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July 2004 EMS Wire Service

Bill Would Reauthorize Grants

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in April would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program through fiscal year 2007.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Reauthorization Act, HR 4107, was introduced by a bipartisan group led by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), and referred to the House Science Committee. If passed, it would authorize $900 million a year for the program from FY05–07.

Since its inception in 2000, the program, created by the FIRE (Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement) Act, has distributed more than $1.1 billion to almost 16,000 fire departments across the country. These funds have gone for training, equipment, vehicles and to fund educational and prevention initiatives. Under the Boehlert bill, volunteer, nonprofit EMS agencies would be eligible to apply for grants; currently, only EMS departments that are part of fire departments can do so.

Emergency-service personnel wishing to support this bill can contact their representatives through http://congress.org/congress org/dbq/officials, or by calling 202/224-3121.

—National Volunteer Fire Council

Feds Eye Possible Grant Fraud

The Department of Homeland Security and Internal Revenue Service are investigating possible fraud in Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program applications from 2002 and 2003, a fire-service website reported in April.

According to www.firehouse.com, the probe concerns third-party grant writers hired by some departments to prepare (or assist them in preparing) their grant applications. Such third parties are allowed to do so, and to serve as the official primary contacts for the applications they complete, but in this case, single individuals were reportedly found to have completed applications for multiple departments, and those applications allegedly repeated similar information, leading to questions about its authenticity.

Some of the applications under review resulted in grants being given, the site reported. It is not clear, if violations are found, if those grants will have to be repaid.

—www.firehouse.com

Sports Moms Bring AEDs to Schools

The effort to equip public schools with AEDs is getting a boost from the youth-sports advocacy group MomsTeam.com, which is partnering with the nonprofit charity Teams of Angels to launch the 2004 Safe Sports Kids Campaign.

The goal of the campaign is to make AEDs available at all athletic contests and practices, which is where many cardiac arrests in schools occur. Thousands of devices will be donated to schools, and MomsTeam will donate $100 for every AED purchased through its Cardiac Awareness Center to Teams of Angels, as well as $100 to any nonprofit organization that provides safe sports programs for kids when it purchases an AED.

Teams of Angels is an umbrella group of more than 50 private charities established in memory of children who died playing sports.

—MomsTeam.com

Fired EMT Cites Discrimination

An Illinois EMT fired last year for refusing to drive a patient to an abortion clinic has sued her former employer, claiming religious discrimination.

According to Stephanie Adamson, her religious beliefs would not allow her to drive the woman from a Chicago hospital to another medical facility to terminate her pregnancy. Her suit against Superior Ambulance seeks lost wages, damages for emotional distress and unspecified punitive damages. Superior maintains Adamson was fired not for her religious beliefs, but because her actions threatened the patient’s safety. The patient was enduring severe abdominal pain, the company said, and the delay resulting from Adamson’s acts required her to go to an emergency department, rather than the clinic.

—Chicago Sun-Times

NYC Communications Still a Problem

Large numbers of New York City firefighters and their supervisors still have problems communicating during fires and other emergencies, a new study by Cornell University’s Smithers Institute revealed earlier this year.

Almost 2,000 firefighters and officers—a third of the city’s total—responded to investigators’ questionnaires. Of that group, 75% of firefighters and 74% of fire officers reported that they sometimes received incorrect information about the location and magnitude of fires; 11% and 2%, respectively, said it happened often. In addition, 61% of firefighters and 65% of officers said they sometimes could not communicate with their colleagues when they needed to; 11% and 5% said it happened often. The study did not investigate exactly what caused the communications problems.

Other findings: 50% of firefighters said terror-incident training was rarely available, and 26% said that adequate “cleaning, maintenance and repair materials” were rarely available.

—New York Times

EMS Underrepresented in Awards

EMS providers received less than 4% of funds dispersed through a pair of high-profile emergency-service grant programs in fiscal 2002–2003, a report from the U.S. Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) revealed.

That fraction was of a total of $3.38 billion available in those years between the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (formerly administered by FEMA but now under ODP) and the Homeland Security Grant Program. Homeland Security grants go for planning, equipment, training and exercises; Assistance to Firefighters grants—for which EMS services were not eligible during the period studied unless they were fire-based—are for training, equipment (including PPE), wellness/fitness and facility modification.

As part of this effort, ODP worked with the American Ambulance Association and the National Association of State EMS Directors to identify barriers to EMS getting more of this funding. They found a “need for greater awareness of ODP programs and policies within the EMS community,” ODP said.

ODP will work with AAA and NASEMSD to implement initiatives designed to address these issues.

—Office for Domestic Preparedness

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