City to apply for fire safety, prevention grant money from Homeland Security

June 03, 2009

Akron City Council Monday night authorized the mayor to apply for $779,625 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to purchase new firefighter tracking equipment and for outreach efforts aimed at reducing fire deaths and injuries.

The funds from the department's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program would allow the Akron Fire Division to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses that include sensors that relay to a command post instant information about how much air remains available to the firefighter wearing the apparatus, activates low-air or lack-of-movement alarms, and allows two-way signaling in the event a firefighter's radio is lost or not functioning.

Another function of the grant is to fund educational and prevention efforts to reduce fires and fire-related incidents among populations considered at risk, including poor, elderly and disabled residents, and neighborhoods without much lighting or visible location markers.

"First, the grant provides for real-time monitoring of fire safety personnel while they're wearing self-contained equipment at the scene of a fire so we can know where they are and how they're doing at all times," said Public Safety Committee Chair Jim Shealey (At Large). "Secondly this will help reduce fire deaths and injuries among high-risk segments of the population, such as structures or homes without visible addresses.

"In those situations time is of the essence."

The outreach efforts will include purchasing lithium battery-powered smoke alarms with 10-year life spans, educational programs in areas with high fire incidents and providing legible home numbers for residents who don't have them.

"It's always a struggle when we go down the street at night and can't see the house numbers," said Fire Division Deputy Chief Robert C. Ross. "In many neighborhoods it's difficult for some people to put legible address numbers on their homes. We'll help get numbers posted so if we have additional incidents we can find them effectively."

Ross said the 515 structural fires reported in Akron in 2008 were a significant drop from the 607 reported in 2007, but he said the 2008 number also represents a spike in vacant structure fires.

If awarded, the city's required match would be $155,925, or 20 percent of the program's expected costs.