Homeland Preparedness News: Sen. Tester, colleagues seek protective gear for firefighters, EMS

by Douglas Clark

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) recently led a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address fire department and emergency medical service (EMS) equipment shortages under the Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and a group of colleagues are urging FEMA to provide $100 million in grant funding allocated through the legislation in the wake of first responders nationwide reporting they lack necessary protective gear.

“Firefighters are on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and must interact frequently with individuals who are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for the virus,” the legislators wrote in correspondence to FEMA. “It is imperative that FEMA work quickly to develop the necessary notices and public guidance so that fire departments and other eligible organizations can prepare any necessary application materials and receive this urgent funding.”

Tester secured the $100 million to help fire departments and EMS providers purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and cover other costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic through Assistance to Firefighter Grants. FEMA officials indicated the agency is developing a plan to allocate the funding.

Without PPE, such as respirators, gowns, eye protection, gloves, and masks, first responders are put at unnecessary risk of contracting and spreading the virus.