Cherryville (N.C.) Fire Chief Jeff Cash, a member of the National Volunteer Fire Council Executive Committee and NVFC North Carolina state director, testified earlier this month before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security at a hearing on disaster preparation. Cash's testimony focused on issues of particular concern to the volunteer fire service.
"The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program has proven to be the most effective program to date in providing all fire departments — both large and small; volunteer, career and combination — not only with the tools they need to perform their day-to-day duties, but it has also enhanced their ability to respond to large disasters as well," Cash said. "As we move to prepare to respond to major disasters, we must first ensure that local fire departments have the basic tools they need to do their jobs on a daily basis.
"Full funding for the AFG program is the top legislative priority of the NVFC," Cash told the subcommittee.
Another importantprogram for improving national preparedness is Citizen Corps, which was created to coordinate volunteer activities to make communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation. The NVFC helps to administer Fire Corps, one of five Citizen Corps programs, which enables fire and emergency services departments to utilize community volunteers in non-emergency roles such as public education and administrative tasks.
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Harris County (Texas) Citizen Corps program prepared the Reliant Astrodome in Houston to receive 24,000 evacuees in approximately eight hours," Cash said. "Over the course of the two weeks that the Astrodome housed evacuees, more than 40,000 people volunteered their services in some fashion.
"Think of how much federal time, effort, and money were saved because the Harris County Citizen Corps program was prepared to coordinate such a massive volunteer effort," Cash continued. "Think of all those people who were spared having to spend even more time in dangerous, unsafe conditions. Citizen Corps is a proven program that gets results. The NVFC supports increasing funding for Citizen Corps in FY 2008 back to its FY 2006 enacted level of $20 million."
Cash also testified about the U.S. Fire Administration, credentialing and the SAFER Grant program. A full copy of his testimony can be downloaded in PDF format from the NVFC Web site.