Grants Administration and HazMat/WMD Training Division
Recognizing the need for a dedicated division to ensure compliance with grant regulations, policies and procedures – as well as to seek new funding opportunities – in February 2013, with Executive Board approval, I established the Division of Grants Administration & HazMat/WMD Training and appointed Elizabeth Harman as my Assistant overseeing the Division. She is assisted by Deputy Director Thomas Hill.
This Division is also charged with reviewing, evaluating and making recommendations to the Executive Board concerning policies, programs and services offered, including proposals related to the mission of the Division.
Our Grants Administration Department is responsible for approximately 20 federal awards totaling more than $10.6 million in financial assistance for the IAFF. This department reviews, processes and ratifies all external grants and contracts in support of activities, including negotiating with public and private sources of funding and functioning as the liaison with funding agencies during the life of a grant or contract. Additionally, the department provides direct assistance to affiliates in finding appropriate sources of funding, reviewing grant proposals and interpreting grantor policies, rules and restrictions.
Internally, the department provides resources to other IAFF divisions to ensure their respective managers are aware of each grant’s individual progress and status, and works closely with the Budget and Finance Department to discuss the current status of all grants to ensure both programmatic and financial management. All grant expenses are tracked for compliance with cost principles, regulations and federal implementation policies applicable to non-profits.
We have a fully qualified staff with appropriate certifications to be competitive in the grants arena. We have built a solid foundation in the government-wide requirements, agency regulations and grants management best practices needed to manage federal dollars effectively.
Additionally, we have pursued several new funding opportunities with the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration, proposing a joint project with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) to address Innovative Safety, Resiliency and All-Hazards Emergency Response and Recovery Research Demonstrations.
We also applied for new funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for projects related to first responder behavioral health. We also have been contacted by various international organizations with an interest in hazmat-related training.
For our affiliates, we provide assistance to locals and their fire departments for applying for Assistance to Firefighter (FIRE Act) grant programs, including the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants. Each fiscal year, we work with Congress to provide the funding necessary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to administer these grants for the fire service. Since 2005, more than $6.825 billion has been appropriated for these programs, which are highly competitive. FEMA has only funded 8-10 percent of applications.
We have helped hundreds of affiliates, answering questions and facilitating communication between the local, fire department and city throughout the grant preparation process. This has ensured that more than $500 million in grants was awarded to affiliates, with a 75 percent success rate over the previous four years. The majority of resources were dedicated to SAFER grants, as these grants have been directly responsible for keeping our members on the job through the worst of the economic downturn. More than 12,850 fire fighters have been hired, rehired or retained as a result of these grants. We continue to encourage affiliates that wish to apply for these grants to contact us for further assistance.
To make sure the priorities for FIRE Act, SAFER and FP&S grants are consistent with our priorities, we participate in the annual Criteria Development Meeting conducted by FEMA. We also convey our affiliate’s concerns regarding the application, award and closeout process at this meeting and coordinate the participation of affiliates in the peer review panels for these grants.
HazMat/WMD Training Department
First responders can no longer expect that only calls that are declared hazmat incidents to pose an exposure threat to their health and safety. It was with this premise in mind that the HazMat/WMD Training Department was created in 1987 when the IAFF secured, through legislative action, its first federal grant for hazardous materials training.
Since its inception, the department has received more than $75 million, enabling the development of curricula and the training of more than 150,000 emergency response personnel. Additionally, the department provides support to our Canadian office in the management of the Canadian HazMat/CBRNE funding received annually from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The department continues to deliver and evaluate all aspects of hazardous materials training for emergency response. Our mission is to educate emergency responders about strategies to safeguard their health and safety, reduce occupational deaths and injuries related to hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction response, and protect the communities they serve. Training is available to affiliates and fire departments in need of hazmat or WMD training and can be requested by the local president.
Currently, we have a consulting team of 106 fire fighter/paramedics throughout the U.S. and Canada with extensive experience in fire fighting and hazardous materials. This master instructor cadre has an average of 23 years of fire service experience and 11 years of IAFF instructor service. These master instructors work as subject matter experts in response to requests from the department, as well as developing a wide range of curricula that meet or exceed National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards and Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) regulations. A select group of master instructors perform duties as mentors to new master instructors and program leads.
We hold an annual Instructor Development Conference (IDC) to assist instructors in developing their facilitation techniques and to become familiar with new or revised instructor-led training programs. Instructors gather to participate in general sessions and individual workshops to help facilitate an understanding of the topics and techniques needed to be more effective facilitators. The intent of the IDC is to not only provide an annual evaluation of instructional competence, but to also tap into their expertise and teaching background in the collective process of curricula development and revision to improve existing delivery methods and implement new delivery methods in order to enhance the overall program.
In 2012, the IDC was held in Clearwater, Florida. The 2013 IDC was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The program features guest speakers, a general session and various breakout groups that address issues pertinent to all instructors and trainers. The next IDC will be held in San Francisco, California, in October 2014.
The HazMat Advisory Board consists of 12 appointed members who represent fire/rescue service, labor, public health, academia and industry, and is a requirement of federal funding. The Advisory Board provides oversight for IAFF HazMat/CBRNE grants, advice to the program director and recommendations regarding program content and delivery. The Board reviews the overall training plan for the HazMat Training Department and Canadian CBRNE Contribution Agreement and examines training materials and proposed evaluation tools. The Board meets once a year and receives regular written and electronic correspondence regarding current and pending activities. Advisory Board members are encouraged to attend IAFF training sessions, conduct evaluations and assess the quality of training.
All HazMat/WMD training programs are designed to meet or exceed minimum requirements of federal regulations and national industry standards, and are designed with the safety and health of the first responder as the primary focus. The training programs stress the importance of planning, incorporate information on potential hazards and describe appropriate defensive actions, including the use of personal protective gear and other rescue equipment. All courses and training are conducted through direct deliveries whereby instructors and class materials are sent to the training location.
The HazMat/WMD Department delivers the following training programs covering all levels of emergency response.
More details on the Canadian HazMat/CBRNE funding and training are discussed in the Canadian Operations Division Report.
The First Responder Operations (FRO) course has been updated to meet and exceed the latest version of NFPA 472, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents – 2013. The revised instructor guide, student manual and multimedia presentations also meet the 2013 Edition of NFPA 472. This course has also been updated for Canadian affiliates and is available in English and French.
Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board) certification is available for First Responder Operations. The Pro Board has accredited the IAFF for the Awareness and Operations level for Core, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Product Control, as well as HazMat Incident Command, which is under development. The ProBoard has accredited 39 states and provinces and 33 other agencies. Pro Board recognized certification from the IAFF is a statement of success, an indisputable mark of performance belonging to individual fire service professionals. Each successful candidate for certification from the IAFF knows that he or she has been measured against peers and meets rigorous national standards. In addition, the credibility of the IAFF is enhanced by having our members certified to national consensus standards. The Pro Board encourages reciprocity among certifying entities. This helps assure that Pro Board certification will be recognized by the department as affiliates seek advancement, and by other departments should they seek to transfer within the fire service. We plan to update the HazMat Technician course and Confined Space Rescue Course and extend Pro Board certification for these as well.
We are in the process of creating an eight-hour ERT: Ops- Refresher program that will be ready to pilot later this summer. In conjunction with this program, development of the Introduction to Emergency Response to Terrorism web-based training course (ERT-WBT) has begun, which is designed to be a prerequisite for the ERT: Ops instructor-led courses. This is part of a blended learning approach that will be used in the development and delivery of the ERT: Ops- Refresher course. The 1.5 hour ERT: WBT course is designed to review the recent events and current trends in terrorism and emergency response, as well as the types of WMD attacks and difference between hazardous materials and WMD incidents. The IAFF plans to conduct beta testing to ensure that the system works properly and the course is educationally sound. This course will be an alternative for annual HazMat refresher training.
The Response to Illicit Drug Labs course has been updated to follow the Analyze, Plan, Implement and Evaluate (A-P-I-E) Risk Based Process. Updated examples were integrated into the content. Lessons learned and new technologies since the last update of the course were also integrated. Pre- and post-tests were also added to the course. This course is an alternative for annual HazMat refresher training.
Our focus is on ensuring that the training we provide to fire fighters is developed according to principles that science and best practice have demonstrated to be effective for workplace learning. Just as importantly, we apply rigorous evaluation processes and standards within what is feasible in the fire fighting environment to verify that the training delivered is sound and can demonstrate quality and effectiveness. The overall purpose of these evaluation efforts and investment is to produce and deliver the best training and performance support resources possible, resulting in professionally prepared fire fighters who perform in the most effective, efficient and safe manner possible, as well as providing information on effectiveness or needed changes to all stakeholders. Evaluations continue to show HazMat training is effective. We have collected data from various affiliates that recently received hazmat training, and an independent evaluation and final report is underway. This final report will provide a significant credential and documentation of the effectiveness of our hazmat training and will accompany future competitive grant applications.
We have begun working closely with E-18 in the production of various web-based information broadcasts that can be easily viewed online via You Tube. The first video provides an overview of SAFER 2014, discusses the IAFF’s role in SAFER, describes technical assistance available and addresses frequently asked questions in a more personal discussion-like format. We are exploring the possibilities of more web-based learning and appropriate content for mobile platforms and apps compatible with Apple and Android.
The IAFF has participated in various external meeting of interest to affiliates. In follow up to the tragedy that struck West, Texas, in April 2013, the president issued Executive Order 13650 – Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security to improve chemical facility safety and security in coordination with owners and operators. We have been working closely with DHS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOT to identify ways to improve operational coordination with state and local partners.
Working closely with the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and its investigation into the cause of the West, Texas, fire, we participated in a panel town hall meeting and continue to be available to the CSB as it finalizes its investigation.
We are working with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on the federal funding received annually for hazmat training, as well as to enhance the safe transportation of bulk Bakken Crude Oil and other flammable liquids. In April 2014, Elizabeth Harman testified before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials on examining issues for hazardous materials reauthorization. We continue to emphasize the importance of hazmat operations level training as the minimum level of training for first responders, encourage continued funding for hazmat training and discuss the improvement of hazmat identification tools to include the Paperless Hazard Communications Pilot Program (HM-ACCESS).
In response to recent disasters and the research conducted in their wake, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed to fund the NIH Disaster Research Response Project. This pilot project, developed by NIEHS in collaboration with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), aims to create a disaster research system consisting of coordinated environmental health disaster research data collection tools and a network of trained research responders. In efforts to support the development of an operational Disaster Research Response Concept of Operation (ConOps) for NIEHS, we participated in a tabletop exercise in April 2014 in Los Angeles, California.