Tom Reed met with county sheriff, police and fire departments, and area emergency services departments for an update on where federal legislation stands impacting first responders and to consider ways to improve emergency preparedness, coordinate in combating crime and enhance safety for first responders.
“Getting first responders from all backgrounds and disciplines in the same room is an invaluable way to learn where their needs are and how we can help assist them,” Reed said. “Each different department is unique in that they each have their own equipment, training and personnel needs but they all have something in common: their burden needs to be lighter and they need more flexibility. We want to hear their ideas for how we can work to achieve that goal together.”
Representatives from the Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Steuben County Sheriff’s Departments, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County Emergency Services, local fire and police departments (Dunkirk, Jamestown, Hornell, Lakewood-Busti), and the New York State Police joined the group of more than 20 first responders in Mayville.
“We heard from our local fire departments and volunteers who are already under enough financial pressure and couldn’t afford another brick being added to the pile,” Reed said. “It’s common sense to stand with volunteer firefighters and EMS to correct this unfair cost and burden on the very people giving their time and talents to save lives.”
COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services), SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) and AFG (Assistance to Firefighters) grants were all discussed. Reed supported the increased funding for public safety programs earlier this year in the consolidated appropriations bill. The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs each saw a boost from last year’s funding level with an increase of $2.5 million for each program.
Reed heard from attendees that reforms need to be made to various grant programs because of compliance costs and paperwork associated with receiving these funds. Additionally, it was suggested that with the drawdown of military operations, surplus equipment should be made available to emergency personnel.
“We will continue the push to give firefighters and emergency responders the resources they need to respond to and prevent emergencies,” Reed said. “Whenever we have an opportunity to care for those who care for us each and every day, often without us consciously thinking about it, we need to seize that opportunity.”
Local officials also joined the conversation to look for ways federal and local government can partner with first responder organizations to meet the needs of the groups as they serve our communities. Assemblyman Andy Goodell and County Executive Vince Horrigan joined the conversation as well.
Reed’s last roundtable with emergency responders took place at Cornell University in Ithaca. The group focused on funding opportunities including grants made available to emergency and first responders as well as recent federal legislation aimed at giving a boost to first responders.