|Chris Mc Loone|
Having read through 100 years of minutes to research its history, I can confidently say that fiscal responsibility has been a priority since day one for Weldon Fire Company. I don’t bring this up to brag but rather because although financial stability is a constant at Weldon, there are always occasions when an influx of funds can help any department upgrade equipment sooner than later.
Weldon Fire Company is one of five independently chartered fire companies in the Abington Township (PA) Fire Department (ATFD). A recently accredited 100 percent volunteer department, the ATFD has been the recipient of more than $500,000 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Additionally, the ATFD received a $77,000 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to assist with its recruitment efforts. Admittedly, I had not given AFG/SAFER grants much thought in the beginning. I considered funds from these programs out of reach. However, when properly administered and when working collectively, the ATFD’s five fire companies were able to benefit from both these programs. We used the funds for radios and mobile data computers, PPE, and a self-contained breathing apparatus upgrade for the entire department.
Again, I don’t bring any of this up to brag. The fact is that the funds are out there. The AFG program has enjoyed really good years when the government funded it at a high level and other years where the program was leaner. Countless fire departments nationwide have benefited; the program has worked. But if the program does not get reauthorized this year, there will be no AFG/SAFER programs in 2018.
I am writing this in February. It has not been a month since the inauguration. The new administration has hit the ground running and is working to make good on campaign promises. I’m not looking to make this an editorial on politics, but some actions the new administration has taken have garnered enough attention that citizens who have felt strongly about them have flooded congressional phone lines. Right or wrong, the media picked up on this and reported about it. The phone lines have been overwhelmed. American citizens do have a way to make their voices heard. I bring this up for two reasons.
First, it has been less than month, and American citizens are very engaged right now in the decisions being made in Washington, D.C., and are making it known whether they like them or not. Some decisions are getting more attention than others, but the populace is making its voice heard. We know the phones are ringing off the hook, and we know there are people there to answer the calls. So, we know that if we call regarding AFG/SAFER, someone will be there to answer the phone.
Second, there is a lot going on at the moment in Washington, and that’s really an understatement. If you value the AFG/SAFER programs, don’t let them get lost in the fray. Call your representatives and senators and tell them how important these programs are to your departments. Get chiefs and other fire department administrators involved. Make sure the message carries the weight of department brass and the volume of the rank and file.
Make Intentions Clear
Two recent fire apparatus crashes have been on my mind. We talk about scene safety and how to use apparatus to block traffic and how motorists still aren’t often paying attention and ram the back of the trucks – apparatus not moving being hit. Here I’ve often mentioned how apparatus operators must drive appropriately so as to avoid accidents. But, there’s another aspect of fire apparatus response that exists. The two recent accidents I have been thinking about involved fire apparatus being hit while responding. One truck was sideswiped and the other hit by a vehicle that failed to yield.
When I was in driver training, the chief engineer who qualified me on all the trucks would tell me to make sure other drivers knew what I was going to do – to make it clear what my intentions were. He would say that there were apparatus operators who drove in such a way that no one knew what they were going to do, and that is how accidents happen. And, I believe he was right. But as these two incidents show, the trick is to do it while also driving defensively. Drivers today are so distracted by all the “noise” surrounding them in their vehicles that there is no way of knowing whether they see us to know what our intentions are. Drive with a purpose, but never believe other drivers know what you’re going to do until they prove it by moving aside.