It’s easy to take for granted the men and women who respond at a moment’s notice to emergencies in order to keep us safe. We are very fortunate in our community to have professional first responders who protect us, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Let’s take a moment to support our first responders and thank them for the sacrifices they make on our behalf.
Nationally, more than 240 million calls are made to 911 dispatchers each year, with EMS personnel, police and firefighters always ready to help. As a veteran and former police officer, I know firsthand the risks that first responders take when they get called to crises.
First responders and their families face many challenges. When a public safety official is killed in the line of duty, it is a horrific impact on their family. This legislative session, I sponsored and supported legislation that would ensure families of those killed in action receive better assistance.
When these brave men and women die in the line of duty, their families receive compensation to assist with funeral expenses and other financial needs. It has been more than 20 years since these benefits were increased. Currently, if a public safety officer is killed, the family receives $150,000 in death benefits. Under proposed legislation, families would receive $225,000 in benefits to help alleviate some of the financial burden while mourning the loss of their loved one.
Another way we can support our first responders is by paying attention and putting our phones down while driving. According to a national report, 40 first responders were killed on the side of the road in 2018, up 60 percent from 2017. To help keep our EMS personnel and law enforcement safe, I supported legislation that would prohibit holding a cell phone or electronic communication device while driving. Drivers will still be able to use Bluetooth or other hands-free technology, as well as dial 911 in the event of an emergency. Distracted driving kills, and we can make a difference by paying attention and getting off our phones.
There are so many ways we can show our gratitude to our first responders and public safety officials. Consider participating in fundraisers and events at our local fire and police departments, or say thank you or a kind word to the next fire, police or EMT officer you see. Put down your phones while driving so they can go about their work saving lives and helping others.
Please consider how you can help our emergency responders. To those who serve, thank you.
State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) represents House District 74,
which includes all of Crawford and Perry counties and portions of Dubois, Orange and Spencer counties.
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