1. #1
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    Thumbs down FEMA Grant - JUNK?

    Obviously, those of you out there who have received grants are probably pretty happy. I, on the other hand, think that a lot of the awards are more crap than anything else. Aren't all departments supposed to be able to do the same tasks? Our department runs on a yearly income of maybe $15,000 - not including fund raisers. That money goes to our commissioners (we are an independent company) and they pay for insurance and all that fun stuff.

    We need new equipment just like everyone else. Fitness and safety, training and other similar awards are nice and all, but what good is it if you don't have the equipment to use when you're done being trained. I realize that the world isn't created equal, but why should a department that has a tax base income of $300,000 be awarded a grant to buy a chief's vehicle? That's crap!

    I wish I could see into the minds of the reviewing personnel at FEMA. I don't care if they do have a background consistent with firefighting, I don't see yet where it means much to the small departments in the country.

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    I'll give you the same advice I've given others who are disillusioned by the process:

    1) Read the December issue of Fire Engineering. There is a really good article in there written by a member of the peer revue committee. You will see what they did and what they looked for. Maybe that will help you.

    2) Take a class in grant writing. This will help you. It will show you how to present you case in a positive and proper manner. Just writing that we "need and deserve" the money doesn't do any good. It will also help you to be able to find other funding sources.

    3) Take advantage of using any political clout and ask for support from your representatives and senators. FEMA announced that this year's program could be politically supported so why not ask for help?

    4) Work with the system, not against it. This is the federal government and you have to do things their way if you want their money. We can't try to tell them we want the rules changed to meet our needs after the program starts. It doesn't work that way.

    5) Don't bite the hand that feeds you. The more FEMA hears complaints from non-winners the bigger the chance they will pull the plug and take the money away from the ungrateful firefighters. If you don't like something about the program contact your legislators and voice your concerns to them. They are the ones who can make the changes, not anyone reading these forums.
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    5) Don't bite the hand that feeds you. The more FEMA hears complaints from non-winners the bigger the chance they will pull the plug and take the money away from the ungrateful firefighters. If you don't like something about the program contact your legislators and voice your concerns to them. They are the ones who can make the changes, not anyone reading these forums.

    Ditto.

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    Default Bigger the city , Bigger the Grant?

    Is it just me or did it appear to most of you that larger cities received the largest grants? It may just be my mistake but that is the way it looked to me. A lot of the paid departments in large cities received large grants. I am not saying they didnt need the grants but could that be a direct reflect on possibly the paying for having your grant professionally written or a reflect on those judging the grants with in regards to the size of the city needing more money?

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    Do the math. The bigger the request, the bigger the matching amount. And in the larger populations, that match is 30%. By the way, three departments in my county, including ours, got money. All three are small, rural, all volunteer, low budget, no political influence, and no professional grant writer.

    Blows the hell out of some of those **** and moan theories doesn't it?

    This thing was set up to meet population figures and an equitible split between volly and pro from the get go. The grants awarded have followed that split. I believe that I am intellegent enough to see that a department that makes more runs in a day than we do in a year has a bigger need for better equipment, better training, and yeah, healthier firefighters.

    By the way, a few rounds ago, one department in Missouri won their grant for $5,000. I suspect that the 500 bucks for the matching funds was all they had.

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    Thumbs up Interesting

    Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
    Obviously, the ones getting fed are happy, and the ones that are not getting fed are unhappy.

    Take a little time and cross reference the new apparatus pages here with the announced grants. Interesting that departments can show the financial need for a Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety category grant but are still able to afford one, TWO, or more custom cab pumpers. How does that work?
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    Interesting that departments can show the financial need for a Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety category grant but are still able to afford one, TWO, or more custom cab pumpers. How does that work?
    But, as was stated in the last post,these people can afford to match what they are required. I agree that there are many departments that are worse off than many of those getting grants, but you have to give a little to get a little. As was suggested before, attend some grant writing seminars......... I don't know you're situation or anyone else's, but I bet the grant request is a big part of why some departments are getting the money and others aren't.

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    Exclamation rebuttle

    I realize that the hand feeding us is the Feds'. I have the utmost respect for the possibilities this grant can put forth. I'm aware of the rules, regulations and paperwork required - and regardless of whether or not it's somewhat political - it doesn't make some of these awards right. Venting my annoyance at some of the grants is my God-given right - and I think this is a good place to do it - ****ing and moaning would be more like what Greenbay Packer fans are doing this morning - but maybe they're bigger than that .

    I'm not dillusioned at all by the process - it's reality - I've dealt with city, county and state governments in varying circumstances - it comes down to perseverance and paperwork.... either your ducks are in a row or their not.

    At any rate - I'm very glad to hear that some small departments out there are getting some cash. We had one in our county get one this year as well - for a much needed vehicle. I hope everyone is able to get one before the economy sours the milk.

    We will, obviously, keep trying.

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    But, as was stated in the last post,these people can afford to match what they are required.
    It was a REQUIREMENT for all 19,500 applicants to be able to meet the matching requirement. The departments that were so bad off that they could not even meet the matching requirement were not even allowed to apply.

    My point is, when a department checks the "Custom Cab" option, they get an NFPA approved Spartan, or a Pierce, or an American La France, or a KME custom cab. By checking the "Commercial Cab" option, they will get a very nice NFPA approved Kenworth, Freightliner, Peterbuilt, White, or other commercial manufacturer's cab. Truck drivers put MILLIONS of miles on this type of truck every year, and they do not seem to be good enough for the fire service. The difference is that the custom cab ADDS $20,000.00 to $50,000.00 to the price of the truck, and it LOOKS more like a fire truck. A commercial cab can pump just as much and haul just a much as a custom cab. The only exception I have found is if you have a department that responds more than 5-6 firefighters on one truck, and there are probably not that many departments that can do that.

    Question: Knowing you can save money by ordering a commercial cab and getting a truck just as capable, if you were a grant reviewer, and if your knew a department had ordered a custom cab pumper/rescue, what would they have to say to you to justify their request for money in any other catagory? Just asking.
    Last edited by ffemt1; 01-05-2003 at 02:31 AM.
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    Question don't bite

    I am from a small rural dep't. We were awarded our money. I didn't go to a grant class. I didn't lobby our Reps. and I didn't use a grant writer. I also didn't apply for all the funding I could have. Our dept was the fourth in our county to recieve money. 3 vols 1 pro. None of us used any lobbying or grand writers. All I did was presended our need, and how our need would benefit our dept and our community. All that was needed to be successful was to follow the scope and objectives set forth by the grant mission statement. the narrative was the key to our award.
    With 19,000 depts applying and 5,500 recieving, some were going to win but most were going to lose. Don't fault the winners, just do a little better preparation next year.

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    A quick note on the lobbying part before I get into the bigger issue. If ANY attempt to lobby on the part of any dept, the application was thrown out. No if's, and's or but's, it was in the rules. Granted (no pun intended), the responsability to report any lobbying was left to the reviewers, but I can imagine that these people would get tired of hearing "award this grant, that grant", and report every infractions.

    Speaking of the rules, this program is not a handout. If you were expecting one when you applied, and the way in which you completed your application reflected that, odds are that your's got canned. This fact has been said over and over in several threads. OVERALL financial need had nothing to do with being awarded or not. You had to back up your reasoning for wanting to complete the project you applied for, and back up your reasoning for why you could not fund it yourself. It was not a cry "we have no money at all" game, and if that was your simple reasoning for not having funding, then go back and read the rules because it's no real wonder why you weren't funded. If you changed that statement to "we do not have the funding for this project because we have a limited income and we have it budgeted for other projects", then you've got something there. Read the successful applications from both 2001 and 2002. I studied every one I could find for 2001, awarded or not, and then read the rules over and over again. I'm no grant writer either, but by following those steps, our grant was awarded.

    There was no political influence, no insider trading, no voodoo. The only bias was explained in the rules, which was that departments that covered more population had to come up with more matching, and the volly/paid split would be identical to the percentages of the populations that each covered.

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    BC79er

    You seem to obviously understand the process very well. Can you help us all out by reviewing the following and then explaining your quote listed at the end. Thanks

    Please review the following quotes, all of which can be found at the 2002 Program Guidance for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program listed at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/doc/02prgguide.doc

    Under the "Application Procedure" section:
    It should describe the financial need of your fire department
    Under the "Evaluation Process" section:

    When reviewing your narrative, the panelists will evaluate the clarity of your proposed project, the financial need of your department, . . .
    Under the "Awards Procedure" section:

    This second level of review is conducted via a panel of technical reviewers that will assess the applications' merits with respect to the detail provided in the narrative on the activity, the applicant's financial need . . .
    Then your statement:
    OVERALL financial need had nothing to do with being awarded or not.
    How do you explain the exact text from the guidance material all of us used? Thanks for your insight into this mystery.
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    Concerning whether or not financial need is a factor in the determination process, here is the quote from the rejection letter;

    "Panels of specialists from the fire service community were then asked to evaluate the top rated applications from the first phase scoring. Their reviews examined the project narrative and other required components of the application, especially the extent to which the narratives established financial need and described a cost effective solution. The top scoring applications in this second phase contained a clear and concise project narrative for the category being requested, told a compelling story of the financial need for federal assistance, and clearly explained how the proposed project would benefit the department and community.

    It would appear that financial need was to be considered a significant factor.

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    Financial need as related to the project in the application is the interpretation that was given in other locations, which I'm still trying to dig up where I and several others I've talked to found that info. So it again was financial need as associated with the project, not the direct financial condition of the department. Yes, the two are related, but they are not one and the same.

    To take from the rejection letter, the solution had to be a COST EFFECTIVE solution. If you're starving for bucks to try and fix an old apparatus, then the logic follows, you'd be even worse of trying to fix a new apparatus whose repairs, parts and routine maintenance are more expensive than the old one. (In most cases anyway.)

    To quote: "The top scoring applications in this second phase contained a clear and concise project narrative for the category being requested, told a compelling story of the financial need for federal assistance, and clearly explained how the proposed project would benefit the department and community."

    Being concise and compelling did not mean to cry poor.

    Yes, I do understand the process to an extent, because I did the research on grant programs in general, last year's Fire Act applications, and a whole ton of other research. But I'm not and don't want to be an expert (ex meaning has been, and spurt being what a leaky faucet does). I can't explain why some projects were funded and others weren't. If I were involved in the decision making I think that it would be really damn hard for me to not recommend funding anyone that asked for air packs or gear, but I'm all about making sure that I get home along with my crew, along with hoping that all firefighters do the same. I have not read last month's Fire Engineering article that has been mentioned several times, I'm hoping to get to that in the next couple of days. All I can say is that those that got funded gave exactly what was asked for in the application and narrative. You'd have to ask the reviewers. And remember, they had to consider the global good of a project, not the local impact. I do not envy their positions, and since I didn't read every application and narrative, I cannot say whether or not I would have made any different ones. You can't knock people who's position you have not been in. I might have more insight after I read the Fire Engineering article.

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    So it again was financial need as associated with the project, not the direct financial condition of the department.
    Besides the previous quotes, I checked the actual Federal Register: February 27, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 39) located at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/dhtml/insid...02frfinal.txt. Here is a direct quote from the bottom of Page 9146:

    Project Narrative: Each application must include a narrative statement not to exceed five pages. The narrative should contain a detailed description of the proposed project and its budget, a statement that demonstrates the financial need of the fire department and a statement that details the benefits to be derived by your . . .
    The rules as written by Congress specify department need (see above), the guidance as provided by FEMA specify department need (see my previous posting), the rejection letter as received by the department that were not awarded grants specify department need (see posting by fyrchef51). I have found NO documentation that indicated project needs.

    I will admit, it does seem like department need had absolutely nothing to do with the program, I just do not see how anybody could have know that from the available information.

    Maybe the winners used Ouiji Boards.

    My question still stands . . . What do you say in your narrative to justify financial need for your FSFO proposal when you spend an additional $20,000-$50,000 for the "custom cab" option on your new truck?

    Maybe you don't even tell them about the new truck.
    Last edited by ffemt1; 01-06-2003 at 03:15 PM.
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    I'll post that part about project need when I find it.

    To play devil's advocate, let's think about this. Just because a department has a million dollar budget, do they really have money to spend on new projects? Thousands of runs per year, salaries for the paid crews, maintenance on the trucks for all of those runs, repair and maintenance on PPE and air packs for all of those incidents and could eat up and even exceed that budget. So in other terms, this department has no money for any additional projects, and possibly is going without something else to make the matching funds if they did get a grant. There is a difference between having a large budget and having the ability to spend it freely.

    Again, crying poor didn't help anyone in this process. If you didn't get funded then you didn't explain something properly. And even if you did and you didn't get funded, then someone else did a better job. This was a grant program not welfare. Our app got canned last year, and my ego was a little hurt. But I did my research, read and re-read the rules, and talked to everyone I could get a hold of for information. And it worked.

    If you were banking on getting the grant because your department has no money, you missed the big picture. It may have been a factor, but it wasn't the biggest or most important. I can't put it any more bluntly than that. Call this process an experience, learn from it, and since next year's applications are going to be due in less than 4 months, start researching now.
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    BRAVO BC79er.

    You've said what I've been trying to tell the whiners both last year and this year. But notice that they still don't want to hear your message and understand it. Otherwise they wouldn't be picking your posting apart quote by quote.

    Need, as defined by the federal government, is obviously not what some departments think it is. It has nothing to do with the number of runs, as one poster from my state complained that a department that does 1/10 the number of runs got grants in both years. I don't know if he was complaining about my department or not.

    It is the feds' game and you have to play by their rules. Any yes, you do have to learn from your mistakes and try again next year.

    Like everyone else who has offered, I will be glad to share our narrative with anyone who would like to see it. Let me know via the private e-mail.
    Last edited by dragonfyre; 01-06-2003 at 07:21 PM.
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    BC79er and dragonfyre thank you both for taking the time to try to explain to the critics of the grant program. As I said before, 14,000 departments have been or will be denied funding.
    I believe luck had a little to with my department receiving grant money this year since I didn't go to a grant seminar or use our politicians for endorsements.

    This year's FIRE grant was not my first experience with a federal grant program however. I wrote the WMD grant application for my county's ESDA in 2001. Because of that, I became familiar with the grant process. In both instances a major key to the narrative was to explain the cost/benefit, not only for our own department and citizens, but benefits for area departments also.

    I have had requests for a copy of our narrative. If any of the rest of you would like a copy, email me at stcoesda2@mchsi.com and I will send you a copy.
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    Following excerpts pretty much are all those about "financial" from the final rule:

    The grants will be
    awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that address the
    program's priorities, demonstrate financial need, and maximize the
    benefit to be derived from the grant funds.
    ...
    Included with the
    activity-specific questions, the applicants will be asked to provide
    details concerning the various budget items necessary to accomplish
    their proposed projects. The last piece of the application is the
    project narrative in which the applicant provides a detailed
    description of their planned activity or activities, the applicant's
    financial need, and the benefits to be derived from the costs of the
    activity.
    ...
    Therefore,
    the target distribution of funds is 45 percent for career departments
    and 55 percent for volunteer/combination departments.
    ...
    Supplemental Questions:
    (m) What percentage of your annual operating budget is for
    personnel?
    (n) What percentage of your budget comes from: taxes, State or
    Federal grants, donations, and/or fund raising drives?
    (t) Are you willing to comply with the grant program's cost-share
    requirement?
    ...
    The narrative should explain why the grant funds are needed and why the
    department has not been able to obtain funding for the planned
    activities on its own. A discussion of financial need should include a
    discussion of any Federal funding received for similar activities.
    Finally, the applicant's narrative will detail the benefits the
    department or community will realize as a result of the grant award.


    Maybe you don't even tell them about the new truck.

    Why would you? They don't ask (unless you were going for a vehicle grant).

    why the department has not been able to obtain funding for the planned activities on its own

    That's pretty much says it's not your overall financial picture, it's your picture on this project.

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    Arrow

    My department received the dear john letter
    just prior to the round announced on December 15th.

    I believe it is one heck of an acomplishment on my
    Chief's part that we made it this far and did not
    use a professional grant writer (the chief wrote the
    narrative).

    This makes me believe that we were just short of the
    5500 department cut off point. My question is this -
    If some departments were awarded grants and found to
    not be able to secure the matching funds, does their
    grant money return to FEMA and can FEMA then award
    more grants to those departments who have already
    received a dear john letter (like my department)?

    If anyone has knowledge, please reply. Disappointed
    but looking forward to 2003 and possibly 900 million.

    LTBIGE

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    Maybe you don't even tell them about the new truck. Why would you? They don't ask (unless you were going for a vehicle grant).
    You are right. . . guess I expected way to much from those I call brothers. Hold those awards high, and feel proud, you deserve them. The system says so.
    Last edited by ffemt1; 01-06-2003 at 11:39 PM.
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    LTBIGE (and everyone else who wanted to know)

    Yes, those that can't find the matching will find their federal portion thrown back into the pot for the next person in line. Being so late in the game, I would venture to guess that 99% of the confirmation of dept's having the matching money was done already, which is why it took so long to get the last couple of thousand Dear John's out the door. But it's not impossible for someone who received a rejection to end up getting another phone call. I'd start working on next year's anyway.

    Something I just thought of for next year for those that need air packs. Go for longer lasting bottles, like 45 or 60 minute ones. If mutual and and cascades are few are far between, then it's a way to make the interior attack last a little longer. Especially go for the 60 minute bottles if you're equipping a RIT team, even if you don't equip the whole department.

    Don't be scared off by large price tags on buying equipment, unless you're matching bucks are very short in number. Look at the size of some of the awards this year for the different catagories. It proves that if you explain your projects costs and benefits to your dept and the mutual aid dept's, and the community, FEMA will show you the money.

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    Originally posted by BC79er
    To take from the rejection letter, the solution had to be a COST EFFECTIVE solution. If you're starving for bucks to try and fix an old apparatus, then the logic follows, you'd be even worse of trying to fix a new apparatus whose repairs, parts and routine maintenance are more expensive than the old one. (In most cases anyway.)

    Oddly enough, that was one of the arguments that I used in my narrative. I mentioned the fact that we had spent over $3000 to repair our first out truck, and I told them how the truck breaking down had affected department morale and our membership was being affected because of it. We needed a new truck not only because we couldnt afford it, but because our department needed an injection of something newer.

    Sure, routine maintenance might be more expsensive on a newer vehicle, but at least it WILL work when it gets on scene, whereas you might not even get on scene with our older apparatus. There was a key word in one of the articles mentioned earlier. You have to express a "COMPELLING" story, and that is exactly what I did. I went after the reviewer's heart.


    Looks like I hit what I was aiming for.



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    Originally posted by BC79er
    Something I just thought of for next year for those that need air packs. Go for longer lasting bottles, like 45 or 60 minute ones. If mutual and and cascades are few are far between, then it's a way to make the interior attack last a little longer. Especially go for the 60 minute bottles if you're equipping a RIT team, even if you don't equip the whole department.


    Ok, I've got a gripe. Our local districts all have Scott 2.2 air packs. This is nice, because on scene you can swap bottles, so a protable cascade is not really needed. But for our grant this year, I checked that nice little box that said "This will be used to provide RIT for adjacent departments". And so I chose to equip our new truck with Scott 4.5 packs with 45 minute bottles. In the narrative, I explaine they would be used for a RIT team.

    Now, all said and done, we got our grant. And low and behold, Im being told it is a bad idea to get the 4.5 packs, because our department will no longer be compatible to other departments. But, this is for a RIT team, compatability is not a major concern for me at this point. I could have just bought a truck, and not even equiped it per NFPA regs, but I chose to follow NFPA guidlines to the letter for equiping an Initial Attack class truck. I hand picked everything from a pike pole to a rubber mallet (NFPA required).

    Now my issue is this, why all the harrasment and problems with our new equipment? From what I understand as your saying, 45 & 60 minute bottles are ideal for interior attacks. Sure, in an ideal world, you would not want your guys inside an active structure fire at all, but truth be known, you dont want to pull them out just because their air packs are running low.

    What I want to know is, why do you recommend the 4500psi packs over 2216 packs (which seem not to be the main stream products from Air pack MFGs any more) ??

    Also, I was told that you shouldnt want your personnel inside for longer than 30 minutes at the time. Being a small rural Vol dept, we dont have many structure calls. In all honesty, the equipment will most likely sit in the truck, unless we respond mutual aid and provide RIT, at least that is how I see it.


    Andrew

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    As far as bottle minutes are concerned, the ratings are for a "normal" human being at rest. When was the last time anyone actively fighting the fire felt like they were at rest? We've done several air consumption drills to simulate the physical demands of an interior fight. The longest we got out of a 30 minute 4500psi bottle, was 21 minutes from initial breath to sucking the mask in. And that was the shortest guy in the dept (ie, smallest lungs, smallest demand for air). Granted you'd be on your way out by the time the vibe-alert went off, but we did it to the complete end to give our people the feel of how much time they really had between vibe-alert and mask-suck syndrome, and to let them know what sucking the mask really feels like. Let's just say the pucker-factor was hi on some people when they realized there was nothing left.

    Anywho, back to the math: the average person got from 11-14 function minutes before vibe-alert on a 30 minute bottle. So on a 45 minute bottle, they'd be somewhere between 18 and 22 minutes before vibe-alert, and on a 60 minute bottle somewhere in the 25-30 minute range. Obviously those that are in better shape will last longer. But considering that heart attacks are the leading killer of firefighters, as a breed we're not exactly the epitome of fitness. So even with 60 minute bottles, no one is passing the 30 minute interior "limit". The other benefit to the longer air bottles, is if (God forbid) someone gets trapped, disoriented, or whatever. They can sit down and set off the PASS alarm, call Mayday, etc, and they've got more air. Since they'd be at rest, they will have more time on air, and more chance of survival.

    In our RIT drills, we've found that just doing the searching for the "victims" can use up most of a 30 minute bottle because of the adrenaline rush among other factors. Our SOP is to bring a tag line, and when the victim is found, the 2nd RIT team hauls *** up the line where the 1st team has begun assessment of the situation and packaging the patient if possible. Any entrapment, severe injuries, or anything like that will extend removal of the patient, so the 60 minute bottles we've now gone to ensure that Team 1 can find and start assessment of the situation, Team 2 will have plenty to work with when they get in, and Team 3 will have the same situation as Team 2 if needed. If may only seem like a couple of minutes difference in the bottles, but anyone that has been in that situation, there's no worse feeling than just finding the victim and having your vibe-alert go off.

    You shouldn't be getting gripes about not being able to switch out the bottles you bought for the truck. It's a RIT truck! They're not going to be involved in supression anyway, so there will have to be another way to get the 2.2's switched or refilled. Besides, the RIT truck wasn't called for suppression anyway, so all of the other trucks they invited should have plenty of 2.2s. Remember, RIT should be treated like it isn't there until they're called for.

    Stay safe.

    Brian
    Brian P. Vickers
    www.vickersconsultingservices.com
    Emergency Services Consulting
    Westlake VFD - Houston, TX
    Proud Member IACOJ - Redneck Division

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