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  1. #1
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    Do DHS Fire Grants Reduce Fire Casualties?
    by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.
    WebMemo #2499
    This Heritage Foundation WebMemo summarizes the findings of a forthcoming Center for Data Analysis (CDA) report that evaluates the effectiveness of the Assistance for Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program, Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants. Collectively, these grants are commonly referred to as "fire grants."

    In the near future, Congress will consider the fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriation bills for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 2892 and S. 1298). Both appropriation bills call for $800 million for the fire grant program--$380 million for the AFG program and $420 million for the SAFER program. Before committing additional funding to the fire grants, Congress should first consider whether the programs are an effective use of taxpayer dollars.

    Overall, the CDA report finds that fire grants, including grants that subsidize the salaries of firefighters, had no impact on fire casualties. Specifically the report finds that:

    AFGs used to purchase firefighting equipment, vehicles, and fitness equipment failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries;
    FP&S grants that funded fire prevention and safety projects failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries; and
    SAFER grants that subsidized firefighter salaries failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries.
    Fire Grants

    In 2000, the FY 2001 National Defense Authorization Act established the AFG Program to subsidize the routine activities of local fire departments and emergency medical service (EMS) organizations.[1] Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration within the Department of Homeland Security, fire grants consist of several types:

    AFGs provide funding for the purchase of firefighting equipment, vehicles, and fitness equipment;
    FP&S grants target high-risk populations and are intended to improve the safety of firefighters and the public from fire and related hazards;
    SAFER grants, created in 2003, are intended to increase staffing levels by funding the salaries of career firefighters and paying for recruitment activities for volunteer fire departments; and
    Fire Station Construction (FSC) grants, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, fund the renovation and building of fire stations.[2]
    From FY 2001 to FY 2009, Congress appropriated over $5.7 billion in funding for fire grants.[3]

    Are Fire Grants Effective?

    The forthcoming CDA report concentrates on finding evidence of whether fire grants affect fire casualties. Fire casualties are defined as firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries.

    Do fire grants reduce or prevent injuries and deaths to firefighters and civilians? This is a reasonable research question to ask, because the fire grant program has concentrated mainly on developing the capabilities of fire departments to react to fire emergencies.[4] By subsidizing routine operations, fire grants are thought to assist fire departments in becoming more proficient at fighting fires and providing emergency services. Thus, the improved operational proficiency of grant-funded fire departments should reduce fire casualties.

    Using panel data from 1999 to 2006 for 10,033 fire departments, the CDA report used panel regression analysis to estimate the impact of fire grants on fire casualties. Of these fire departments, 5,859 (58.4 percent) received fire grant awards while 4,174 (41.6 percent) did not. The panel regression analysis used in the report controls for the level of risk fire departments face each year; the percentage of fire department responses to fires, hazardous conditions, service calls, and good intent calls; and county-level socioeconomic factors, such as age and race demographics, income per capita, and unemployment rates.

    The Findings

    Overall, the CDA report finds that fire grants, including grants that subsidize the salaries of firefighters, had no impact on fire casualties. Indeed:

    AFG grants used to purchase firefighting equipment, vehicles, and fitness equipment failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries;
    FP&S grants that funded fire prevention and safety projects failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries; and
    SAFER grants that subsidized firefighter salaries failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries.
    The findings of this evaluation were foreshadowed when a 2007 report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) concluded that the "program's strategy of improving firefighting response capabilities, however effective it is at doing this, may not represent the most cost-effective way to reduce either public or firefighter deaths and injuries."[5] In addition, the NAPA report noted, "One argument that has been made forcefully by experts on the fire problem over the last four decades is that dollars used to reduce the number of fire incidents are likely to have greater impact on fire safety relative to their cost than dollars used to improve response to fires when they break out."[6]

    Nor do fire grants appear to fulfill a homeland security function. The NAPA report acknowledges, "Basic fire incidents are usually well-handled in the U.S. and have been for some time, whereas large-scale, complex incidents are less well addressed and usually require cooperation of organizations and across jurisdictions."[7] However, the fire grant program "mainly funds local entities and isolated projects not tied to improving regional capabilities."[8]

    An Ineffective Program

    The strength of the CDA report's methodology resides in its use of panel data that compares fire departments that received grants to fire departments that did not receive grants. In addition, the evaluation compares the impact of the grants before and after grant-funded fire departments received federal assistance. After analyzing over 10,000 fire departments from across the nation from 1999 to 2006, the CDA report reaches a clear conclusion: Fire grants are an ineffective way of reducing fire casualties. Consequently, Congress should eliminate funding for the fire grant program.

    David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.


    [1]FY 2001 National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 108-398.

    [2]The CDA report does not evaluate the impact of the FCS grants, which have only recently been created.

    [3]Lennard G. Kruger, "Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding," CRS Report for Congress, RL32341, Congressional Research Service, March 31, 2009, Tables 2 and 4, pp. 3 and 6.

    [4]James Kunde et al., Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program: Assessing Performance (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Public Administrators, 2007), p. 62.

    [5]Ibid., p. 70.

    [6]Ibid.

    [7]Ibid., p. 92.

    [8]Ibid.

  3. #3
    Forum Member SLY4420's Avatar
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    What a bunch of bull*****.

    Fire grants didn't completely reduce firefighter fatalities? You don't say. Considering 43.8% of firefighters died last year due to cardiac related issues, I don't know what we can do to solve that. Sure, physical fitness is a major factor in that, but people still die.

    While the basis of the Fire Grant programs are to improve firefighter SAFETY, the community (i.e. taxpayers who pay for this program) need to be a consideration as well. In fact, the first sentence in the guidance states: "Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) provide financial assistance directly to fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations to enhance their capabilities with respect to fire and fire-related hazards." Nowhere have I read that this program is supposed to completely prevent fatalities. Don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but firefighting is dangerous.

    Having new PPE will help keep me and my fellow firefighters safer. There is no argument there. Having an enclosed cab Pumper with airbags and lap/shoulder belts is going to be much safer than my old open cab Pumper replaced by AFG. Just because we haven't crashed them doesn't mean we didn't prevent fatalities.

    What about my 2009 Exhaust Extraction system which will undoubtedly reduce my risk of cancer? Just because I haven't died yet, doesn't mean the Federal investment isn't something worthwhile to prevent firefighter injuries and potential fatalities.

    There is no mention of effectiveness, efficiency of operations, property saved, disaster preparation, and several other factors which could continue to drive our economy right down the crapper.

    The greatest part of the AFG program is that it is developed, and executed by our own. It's very hard to find a program like this. Having firefighting peers select the awards works because they understand the fire service. A person who gets paid to "review" and "audit" this, does NOT.

    This is a great example of a complete misunderstanding of this program, the Fire Service in general, and will unfortunately cause a setback in our needs for this program to be continued after 2010.

    Thanks, Doc.
    Last edited by SLY4420; 06-27-2009 at 08:34 PM.

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    Oh, and while the program certainly had it's faults, Dr. Dick's analysis of the COPS grant and led now Vice-President Joe Biden to call for it's termination.

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    "Thus, the improved operational proficiency of grant-funded fire departments should reduce fire casualties."

    This is where they steered wrong. We're a reactionary service 99.9% of the time. If we don't get called until the fire is through the roof of course there's no save.

    Just comparing the number of civilian fatalities before and after isn't an relevant analysis, it's apples and oranges. After all, how many of those fires were arson-murder jobs? Can any grant prevent those? Can we prevent people from smoking in bed? Can we prevent people from leaving pots on the stove and candles burning when they go to the store?

    A comparison can't very well be made since as we add people on this earth and more property, more of it catches fire and more people die in them. How about the report on the amount of fire damage that hasn't happened because someone got a grant for new equipment and vehicles?

    And then there's the part considering the source, seems to me like someone wants to eliminate this grant program to free up funding for another one....

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    Dr Carter's view on this subject: http://cms.firehouse.com/web/online/Leadership-and-Command/The-Missionary-Position/5$64295

    Each one of us needs to take steps forward on this one. As my attendees know, success comes from being motivated AND taking action. Only you can motivate you, only you can take action for yourself and your department.

    I say let's stop sending money overseas for grant programs helping irrigation projects in countries that don't like us. Search Grants.gov if you ever want to see our money moving in the wrong directions. I like helping people but let's start here and when the US is all fine and happy on top of the economic ladder in world standing again, then we do the right thing and extend a helping hand to others. As individuals we can't improve others unless we improve ourselves, same goes for organizations and countries.

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    100% dead ON BC! We need to take of our own 1st, then help else where as funds are available!

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    Default Hidden agenda?

    I'm always sceptical of any stated bottom line when I think there's possibility that announced results, such as these, could be used as a doorway for an entirely different agenda. The Heritage Foundation? The Heritage Foundation that I know is more of a conservative think tank organization. Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong one. Fire departments are not usually a demographic of their concern. Unless it has to do with unions. Whatever, BC'r is right. This one we do need to address.
    Last edited by jam24u; 06-29-2009 at 12:04 PM.

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    Unions tend to support each other and IAFF is big into the AFG grants since a lot of their members wouldn't have decent equipment if it weren't for AFG. SAFER is gear towards hiring, and the more FFs hired the greater chance they have of increasing membership. Just see their recent move to allow SAFER funds to rehire laid off FFs.

    AFG is one of the few examples of widespread bi-partisan support so I can't figure out the motivation behind it. I realize that things have to be analyzed but GAO and others have gone over AFG with a finetoothed comb and found little to complain about. It's efficient and effective. Hell, maybe that's the problem they have with it...

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    Default I checked

    Yep, The original article IS from the Heritage Foundation. I just typed 'fire' in their search box and up popped the above article. Word for Word. Like BC'r I'm a little stumped at why the Hertiage Foundation is using this data (and position) to further their policies. With the majority of the fire departments memberships in the country belonging to demographics that would favor the conservative right, why would The Heritage Foundation take this position? How could they be so wrong? I'm a donor and even today received additional material from Ed Fuelner and intend to find out. More to follow,,,,

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    Smile Fire Prevention Grants

    It isn't popular but if this was Japan ( a safer place to live than here) most or all of the grant money would be in Fire Prevention. One of our biggest problems is and will continue to be - Firefighters as Hero's make good stories at the barber shop and tavern. Fire Prevention people make for good humorous stories in the day room and at the kitchen table. We need to focus on finding answers that matter before the emergencies happen. As a third generation firefighter I will support my brothers and sisters to the end of time. 95% of the people I know in the fire service joined it for all the right reasons Ė To make a hands-on positive impact on their generation. To the governing bodies who control our funding please give us the money to provide the services to succeed in the ever expanding roles you put us in and make this a safer world to live in.

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    Default Just Wait

    It occured to me, that if and when a mass casualty event happens again, how those who wrote this analysis are going to spin their results. We'll get another government resolution that funds the nations fire departments to increase their ability to respond to the new threat. Departments just don't have to respond to house fires, but are expected to respond to everything including an asteroid hitting the planet. I wonder what data they should have included with those results and how the grants wouldn't help even for that. I'm begining to want my money back.

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    I've got a study I would like to conduct: STEP 1- Let's move all of Dr. Carter's possessions into a home in my jurisdiction. STEP 2- Lets light that home on fire. STEP 3- We'll give Dr. Carter the option of responding the 1975 engine we use to have along with all of the old PPE and lack of equipment we were faced with in the past, or responding our brand new engine which is equipped with a TIC, new nozzles, etc. STEP 4- Evaluate his response and apply it to his "so called study"! I think we all know what the results will be!! LONG LIVE AFG!!

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    You mean Dr Muhlhausen? Dr Harry Carter was one of the original people that helped to develop AFG and get it into place, and is certainly in favor of keeping it. Think you might have read something wrong in his article. He's saying the study is wrong too.

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    Well whoever, Muhlausen, Carter or anyone involved on both sides need to get together and end this rhectoric about grants for the fire service. This is not the type of attention that is going to be to our benefit. The sooner this article dies out and is forgotten, the better.

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    Sorry bout the mess up, I've got to quit the part time gig on the box....it's got me started on the road to insanity!! Thanks for the correction BC79er, I promise to do better!! ; )

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcfdrichey25 View Post
    Sorry bout the mess up, I've got to quit the part time gig on the box....it's got me started on the road to insanity!! Thanks for the correction BC79er, I promise to do better!! ; )
    The names didn't matter, but your previous post did.

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    I thought insanity was a prerequisite for riding the box? I wasn't allowed on it until I was certified...

    Right on about the idea though, show these people a before and after for departments and the pictures will tell the story. Tim who works for me is a great example, those of you that had him in our workshops saw his department. 10 years to go from 3 vehicles (2 brush and 1 utility in 1 station) to a fleet of 10 trucks and now 2 stations, all grants in one form or another from AFG to TX state grants. Can't tell me just because they've had some injuries or fatalities that AFG isn't effective in improving operations and safety factors.

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    Smile Dr. Harry Carter

    Just feel the need to post a Thank You to Dr. Carter. He is one of the true pioneers in the fire service. He has been sharing his wisdom at Firehouse for years but most people don't ever get to see all the many good things he does to help the service behind the scenes. I have had that opportunity and he jumped up and lent a hand for us once and it made a big difference in our funding. I realize earlier it was a simple mistake but I wanted to again shout - Dr. Harry Carter this is one of the good guys.

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    In general, I'd agree more money generally equates to better fire protection. But, I have never figured out why anyone outside my district should have to pay for our equipment, people or services. Federal funds sound good and buy great stuff but when we become accustomed to getting them every year, we prevent our community policy makers from seeing the actual cost of good fire protection for the district. To paraphrase a quote: "all firefighting is local".

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