State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) hosted an Emergency Services seminar to a filled New Ringgold Fire House Thursday evening. The seminar gave many local and surrounding emergency service workers and volunteers the opportunity to listen to state and county emergency service officials about varying emergency service matters that affect them. It also gave the large crowd of emergency service volunteers an open chance to ask questions and state their concerns.
Various state, county, and local officials spoke about topics related to emergency services. State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann spoke about the new legislation that pushes for residential automatic sprinkler systems and the benefits they would provide to fire responders. He also stated that new legislation recently passed determines that adequate local fire and emergency services are primarily determined by their local government.
He also stated Schuylkill County has more fire companies, per capita, than any county in Pennsylvania. Bureau of Emergency Medical Services director Joseph W. Schmider stressed his enthusiasm concerning the rewrite of the Emergency Medical Services Act of 2009 that was just passed in August. He stated the 108-page EMS Act of 2009 is opening up the system for many new beneficial rules and regulations to go into effect by February 2012.
He also stressed the upcoming advanced H1N1 vaccine sites.
Since 79.5 percent of all people infected by H1N1 are ages 5 to 24, emergency service workers will probably be next-in-line to receive the H1N1 vaccines. Schmider also pointed out the options of purchasing equipment via state surplus and COSTARS, the commonwealth's cooperative purchasing program.
House of Representatives Research Analyst Sean Harris talked about distribution of fire relief monies, the PA Fire and Emergency Services Institute, and tuition reimbursement. Harris also spent time explaining that the Fire Police Act gives fire police more defined powers, as granted by the Commonwealth to all mayors and executive committees to give to their fire police. In addition, Harris brought up possible legislation to provide tax credits to employers of emergency service volunteers, such as firefighters.
Schuylkill County Emergency Management Services director Arthur Kaplan spoke about the benefits of Incident Command Systems Management training and how county EMS works in partnership with local emergency officials to assist mini-IMAT teams.
Berks County Emergency Services Deputy director Brian Gottschall talked about (NIMS) National Incident Management System compliance. Some speakers also talked about the 2009-10 Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program, as the statewide program only provides for about $23 million to volunteer fire companies and only about $3 million to local EMS.
Volunteers and speakers also showed their distaste over the $100 volunteer tax credit "single tax return" policy. Volunteers who filled out a joint federal tax return could not receive this tax credit without submitting an additional separate single Pennsylvania tax return.
Rep. Knowles spoke about varying topics, but stressed the importance of each local emergency service to lobby for what they need. He pointed out that lobbying gets more attention and better results than doing nothing. Knowles also spoke of the pursuit of emergency service programs and other related grants.