Fort Myers Fire Department (FMFD) isn’t receiving the SAFER grant any longer. That’s about 3 million dollars they will be missing out on starting February 7th, 2018. That also means about 4-5 people could be laid off from your local fire department.
The SAFER grant stands for ‘Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response’. It’s funded by FEMA, and is given to fire departments that need extra funds to have adequate staffing.
Within the past decade, FMFD has been awarded the grant three times, but this year that will be ending. Without those funds, about six firefighter may lose their positions.
How Does This Affect You?
The question we asked while interviewing Fire Chief, John Caufield was, “How will this affect you and me?” If there are less bodies on a fire truck, what would happen if a fire broke out? Would response times be longer?
Chief Caufield assured us that response times would generally stay the same. It generally takes a first response team about 4 minutes to get to a scene. After the SAFER grant expires those response times are projected to stay the same.
He also noted that 2/3 of calls that FMFD receives are medical related. That includes cardiac arrests, injuries, etc. Responses to those require two or three individuals, not an entire fire staff. However, in the rarer cases where there is a fire, there will be a lack. Cuts to staff will not be able to fund a second latter truck, but the one truck will be fully staffed.
Chief Caufield is concerned about the lack of staff as it relates to call volume. Southwest Florida is a growing city and calls have risen 9% in the last year. To combat this, in recent months, FMFD has increased the staff minimum from 21 people to 25. That will not be affected by the ending of SAFER grant.
What Happens to the Fire Fighters?
The city of Fort Myers has been working with FMFD to make cuts as minimal as possible. The grant ensures that 21 people can be funded, and as of today there are 16 individuals that will be affected by the end of the SAFER grant.
All of those individuals were aware of the nature of the SAFER grant. The city advised them that their position was never meant to be permanent. However, due to recent retirements, promotions and funds from the city, Chief Caufield believes they can make room to allow 11 to 12 of those positions permanent, leaving about four to five positions left.
Although the grant is no longer providing funds, FMFD is making steps to assess the 2019 budget and finds ways to best protect the city.