The Great Neck Alert Fire Company has received $217,000 in federal grants with the help of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, according to the congressman’s office.
“Each year, Alert Fire Company’s volunteers answer hundreds of calls and save countless lives and property for residents of Great Neck,” said Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). “The outstanding community service that they provide cannot be understated.”
The grant, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came after three failed applications by the fire company, which then called upon Suozzi for assistance. According to a spokeswoman, Betsy Davidson, Suozzi wrote a follow-up letter around Memorial Day urging FEMA to provide funding for the company, which oversees the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
“I would like to thank Congressman Suozzi for his support in getting this grant approved,” said Michael Green, chairman of the fire company’s board of trustees. “His proactive approach to problem-solving is a breath of fresh air.”
The grants were provided by FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant program, which aims to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters. The funding is for critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel to support community resilience, according to the agency’s website.
Last year, the program funded $345 million to support fire and EMS operations and safety grants, firefighting and emergency vehicle grants, and fire prevention and safety grants across the nation.
According to a news release, the grant will be used for the retention of firefighters, as well as recruitment to expand the company. Additionally, a pay-per-call stipend system will be established as an added incentive for the volunteer members to reduce the shortage of personnel.
“This grant will allow us to increase the number of volunteer firefighters responding to our emergency calls,” Green said, “as well as providing our members with a little financial relief while they are responding to dire medical or rescue calls in our communities.”
The Alert Fire Company has 130 members, according to Green, and the grants will ideally aid in the distribution of the workload. Around eight years ago, the company experienced a downturn in membership, resulting in Green applying for federal grants in the past five years.
“The biggest problem we see is that people can’t afford to work just one job,” Green explained. “If I can get each firefighter to work just one night a week less than they already do, I believe that will have a significant impact.”
Though the grants have been awarded to the company, Green said that the incentive plans for recruitment and retention have not yet been presented to the rest of the company. When they do become finalized, he believes a realistic implementation time would be on Jan. 1.
Local volunteer firefighter and aspiring Congressman, Michael Weinstock commented on the news by saying, “I think it’s awesome that Tom Suozzi helped secure this grant for the Alert Fire Department. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m running against him, and the Alert Fire Department featured prominently in my announcement video. There are more than one hundred firehouses in the district, and I am hopeful that team Suozzi shows the others a little love, too.”