Pennsylvania Senate Bill Proposed to Address First-Responder Shortage

State Senator Michele Brooks (R-Greenville) is encouraging colleagues to back two upcoming bills she proposes to allay shortages of first responders in Pennsylvania. 

The first piece of legislation concerns areas of insufficiency among volunteer firefighter companies. In a memorandum to fellow senators asking them to co-sponsor her bills, the senator noted that certain professionals, including corrections officers, undergo rudimentary training in fire suppression. Nonetheless, that instruction does not yet count toward the over 200 training hours that aspiring volunteer firefighters must acquire to qualify. Brooks’s bill would make workers’ basic-firefighting lessons applicable to those seeking to join local fire departments. 

She plans to introduce another measure to similarly allow professionals with relevant training to receive credit toward becoming emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the Keystone State.

“These two pieces of common-sense legislation will help address the shortages we are experiencing with volunteer firefighters and EMTs in the Commonwealth,” Brooks wrote.  

A half-century ago, Pennsylvania had roughly 300,000 volunteer firemen, which has shrunk to under 40,000. This is despite an increase in the number of calls to which firefighters have had to respond, many of them related to hazardous materials and false alarms. 

Emergency-service associations assert that volunteer first-responder agencies save Pennsylvania taxpayers around $10 billion yearly. As of 2018, more than nine of every 10 of the commonwealth’s approximately 2,400 were at least partly volunteer forces. 

Some relatively large fire departments, such as Williamsport, have recently assisted smaller suburban departments that suffer from a lack of resources. Several jurisdictions, including Cumberland County and Southmont Borough in Cambria County have begun offering real estate tax credits for those who choose to become volunteer firefighters. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].






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