LEGISLATURE PASSES S.A.F.E.R. GRANT
TO INCREASE FIRE DEPARTMENT FUNDS
On Monday, January 13th, the Nassau County Legislature held their first committee meeting of 2020, and passed funding for Nassau’s volunteer fire departments, in the form of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The grant totals $860,400 received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is expected to pass the full legislature later this month.
The SAFER Grant program allows volunteer firefighters and first responders to attain 80 credit hours from Nassau Community College for free and continue their education. The program is widely used by the volunteer fire fighters and first responders, and aids in their member retention and acquisition. In the Fall of 2019 alone, over 180 volunteer fire fighters made use of the program at Nassau Community College. The program is open to both full time and part time students entering Nassau Community College who are also volunteer fire fighters or EMS in good standing. During the program, the student must maintain volunteer activity with the fire department, and after their study is complete, must commit to a volunteer fire department or EMS service obligation of two to five years.
In recent years, local volunteer fire departments have been struggling to recruit and retain members. The SAFER Grant was created to reverse that trend. Through the grant, funding is appropriated directly to the fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained front line firefighters available in their communities. The money was then used to fund the tuition of fire fighters, in order to increase their incentive for volunteering. The goal is to enhance local fire department’s abilities to comply with staffing, response and operations standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards.
“As a volunteer fire fighter, I know the dangers of the job, and struggle we have with retaining membership,” Legislator Steve Rhoads said. “This grant will help the brave men and women who risk their lives on every call they take. It’s a win for the fire fighters, and a win for the community.”
The Legislature has voted to authorize the program every year, and during a period when funding from the federal government was in question, the Legislature voted to indefinitely fund it regardless.