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IAFC loses AFG, near-miss program cut

The IAFC says the loss of funding may cause the loss of the data collected in the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System

FAIRFAX, Va. — The International Association of Fire Chiefs was notified Tuesday that its federal Assistance to Firefighter Grant was not approved.

The AFG supports the internationally acclaimed National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System. The system is a staple for local fire departments as it assists with safety resources, national data collection, and college-level fire science classes, according to an IAFC report.

Funding is set to be cut off to the reporting system Sept. 28. The system currently has 13 partner organizations and is a "free, voluntary, confidential, non-punitive and secure reporting system to improve firefighter safety by providing lessons learned to local departments."

The IAFC officials say that the loss of the grant is secondary to the information that will be lost.

"Losing the ability to collect safety data on this scale is hard to believe, but what's particularly devastating is the loss of the ability for the fire departments to pull the analyzed data back out and put it to use," says IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section Chair Matt Tobia.

According to IAFC figures, 30,000 to 150,000 people annually visited the database since its inception in August 2005.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents to a national survey said the near-miss reports helped change their protocol and approach. The survey also found that 36 percent of respondents reported that their departments used near-miss reports to change written procedures with 35 percent of respondents saying near-miss reports were incorporated into their training.

Historically, the near-miss program has been funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with an annual budget of $1 million. The IAFC is now examining what alternatives are available and to further understand why its AFG grant was not renewed; the association plans to reapply for the next grant cycle in fall 2012.

"We'll be working to understand what areas the reviewers perceived as deficient and what we can do to come back with a strong proposal for future funding," says IAFC CEO Mark Light. The IAFC will maintain possession of the data the system already has and use it to respond to data requests.

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