July 3, 2008
A Fourth of July Message from U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.
"Soon after it [a fire] is seen and cry'd out, the Place is crowded by active Men of different Ages, Professions and Titles who, as of one Mind and Rank, apply themselves with all Vigilance and Resolution, according to their Abilities, to the hard Work of conquering the increasing fire."- Benjamin Franklin, 1733
Each year, we adorn our communities in patriotic colors to celebrate the birth of our nation and pay tribute to our Founding Fathers. Few of our Founding Fathers had as great an influence on the birth of our nation as Benjamin Franklin, a noted author, philosopher, diplomat, physicist, merchant, and scientist. He contributed immeasurably to the writing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. When it was his turn to sign the Constitution, Franklin was said to have wept, realizing that Americans would embark on a new journey never before ventured. A famous inventor, his creations were many and included the lightening rod and bifocal glasses. Yet years before Franklin and his revolutionary brethren were meeting to chart the course of a new nation, Franklin was establishing a separate legacy in a way that would have a profound impact on the safety of every American who has come after him.
In 1736, Franklin, with a group of like-minded individuals, formed the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first organized fire company in the colonies. Describing the establishment of this organization, Franklin wrote in his autobiography:
“About this time I wrote a paper… on the different accidents and carelessness by which houses were set on fire, with cautions against them, and means purposed of avoiding them. This was much spoken of as a useful piece, and gave rise to a project, which soon followed it, of forming a company for the more ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing of goods when in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently found, amounting to thirty. Our articles of agreement obliged every member to keep always in good order, and fit for use, a certain number of leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting of goods), which were to be brought to every fire; and we agreed to meet once a month and spend a social evening together, in discoursing and communicating such ideas as occurred to us upon the subject of fires as might be useful in our conduct on such occasions.”
From these humble begins, America’s fire service was born. It was not long before Franklin’s vision spread throughout Philadelphia, and eventually the Colonies.
“The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many more desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient for one company, they were advised to form another, which was accordingly done; and this went on, one new company being formed after another, till they become so numerous as to include most of the inhabitants who were men of property...”
July 4th is America’s day of celebration. It is a day to celebrate the birth of our nation and the words imbedded in our Declaration of Independence. It is a day that we should proudly display our nation’s colors and show our gratitude to the men and women who serve our country both home and abroad.
On the home front, we honor the one million men and women of our nation’s fire and emergency services who stand at the ready, prepared to protect Americans in every community throughout our nation. They are our friends and neighbors, dedicating their lives to the very principles that define our nation. From Wilmington, Delaware, to the Los Padres National Forest in California, these men and women selflessly place themselves in harm’s way. They do this not for honor or distinction, but for the knowledge that their actions will save lives. Some do this as their sole profession, dedicating countless hours to protecting their communities and our homeland. Others – doctors, lawyers, teachers, and construction workers – volunteer their time to serve their neighbors. All sacrifice greatly for their neighbors. They are a few who serve the many, their deeds often going unnoticed.
This Fourth of July, as we celebrate the birth of our great nation, let us reflect not only on the contributions of our Founding Fathers; let us also recognize the dedication and sacrifices of those who have come after to protect their fellow Americans, including the men and women of the fire service. We forever owe them a great debt of gratitude.
March 20, 2008
Selfless Service: The Foundation of Firefighters
By U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins of Maine
“The only ones among you who will be really happy,” said the great humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
By that standard, America’s firefighters across the nation, selflessly serving their communities, are among the truly happy. Service has always been the bedrock of the fireservice – and remains so as your mission continues to expand. Our nation’s firefighters are among the best equipped, best trained, and best prepared to respond when the claxon bell sounds.
I count it an honor to stand again with my colleagues in the U.S. Senate who applaud the noble efforts of our nation’s bravest. As we reflect on the theme of this year’s National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars – “A Generation of Progress” – I am proud to have supported legislation that assists our brave men and woman in the fire services. The FIRE Act, for example, has provided over $4.2 billion in critical funding to strengthen the response capabilities of our local fire departments and new funding will help to improve interoperability networks vital for operating in a unified command structure. These critical programs represent genuine progress, but challenging work remains.
Recently, Senators Dodd, McCain, Biden, and I co-sponsored legislation to reauthorize the United States Fire Administration (USFA). As we continue to sustain the mission of the fire service and build upon progress, we added measures to expand the services provided by the USFA. Principal provisions of the USFA Reauthorization Act of 2008 would upgrade the National Fire Incident Reporting System to a real-time data reporting tool and establish a rotating position at the National Operations Center within the Department of Homeland Security for fire service officials. These provisions would continue to build upon the progress made by the fire service, effectively meeting their growing responsibilities in the new century.
As you convene the 20th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars, I salute each and every one of you who selflessly serve our communities. I commend you who respond to over 20 million emergency calls annually, putting "service before self." I pledge to continue support, along with my fellow Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, to provide funding for training, equipment, and education that assist you in your daily duties.
(U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins, R-ME, is Ranking Member of Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.)
November 20, 2007
From the Office of U.S. Congressman Robert E. Andrews
As a Co-Chairman for the Congressional Fire Services Caucus in the House of Representatives, it is my privilege and responsibility to respond to critical fire safety issues. In the interest of protecting the lives and safety of America’s children, I want to revisit the perplexing subject of flammable children’s sleepwear. Fires and burns are the fifth leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children under age 15. Because of this, safeguarding our children against the risk of fire is a matter of crucial importance.
One way to reduce the estimated 40,000 children who are injured by fire in the home each year is to call on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to tighten regulations on flammable sleepwear. Under the current CPSC regulation, sleepwear that is not fire resistant can be imported and sold provided it is not labeled as sleepwear or is “tight-fitting.” Infant sleepwear size zero to nine months has no standard for fire resistance. Because children age five and under are twice as likely to die in a fire as the rest of the population, they need as much protection from fire as possible.
The current standard, implemented in 1996, backpedaled on the original regulation for the flammability of children’s sleepwear mandated in 1972. Between 2002 and 2005, 540 children ages 14 and under died and 1,600 more were injured in home structure fires. Such numbers show that the relaxed CPSC standard is failing our nation’s young and vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of death and injury by fire.
In a one year period of time between July of 2002 and June of 2003, hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 3,895 injuries caused by fires starting with worn clothing. These injuries are largely preventable. Legislation that raises the standard of flammable children’s sleepwear is a precautionary measure that can help preserve the health and safety of America’s 73 million children.
In the past year, the U.S. imported almost 99% of sleepwear on the market. Those imports included flammable pajamas that fall short of today’s CPSC standards. Thirty percent of all children’s product recalls in the last five years relating to fire, burn and electrical shock hazards were articles of clothing that failed to meet the requirements of the Flammable Fabrics Act. The number of children injured by these products has nearly doubled in the last five years, in comparison with the previous decade. By implementing stronger regulations on flammable pajamas, the CPSC can safeguard children’s sleepwear against the risk of fire.
In my 17 years of service as the Representative of New Jersey’s 1st District, I have collaborated with my fellow members of Congress to continually advocate for increased fire safety and prevention. I am dedicated to protecting my constituents, the American people and our nation’s children in particular against the dangers posed by fire.
Rep. Rob Andrews