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KEY POINTS

SAFER AND FIRE GRANTS

• The SAFER and FIRE grant programs provide funding directly to local fire departments to ensure such departments have sufficient personnel, equipment and training to operate safely and effectively.

• The SAFER and FIRE grant programs have been shown to be among the most efficient and effective grants administered by the Department of Homeland Security. By utilizing a peer-review process and awarding funds directly to fire departments, SAFER and FIRE grants go to those communities where they are most needed, with a minimum of overhead.

• All of the national organizations representing the fire service support the SAFER and FIRE grant programs, including groups representing fire chiefs, volunteer fire fighters, arson investigators, and fire training personnel. The programs are also supported by manufacturers of equipment and apparatus, as well as local government groups.

• The role of the fire service has transformed from providing local response to an integrated national system that responds to a wide range of local emergencies and national disasters. When the country is under attack or when a natural disaster occurs, local fire fighters respond. The federal government has a responsibility to help ensure that local fire departments can effectively protect the public safety.

• Equipment, training, and personnel funded through SAFER and FIRE enable fire departments to respond to all emergencies, including both man-made and natural disasters.

• The nation’s fire service has long faced significant staffing, equipment and training shortages. According to a 2011 Needs Assessment conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, personnel, equipment and training shortages encumber fire departments of all sizes and interfere with departments’ ability to respond to common emergencies.

• Adequate staffing is essential to both fire fighter safety and the public safety. Federal government studies have shown that operating below minimum staffing is a leading cause of fire fighter fatalities, and numerous independent studies of fire department operations demonstrate that lack of personnel significantly increases response time.

• Providing sufficient funding for SAFER and FIRE is more crucial than ever. The recent recession has forced local fire departments to cut services and staffing, as well as postpone purchasing critically-needed equipment, apparatus and training.

• SAFER and FIRE allow the federal government to provide temporary help to local communities facing budget shortfalls to ensure that such communities have sufficient resources to protect the public safety.

• The critical shortages facing fire departments are reflected in the number of applications submitted for SAFER and FIRE grants. For Fiscal Year 2013, over 10,000 fire departments applied for more than $2.1 billion in FIRE grants, and over 1500 departments applied for more than $1.6 billion in SAFER grants.

• If Congress fails to provide sufficient funding for the SAFER and FIRE grant programs, fire fighter safety as well as the public safety would be put at significant risk.

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