Finding the money for a new ambulance, a well-stocked EMS jump bag, or providing a new EMT training class is a challenge for any fire department. Rural agencies face an especially steep challenge in building the budget necessary to run an effective and safe fire department. Fire department barbeques and fishing tournaments are all far-too-common in these budget strapped communities.
Congress has taken steps to throw a lifeline to these rural fire departments recently. Representatives Greg Gianforte (R-MT) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) have introduced the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs Act (SIREN Act; H.R. 5429/S. 2830). The SIREN Act would restore a grant program in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for rural public and non-profit fire departments and EMS agencies. If enacted, SIREN grants would have a variety of uses, including:
- Purchasing EMS-related equipment, including medications and vehicles
- Recruiting and retaining EMS personnel (including firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/paramedics)
- Providing EMS-related training including EMT licensing classes, emergency vehicle operations, and hazardous materials courses
The SIREN Act presents an important opportunity for rural fire departments to expand their funding options beyond the usual fundraisers that they’ve held in the past. IAFC members from rural areas are strongly encouraged to contact their members of Congress and urge them to support the SIREN Act. Log onto the IAFC’s Government Relations webpage to learn more about this issue and to reach out to your members of Congress.
Evan Davis is the IAFC's government relations manager and liaison to the EMS Section.
Photo credit: Kurt Bauschardt, Edmonton, Canada