March 6, 2023 | Cole Arreola-Karr
The National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC) is prioritizing legislative action in the 118th Congress to address community gaps in adequate water resources for firefighting and is seeking further input from local agencies providing these services on the experiences they have had in their communities on this topic.
Does your agency have insights to offer on the subject of adequate water infrastructure for firefighting in your community? Share your feedback here.
This effort began in 2022 following initial feedback from numerous special district stakeholders across the country providing fire protection and water services indicating that 44 percent of water agencies and 72 percent fire protection agencies consider their service territories to lack what they deem to be adequate water resources for firefighting.
NSDC released a July 2022 report covering in-depth insights on core issues facing agencies providing water and fire protection services as they fulfill their missions to provide essential public health and safety services. NSDC along with the fire protection and water agency stakeholders involved in creating the report recommend four policy actions for federal lawmakers.
Primarily, local governments cite the absence of a financial assistance program aimed to ensure adequate water infrastructure coverage for firefighting in or nearby populated areas as a consistent problem. Driving this concern is the high cost of building infrastructure with sufficient water pressure to serve hydrants, establish water storage, and procure fire vehicles. Agencies also outline additional hardships in the report including ability to access existing federal funding programs, interagency communication coordination, and difficulty achieving awards for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) major fire service grant programs. Nearly all hardships noted in the NSDC report are more pronounced in rural communities.
Does your agency have insights to offer with adequate water infrastructure for firefighting in your community? Share your feedback here.
NSDC in 2022 assembled 24 water and fire protection district leaders from nine states to examine the infrastructure gaps and to formally recommend steps to enhance fire suppression and mitigate fire disaster in communities. The group recommends that Congress:
- Establish pilot, stand-alone cost share grant programs under FEMA to directly aid all types of local governments to address infrastructure gaps for fire suppression needs.
- Provide enhanced technical assistance for local agencies seeking funding opportunities for water and fire infrastructure.
- Make additional appropriations and provide greater flexibility for FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
- Direct a FEMA administrative review of how Agency-approved local disaster mitigation plans are developed to ensure all agencies with eligible mitigation projects have an opportunity to participate.
Organizations and special districts interested in engaging with NSDC on grassroots and legislative efforts to address this public policy issue are encouraged to contact Cole Arreola-Karr at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The National Special Districts Coalition is the only national organization representing and advocating for all special districts at a national level. Organized in 2018, a group of five state special districts associations established the organization to share resources, best practices, and collaborate to identify solutions to common problems for special districts across state lines.