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    Default Do rural FDs deserve grants?

    I believe they do, but some feel otherwise. Please take a few minutes to read this article. It was in the Belleville News Democrat on Sunday. Most of the members that post here are exactly who they are saying shouldn't get FEMA grant money. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts. I'm interested in your opinion.

    Parceling out security funds

    Grants to rural fire departments lead to questions of priority

    BY SCOTT WUERZ

    swuerz@bnd.com


    Department of Homeland Security grants are intended to help the United States defend itself from terrorists by giving emergency crews the tools they need to respond to an attack.

    But three years into the fire department grant program, firefighters and government officials alike wonder whether the money is going where it is really needed.

    "There has been an ongoing debate in Washington the last couple of years," said Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. "There have been a lot of complaints that small, rural areas that terrorists can't even find are getting so much of the money. A lot of people think a higher percentage needs to go to the more urban areas."

    O'Fallon Fire Chief Brent Saunders said he has been frustrated by being frozen out of the grant program. He said there are many potential terrorist targets in the metro-east and local firefighters could use federal assistance in protecting them.

    "We're fortunate to be better off than a lot of other departments in that our front-line equipment is pretty new," Saunders said. "But we are located near a major city and a military installation that could both be terrorist targets, plus there are a lot of people who live in this area."

    Patty Thompson, spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said it may seem as though grants are handed out haphazardly, but the state has a plan to regionalize the response to terrorism.

    "Our communities work together to form layers of protection," Thompson said. "If we give a grant for a firetruck to one community, it's not just for them. It's for the use of all of the people in that area."

    Getting equipped?

    The big-ticket item on the list of St. Clair County needs is a radio system that would allow all area police and fire departments to communicate with each other directly in case of a disaster, Saunders said.

    The current radio systems work on incompatible frequencies and don't have the range to work outside the officers' home jurisdictions.

    "There was a referendum on the ballot to pay for the radios, but it failed," Saunders said. "If we were to get the money to pay for that, it would have a big impact on the safety of our residents."

    The 800 megahertz radios cost up to $3,400 each. The March referendum would have set aside $25 million to equip as many police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers as possible with them. By putting the infrastructure in place, departments would be in a position to get extra equipment on their own.

    But instead of the big-ticket items, Southern Illinois fire departments are getting new versions of their day-to-day equipment.

    The Belleville Fire Department in September got a $128,279 grant to buy new personal breathing apparatus for firefighters, even though it recently spent local taxpayers' money to update and refurbish the breathing units it already had, according to Chief David Martinson. The Northwest Volunteer Fire Department, which also serves the Belleville area, found out Oct. 29 that it has been awarded $129,280 for similar breathing equipment and training.

    Other Southern Illinois towns also got grants.

    Centralia got $42,165; West Frankfort, $27,000; Christopher, $55,818 and DuQuoin, $31,500 for equipment.

    Firetrucks are a popular grant request. In the past three months, the Pittsburg Volunteer Fire Department -- near West Frankfort in a rural area about 95 miles southeast of Belleville, received $172,800 to buy a new firetruck. Germantown, population 1,118, got $198,000 for a truck, and the Prairie DuPont Fire Department, which serves the 267 people of East Carondelet, got $157,500 for a new firetruck.

    Slicing the pie

    Despite claims the money is being spent wisely, some theorize the reason rural departments are getting such a large piece of the grant pie is because political battlegrounds, not potential terrorist battlegrounds, are Congress' priority.

    Firetrucks, equipment and training are passed out as pork to places that really don't need them, according to a New York congressman.

    Eliot Engel, a Democrat who represents the Bronx, fought in vain over the summer to recalculate the formula by which Homeland Security money is distributed. A complicated set of factors determines who gets money and who doesn't. Engel wants the population of an area to be a bigger factor.

    "We're all political people who want to do what's right by our constituents," Engel said. "But this is money that is to be used to protect our people, not as pork to be handed out by those with the most political influence."

    Engel said he thinks the bulk of the money should go to places with more people to protect.

    "Places like New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles are places we know are of interest for terrorists," Engel said. "We shouldn't play games with people's safety."

    Breaking it down by dollars per capita, New York, with a population of 19.2 million, got 87 cents per person. Pennsylvania got $2.21 for each of its 12.3 million people. In Illinois, $1.11 was spent in 2004 for each of its 12.6 million residents.

    The efforts of Engel and other urban congressmen to change the formula were shot down by leaders from Midwestern and rural states who didn't want to lose the cash, Engel said.

    Thinking regionally

    Fairview Heights Fire Chief Don Feher has Interstate 64, St. Clair Square and retail stores spread all over his jurisdiction. His department received about $30,000 from the Department of Homeland Security. It was used to put in a new ventilation system at the firehouse.

    But Feher said he isn't worried about local firefighters' ability to react to a terrorist attack.

    "We have focused our attention on a regional basis," Feher said. "We have St. Clair Special Emergency Services and Technical Rescue for handling and monitoring biological and radiological types of incidents. They would be our response agency.

    "Doing things regionally is certainly the most efficient and cost effective," he added. "But even though it is through the Department of Homeland Security, the Assistance to Firefighters grants program is really about getting front-line equipment into the hands of those who don't have it."

    Feher said it doesn't make sense to give complicated equipment used to fight chemical attacks to small-town fire departments.

    "Not every fire department has that kind of stuff, and they wouldn't know what to do with it if they had it," Feher said.

    While he has his own wish list, Saunders said he thinks it is a good thing small-town departments are getting equipment, too.

    "While major cities and more populated areas have planned more for terrorist activities, that doesn't exclude smaller areas from being a target," Saunders said. "No one knows the mind of terrorists and what they are going to do."

    Fitzgerald, who did not run for re-election, said he is confident a bill he sponsored that passed in September will help control the money that is being spent in the name of homeland security.

    The new law, Fitzgerald said, will force the Department of Homeland Security to require specific information about how grant money will be used and a follow-up to make sure the money is spent for its intended purpose.

    U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, a Belleville Democrat, agreed.

    "The intent of the law was pretty well spelled out," Costello said. "It's clear that there are abuses in almost every program. But I think the Homeland Security Department has received the message loud and clear that they have to use the money for what it was intended."

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    Ok then. According to that article the only thing that all first responders should be worried about is terrorism. What about the small town dept covering 75 square miles and still using 1950s equipment? I will admit that terrorism is a VERY big concern in the 21st century but what about the basic issues we respond to everyday. Does that mean that small town depts dont deserve to be protected like say, St. Louis?

    Also these people need to open their eyes a little more. Remember what happened on 9-11. A commercial airliner crashed into the Penn. countryside. What size dept provided the fire protection for that area? It sure wasn't a dept with a multi-million dollar budget. We all must be aware of the possibility of terror attacks and their needs of response.

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    All that I'm going to say on this subject is that the Fire Act was instituted to help ALL fire departments get needed equipment, training, etc. I'll point out also that this program was started before 9/11 happened. Unfortunately, those events changed many things but they still do not change the fact that many departments need the help in funding. Sorry, but I feel no sympathy toward a department that can't get $3,400 radios when I know of firefighters that are risking their lives wearing patched up, hand me down gear or driving vehicles that may or may not make it to the scene. That's all I'm going to say before I get out of control.
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    Seems to me that these bone heads are confusing Homeland Security crap with the FIRE Act. Why are they doing this? Because, for some reason, GW decided that the USFA, who administers the FIRE Act, should operate under the Department of Homeland Security. Okay, fine. But they need to separate a grant program that was already in play prior to September 11 and continues as part of the federal effort to improve fire and emergency response nation-wide.

    The FIRE Act is not and never was intended to be used for "terrorism preparedness."

    Once again, there are politicians and worse, still, reporters who are spewing nonsense without getting all the facts.

    Furthermore, it is a distortion of facts and a blatant attempt by those people who know how to manipulate statistics to pull out this "per capita" spending bull#&$^. Let's take a close look at those per capita numbers once, and multiply it out into the grant awards....:

    New York: 19.2 Milllion at 87 = $16,704,000

    Pennsylvania: 12.3 million at $2.21 = $27,183,000

    Illinois, 12.6 million at $1.11 = $13,986,000

    With all the money being tossed around for "homeland security" (those APR masks we all got: that was a SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR FEDERAL GRANT alone. Is that figure in this reporter's numbers?).

    Okay, now add up fiscal year 2004 FIRE Act grant awards to each state, so far:

    New York: $34,600,730
    Pennsylvania: $46,439,514
    Illinois: $29,085,665
    (source)

    Not quite the numbers he's quoting in his article. Finally, just to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples, I tracked down the deptartments he listed. Here's the order they were awarded:

    Belleville: 14th round
    Northwest: 19th round
    Centrailia: 12th round
    West Frankfort: 19th round
    Christopher: 19th round
    DuQuoin: 15th round
    Pittsburg: 19th round
    Germantown: 12th round
    Prairie DuPoint: 9th round
    Fairview Heights: 17th round
    (source)

    SFD, if you don't write a letter to the editor about this crap, I will.

    (editted to correct my math on the FIRE Act Grants and add sources. I had happy fingers.)
    Last edited by jaybird210; 11-17-2004 at 01:32 PM.
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    Most of the people that read this don't know the newspaper that it came from. That rag stirs up more crap than any other news media around.
    I will send them a note and give my opinion of the program. (By the way, this year I like it) The turkeys didn't even mention my department's grant. Chad and Jay mentioned it before I got a chance to but the program was started well before 9/11. It has taken a hit since then with more $ going to terrorist related activities (critical infrastructures?) than in the first couple years. Sure some depts. get money that we think don't need it. Sure some of them get 2 or 3 grants while some get none. They wouldn't give us money to replace our 30 YO engine, the newest one we had, so we borrowed money to buy one. Then we didn't have money to replace our 40 YO SCBA. We're grateful for the grant to get them this year.
    And the $7 million gas mask program? THAT IMO is a waste. There's thousands of them that will sit on a shelf and finally get pitched in the dumpster because they've never gotten used. Nobody can argue that. What is there, something like 400 departments that didn't respond and now MSA is beating the bushes to get rid of all those masks. Probably their profit margin. I think I'll mention that in my note to the paper. I just wonder how much MSA and Air One made on that deal.
    Now if I could only figure why the state is putting up a $7 million visitors center in Belleville and they couldn't release $50k for our fire station and they won't release money for Kaskaskia College to replace their 40 YO "temporary" classrooms. I'll bet the Belleville News Democrat won't complain about the visitors center.
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    Well;
    With the new APR masks, at least the fire departments will be protected against all those nasty terrorist gases.
    DHS has so much money, they are having trouble finding ways to spend it.
    The logic seems to be since 9/11 that we no longer have fires, car wrecks, fire stations in need of repair/replacement, HazMat, trench collapses, building collapses, drownings, etc.
    Yeah; the bigger cities with the bigger tax bases should get a bigger share of the federal funding pie.
    I mean; who else can boast of a lesbian museum?
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    Did Art just say "Lesbian Museum" ? ...........210 are you UHMMmmmmm "reconnected" ?
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    I agree with all of you. Like most media, the whole story wasn't told. I don't even know why the homeland security phrase was thrown around so much. Who knew the Fire Act was only for terrorism? You guys should have seen the picture on the front page. It was O'Fallon's chief, with arms crossed and a smug look on his face. Why does his dept have such a terrorism concern? Oh yeah, I forgot that New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, and O'Fallon, IL are the top terrorist targets in the US.

    In case you didn't notice, the author's email is at the top of the story, if you'd like to give your opinion. Here is a link to the News Democrat's contact info:

    http://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/contact_us/

    And yes, I also think the MSA masks were a waste. Mine is on the floor of my coat closet. I heard MSA made $4.5 million, but that sounds low to me.

    Thanks for the opinions.
    Last edited by SFDredhat126; 11-18-2004 at 01:46 AM.

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    Whats with O'Fallon? sounds to me like he,s whining.Jays right there talking about 2 different grants. My guess is the reporter doesn't have a clue. Sure we all get ****ed when we see someone who don't need it, gets it's, but hay, thats the way the water falls.I know some of the FF's that review our apps and its done on a points systems, that is if the computer dosen't kick you out first for not meeting there requirments. Anyways,i think we should not only email the reporter but also the O'Fallon chief and tell them to get there facts stright.

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    Something I haven't seen discussed yet is the fact that if we are attacked, strategically they would go for the biggest bang. So would it be inconceivable that New York or Washington DC would be one of the first attacked. If we put all our eggs in those baskets, the equipment residing inside those baskets would be toast too. I don't think it's a bad strategy to store eqiupment in small rural areas away from large targets.

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    I think it's a case of people that dont know what they are talking about trying to sound like they do. I dont know when this article was written but FIRE ACT has been around longer than 3 years. My dept has applied for four years and have been awarded 3 times. We never would have been able to upgrade our SCBA's, get new gear for the dept, a TIC, replace 2 older trucks, buy a new vent saw, and get an airbag set in 4 years. granted we replace the 2 older trucks with one grant for a new apparatus and the gear and SCBA were one grant we still never would have been able to do it. I think this chief needs to learn to ask for help if they want a grant that badly. Maybe they just need a new chief..... we had a new chief elected about 5 years ago and he has turned the dept around 180 degrees, our old chief was a good guy but he was sorta stuck in the old ways of doing things. If he wants terrorism money they should contact the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.
    Last edited by firefighterox; 10-28-2006 at 07:10 PM.
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    ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS GRANT not ASSISTANCE TO HELP FIREFIGHTERS COMBAT TERRORISM GRANTS..should be that simple

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    And the $7 million gas mask program? THAT IMO is a waste. There's thousands of them that will sit on a shelf and finally get pitched in the dumpster because they've never gotten used. Nobody can argue that. What is there, something like 400 departments that didn't respond and now MSA is beating the bushes to get rid of all those masks. Probably their profit margin. I think I'll mention that in my note to the paper. I just wonder how much MSA and Air One made on that deal.
    Now if I could only figure why the state is putting up a $7 million visitors center in Belleville and they couldn't release $50k for our fire station and they won't release money for Kaskaskia College to replace their 40 YO "temporary" classrooms. I'll bet the Belleville News Democrat won't complain about the visitors center.
    Jack; don't worry. The pendulum will swing in our favor come Nov. 7th. Blago was only rewarding those who contributed to his election. He has proven without a doubt that, even if the accusations can't be proven, it has left enough doubts in peoples' minds that he'll have to literally buy this election.
    Too bad Topinka couldn't step it up when the news broke that Blago was hiring inferior candidates for state jobs. When the list of "unsuccessful" candidates hit the papers-and I hope it's before Nov. 7th-it will seal Blago's fate and all thoughts of running for President.
    I'm a Republican and I was repulsed with Ryan's conduct. But Ryan's a boy scout compared to Blago. Ryan committed his crimes over a long political career. Blago managed to surpass Ryan in corruption in just 3 short years.
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    WOW what a bunch of bull...once again miss informed reporters running off at the mouth again.......first off they did not mention what yearly budgets the departments that got grants have to work with......my bet would be that those "BIG" departments **** away more money in a year then many other departments even have for a yearly budget.

    another point is..and this would be a cool poll to see here.... 800 MHZ? are u kidding me......the only ones in our area who run on 800 is our local PD and it sucks....I thought the key word was ineroperability? if I spelled that right LOL


    all the Depts I know in our area work on VHF........we are close enough to the meto east that we could do a MABAS response to that area and we don't have a 800 MHZ radio 1

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    Here's an article from an Alabama newspaper that tells the real story about the AFG grant program. And it also mentions that there's no relation to the terrorism grants. Our MABAS division has gotten some terrorism funded equipment so it's not just going to the big cities. We may never uses it for terrorism but it will get used for incidents in our area. I for one think DHS does a good job picking and choosing through the 20,000 or so applications.

    Rumor has it that grants will be started up again this Friday. We havent' heard anything yet.


    Posted on Sun, Oct. 29, 2006








    Federal fire grants not risk-based; Alabama leads, despite size

    BEN EVANS
    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON - Georgia sits next door to Alabama and has twice the population. But when the Homeland Security Department handed out firefighting grants last year - for trucks, gear, even uniforms - it gave Alabama's agencies more than double what it gave Georgia's.

    The difference wasn't a fluke. Alabama has been among the top grant winners in the program for several years, and so far in 2006 ranks first among all states.

    So why does a small Southern state get such a large piece of the federal pie?

    Apparently because it asks.

    Statistics for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program - the nation's largest firefighting grant initiative - show that states get widely varying shares of a $600 million federal funding pool, based largely on how many grant applications they submit rather than population or risk-based factors.

    Alabama departments, for example, were awarded $21.7 million in grants in 2005, or $4.76 per person in a state with a population of about 4.5 million. Georgia, with about 9 million people, received $10.4 million, or $1.15 per person. Alabama departments, however, submitted 677 applications compared with 342 from Georgia.

    "All we do is work to be as aggressive as we can," Alabama Homeland Security Director Jim Walker said. "It's really a matter of reading the guidelines and ... getting the word out."

    Pennsylvania has topped the list in recent years. Submitting 1,939 applications in 2005, the state's local departments won $41.3 million in grants, or about $3.32 per person. Agencies in California, which sent 524 applications, got $26.3 million, or about 73 cents per person.

    Nevada submitted just 44 applications for $2.1 million, or about 88 cents per person, while Montana submitted 224 applications for $6.8 million, or $7.25 per person.

    Homeland Security officials emphasize that while other federal grants are focused on potential terrorist attacks in large urban areas, the firefighting grants - as designed by Congress - were established before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and are aimed at building basic capabilities at local departments across the country. The applications are scored by industry peers, and grants are awarded largely based on those reviews, they said.

    "A lot of this comes back to the fact that some states have taken a very active role," said George Foresman, undersecretary for preparedness at Homeland Security, noting that Pennsylvania is well-known for its vast, tight-knit network of small departments. "It just differs from state to state."

    The geographical discrepancies, however, underscore the debate about whether Homeland Security funding should be spent on what traditionally has been a local responsibility, said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who focuses on organizational performance.

    Some critics, including the Bush administration - which has repeatedly sought to slash the program's budget - argue that Homeland Security money should be focused in higher-risk areas.

    "If the equipment isn't up to speed in Alabama, it's not the federal government's responsibility to do all the work," Light said.

    But the grants are extremely popular in the firefighting community, and in Congress. Fire professionals say the money is critical for building a nationwide emergency network, noting for example that thousands of firefighters from across the country poured into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

    They also point out that demand for the grants overall has far exceeded available funding. Homeland Security typically gets some 20,000 applications a year and turns down two-thirds of them.

    Homeland Security officials say they don't know why some departments have more aggressively tapped into the program, noting that they conduct hundreds of workshops around the country encouraging local agencies to apply.

    Rich Duffy, assistant to the general president at the International Association of Firefighters union, said the grant application process is relatively easy and agreed that some departments are simply more attuned to the program.

    "We've done our best to alert our members to the availability of funds," Duffy said. "It's not just the fire departments, though. It's the cities. You're dealing with a bureaucracy on a city level as well that probably just doesn't understand it."

    First authorized in 2000 and handled initially by the federal emergency management agency, the program allows local departments to apply directly to Homeland Security for money to be used on clothing, tools, training equipment, vehicles and other needs. Most grants are less than $300,000, although cities can get as much as $2 million.

    Larger departments, in cities with populations of 50,000 or more, are required to provide a 20 percent funding match, versus just 5 percent for smaller agencies.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
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    Jack, did you read the other article, sounds like DHS is trying to take our money. I think for the most part DHS does do a good job weeding app's, but, there are some.....Big dollar departments in the Burbs, you know, that state north of I80 And small dept's that don't have nothing, don't do nothing, and don't no what they got when they get it, I've seen it around here. Still think they ought to make training hours part of the app. We seem to get dinged because we have bettered ourself's. Borrowed money, fundraisers, even bought some stuff used. We serve a town of 600 and are a class 6(close to and working on a 5), I don't think there are to many in the state that can say that. Well my blood pressure is going up so I'll end this.Can you tell we have never gotten a grant. As far as UHF/VHF goes, MABAS requires everyone to have certain channels, the first 4 are vhf, ifern,red white and blue.

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    "Statistics for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program - the nation's largest firefighting grant initiative - show that states get widely varying shares of a $600 million federal funding pool, based largely on how many grant applications they submit rather than population or risk-based factors."

    I can't stand it when the news reports the obvious with a good dose of mis-information.

    The more applications that come from a state the higher the percentage of awards. Who would have ever thought that was possible? I mean, it is as if I bought more lottery tickets, my chance of winning is higher. This is one fine piece of investigative reporting.

    The media is hung up on per capita amounts for DHS grants. If the reporter actually read the rules for the grants, he would not find any reference to per capita amounts. Why not compare the awards to the number of registered democrats who drive imported cars. It has the same relevance.

    As far as risk based, I know on all my grant applications have a risk analysis. Oh wait, since DHS administers the grant, it must only deal with terrorism, not supplying basic fire fighting equipment.

    My blood pressure is high enough now, stepping down from my soapbox.
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    Trainer, you guys have done a great job, better than a good number of departments. Getting to a ISO 6 is tough, much less a 5. Good luck on that endeavor.
    It is possible to get a AFG grant, you just have to play by their rules. Read the program guidance and ask for what they have that will fit into your needs. We got nothing the first 2 years, then learned a lot from our mistakes. We were awarded the last 2 years and are still waiting this year. Would we have gotten along without them? Sure we would but it would have taken a whole lot longer to do it on our own. Don't give up on the grants, just make your application a little smarter.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
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    Rules, you mean that we have to follow? The problem is that our needs don't fit into there rules. We could ask for a bunch of stuff that we don't need, I know this happens, but we won't do that. I think we have wrote some good grants, just ain't lucky enough. Or could it be that CR has ****ed off to many people

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