UCVFD awarded $368,250 recruitment grant
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.
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.