MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute Annual Report 2020
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As the fiscal year began on July 1, 2019, the future looked great for fire service training in the state. Funding levels looked to increase to allow more training opportunities for first responders throughout Missouri, which in turn would provide for safer communities and safer responders. It would be the second year of the Division of Fire Safety’s contract, which changed dramatically in FY19, and through lessons learned by all parties involved, a better understanding of the process would make for a better year.
At the University, changes were being made that would impact the Fire and Rescue Training Institute. A new location was in the planning process for the newly created Center of Excellence for First Responder Education (CEFRE). CEFRE would include the Fire and Rescue Training Institute, Law Enforcement Training Institute, Community Emergency Management Program, and EMS Education. The vision for the Center would provide for a comprehensive approach to emergency response training that incorporates all emergency response disciplines. Each unit would remain a unique entity, and they would collaborate on projects when the expertise of their discipline was needed. Also, resources would be shared to eliminate duplicated services and reduce costs.
The University also had implemented a new Resource Allocation model that had the potential to provide additional funding to MU FRTI along with a new dedicated effort to seek funding sources for CEFRE through grants and philanthropic activities.
And then the unpredictable happened! COVID-19 swept the globe in the early spring of 2020 and changed everything. With the virus attaining pandemic status, we saw restrictions implemented that made delivering in-person training difficult. A significant number of scheduled classes in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year had to be canceled or rescheduled. The staff of MU FRTI went home to work remotely, and many did not return to the office until July.
With the pandemic in full swing, the economy suffered. Funding was cut to the University by the state to ensure a balanced budget and to redirect spending to fight the pandemic. Also, many MU FRTI contracted funding sources were cut. With the University budget in question, many cost-saving measures were implemented and affected MU FRTI, including the funding to relocate CEFRE units to a new location and in reduced budgets for FY21.
In the fall of 2019, I opened a discussion with MU Extension leadership of my intention to retire in 2020. While not a common direction for the University, they authorized a succession plan that would allow for hiring a new director and up to two months to train my successor before my retirement date. Yet again, the pandemic and its’ effect played a role in changing plans. As previously mentioned, the University budget was hit hard by the pandemic, with the future economic impact uncertain, a hiring freeze was implemented across the University System, and the MU FRTI Director hiring process was put on hold…indefinitely.
The impact of the COVID-19 virus will transfer into the new fiscal year, and the outcome is still uncertain of the effects it will have on MU FRTI, the fire service, and other first responders. I fully believe that we will adapt and overcome the adversity that it has caused and will learn from it.
In presenting this annual report, we continue to demonstrate our role as a leader in fire and emergency services training and education statewide, as well as nationally. We are proud of our accomplishments over our history. We are one of the oldest statewide training systems in the country and continue to rank high among them in courses delivered, student enrollments, and customer satisfaction.
On behalf of the faculty and staff of MU FRTI, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our partner agencies, the University, host agencies, and our students for your support of the Institute and its mission. Since 1933, the University and the Institute have served first responders of the state of Missouri and beyond. Fulfilling our mission to take the knowledge and research from campus and provide education and training throughout Missouri and better protect themselves and the citizens they serve.
I hope you find the information included in this Annual Report to be informational and provide an understanding of the breadth of our program. Please feel free to contact the Institute with any questions or comments. It was my pleasure to serve as the Director in this, my final fiscal year.
Kevin D. Zumwalt