Posts Tagged Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response

Champaign Fire Department news

Excerpts from the news-gazette.com:

A $1.3 million Department of Homeland Security grant, awarded to the fire department last year, was formally enacted this week to hire six new firefighters.

The grant, called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, will last for two years. City staff and the city council are now looking into their options for when the grant expires.

“We’re going to study this for two years to come up with a continuity plan,” said Fire Chief Gary Ludwig. “We want to figure out how we (keep the six firefighters) in the future without reducing city services.”

A proposition for the study, also being called a stainability plan, will have its first appearance at next Tuesday’s city council meeting. Ludwig said he’s not opposed to re-applying for the grant after it ends but he’s unsure if it will be made available again.

Champaign Budget Officer Molly Talkington said the study’s goal will be to “maintain the increased staffing level for Ladder 164 on a recurring basis after the grant expires.” Ladder 164 is located at fire station four on W. John street.

The increased staffing level at hand is 28 firefighters instead of 27. Whenever the station is short-staffed, which Ludwig said happens almost daily, firefighters are called back on mandatory overtime.

Over the past several years, that overtime has cost the department an additional $300,000 at minimum.

“Three years of data reflects that 3.25 – 4.00 firefighters are off each day for leave other than vacation or Kelly Days,” according to the report.

“A Kelly day is when each firefighter is given an average of 8.7 days off per fiscal year to compensate for working a 56-hour work week when a firefighter’s normal work week is 52 hours.”

In addition, Ladder 164 is currently staffed with two firefighters, which the report says causes safety concerns because the ladder can’t be fully operational.

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Streamwood receives SAFER Grant – reopens shuttered firehouse

The Daily Herald has an article about the Streamwood Fire Department reopening a fire station after being closed for four years.

Nearly four years after what some residents saw as the sudden closing of a Streamwood firehouse, officials have quietly reopened the station thanks to a grant that put more firefighters on the job. The Park Boulevard station began operating again this week. At least three firefighter-paramedics are now assigned there for each 24-hour shift.

Fire Chief Chris Clark said Friday he expects the reopening to reduce the time it takes for crews to respond to emergencies, especially along Lake Street where industrial developments have popped up on what was vacant land in recent years. Facilities like a 24-hour food processing plant have contributed to a rise in calls for service on the village’s south side, Clark said.

In December 2012, Streamwood won a $627,000 federal grant to hire three firefighters. Only one other department in the state received the funding administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant enabled the department to bring its ranks up to 50 firefighting personnel. With the grant, provided by the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program, the department can now run three-person crews in all of the stations.

Streamwood weathered the economic slump by reducing the force to 47 firefighting positions through attrition. The department also eliminated the position of a full-time fire inspector who retired and reassigned those duties to other staffers. And in April 2010, the department shuttered the Park Boulevard station, sparking a protest and fears of an increase in response times. But officials defended the move, arguing that the closing improved operations.

Matt Dobson, who spearheaded the public outcry, wanted more of a heads-up to neighborhoods affected by the change. Village officials, though, say they reviewed the closing in a budget meeting. Dobson learned the station had reopened only when he drove by and saw the American flag flying outside the entrance. Up until Monday, the department used the station for training and storage of equipment.

Streamwood must keep the three firefighter-paramedics on the job for two years. With a rebounding local economy, the chief expects the department to retain them even longer.“We are very confident that we will be able to maintain those positions through our current revenue streams,” he said.

thanks Dan 

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Naperville gets SAFER grant

The Daily Herald has an article about the Naperville FD being awarded a SAFER grant;

Staffing a fire department can be a challenging task of shifting numbers and hours and personnel, but the job got a bit easier for Naperville Chief Mark Puknaitis with the recent announcement of more than $1 million in grant funding to pay salaries and benefits over the next two years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave Naperville the money through the SAFERprogram, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.

Puknaitis said the funds likely will allow his department to hire three firefighter/paramedics. The hiring will help fill a void left by attrition over the past few years, which has resulted in six vacant firefighter/paramedic positions and two vacant administrative positions.

“It’s important because it’s a million dollars and it’s something that is going to help us maintain our staffing levels in the fire department,” Puknaitis said.

Any firefighter/paramedics hired using the SAFER grant money, which totals $1,002,000, would work in the operations division. Puknaitis said Naperville currently has 185 operations personnel split into three 24-hour shifts.

The chief will work with the city’s finance department to form a budget and determine exactly how many new firefighter/paramedics he can hire using the SAFER grant.

Recruitment to fill the positions must begin within 90 days of the city receiving the grant, and the city must maintain its previous staffing level and the new positions for the two-year duration of the funding.

Puknaitis said about 2,500 fire departments across the nation applied for the SAFER funding and only between 300 and 350 received it.

thanks Dan

Also, from the Naperville Sun … apparently Naperville’s firefighting agency also got a grant …

Naperville’s firefighting agency will be getting a hand with covering its staffing expenses, thanks to more than $1 million in federal grant money announced by local lawmakers.

The offices of U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) notified the city of the $1,002,000 award, part of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The grant program is designed to help prevent staff cuts or to rehire responders who have been let go because of funding constraints.

“It is critical that we make sure our first responders have the tools they need to keep our communities safe,” Foster said in a news release.

Naperville Fire Department Chief Mark Puknaitis said the city applied for the SAFER funds last year. The department currently has six vacancies in its operations division, he said, and several current firefighters plan to retire this year.

The wave of retirees was not unexpected. When the city’s growth boom was gaining steam in the late 1970s and early ’80s, firefighters were being hired in groups of 15 or more, the chief said. During that period, the city’s three fire stations increased to the 10 in use today.

“Our department is in a natural progression of people retiring,” Puknaitis said. “We’re going to see that trend continue, in the next five to 10 years for sure.”

While the new hires will be paid less, he noted the flip side is that they will not bring to the job the body of experience in public safety that has been accrued among those leaving the profession.

“We need to have the funding to replace them,” said the chief, emphasizing that his department minimizes personnel costs as much as possible, and applies for grants at nearly every opportunity. “An award like this helps me tremendously in getting approval for positions that I have in my budget. … It’s not, ‘Hey we’ve got extra money so let’s put a couple more people on.’”

The money, to be funneled to the department over the next two years, is required to go to personnel and benefits. It can’t be used for such purposes as remodeling a firehouse or buying new equipment, Puknaitis said.

“A million bucks over two years is huge,” he said. “And they don’t give that kind of money to just anybody.”

thanks Chris

firefighting agency … are you kidding me?

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East St. Louis to lay off firefighters

According to an article found at BND.com, the City of East St. Louis plans on laying off 17 firefighters as the result of a SAFER Grant which has run out.

EAST ST. LOUIS — Seventeen firefighters who were hired with grant money have received notices that they will be laid off effective Sept. 30, unless city leaders find other means to pay them.

City Manager Deletra Hudson sent a letter to the firefighters dated Aug. 22 telling them that the city “has been forced to make some difficult financial decisions to meet its budgetary obligations.” The News-Democrat obtained a copy of the letter.

The money came from a SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. The grant, which was used to pay the firefighters’ salaries, has run out, forcing the city to send out the lay-off notices.

The grant, which was good for a year, ran out on March 30.

In the letter from Hudson, the firefighters were directed to turn in all keys, identification badges, gas cards and all other city property to the department director. The letter also said that the firemen would be notified in writing of their rights “regarding continuation coverage for health, dental and vision insurance and any unused vacation days.”

Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said the department has a total of 54 firemen, including the 17 who are slated to be laid off.

Mayor Alvin Parks said after the grant ran out in March the city found some extra money to keep the firefighters on the job until the end of September.

Parks acknowledged that 19 layoff letters were mailed out, but he said two of the firefighters’ salaries were transferred to the general fund, so for now, only 17 may actually be laid off.

“I have complete confidence in the fire department administration. I am confident they will utilize creativity and resourcefulness to keep negative impact to a minimum,” Parks said.

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