Botetourt County Awarded DHS Grant for Emergency Response Personnel2/4/2011
Fincastle, VA - Botetourt County has been awarded a $946,578 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant to provide increased emergency services staffing. Administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) branch of DHS, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants are awarded annually to localities nationwide that apply and qualify for federal assistance in improving emergency response capabilities. A national peer-review panel awards grants to localities who demonstrate the most pressing need.
The grant will provide the first 2 years of salary and benefits for a 3 person firefighter response crew to be based in Fincastle during weekdays, 12 hours a day. In order to provide this coverage schedule, a total of 7 responders will be hired. The award also includes a countywide training coordinator position to enhance training opportunities for both volunteer and career staff. Grant requirements maintain that the primary focus of the weekday response crew be geared toward fire protection, but employees hired would be cross trained in EMS capabilities.
Local costs during the initial two year period will be limited to equipment and operational supplies. The grant requires that the County maintain the program for at least 12 months after the grant expiration. The crew will be based in the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department, though the County is remaining open to future options for placement. Existing fire response apparatus will be utilized to avoid additional local expenditures.
Prior to the decision to accept the grant award, the leadership of the county’s volunteer firefighters and the County’s Fire and Rescue Steering Team (FARST) unanimously approved the initiative; ongoing implementation and policy coordination is planned.
Botetourt County Board Chairman, Billy Martin, acknowledged Buchanan Supervisor and FARST member Terry Austin’s work in pursuing the grant, and further stated: “the Board has agreed that the provision of Fire and EMS services is a primary responsibility of local government. We have recognized the need and are pleased that the federal government has stepped up to assist. It is rare to have the opportunity to provide two years of critical services utilizing non-local funds.”
Botetourt County Assistant Administrator, Spencer Suter, stresses the importance of maintaining strong coordination and communication with volunteers. “Over the years we’ve worked with volunteer leadership on every major Fire and EMS initiative and success and we intend to do the same now.” Suter notes that response policies and procedures will be coordinated with volunteer fire leadership and the County’s Emergency Communications Center. “FEMA’s implementation schedule is aggressive, but we will work together to meet it.” According to the grant award, the two year funding period will begin on April 28, 2011.
Botetourt County currently employs 14 response staff and 3 administrative staff in the Department of Emergency Services. Though the department’s primary function is response to EMS calls in coordination with the County’s volunteer EMS agencies, all staff are cross trained as firefighters and respond as needed to assist in that area. Administrative staff is also fully cross-trained and frequently respond on EMS calls as needed, as well as to major emergencies. Primary fire protection service is provided by 7 departments and is currently all volunteer.