SAFER Staffing Grants May Finally Be Approved

In the two years since the 9/11 attacks, there has been a lot of turmoil and a small amount of progress in getting federal aid to local fire departments. Most of the effort has focused on training, equipment and response plans, with hardly any attention...


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Not surprisingly, there also has been opposition from some mayors, city managers and county executives who don't like the idea of paying additional firefighter salaries when the SAFER funds are phased out after three years. These are the same officials who are responsible for the sad state of so many fire departments because of the budget cuts and manpower reductions they have inflicted. Their policies caused the problem and are the reason why fire departments desperately need federal help.

But even if the SAFER Act passes, it's not a cure-all for the staffing crisis. It can provide some relief, but the problem will not be solved until local government is forced to meet its responsibilities. Hopefully, there are signs of change; in recent months, a few city and county councils have rejected budget cuts that would have had a drastic impact on their fire departments. If that starts to happen in more places, then maybe something good will have come out of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. In the meantime, the SAFER Act is like a life line for struggling fire departments.


Hal Bruno, a Firehouse® contributing editor, retired as political director for ABC News in Washington and served almost 40 years as a volunteer firefighter. He is a director of the Chevy Chase, MD, Fire Department and chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.