Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A CERT date of importance to all of us

I just posted one upcoming date of importance to the Fairfax County CERT family. Well, there is another date coming up that is of extreme interest to all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2009.

The dreaded 2010 budget process begins; the meeting starts at 9am at the Fairfax County government center. I will be attending this board of supervisors meeting and will report the outcome here on the blog. The budget this year has great importance to all of us; as citizens and CERT members.

Here is the time line on this years' county budget approval process . This information was provided by our new county board of supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova in November, 2008.
"The County Executive's Budget is usually advertised in February, public hearings are held during March and the Board eventually "marks up" (or makes changes to the Advertised Budget) in April. We will not be actually adopting the FY 2010 budget until late in April."

Let me refresh your memory on why this budget is of such importance to us.

As you may remember, our CERT program is administered under the auspices of the fire and rescue department.
The cost cutting proposals that relate to us, the Fairfax County CERT family are covered in the LOB's (LOB's-lines of business-I.E.political-ese for proposed budget cuts)as "agency 92". Specifically, LOB 92-05 could effectively kill the entire CERT program. Below is the full text.

LOB 19 92-05 Volunteers $60,000 (slide 51)
Loss of this contribution will impact the Volunteer's ability to serve in a support role and enhance the mission of the Fire and Rescue Department.
Elimination of Program.

This LOB proposal eliminates one of two personnel positions in the office of the volunteer liaison at the Fire and Rescue Department. To put it in English-if this LOB is presented at the February 23rd meeting, then this will mean that our CERT program could be in trouble.Here's how- The loss of the Management Analyst II position would lead to the loss of support from the Fire and Rescue Department for CERT.

(Folks, this "proposed budget cut" has a name, and a face. People forget those details when discussing budget cuts.) Her name is Dana. She is a very sweet, very competent lady who, with Jeffrey in the same office administers the entire county CERT program.

In addition to handling the entire CERT program, they handle the administrative affairs for the county's 500 or so volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. These two folks administratively handle 25% of the entire county's fire and EMS personnel resources! And the county is considering cutting one of these positions, if you can believe it.
By comparison, 1390 career firefighters within Fairfax County are administratively handled by 130 administration personnel. I don't know about you, but there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

Let's take a look at what this this one job loss, and the loss of Fire and Rescue department support would do to our CERT program.

1.Fairfax County CERT would become a program of the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management. Of course, Fairfax county OEM is going through their own budget woes too. I understand that up to 37% of their personnel are facing the same budget cutting axe. Who in that office would administer the program? In light of their budget issues, would they even have anyone available to administer us? On that thought, another thought.Would they even WANT to administer us?

2. Imagine CERT 2 training without Derek, Mike and Steve..................If CERT is transferred to OEM stewardship it is ENTIRELY possible OEM would wish to use their own instructors, or just the current cadre of CERT volunteer instructors to save money. As a proud member of the Fairfax County CERT family, I find this possibility most disturbing of all. Their many years of valuable experience, their wisdom,hard work and guidance could be lost to us forever. We would lose the world class training we enjoy.

3. We WILL lose access to our training facility.
Specifically, the use of the fire academy for training. Imagine CERT 2 training without the use of the fire academy grounds, the multipurpose building or the burn building. Fairfax County CERT is famous for real world, challenging training. Without the use of the fire academy our training would no no longer be first class, nor as realistic as it is now. We would be forced to find a new place large enough, and safe enough to conduct CERT 2 and CERT 3 training. How easy would that be?

Those three items are distinct possibilities if we lose that ONE admin position, folks. One job cut and over 500 Fairfax County CERTs lose.

Two of today's most used words in politics are "hope" and "change".So, let's use those words in a CERT context.

As your volunteer PIO, I "hope" you will remind your district supervisor what the loss of CERT would do to the community, to our neighbors and our families.

You may also wish to remind those same supervisors of the consequences losing CERT would do to them. As citizens we can most decisively effect regime "change" at their next election. We vote.

your volunteer PIO