Mississippi One of Three States Without A Law to Help Save First Responder Lives

First responders across Mississippi hope to have a bill passed into law that would cover medical costs resulting from specific job-related illnesses for volunteer firefighters, career firefighters, and all Mississippi law enforcement. Senate Bill 2835, known as the First Responders Health and Safety Act, would allow for limited financial assistance to first responders who develop a specific occupational illness or disease. It passed the Senate 50-1 last week and now makes its way to the House of Representatives for a vote.

“This legislation will help cover some of the costs of treatment for certain cancers and specific heart illnesses,” Michelle Crowley, a recently retired battalion chief with the Biloxi Fire Department, said. “After Biloxi firefighter Darren Endris recently passed away from an occupational cancer, his death serves as a reminder that this legislation is critical for helping save lives of first responders. The time for our Legislature to act is now!”

First responders develop occupational diseases due to the nature of their work, high stress levels, and the chemicals and carcinogens from certain equipment and from the combustion byproducts contained in smoke from fires. As better and safer equipment is developed and put into use, some of these cancers will begin to decrease among first responders. For example, the hand-held radar guns caused exposure to dangerous microwave beams resulting in a variety of cancers among some users. Safer hoods used in firefighter turnout gear helps prevent contact with known carcinogens when fighting fires as does storing turnout gear in lockers outside of the cab of the trucks after a fire. With improved technology and other sensible solutions, exposures to carcinogens can be limited. In addition to these efforts, first responder departments are starting health, diet, and exercise programs to reduce stress and improve fitness on the job.

“While we appreciate the “Blue Lives Matter” law passed by the 2017 legislature, SB 2835 will help save the lives of first responders,” Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Chiefs of Police Association, said. “It’s sad that Mississippi is one of only three states without a law such as this to help those who help others.”

First Responders Press Release