|Hurricane Sandy's first responders|
A new petition on Change.org is trying to change that. The petition calls on FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Obama Administration to provide federal health insurance to the Disaster Assistance Employees (DAEs), or reservists, who help the country respond to emergencies and disasters like Sandy.
According to the FEMA website, these reservists, many of whom work 300 days a year and often more, must be able to leave home on short notice – sometimes only 24-48 hours – and remain away from home 30 or more days at a time.
The petition is quickly gaining momentum. The petition just went up and there are already nearly 1,000 signatures.
Dena Patrick of North Carolina initiated the petition after learning that one of her close friends, a reservist who typically works more than 300 days a year, has received no healthcare benefits, despite the exhausting and challenging duties FEMA requires of reservists.
Says Patrick, “Many of the employees I’ve heard from are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of losing their jobs which they love. That’s why I’m standing up for these courageous and selfless individuals... It's time our FEMA workers and other first responders are prioritized when it comes to compensation and benefits.”
Patrick was inspired by John Lauer, a wildland firefighter whose Change.org petition successfully pushed the Obama Adminstration to provide health care to wildfire firefighters, who like DAEs didn’t have benefits despite their sacrifices for the health of others.
On the new petition site, Patrick writes:
Thousands of our fellow citizens are on-call and are deployed at a moment's notice by FEMA to disaster and emergency areas year round -including to communities most affected by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. It is a high-stress job on many levels. FEMA even notes that the lives of these employees can be exhausting, frustrating, challenging and the hours can be long and the conditions are sometimes difficult.
I was shocked to learn that one of my good friends, who has worked as a FEMA reservist since 2003 and typically works over 300 days a year, received no health benefits even as she sacrifices for the health of others.
It's time our FEMA workers and other first responders are prioritized when it comes to compensation and benefits. It's time we as a citizenry demand that our priorities are better reflected in the workforce and legislative decisions.
Will you join me in calling for FEMA first responders to be provided with health care? Please share this with your networks. We're using the Twitter hashtag #inthistogether for this effort.