Last Saturday, the Sea Cliff Fire Department was recognized for its successful implementation of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program, which provides funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to initiate or improve hiring and recruitment practices at local fire departments. Sea Cliff was one of two departments on Long Island to receive the grant.
“The department implemented the program in the last calendar year, and is now realizing the results of the funding,” said village grant writer Erinn McDonnell, who helped the department obtain the grant.
Over the next four years, the $130,000 grant will be used to fully outfit new recruits with personal protective equipment and rope bailout systems (see sidebar). This will allow new volunteer firefighters to move immediately into active fire service when they complete their training.
“For volunteers, it’s important to have these tools right from the start to keep them and the community safe,” McDonnell said.
So far, the department has outfitted eight new recruits with the help of federal funding, Chief Mark Vitale said. This year, he added, there is one recruit who is working to qualify for the equipment provided under the grant.
“The grant is specifically geared toward gear,” Vitale said. “The main benefit is that every year for four years we’re entitled to monies that will help our firefighters.” The initiative will help ensure that the village’s volunteer firefighters are outfitted with the proper protective equipment when responding to calls.
“Speaking from personal experience, their response time is amazing,” said Village Trustee Henriette Rohl, who acts as a liaison between the department and the village board. “I’ve actually been in a situation where I’ve called the department directly, and they were there in 30 seconds. Nine-one-one never picked up. It’s that type of thing that makes them the finest asset we have.”
McDonnell said she believed the program acts as incentive for residents looking to join the Fire Department. “Having a four-year program to cover the cost of PPE is an incentive to volunteer,” she said. “For a community this size, gaining 20 volunteers would offset attrition. Members who stay for decades can move on to other things, and we can bring in younger members, so they too can contribute for a long time.”
Rohl added, “There’s been a big push from the Fire Department to educate the public on what they do and get more people interested in volunteering. Having the ability to recruit new members and continue that [with the SAFER program] is just so important.”
Vitale said he was thankful for McDonnell’s help in attracting the grant funding, which ultimately saves the village money. Similar funds are currently being used to update the façade of the firehouse as well as its electrical system.
“Erinn’s been the main person in establishing grants for the exterior part of the building, which is being used to replace the windows and the brick and mortar,” Vitale explained. “It’s an extremely tedious process, since the building is a historical landmark.”
He added that the electrical improvements would ensure greater energy efficiency, and that the project was 90 percent complete. The exterior work is expected to be completed next month.