Hyattsville VFD Awarded $390K Federal SAFER Grant to Support Volunteer Recruitment & Retention

safer_crop380wThe Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department is pleased to announce it has been awarded a federal grant of $393,050 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program to support the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

“Our volunteer firefighters and first responders play an important role in protecting Marylanders throughout our state,” said Congressman Steny H. Hoyer. “This SAFER grant will help the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department to recruit and retain men and women who are dedicated to serving their communities. I look forward to continuing to work in Congress to support the mission of our local fire departments and ensure they have the necessary funding to respond to emergencies and save lives throughout the Fifth District.”

The grant funds will be used over the next four years across our volunteer recruitment & retention programs, including continued support for our volunteer recruiter, marketing & advertising for volunteers locally and nationally (for our live-in program), an AD&D/life insurance policy for our active volunteers, higher education & tuition reimbursement and funding of various retention and incentive programs.

Earlier this year, the Hyattsville VFD closed out its initial four-year SAFER grant, awarded in 2010. That grant of $244,000 provided significant benefits to our organization leading to a dramatic increase in our recruitment capabilities, workflow and beyond. We’ve had back-to-back years of 32 new members completing the county’s Volunteer Recruit School, a record high for us. Many of those members have completed or are currently enrolled in various training programs including EMT and Firefighter I. We continue a solid pace this year with over 15 prospects through the application, background check, physical and recruit school process and over a dozen more in various parts of the process.

To be a fully active volunteer Firefighter/EMT, members must complete a minimum of 400+ hours of combined classroom and in-station training, a process that includes classes on nights and weekends in addition to participating in our duty shift program, department meetings & events, annual re-certifications and additional training/education most complete well beyond the base county qualifications. Being a volunteer first responder is a significant commitment.

The Hyattsville VFD provides staffing for over 75% of all fire, rescue & EMS responses from our station — essentially at all times other than 7a-5pm most weekdays. That means our dedicated volunteers are on duty every weeknight, weekend, holiday & beyond to serve our community, responding to thousands of emergencies every year. The HVFD saves taxpayers over $2M annually in manpower costs alone. These grant funds will go a long way in ensuring that savings continues.

As with many volunteer fire departments, maintaining and growing our staffing levels is key to our success — and increasingly challenging as volunteers move, have life changes, take new jobs, get married, have kids and more.

“SAFER grant funding has driven us to revamp and upgrade everything we do regarding recruitment and retention of our volunteers,” President Thomas Falcone said. “We’ve been fortunate to maximize every opportunity these funds, along with the incredible passion and drive of the our members and new recruits coming in, to continue to provide the best service to the citizens of Hyattsville, University Park, Prince George’s County and parts of Montgomery County.”

The Hyattsville VFD celebrated 125 years of continuous service in 2013 and broke ground on a new joint fire station/emergency services facility in partnership with the American Red Cross and Prince George’s County.