Grant aimed at boosting firefighter safety in Southland
BY NICK SWEDBERG Correspondent July 7, 2014 7:02PM
Updated: August 9, 2014 6:24AM
A $1.8 million grant awarded to 20 south suburban fire departments will be used for buying state-of-the-art radios to help keep firefighters safe.
The Department of Homeland Security, which manages the firefighter grant program, recently gifted departments in MABAS Division 24 — the local mutual-aid organization — with the federal grant money to buy radios and provide training.
The main purpose of the new radios is to increase accountability of firefighters while at the scene of a fire and, ultimately, save lives, said Homewood Chief Robert Grabowski, whose department applied for the grant.
Computer software operated on mobile computers inside department trucks monitors radios as they are switched on and used. Departments using the same system can more easily coordinate when running a joint operation on a larger fire call.
A few departments that lack the mobile computers will be able to use a portion of the funds to buy them, Grabowski said.
At first, the Homewood Fire Department wanted to secure grant money for the department served by the E-COM dispatch center.
“After that, we decided that we should probably apply for everyone,” he said. The request was expanded to benefit all of the Division 24 departments, which include Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Markham, Lansing, Burnham, Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Dolton, East Hazel Crest, Homewood, Flossmoor, Glenwood, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Lynwood, Munster, Phoenix, Riverdale, South Holland and Thornton.
“The tragic loss of life at the World Trade Center on 9-11 painfully taught us that advanced, reliable communications is crucial to the safety and survival of our firefighters,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-2nd, who announced the grant award in a press release. “These funds will improve communication and increase the safety of our firefighters here in the south suburbs as they risk their lives to save others.”
The grant is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration.
Ten departments, including Midlothian and the Orland Fire Protection District, were awarded $710,000 from a similar grant in March to buy radios that serve the same purpose.
Park Forest also was awarded this month with a $19,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to replace one of its ambulance cots with a new, electric model. Park Forest Chief Bruce Ziegle said the department applied for enough funds to outfit all three of its ambulances with electric versions and a loading system but received grant money for only the one cot.