters across the country work hard every day to protect the communities they serve, and they need adequate resources and training to do their important jobs,” said Senator Collins, Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  “We are delighted that this bipartisan legislation has been signed into law with our important provision, ensuring that the SAFER grant program will continue to provide critical support and resources to fire departments that keep our communities safe.”

Volunteer or part-time firefighters make up 70 percent of the total firefighting force in the United States, and these first responders receive important training and certifications to prepare for emergency situations. The Peters-Collins provision enables fire departments to devote resources to promoting firefighters that are already trained and serving in local communities, rather than hiring and training new personnel for full-time employment.

The provision is supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among other groups.

“Reauthorizing the Assistance to Fire Fighters and SAFER Grant programs was one of the IAFF’s most important legislative goals of the 115th Congress.  This legislation will improve the delivery of critical emergency services to communities all across this nation. The 310,000 members of the IAFF applaud Senator Peters for amending this essential legislation to better advance fire fighter safety while increasing fire fighter retention,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“The leadership of the nation’s fire and emergency service thanks Congress for passing H.R. 4661, the United States Fire Administration, AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017. These programs help local fire departments attain the necessary education, staffing, training and equipment that they need to protect their communities," said Chief Thomas Jenkins, IAFC president and chairman of the board.

“The IAFC especially thanks Senator Peters for his leadership in securing a provision in the legislation clarifying that the SAFER funds can be used to transition part-time firefighters to full-time status. This will provide fire departments the flexibility to promote from within, save money and better protect communities,” said Chief Michael O'Brian, IAFC International Director, Fire and Life Safety Section and chief of the Brighton Area (Michigan) Fire Authority. 

“While SAFER grants have helped countless fire departments hire new fire fighters, funds were previously unavailable for departments wishing to convert part-time fire fighters to full-time employees. We are glad Senator Peters’ legislation was signed into law to remedy this loophole. This solution will provide Michigan communities a new means to increase the number of fire fighters on the job and improve public safety all while using taxpayer money efficiently,” said Mark Docherty, President of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union.