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Departments will use funds to purchase additional gear and upgrade equipment

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) announced today that the Pelham and Merrimack Fire Departments have been awarded money for operations and safety through the Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

“It is crucial that our firefighters have the equipment and tools they need to keep themselves and their communities safe,” Shaheen said. “These grants will allow for gear upgrades that increase safety, and the modernized equipment will allow firefighters to respond more quickly to emergency situations.”

The Pelham Fire Department will use its $33,488 grant to purchase laptops, which will be installed in all vehicles to allow firefighters heading to emergency situations to obtain crucial information quickly from department headquarters.

"Installing these systems will enable firefighters to access critical information where they most need it, at the scene when responding to incidents, which is not possible without mobile data systems," said Pelham Fire Chief James Midgley.

Chief Midgley recalled a time when he had recently joined the force and responded to an incident at a chemical facility. He said the firefighters had no idea how many people worked in the building or what kind of hazardous chemicals were stored there. Having that information before responding to the incident, he said, would have been extremely useful, and would have increased the safety of responders and those on the scene.

The Merrimack Fire Department is scheduled to receive $55,935 to purchase a number of items including modern safety gear, portable radios, pagers, and water rescue suits. The radios and pagers will allow the department to communicate more effectively with volunteer and off-duty firefighters. The water rescue suits will be especially important because flooding has been on the rise in Merrimack, which borders two major rivers.

Merrimack also purchased an RAD-57, a device which allows firefighters to measure the level of oxygen and carbon monoxide in the bloodstream to check for carbon monoxide poisoning, a common problem in the area during winter. 

"I noticed a trend starting in the ice storm of 2008 where residents, particularly the elderly, were using diesel generators inside their garages and houses, causing a number of incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to death,” said Merrimack Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Stowers. “In particular, I recall a family of six had placed a generator in their house and attempted to vent the fumes out of the chimney. When firefighters arrived on the scene, the family was in a dangerous state of carbon monoxide poisoning, with high concentrations of carbon monoxide detected in the home. This device will better enable department personnel to identify life threatening situations and encourage victims to seek life-saving care when necessary."

Stowers added that his department would not have been able to purchase essential gear without federal assistance and that "there is no way to measure how valuable it is for us to be able to acquire this equipment."

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program provides funding to local fire departments to help them improve the effectiveness of firefighting operations through specialized emergency training for response to situations like terrorist attacks; enhancement of emergency medical services programs; development of health and safety initiatives; establishment of fire education and prevention programs; creation of wellness and fitness programs; and equipment and facility upgrades.  All grants require a local match.