FEMA grant to aid Ahoskie firemen

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

AHOSKIE – For the third year in a row, the Ahoskie Fire Department (AFD) has received a grant from the federal government to help with some of their departmental needs.

On September 10, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that a total of 343 grants would be awarded to fire departments throughout the United States in the 15th round of the Fiscal Year 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

Over the next several months, approximately 8,000 awards worth nearly $750 million in direct assistance to firefighters will be given to fire departments throughout the country, demonstrating Homeland Security’s commitment to ensuring that American firefighters have the resources they need to protect their communities.

Included in the announcement of this latest round were awards to 11 communities in North Carolina, Ahoskie being one of those communities.

&uot;We are fortunate to have received this grant,&uot; said Ahoskie Fire Chief Ken Dilday.

Last year, as a result of federally awarded grant money, the Ahoskie Fire Department was able to purchase a mobile fire safety house, (a trailer 36 1/2 feet long by eight feet wide is powered by a generator and fully equipped with electricity, a/c, heat, a functional stove and microwave, television, VCR, weather band radio, telephone, video cameras, closed circuit television monitors, surround sound speakers and stereo equipment, a heated door knob and duct work that blows chemically created smoke to simulate the atmosphere inside a building on fire), which doubles as a transportable command center in the event of a natural disaster while being used for conducting fire safety and storm survival training.

In 2002, AFD received federal funding for an accountability system to help bolster firefighter safety.

&uot;President Bush and I strongly support the critical mission of our nation’s firefighters,&uot; said Secretary Ridge. &uot;Through these funds, we will ensure that our nation’s emergency responders have the equipment and training they need to respond to all hazards.&uot;

According to Dilday, this year’s grant money will be used to replace 20 of the department’s air packs or self-contained breathing apparatuses. &uot;We already have some air tanks that we can use in conjunction with the new masks,&uot; he explained, &uot;but we are hoping to purchase the new masks because the ones we presently have are not current with OSHA safety standards.&uot;

Dilday also stated that he desired to have each of the firefighters’ masks fit-tested to ensure their effectiveness.

&uot;The masks come in several sizes, but because each persons’ face is shaped differently, they don’t always get a good seal, so we want to make sure they fit properly,&uot; he said.

Director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) Suzanne Mencer commented, &uot;We recognize the importance of the Fire Act Grants to our nation’s fire departments and we will continue to work closely with the fire service community to meet their needs.&uot;

The 15th round of grants provides $23,096,556 collectively to help local fire departments purchase firefighting equipment, fund firefighter health and safety programs, enhance emergency medical service programs and conduct fire education and prevention programs. &uot;I think the reason that we have been able to secure these federal grants for the past three years, is largely due to the efforts set forth by the Assistant Ahoskie Fire Chief Eric Whitmeyer,&uot; said Dilday giving credit also to Scott Outlaw, a retired volunteer firefighter for APD, who now serves as a Lieutenant with the Ahoskie Police Department.

&uot;The two of them are instrumental in submitting the grant application,&uot; he said. &uot;I think the manner in which the narrative was constructed holds a great deal of weight when it comes to the decision to award the grants and Eric and Scott have been a powerful resource in helping us secure those funds. We are very thankful for their efforts.&uot;

Dilday stated that over the last three years, the department has spent a total of $121,680 dollars on equipment with only $12,160 of it coming from the town. &uot;By us receiving these grant monies, not only do the firefighters benefit, but the town and community members as well. I think that’s pretty good,&uot; he said.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the ODP in cooperation with the Department’s United States Fire Administration (USFA).

&uot;The Assistance to Firefighters grants represent a major effort by the federal government to ensure that the nation’s firefighters continue to have the basic capability they require to do their jobs, improve safety and save lives,&uot; said David Paulison, Administrator of the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Fire Administration.

On March 1, 2003, the ODP became a part of the Department of Homeland Security. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296) designated ODP as the principal federal agency responsible for the preparedness of the United States for acts of terrorism, including coordinating preparedness efforts at the federal level, and working with all state, local, tribal, parish and private sector emergency response providers on all matters pertaining to combat terrorism, including training exercises and equipment support.

To support this mission ODP administers a number of programs that provide a wide array of support to our nation’s emergency preparedness and response community.

Fore more information on ODP, please visit the website at: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/odp.

The USFA is a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security. The mission of USFA is to reduce life and economic losses due to fire and related emergencies through leadership, advocacy, coordination and support.

For more information on USFA, please visit the website at: www.usfa.fema.gov.