New Orleans Fire Department receives a $15.9 million SAFER Grant
“Having this grant truly, truly increases public safety," said NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell
New Orleans city officials announced at a press conference last week that the city’s fire department was awarded a $15.9 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant.
The grant will be dispersed to the NOFD over three years and will be used to cover the cost of the hiring and training of 63 new firefighters, as well as their salaries in full.
“Growing our force, our department, has been a big priority for us,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “But at the end of the day, you really need the resources that it takes to make that happen.”
The NOFD and city officials have been locked in an ongoing dispute over the NOFDs stretched resources, particularly concerns over the department being understaffed and its overtime policy. On Saturday, February 15, 2020, 47 of the approximately 140 NOFD firefighters scheduled to work that day called out sick in an act of protest. This resulted in one pump truck, one ladder truck and two heavy rescue units being out of service on that day. The SAFER Grant award will help alleviate much of the strain in personnel and resources the NOFD has long been facing.
“Having the grant award pay for us to stand up for a three-year period allows us the cushion that we need on the administrative side to build our budget to manage and handle that capacity after the three-year period,” said Mayor Cantrell. “We knew we needed to grow our department and this was the best way to do it.”
“This could not be more timely when you consider all the economic impact we’re going through right now with COVID,” said NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell.
The NOFD will have 180 days from when they were notified of their grant award to acquire 63 recruits before the mandatory start date for the SAFER Grant begins. Currently, the NOFD is staffed with about 580 firefighters and the department is looking to begin the hiring and training process as soon as possible. There are already 15 prospective recruits going through the preliminary hiring process, and once the department acquires a class of 25 to 30 recruits, official training will begin.
“Having this grant truly, truly increases public safety by increasing the number of firefighters on fire trucks,” Said Superintendent McConnell. “This is all about the boots on the ground that respond to calls and obviously the more people we have available to do that, the safer it makes our residents.”