First Responders testify on the need to vaccinate against anthrax and support efforts by DHS to make current vaccine available to state and locals

The president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs recently urged the U.S. federal government to provide medical countermeasures for first responders in case of a pandemic of biological attack.

IAFC President Al Gillespie gave testimony before the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, which was holding a series of hearings on the need for emergency responders to have proper access to medical countermeasures, according to

Gillespie said that studies have shown first responders to be concerned about the possibility of biological attack, which would pose a unique threat to their health and the health of their families.

"Mr. Chairman, the fire and emergency services will do everything we can to protect our communities, but we need Congress to do all it can to protect first responders and address a major gap in preparedness for a pandemic or a bioterrorist attack in the U.S.," Gillespie said. "Currently, we only have surveys that suggest a lack of response, but we should not wait for an attack to provide absolute proof."

To ensure that a vigorous response to a biological attack or pandemic is carried out, Gillespie recommended that Congress authorize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a voluntary anthrax immunization program for emergency workers.

Gillespie also urged Congress to direct DHS and HHS to give emergency antibiotic kits to the families of first responders.