Fairfax, Va. – Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the IAFC identified challenges and opportunities for improvement to the national preparedness system as the nation faces a variety of major threats.
Fire Chief John S. Butler, Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department and IAFC Second Vice President, testified on September 29 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on behalf of the IAFC. The hearing, chaired by Senator Gary Peters (D-Mi.), examined with the threat of worsening natural disasters.
“The past 18 months have provided a real-life stress test for the nation’s preparedness system. Our public safety and medical staff have performed heroically in the face of these various threats. However, we also have found areas for improvement and new challenges,” said Chief Butler.
Chief Butler identified several policy recommendations for Congress and the Biden Administration, including:
- FEMA should review the National Incident Management System to plan for long-term incidents like wildland fires and pandemics.
- New partners, like public health, the utilities and communications companies, and other critical infrastructure partners must be included in planning and training for future disasters.
- There is a need to review and strengthen mutual aid agreements, including streamlining the reimbursement process.
Chief Butler highlighted pressures on the fire and EMS workforce caused by COVID-19 and the equipment shortages caused by complications like the semiconductor shortage. He encouraged Congress to increase funding for the Assistance to Firefighter Grant and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program to help resolve these issues.
He also asked for President Biden and Congress to appoint experienced fire and emergency service leaders for positions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including the U.S. Fire Administration. Chief Butler also asked Congress to support increased funding for the Urban Search and Rescue system.
Chief Butler concluded, “Over the past 18 months, the nation has faced a wide variety of threats. While we hope the pandemic will recede, we still face the threat of increasingly severe natural disasters and the constant threat of terrorism. The nation must take steps to prepare for these threats and mitigate them.”
Read the IAFC’s full testimony (pdf).
Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations & Policy.