Monday, November 19, 2012


Hurricane Sandy first responders and Gov. Chris Christie
Just days after Hurricane Sandy hit, The Reno Dispatch was among the very first news outlets to point out that the 1,900 first responders serving those worst hit by the violent storm do not receive federal healthcare benefits

As we reported, a petition on urged FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Obama Administration to provide federal health insurance to these Disaster Assistance Employees (DAEs), or reservists, who help the country respond to emergencies and disasters like Sandy. 

Well, I'm pleased to tell you that just weeks after more than 100,000 people signed the petition, FEMA and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have announced that FEMA first responders will now be provided with healthcare benefits.

Apparently, one person really can make a big difference. Dena Patrick of North Carolina started the petition after learning that a good friend of hers who’s a reservist and typically works more than 300 days a year receives no healthcare benefits, despite the “exhausting, frustrating, challenging” duties FEMA requires of reservists. Her petition went viral and was signed by tens of thousands of supporters across the country.

As part of an interim ruling, FEMA requested health coverage for reservists on duty through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. 

The new rule went into effect late last week.

Says Patrick, “I'm thrilled the Office of Personnel Management and FEMA gave this the attention it deserves. My sincere thanks to for the tools and support, and to the 113,000-plus petitioners who helped raise awareness of this issue. I hope FEMA Reservists now realize how much fellow citizens value their work and their sacrifice; the hundreds of comments sing their praises."

Patrick adds, "This effort is one more example of how standing up and speaking out for one another can lead to positive results. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and with our amazing FEMA Reservists and other first responders.”

Dena was inspired by John Lauer, a wildland firefighter whose petition successfully pushed the Obama Adminstration to provide health care to wildfire firefighters, who like FEMA reservists didn’t have benefits despite their “sacrifices for the health of others.”


  1. Excellent work, Jamie and Dena. This is great news! The power of the internet never ceases to amaze me!

    1. Thanks Sue. This is indeed a definitive example of online activism at work.