FOLEY - During the Jan. 3 meeting, the Foley City Council approved staff to apply for DHS/FEMA's FY2021 SAFER (staffing for adequate fire and emergency response) grant program. If awarded, the grant …
FOLEY - During the Jan. 3 meeting, the Foley City Council approved staff to apply for DHS/FEMA's FY2021 SAFER (staffing for adequate fire and emergency response) grant program. If awarded, the grant would pay 100% of the salaries for nine new firefighters for three years. The City of Foley would take over the salaries during the 2025/2026 fiscal year. There is no match required with the program. This would be the fourth time the Foley Fire Department has hired officers through the SAFER grant. The application is due by Feb. 4.
"We're trying to prepare for the future with our increased demand," said Fire Chief Joey Darby. "We're looking towards a fire station somewhere in our southwest quadrant, that's where our big need is going to be. Obviously to build a fire station, we're going to have to have staffing down the road."
Each year, the grant appears with different criteria. Darby said the department was previously awarded a grant that paid 100% of new staff salaries for two years. He said this year's grant is the most he has seen during his time with the department.
"Questions being asked include what do we do with firefighters in the meantime that we don't have the new station," said Darby, "and the simple answer to that is I can add one firefighter per current engine. That increases our staffing so that our current staffing is a little above our minimum staffing, and we don't get into so many situations that we're having to mandatory folks."
Darby said due to a number of circumstances that include injury or officers out sick, the department is scheduling officers to receive overtime to fill the gap. He said once the future station has been built, the new firefighters could then be transitioned to staff it.
"There's three firefighters per engine now, and that's our staffing and our minimum," Darby said. "If we have anybody out, we have to fill the spot. We try to do that with part-time staff, but all of our part-time staff is obligated elsewhere with the exception of one individual, so we can't always fill those vacancies with part-time and therefore have to mandatory folks."
If awarded the grant, Darby said he believes the funds should be received beginning sometime May - September. The grant offers 180 days for the hiring process. The three years begins at the end of the hiring process.
Darby said the additional staff will also help the department's score, which in turn could improve its ISO rating. The department's current ISO rating is three. The highest score a department can receive is one.