At the Firefighters & EMS Fund, our mission is to provide a voice to the Firefighters and First Response workers who are often under-represented in national and local political discourse. Our mission is to provide a grass-roots movement voice to those local heroes who go out on the front lines for their communities but are often under-funded and underappreciated by elected officials.
One of the most important resources available to our nation’s Firefighters is the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program run by the Federal Government, through FEMA. As stated on the Grant website, “Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.”
One essential tool used in our mission to supply our firefighters, is a nation-wide data tracker implemented by the Firefighter’s Support Alliance. This tool allows us to quantify how these grant funds are dispersed across the states and compare funding against metrics such as total number of firefighters and number of departments in each state.
In exploring how these grants are making positive impacts across the country, we can look at the example of The Athol Fire Department in Massachusetts. The Athol Department was awarded $228,000 to bring their supply of self-contained breathing apparatuses up to code with the National Fire Protection Association.
Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera discussed the imperative of these funds with The Athol Daily News:
“The money will be used for the purchase of 30 self-contained breathing apparatus, including 30 face masks with voice amps, sixty 30-minute carbon air cylinders, two search devices, two rapid intervention team packs, and three 60-minute carbon air cylinders, as well some miscellaneous equipment.”
In January, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant provided the Fire Department of Pittsfield Township, MI, with over $400,000 to acquire a replacement for their aging truck. Chief Sean Gleason discussed the much-needed aid with Firehouse.com:
“The truck, built by Michigan-based company HME Ahrens-Fox, is a tanker truck that can carry 3,254 gallons of water to fires in rural area where a hydrant may not be readily available, Gleason said.
The old truck, which Gleason jokingly said takes three minutes to hit 45 mph, was at the end of its life expectancy after being in service for more than 30 years, he said.”
In this uncertain time in our nation’s history with the Covid-19 Pandemic draining resources from public safety agencies across the country, lawmakers are moving to provide financial relief from the expensive PPE equipment requirements through the Grant Fund. Such was the case for The East Haven Fire Department in Connecticut, who was provided $68,819, according to Patch.com:
“The East Haven Fire Department was awarded almost $70,000 by the federal government as a reimbursement for money the town spent for “critical personal protective equipment and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Mayor Joseph Carfora and Fire Chief Matt Marcarelli announced.”
These are just a few of the many stories from across America demonstrating the imperative of The Firefighter’s Assistance Fund. However, just as these grants provide essential funding for life saving equipment and the basic necessities of running a fire department, Firefighters often have to rely on donations to supply their units with other essentials. We must continue to be advocates for our firefighters and provide them with the resources they deserve.