NVFC Conducts Council Business at Virtual Spring Board Meeting

NVFC chair Steve Hirsch attending a committee meeting virtually.

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) held its annual spring board meeting from April 30-May 2, 2020. Fifty directors from 34 states attended.

Due to travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines currently in place, the board held the meeting virtually for the first time in its 44-year history. All sessions took place through an online meeting platform, allowing the directors to continue to conduct Council business during these unprecedented times.

In the course of the three days, the NVFC’s committees met on key fire and emergency services topics. The EMS/Rescue Section also held its biannual meeting. In addition, the full board gathered for the general session to discuss critical issues and vote on Council measures. In his opening remarks, NVFC Chair Steve Hirsch highlighted how the volunteer fire and emergency services have stepped up in many ways to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am so proud of our firefighters and EMS personnel, and so proud to lead this organization,” Hirsch said. He went on to note some of the challenges the volunteer emergency services are facing due to the pandemic, including setbacks in fundraising and recruitment efforts. He noted his message to the public is that the fire service needs more volunteers, donations, and prayers as responders continue to serve day in and day out.

During the general session, the NVFC board accepted an unmodified audit. CEO Heather Schafer also provided a report on the status of the NVFC’s programs and initiatives. This included an update on the Volunteer Firefighter Support Fund, which was recently expanded to include eligible volunteer firefighters and EMS providers who involuntarily lost their job or wages in excess of $500 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic began, over $100,000 has been distributed to help responders in need, in the form of $350 stipends. The fund depends entirely on donations, with 100 percent of donations going directly to help volunteers. Hirsch challenged the board members to each donate $350 to the fund so that more responders can be helped.

As part of the meeting, invited speakers and guests updated NVFC board members on important programs and initiatives.

  • In the Wildland Committee meeting:
    • Bill Bradley, vice president of community affairs for Anheuser-Busch, spoke about the joint Emergency Drinking Water for Wildland Firefighters program. In the first year of the program, 274 volunteer fire departments in 42 states received clean drinking water to use locally and regionally to hydrate responders during wildfire response and other large-scale incidents. The first application cycle in the 2020 program is open through May 15.
    • James Fortner, cooperative fire program manager, fire and aviation management, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), provided updates on grant programs and other USFS initiatives.
    • Paul Schmidtke, national Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP)/Firefighter Property (FFP) Program manager, USFS, updated the committee about the FEPP/FFP program and how it has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Gwen Beavans, national wildfire prevention branch chief, fire and aviation management, USFS, gave an overview of current wildfire prevention initiatives.
    • Tim Melchert, cooperative fire specialist, fire and aviation management, landscapes, and partnerships, USFS, also joined the meeting.
  • In the Communications and Technology Committee meeting:
    • Charles Werner, director of DRONERESPONDERS, gave an overview of how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can be used in emergency response to increase situational and operational awareness for responders as well as enhance the safety of responders and citizens.
    • Andrew Fusco, Scott Langely, and Tammy McLean of Verizon Wireless updated the committee on how Verizon technology supports the work of emergency responders.
  • In the EMS/Rescue Section meeting:
    • John Krohmer, MD, FACEP, FAEMS, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of EMS, provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, including the work of the FEMA Healthcare Resiliency Task Force, guidance regarding PPE, and how the federal government is supporting first responders.
    • Debra Von Seggern from National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) gave an update from NAEMT.
  • In the Health, Safety, and Training Committee meeting, Kenny Fent, PhD, CIH, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the committee on the COVD-19 pandemic and CDC recommendations and guidance for protecting firefighters and EMS providers.
  • Ed Conlin and Curt Floyd from the National Fire Protection Association participated in the Standards and Codes Committee meeting.
  • Ed Mann, training and education director at Provident, delivered a webinar on The Past, Present, and Future of the Fire Service. The webinar was open to directors and non-directors.

The NVFC thanks the spring meeting sponsors for your support: 3M Scott Safety, Anheuser-Busch Foundation, California Casualty, Clarion UX Fire & Rescue Group, Columbia Southern University, ESIP, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, Lincoln Financial Group, National Fire Protection Association, OnStar Provident Agency, Verizon Wireless, VFIS, and Ward Diesel Filter Systems.

The NVFC Board of Directors is made up of representatives from 46 state fire associations. The board meets as a whole twice a year – in the spring and the fall. The next board meeting is planned for October 14-16 in Wilmington, NC.