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20th John P. Redmond Symposium held in Los Angeles: "Preparing You for Survival - The Fire Ground, the Economy and Beyond"

The IAFF is one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington
The IAFF represents more than 296,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics 

The conference was organised around the theme - Preparing You for Survival: The Fire Ground, the Economy and Beyond.

To more than 1,100 attending firefighters and paramedics, IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger kicked off the 20th John P. Redmond Symposium held in Los Angeles, California, November 8-12. Schaitberger kept to the conference theme - Preparing You for Survival: The Fire Ground, the Economy and Beyond - as he provided updates on issues important to the future of fire fighter health and safety.

"We are here to make sure we are all doing everything we can to continue to keep our members healthy, safe and alive, even while we go through this historic economic time," said General President Schaitberger.

The conference opened just after it had been announced that the U.S. unemployment rate had risen to 10.2 percent, making it clear that more economic hardship is likely to be on the horizon.

Most certainly, the question everyone attending the conference had was: What do we do? Schaitberger said there is no "one-size fits all" answer to that question, but political action is and will continue to be a significant part of that answer for the IAFF and all of its affiliates.

As leaders, Schaitberger said: "We must weigh in and engage with the decision makers with a realistic strategy grounded in the safety and security of those we represent." And most importantly, he stated: "As leaders sworn to protect our members' health, safety and lives, we must draw and hold the line on issues where life and death are concerned and for us we know that adequate staffing is imperative at the individual company level."

"We must weigh in and engage with the decision makers with a realistic strategy grounded in the safety and security of those we represent"

Political action is a proven tool when it comes to overcoming health and safety issues. Schaitberger pointed to the passage of several pieces of presumptive legislation in Canada and the United States as examples of success.

In Canada, no presumptive law existed seven years ago. Today 98 percent of all Canadian IAFF members have some level of cancer presumption benefits. In the United States, 41 states have presumptive laws in place, and 31 of those include cancer.

Schaitberger also discussed the positive effect the passage of the stimulus program had for some affiliates. "In Massachusetts, Governor Patrick announced on October 5 that $8 million in grant dollars will be used to bring back 127 laid off fire fighters in Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester, Lawrence, Quincy, Bridgewater, Easton, Hull, Lakeville, North Attleboro and Walpole," the General President reported.

Throughout the rest of the conference, attending IAFF members were briefed in more detail on the hot button issues, learning how to write effective federal grant applications and given time to network.

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