Friday, June 26, 2009

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AFG Grants Ineffective?

Oh great. A Heritage Foundation WebMemo released June 23rd (2009) summarizing a soon to be released report from the Center for Data Analysis (CDA) tells the world that Fire Grants have been largely ineffective. The measurement? Reduction in firefighter and civilian casualties. The report insinuates that the US flushed $5.7 billion down the toilet between 2001 and 2009. Nice. Here's a newsflash: statistics depend largely on what yardstick is used. Before anyone leaps to conclusions about the Fire Grants program, we'd better give some quick thought to how Fire Grant outcomes really should be measured. Any firefighter or fire chief knows full well that Fire Grants improve the fire service. How we measure that is now under attack. It's time for quick response from fire service experts. Otherwise, data analysts and statisticians are very likely to kill one of the most valuable resources the American fire service has ever had.

Mike McEvoy
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  1. Jan A. MottingerJuly 1, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    How can they say that it has not helped the safety/health in the fire service? Being from a small volunteer fire/rescue service in Ohio I truely beieve that it has made the environment and firefighting sfer for my firefirefighters.

    We have received two grants since the start of the AFG Fire Grant Program. We were able to purchase new SCBA to replace old worn out and unsafe scba . We purchased new helmets that replaced old helmets that were cracked and worn out. We purchased a new SCBA fill station and compressor that we did not have before.

    We also placed an air filter system in our station that removes the diesel fumes and other contaminents from our station.

    What do they base their study on?

    Chief Jan A.Mottinger
    Bradford Fire & Rescue Services
    Bradford , Ohio

  2. The Heritage Foundation memo provides a summary of an oversimplistic analysis by Dr Muhlhausen where he is only looking for a direct correlation between grant money spent and the reduction of fire casualties. His research didn't see this direct correlation, possibly because of a number of reasons. The annual FF LODD numbers average 111/year but fluctuate between 101 and 119 over the last several years, data that can be greatly influenced by a single event in a year (e.g., Charleston Nine). Also, starting in 2004 the Hometown Heroes Act changed the way FF LODDs were counted, resulting in an increase in the numbers in recent years. Secondly, why were fire casualties chosen as the only measure of effectiveness? The Fire Grants provide so many more benefits than just a short-term reduction in casualties -- what about the long-term improved health provided by wellness/fitness programs, or exhaust-removal systems? What about the benefit of a sprinkler or fire alrm system installed in fire stations? Improved regional communications? Enhanced Training? Many of the benefits of the Fire Grants can't be measured by the Dr's simplistic approach, nor can they be measured by looking at data from small number of years. Additionally, he is looking for a change in a number that is 1/100th of 1% of the nationwide FF population (111 annual deaths out of 1.14 million FFs). It's a shame that the fire service needs to waste their time countering studies such as these, but I agree it's time the fire service banned together and provided the real studies and data needed to justify needed grant programs, municipal funding and community support, as well as benefit and incentive programs to encourage continued recruitment and retention efforts.

  3. Chief Wyatt OakleyJuly 2, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    I am chief of a small volunteer department in west central Texas. Without the AFG program we would not have been able to replace worn out bunker gear, mismatched SBCAs and equipment that the city could not fund. This program is one of the best the federal govenment has working right now. the fire departments get all of the grant money without having to share it with the state, or local governmnent like in the homeland Secuity Grants. We see more benefit from this money than any other grant program we have been involved with. The Heritage Foundation does not have a clue as to how this program has helped make firefighters safer and more effective in a job that very few are willing to do. This program is nondiscriminating. anyone can apply for the money and you have a 50-50 chance of getting it. all they need do is fill out the application and be comliant with the requirements of the grant (NIMS and reporting to INFIRS) both of which are very valuable to the fire service.

    Wyatt Oakley, Chief
    Stamford Fire Department
    Stamford, Texas


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