Fire Service Grants' Impact Measured

The National Fire Protection Association released the Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service on June 16, a 216-page document that spells out a better preparedness posture for the U.S. fire service overall because of FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant programs. Significant unmet needs remain, however.

While 51 percent of all fire departments can't equip all of their firefighters on a shift with self-contained breathing apparatus, this percentage is down from 70 percent in 2001 and 60 percent in 2005, for example. The report says 39 percent of departments don't have enough personal alert safety system (PASS) devices for all emergency responders on a shift; this, too, is an improvement from 62 percent in 2001 and 48 percent in 2005.

The assessments are done to determine whether the competitively awarded grants are continuing to reduce the needs of fire departments. "Fire service needs are extensive across the board, and in nearly every area of need. The smaller the community protected, the greater the need," said James M. Shannon, president of NFPA. "While we are seeing the positive impact of well-targeted grants, there is more to be done to ensure our nation's fire departments are prepared to provide the necessary protection to their communities."

The report examined staffing, training, certification, wellness/fitness, facilities, apparatus, PPE, communications, and other factors. It found needs have declined the most in the areas of PPE and firefighting equipment, which are the two areas receiving the largest shares of funding from the grant programs. The level of training needs has seen less improvement, according to the report.

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