Fire grants add safety measures

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2005

By By ERIN VER BERKMOES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles community and fire departments both will benefit from grant money.
Through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program the Niles City Fire Department, Niles Township Fire Department and many other area departments have received grants.
The grants can be used to purchase things like, air compressors, air packs, decontamination tents, communication equipment, vehicles, and get firefighters training to be more prepared.
The Firefighters Grant act was instituted after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in order to help fire departments and other agencies be prepared for acts of terrorism in the United States.
During each of the last two years the Niles City Fire Department has received a grant.
In 2003, the Niles department received almost $50,000, which helped purchase air tanks for use in hazmat situations as well as in normal fire calls.
They also were able to get a large decontamination tent which is used in situations with chemical spills and leaks and some Level A Hazmat suits with flash fire protection which better protect the firefighters than the ones previously used.
In 2004 the department received another grant and used it to purchase a breathing air compressor.
Prior to the purchase of this compressor the department used to have to take their tanks and trucks to the Niles Township Fire Departments north station house and fill their tanks there, which was not only dangerous but kind of a hassle.
Niles Township Fire department was unsuccessful in receiving grants this year, but the two years before that they were able to receive about $60,000 in grant money.
Brovold added without the help of the Fire Act Grants, many departments wouldn't be able to be as progressive as they are in terms of keeping up to date with equipment and training.
Niles Township and Niles City Fire Departments will also receive communication equipment through a $184,000 grant that was awarded to the Berrien Springs Oronoko Fire Department.
The grant will help departments all around Berrien County be in contact with each other to make situations safer for every one.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is run by the Department of Domestic Preparedness and in cooperation with the United States Fire Administration which are part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The departments apply for the grants online using the websites for the Office Domestic Preparedness and the Fire Administration. The applications then gothrough a review process where it is determined if they meet the requirements. Once they go through that process they receive a score.
The department is then awarded a grant depending on its score, what they have applied for, and if they can match the amount of the purchase.
For instance the Niles City Fire Department was required to pay just 10 percent of the purchases in which they made. This percentage is determined by the size of the city. If the city is larger they pay a larger percentage.
By the end of this year, 8,000 awards totaling almost $750 million will be awarded.