“Training Requirements for Fire Act Grants”

 

Training is becoming an increasingly stronger requirement for receiving a grant award. The following language appeared in the Official Program Guidance for the Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant in 2008:

 

The criteria development panel recommended that the AFG emphasize the importance of training in the FY 2008 program. As such, the FY 2008 application contained questions regarding the applicant's training certification level and interest in attaining higher levels of proficiency. The answers will not affect the preliminary screening of any application, but they will be available for consideration by the technical review panelists in their evaluation. We anticipate that the technical review panelists will not recommend awarding grants for applications where membership is not fully trained (commensurate with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1001 or an equivalent State standard) and where the applicant is not seeking funding to attain a minimum level of training for their membership.

 

According to my conversations and emails this language caught many by surprise but, it should not have done so. Although the emphasis for training and money to train has always been a part of the Fire Act grants, it has been ignored for quite some time. Many of you are wondering why this is being pushed now.

 

Since 2005 DHS has been posting the language and requiring compliance with NIMS and this of course related to training in NIMS mandates and procedures. As of October 1, 2006 it became a requirement for a grant award that you be in compliance with NIMS if you were to be eligible to receive an award for any Federal DHS grant money, regardless of career field. It should come as no great surprise that increased training was on their minds.

 

The basis for these requirements is actually quite simple, if broken down to its roots. The Fire Act Grants exist and have a main priority to reduce the injuries and LODD for both firefighters and the civilian population by fire. Now most of us have always interpreted that to mean that we have proper gear and equipment to do so, as these were the big financial draws on our budgets. As such PPE has always been a #1 priority for the AFG and is evidenced by the billions of dollars in equipment awards that have been supplied by this grant since its inception.

 

Wait a minute though! The Feds are sending us billions of dollars in high tech and expensive equipment but, are they even assured that the firefighters have been properly trained to use this new high tech equipment? In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing”.

 

Too many of us are dying, too many of us are becoming permanently disabled and this is even more costly to the citizens than the equipment we ask them to fund. Why should the citizens, which is who this grant money actually comes from in the form of taxes, not be assured that if they are going to give you a $250,000 new fire truck or $150,000 worth of new PPE, that you have the proper training in using it safely and employing it effectively?  What good does it do to enforce NFPA/OSHA/NIOSH regulations upon the contractors and owners of buildings and businesses where we fight these fires, if we do not enforce those same regulations upon ourselves? It is no longer a matter of “plowing the back forty” and jumping off the tractor and onto the fire truck when the siren goes off. Simply putting the “wet stuff on the hot stuff” no longer gets it. Your safety and that of your fellow firefighter is dependant upon proper equipment and the proper training to use that equipment.

 

It is not unreasonable at all for them to ask that if they are going to give you that equipment that your members be certified to a basic minimum standard. Our brothers in law enforcement have been asked to do this 15 years ago when training requirements went from a hundred hour police academy for a career cop or a simple 40 hour reserve/auxiliary standards course to what now amounts to 1200-2000 hours of training before you are ever allowed to carry and gun and a badge. Why should the same requirements not be enforced here?

 

Volunteering our time is no longer sufficient in this day of modern hazardous materials, explosive devices, terroristic acts and weapons of mass destruction. I am reminded of the words of Sean Connery in the Untouchables; “Rule #1, go home at the end of the day!”

 

by Kurt Bradley