2010 OFCA SAFER Grant Wrap-Up

by: Kate Redden, OFCA SAFER Grant Manager

In December 2009, the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association made the decision to apply for a FEMA SAFER Grant. Shortly after submitting their application, they were awarded $1,195,760 to recruit and retain volunteer emergency responders across the state. Since the grant kick-off, over 2,500 citizens have submitted applications to volunteer at their local departments.

 After discussions with FEMA representatives, we believe an accurate estimate as to how many of these applicants ended up on department rosters is 10%; utilizing that figure, we can approximate that 250 community members have been added to volunteer/combination departments in Ohio over the last four years. Although this might not seem like a huge sum, for a rural volunteer department, adding 1 or 2 volunteers can have an incredible impact.

No one knows this better than Chief Josh Glessner of the Sterling Fire Department. Josh attended two of the Retention and Recruitment Workshops funded by the grant. At these workshops, Chief Glessner learned about the Local Recruitment Campaign monies available to departments to assist in paying for marketing materials. Over the last couple of years, the Chief and his department have implemented several elements he learned at the workshops in order to revamp their roster and add 4 new volunteers. He did this by running newspaper ads, putting banners up around town, and hosting two open houses. He also cleared his roster of inactive volunteers who weren’t participating in calls and/or training. Lastly, Chief Glessner and another member of his department, Jessica Musser, were both awarded a set of PPE for attending our workshop in Sandusky in August of 2014. Sterling Fire Department is a great example of how utilizing the SAFER funds could completely change your department!

Sterling Fire Department is only one of several departments who were successful in utilizing the Local Recruitment Campaign funds and who attended a Recruitment and Retention Workshop and incorporated what they learned in their department. Since our first workshop in Columbus at the OFCA Conference in 2011, we have conducted an additional 19 workshops across the state. Two hundred and forty fire service leaders attended these free workshops. Attendees were also reimbursed for mileage, per diem and lodging once completing the course. Not only were these great learning opportunities, but they also were great networking opportunities for the attendees. Chiefs, administrative support personnel, board trustees and several others came away with more than they ever imagined. These workshops couldn’t have gone any better!

In November 2014, the SAFER Grant was closed out and all remaining funds spent. It is incredible to look back and see how big of an impact a $1.1 million grant made in such a sizable state. The OFCA will continue to utilize some of the materials that we’re produced for them in order to continue to recruit volunteers in Ohio. In addition, applications can still be submitted on VolunteerFirefighter.org by interested community members.

We thank all of those who have played a part in the grant’s success!