Protecting America’s First Responders Act Clarifies that Fire Police Are Public Safety Officers

The Protecting America’s First Responders Act (H.R. 2936/S. 1511) was introduced last month by Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), respectively. The bill clarifies that members of volunteer fire departments who perform scene security and traffic management duties at emergency scenes – commonly referred to as “fire police” – are public safety officers for the purposes of eligibility for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB).

According to a 2011 report from the National Fire Protection Association, from 1991-2010 there were 68 line-of-duty deaths suffered by fire police officers in the United States. Historically, fire police officers were considered public safety officers based on the fact that they respond to emergencies in an official capacity as members of volunteer fire departments.

In 2006, the Department of Justice implemented PSOB regulations that established a narrow definition of “firefighter” that resulted in some fire police officers losing eligibility. Although some fire police are still able to qualify for PSOB as firefighters or police officers, there have been cases where a fire police officer suffered a fatal injury while responding to an incident as a member of a fire department and the PSOB application was denied. The Protecting America’s First Responders Act fixes this problem.

“The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) strongly supports the Protecting America’s First Responders Act,” said NVFC chair Steve Hirsch. “Fire police officers perform a vital public safety function. In those rare unfortunate instances in which fire police officers are killed or become permanently disabled as a result of an injury suffered in the line of duty, they should be eligible for the same benefits as any other public safety officer.”

Use the NVFC’s Legislative Action Center to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to cosponsor the Protecting America’s First Responders Act!