Categories: Featured News, Safety

NVFC calls for increased funding for hazmat response training

Share this content


Chief Comstock urged the Committee to increase funding for grants provided through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

On March 22, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on “Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment.” The hearing brought together experts and stakeholders to discuss ways to enhance rail safety in the United States.

Among the witnesses who testified at the hearing was Chief David Comstock of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District in Ohio. Chief Comstock appeared on behalf of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to raise awareness about the critical funding needs of the fire service for first responder training, equipment, and health screenings.

Chief Comstock’s department was one of over 50 fire departments that responded to the train derailment in East Palestine, OH. Speaking at the hearing, he stressed the need for better training and equipping of firefighters to respond to hazardous materials incidents, particularly to derailments in rural areas. These incidents are usually served by volunteer departments that often lack sufficient resources, tax base, and manpower to handle largescale incidents.

During his testimony, Chief Comstock highlighted a number of fire services priorities as potential solutions to this need. He urged the Committee to increase funding for grants provided through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.

Chief Comstock also spoke to the Committee about the NVFC’s efforts to increase hazmat response proficiency throughout the United States with the Partners in Training (PIT) Crew program. This program offers 15 in-person hazmat train-the-trainer opportunities across the U.S. at no cost to departments. Chief Comstock emphasised the importance of training being available at no cost to volunteer departments, which often lack a tax base to support this type of training.

Furthermore, Chief Comstock noted that firefighters face a higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general public. He urged Congress to fund baseline and follow-up health screenings for firefighters who have been exposed to hazardous materials incidents. These screenings would help protect firefighters and save resources by preempting potential health complications like cancer.

The NVFC will continue to work with Congress to address the issues and priorities that were discussed in the testimony. The hearing was an opportunity for the NVFC to raise awareness of the critical funding needs of the fire service, and the organisation will continue to advocate for the resources necessary to keep first responders safe and prepared for hazardous materials incidents. The full hearing can be viewed on the Committee’s website.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox