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Federal grants working for local fire departments

SAFER grants put much needed boots on the street

Editor's note: This week, Chief Adam K. Thiel weighs in on the concrete value SAFER grants bring to local fire departments.

Since before the Great Recession, federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grants have aided in local jurisdictions' constant struggle to maintain safe and effective staffing on front-line units (career and volunteer).

The efficacy and administration of federal homeland security grant programs, of which SAFER is a part, continue to be a subject of political debate. Part of the issue is that many folks in our communities don't entirely understand how their fire and emergency services are provided, by whom, and how much it costs.

Fundamentally, there's an idea that technology can somehow "stand-in" for "boots on the ground" firefighters; we know better.

Federal funding of front-line positions in state and local government agencies has a long history, both inside and outside the public safety domain. All kinds of education, healthcare, and law enforcement grants have existed for years to provide the essential human element for implementing programs at all levels of government.

SAFER, by contrast, is a relatively new grant program that has been subjected to frequent scrutiny and numerous changes to its program guidance over the past decade; and that's fine.

At the end of the day, however, and as this story demonstrates, there's no substitute for putting firefighters on the street — to fight fires and deliver the other critical services provided by fire departments in protecting our nation.

Stay safe!

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