The National Volunteer Fire Council recently sent a letter to members of the House and Senate asking them to allocate $405 million each to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs. The grant matches funds from fire departments and are used to purchase equipment and hire, retain or recruit volunteer and career firefighters.
Funding for the two grants is on a downward trend. A total of about $405 million was allocated to each grant program in FY 2011. However, the funding for each program fell to $337.5 million in FY 2012 appropriations legislation, said Dave Finger, NVFC's director of government relations. It was reduced further by a presidential request to $335 million in his FY 2013 budget proposal.
The letter was distributed widely to congress and fire service associations as a call to action, and an official NVFC action alert is expected in the next few weeks.
"We will put out an action alert, where we draft a template letter that can be used by anyone and sent to congresspeople," Finger said. "That's one way we get our folks engaged."
In addition to grant funding, the letter also requested that decision-makers allocate $44.038 million for the U.S. Fire Administration, the same level of funding provided in FY 2012. The president's budget request reduces funding forto $42.5 million.
NVFC representatives plan to address funding concerns with congressional leaders through meetings on the Hill, with an emphasis on increasing budget totals, Finger said.
"It will be addressed with congresspeople when the NVFC representatives are on the Hill, where they will emphasize why this is an important issue," he said.
Fire Department Readiness Since Fire, Safer Grants
Significant progress has been made in the readiness of fire departments across the country since the creation of the FIRE and SAFER programs, found a NFPA study:
- 51% of all fire departments lack enough portable radios to equip all responders on a shift; down from 77% in 2001
- 51% of all fire departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with SCBA; down from 70% in 2001
- 46% of all fire departments have not formally trained all their personnel involved in structural firefighting; down from 55% in 2001
- 48% of all fire departments responsible for EMS have not formally trained all their personnel; down from 54% in 2001
- 20% of fire departments protecting populations of at least 500,000 have fewer than four firefighters assigned to an engine; down from 30% in 2001
- 26% of departments protecting populations between 250,000 and 499,999 have fewer than four firefighters assigned to an engine; down from 41% in 2001
Source: Third Needs Assessment of the U.S Fire Service, published by the NFPA