UCVFD awarded $368,250 re­cruit­ment grant

Record Observer - - News - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

ROMANCOKE — U.S. Sen­a­tors Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski and Ben Cardin, both D-Md., an­nounced Mon­day, Aug. 29, that the United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment has been awarded $368,250 in fed­eral fund­ing through the U.S. De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s SAFER Pro­gram, which stands for Staffing for Ad­e­quate Fire and Emer­gency Re­sponse.

The award will help con­tinue re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion ef­forts that be­gan in March 2011, when the fire de­part­ment re­ceived a $333,600 SAFER grant from the 2010 round of fund­ing. Mon­day’s award will en­sure that the suc­cess of that ini­tial grant will con­tinue un­in­ter­rupted, law­mak­ers said in a state­ment.

United Com­mu­ni­ties Pres­i­dent Ron Siar­nicki wrote both grants. Like the first grant, this one will be spread across four years. The first in­stall­ment of the grant will be avail­able Nov. 19, he said.

United Com­mu­ni­ties will use the fund­ing to hire a re­cruit­ment co­or­di­na­tor, con­tinue the vol­un­teer cadet pro­gram and re­im­burse vol­un­teers for costs associated with train­ing and con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

The re­cruit­ment piece is coun­ty­wide. Siar­nicki pointed to ex­ist­ing signs pro­mot­ing vol­un­teer­ing at Bay Bridge Air­port and at both high schools, and men­tioned a four-year news­pa­per cam­paign as part of the re­cruit­ment ef­forts.

Over the past five years, they brought in 56 new mem­bers for UCVFD, Siar­nicki said, and re­ferred in­ter­ested callers from else­where in the county to their lo­cal fire de­part­ments.

Some of the ben­e­fits will go to­ward fire­fighter re­ten­tion, for such things as train­ing, for travel to the state con­ven­tion and some recog­ni­tions, Siar­nicki said.

The long­stand­ing cadet pro­gram at UCVFD cur­rently has 10 mem­bers, Siar­nicki said. The pro­gram is di­rected by vol­un­teer Michael Levasseur and his wife Terri.

“That’s re­ally the fu­ture of the vol­un­teer fire ser­vice,” Siar­nicki said of the cadets.

Of the de­part­ment’s cur­rent mem­bers, 11 got their start in the cadet pro­gram.

Vol­un­teer­ing re­quires a huge com­mit­ment — 160 hours for EMT train­ing, 60 hours for Fir­fighter I, Siar­nicki said. “We’re try­ing to find re­sources wher­ever we can.”

The vol­un­teer ser vice un­der­goes a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion — it’s a cy­cle, he said, where vol­un­teers may come and go; some­times they can give more hours than oth­ers; some­times they move on to ca­reer fire­fight­ing or emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices. Two United Com­mu­ni­ties mem­bers were just hired by Anne Arun­del County, he said.

Mikul­ski is vice chair­woman of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, where she fights each year to in­crease fed­eral fund­ing for the fire grants pro­gram. Cardin is a mem­ber of the Se­nate Fi­nance Health Care Sub­com­mit­tee.

“I know how im­por­tant this fund­ing is to Mary­land com­mu­ni­ties – of­ten it’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. First re­spon­ders pro­tect our homes and com­mu­ni­ties, and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect them by pro­vid­ing them with the tools and staffing they need to do their jobs safer and smarter,” Mikul­ski said in a state­ment. “Ev­ery day when our first re­spon­ders re­port for duty, they don’t know what they will face. That’s why I fight ev­ery year for the equip­ment, train­ing, and staffing our protectors and com­mu­ni­ties de­serve.”

“Fire fight­ers across Mary­land put their lives on the line daily to safe­guard our com­mu­ni­ties. This fed­eral in­vest­ment will help en­sure that Queen Anne’s County is able to re­cruit the very best first re­spon­ders,” said Cardin. “I want each of them, and their fam­i­lies, to know that they have fed­eral part­ners who are as ded­i­cated to the mis­sion as they are. Pro­tect­ing our first re­spon­ders is a mat­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity and the right thing to do for our com­mu­ni­ties.”

The goal of any SAFER grant is to en­hance the abil­ity of grantees to at­tain and main­tain 24-hour staffing. The ob­jec­tive of the pro­gram is to award grants di­rectly to vol­un­teer, com­bi­na­tion and ca­reer fire de­part­ments to help the de­part­ments in­crease the num­ber of front­line fire­fight­ers, and to re­hire fire­fight­ers who were laid off due to the econ­omy. The SAFER pro­gram pro­vides ap­prox­i­mately $345 mil­lion in com­pet­i­tive grants to fire de­part­ments and statewide or lo­cal vol­un­teer fire­fighter sup­port groups.

Since 2001, Mary­land fire de­part­ments and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices units have re­ceived more than $196 mil­lion in grant fund­ing, in­clud­ing $2.7 mil­lion awarded to those in Queen Anne’s County.

United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment is lo­cated in Romancoke and serves an area from Batts Neck Road to the lower end of Kent Is­land. There are an es­ti­mated 3,000 house­holds in the area.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment Pres­i­dent Ron Siar­nicki with a mes­sage: “We Have BIG BOOTS to Fill!” If in­ter­ested in join­ing the lo­cal fire de­part­ment, call 443-249-3144.

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