via KVUE-- The Austin Fire Department is currently discussing the possibility of purchasing bullet proof or bullet resistant vests for first responders.
The discussion was prompted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in a recent article regarding the nation’s most recent mass casualties such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings.
FEMA experts are suggesting that all firefighters across the United States be armed with bullet proof vests in hopes of saving more lives when responding to mass shootings and other critical incidents.
“There's always an inherent amount of risk going into those scenes, you know, and when you're not protected with the best safety equipment out there, that risk kind of goes up,” said Randy Denzer with the Austin Firefighters Association.
“The Austin Firefighters Association is all for changing those protocols just like the Obama administration is now asking us to do. We're all for it. The one thing we're also for though is we want to make sure that if there's any safety equipment that can help us do our job better, help us get to the patients sooner than that's all worth looking into very well,” said Denzer.
Paramedics with Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services have had bullet proof vests for nearly 10 years.
“I last wore mine approximately two to three months ago. It was for a call in which a person had been reportedly stabbed. At the end of the day, our goal is to go home to our families and keep serving our community,” said Commander Jonathan Mudge with Austin/Travis County EMS.
An AFD. spokesperson said the department is looking for funding to purchase some of the vests, but no clear time table was available.
NATIONAL FIRE SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS ADDRESS VOLUNTEER FIRE SERVICE CONCERNS WITH THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), are currently working with members of Congress and the Administration to address the potential impact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) could have on volunteer fire departments throughout the nation.
According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148), employers with more than 50 full-time employees (or their equivalents (FTE)) must provide health insurance to employees that work more than 30 hours per week. Unfortunately, the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that volunteer firefighters that receive nominal benefits from their fire departments (including stipends, end-of-the-year banquets and awards) count as "employees" of fire departments. An unintended consequence of this IRS ruling is that fire departments may have to provide health insurance to volunteers that serve more than 30 hours per week at their local fire department.
The effect of this provision could cause serious financial hardship to fire departments. Many volunteer fire departments rely upon local donations and fundraisers to fund their basic operations. The addition of a requirement to provide health insurance would present a serious financial challenge to them.
Although the final regulations have not been codified, the aforementioned organizations are working with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to address this potential consequence of the PPACA.
The NVFC, IAFC, and several members of Congress have sent letters to the IRS asking Acting-Commissioner Werfel to release regulations or guidance stating volunteers who receive nominal compensation will not be considered employees under PPACA. On December 10, 2013, Senator Mark Warner (VA) and Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) introduced the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3685 and S. 1798). The legislation ensures that volunteers are not counted as full-time employees under the shared responsibility requirements contained in PPACA.
CFSI, NVFC and IAFC will continue to provide updates to the fire service as these efforts are being addressed on Capitol Hill and within the Administration. Please visit our website sites (www.cfsi.org, www.nvfc.org, www.iafc.org) for the latest information.
Bill Webb (CFSI)
Dave Finger (NVFC)
(202) 887-5700 ext. 112
Enrollment is now Open for the HB3667 Rural VFD Insurance Program
The 77th Texas Legislature (HB3667) created the Rural VFD Insurance Program and is funded by a 2% sales tax on the sale of fireworks. The program provides reimbursement grants for Texas firefighters to obtain workers compensation, death and disability insurance from private insurance companies. Each year more than 400 fire departments and 11,000 firefighters take advantage of the grant offering.
Who is eligible...
Any chartered, non-profit volunteer or part-paid/volunteer fire department is eligible, provided the number of paid members is 20 or less.
All qualified departments must participate in a firefighter certification program administered under Section 419.071 of the Texas Government Code (Texas Commission on Fire Protection), or by the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas(SFFMA), or by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group(NWCG).
What is eligible...
Any combination of compensation insurance for firefighters (Workers' Compensation, Death, and/or Disability Insurance) is eligible. The insurance coverage must include a workers' compensation or similar benefit, and a death benefit. Departments may enter into agreements with cities or counties in order to qualify for coverage and/or special premiums.
How much will it pay...
The program will reimburse 100% of the actual cost of eligible insurance coverage, up to a maximum of $105.00 per fire department member covered in the calendar year 2014.
How to apply...
It's easy, simply complete the following forms and submit via fax or mail. Please submit these forms only once during the enrollment period of December 2013 thru August 2014.
FAX: (979) 845-6160
Mail: Texas A&M Forest Service
Capacity Building Department
200 Technology Way, Suite 1162
College Station, TX 77845-3424
For more information...
Video Game Puts the ‘Edge’ in First Responder Training -
EDGE allows emergency responders (including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and EMS personnel) to engage in simulated environments to build communication and coordination. Take a look. What do you think?
We had a great time at the 2013 Texas EMS Conference last week at the Fort Worth Convention Center. We hope you did too! (Pictured from L-R are David Hubbard, Barbara Marzean, Stephanie Dew, & Tom Van Wyngarden).
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VFIS of Texas NEWS
Here you will find helpful information regarding firefighters, ems responders, and updates in insurance policies.