In the October 6, 2006, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press release titled "America's Firefighters to Receive $485 Million in Grants" it was indicated that through their Fiscal Year 2006 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), a total of $485 million will be awarded to nearly 5,000 fire-related organizations nationwide. It was also mentioned that "Since 2001, the AFG has provided $2.4 billion in grants to fire departments and first responder organizations for response equipment, personal protective equipment, vehicles, and fire prevention activities. DHS received more than 18,000 applications for nearly $2.5 billion in grant requests in FY 2006."
Needless to say continuation of the federal fire grants is indeed great news for us in the fire service. I believe that it is of utmost importance for us to realize that many of our brightest, determined, and most dedicated fire service leaders, fought tirelessly for very many years, to establish the federal fire grant program. And their efforts should be applauded even more, once we recognize that, year after year, they still step up to the plate for us, and fend off the very many opponents that seek elimination of the federal fire grant program. Although federal fire grants are a far cry from the systematic sustained funding that the fire service needs to improve our service delivery, we still definitely need this continued governmental support to be able to better protect our local communities.
There is also a world of information in these few simple sentences in the press release that I believe deserve our serious attention and require further analysis. With the very first glance, this shows that the fire service in our country is so desperately under-resourced at the local levels that we need to rely so heavily on the federal government subsidies to provide for the sorely needed local resources.
Last year alone, we requested $2.5 billion which was a tad more than the total of $2.4 billion that we received for all of the previous years since 2001 combined. Also, this year's $485 million grant will only provide for about 20% of the total $2.5 billion we have requested in our fire grant applications. And only 5,000 fire-related organizations out of the total of 18,000 fire grant applicants (only about 28%) would be receiving this year's fire grants.
But, rather than focusing on the dim view, let's view this positively, and look at it from the good old fashion American entrepreneurial point of view and find opportunities that could benefit us. I believe that through their grants, federal government has an excellent opportunity to be the impetus for change and better help the fire service in the long-run.
The federal government has an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the short-comings in the local governments' planning, service delivery, funding mechanisms, and their emergency response resource management; and through their fire grants, the federal government can indirectly cause positive changes and improvements in the long-run. After all, the local governments tend to listen to the federal government a tad more attentively. More than they would to the emergency response resource planning and funding requests of their own fire chiefs.
This of course, is by no means a new concept. And using the federal grants to hold the local governments accountable for implementing improvements, is what the federal government has done quite well through many of their national agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), just to name a few.
So if it works well for others, then why not for us? We should first realize though, that not only is change not bad, it is absolutely necessary for us. It is obvious from the above mentioned statistics that the fire service is starved for resources and it's chronically deprived of essential resources at the local level. Thus changing that deficiency could only be good.