With a $38,983 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Brazil City Fire Department plans to get physically fit and healthy.
"Departments often neglect the wellness and fitness of their firefighters. Several of the nation's leading fire service organizations are trying to increase awareness in this area," Assistant Fire Chief Jake Bennett said.
The 2006 AFG award is designated for Firefighter Operations and Safety in the Wellness and Fitness Program Area.
"The International Association of Fire Fighters Union and the International Association of Fire Chiefs both put this issue at the top of their list of priorities," Bennett said. "The federal government has taken note and always offered opportunity (for departments) to apply for funding in this area."
A portion of the grant will allow the department to initiate an immunization program against infections such as hepatitis, influenza and meningitis, OSHA required annual physical exams and health screenings, as well as provide on station exercise equipment to create an overall wellness program for firefighters.
Bennett said he feels, "fortunate the Brazil City Fire Department is one of the 17 departments in Indiana to receive federal funding."
Brazil Fire Chief Tobey Archer is excited this grant is related to the fitness and health of the department's greatest asset, its membership.
"In 2005, the department began concentrating on health and fitness with annual physicals and respirator fit testing for the firefighters, a requirement outlined by OSHA standards," Archer said. "We're trying to implement other programs related to health and fitness, which can be very costly. Now (with the aid of the grant) a more extensive physical and health screening can be completed, with fitness assessments and counseling on an individual basis."
Archer says two members of the department will be sent to a Peer Fitness Trainer Workshop and certified to help their fellow firefighters design a training program to meet their individual fitness needs based on their annual physical assessment.
The department will replace the few pieces of second hand exercise equipment it currently has with a wider variety of safer and higher quality equipment designed to improve all levels of physical health. This creates benefits not only for the firefighters, but also for members of the Brazil City Police Department.
"In co-operation with the police department, an area of the building is being cleared for this new equipment," Archer said. "(We will be) making this fitness equipment available for the police department members as well."
Of the 860 national Assistance to Firefighters Grants announced in 2006, 17 were to Indiana departments, totaling $1,750,609. The federal program provides grant awards to firefighters, emergency response personnel and first responders throughout the country to enhance response capabilities and to more effectively protect the health and safety of the public, with respect to fire and other hazards.
Departments can purchase or receive training, conduct first responder health and safety programs, and buy equipment and response vehicles, and promote the wellness and fitness of America's first responders with the grant money.
"The AFG program has been instrumental in building capacity and has provided needed resources for our nation's firefighters," said Under Secretary for Preparedness George Foresman. "From the purchase of equipment to first responder training, the AFG program has had an immensely positive impact on fire related initiatives which has directly resulted in saving lives and property in communities throughout the United States."