In a powerful testament to the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, Cincinnati Local 48 President Matt Alter brought a few special guests to Convention… 50 of them, in fact.
The 50 men and women are Cincinnati’s newest fire fighters, hired thanks to an $8 million SAFER grant.
General President Harold Schaitberger swore all of them in as IAFF members during the Monday Business Session.
In recent years, the City of Cincinnati has implemented brownouts due to staffing shortages from positions left open through attrition. In 2009, staffing levels were so low that the City had to brownout five companies per day.
But Local 48 was able to work with the Cincinnati Fire Department to apply for SAFER grants to hire new fire fighters. Brownouts are now reduced to two per day, but once these 50 fire fighters complete recruit school, the Cincinnati Fire Department hopes it can stop the brownouts.
The concept for the SAFER grant program was established following the events of September 11 to help ensure staffing levels met safety standards.
The IAFF successfully lobbied for the passage of the SAFER Act, which became law in 2003.
The IAFF has continued to work hard to protect SAFER funding while also convincing Congress to allocate billions of federal dollars for the program.
In 2008, when the economy took a nose dive, municipalities nationwide began laying off fire fighters. To help keep IAFF members on the job, the IAFF worked to amend the program to allow financially strapped municipalities to use SAFER money to rehire laid-off fire fighters to continue to keep their communities safe.
This waiver authority continued for five consecutive federal budgets, and was successfully incorporated into the statute when SAFER was re-authorized in 2012.
Over the last five years, $2 billion in SAFER funding has restored or protected thousands of jobs.
The future of SAFER will likely be as challenging as its past as there are always threats to stop funding for the grant program, but the International remains steadfast in its commitment to keep this important resource available to its members.