February 03, 2011

Gillibrand Announces Nearly $640,000 For Fire Departments In Erie And Cattaraugus Counties

Gillibrand Pushed for Funds, Which Will Provide Much-Needed Emergency Response Equipment

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $637,794 in federal funding for the Collins Center Volunteer Fire Company. This funding is being allocated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Funding will be used by the Collins Center Volunteer Fire Company to supply essential interoperable radio equipment to volunteer fire companies throughout southern Erie and Cattaraugus counties.

“This is a great investment for Erie and Cattaraugus counties,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This federal investment will help improve the fire department’s equipment, help local firefighters do their work and keep families safe. I will continue working to ensure our first responders have the tools and resources they need to keep our communities safe.”

“As a representative of this consortium, I’d like to express our happiness to receive this award for much-needed radio equipment that will allow us all to perform more efficiently,” said Doug Jensen, Captain, Collins Center Volunteer Fire Company.

“This grant award is the culmination of months of collaboration between these 17 different agencies from Erie and Cattaraugus Counties. It is just reward for the tremendous teamwork they displayed in working towards a common goal and should serve as an inspiration to others in the fire service. While Erie County is investing millions of dollars in creating the backbone of a new county-wide interoperable communications system, the mobile and portable radios and pagers that this grant provides are critical to our first responders. This project simply wouldn't have been affordable for these small communities without these federal funds. We proudly thank these local volunteer firefighters who dedicate their time and lives to serving their communities every day. Projects like this and folks like these are exactly what and who this grant program was designed for,” said Commissioner Greg Skibitsky from the Erie County Department of Emergency Services.

In a letter from July of last year to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, Senator Gillibrand expressed her support for Collins Center Volunteer Fire Company’s grant application. Collins Center Volunteer Fire Company is the lead agency representing a consortium of 17 volunteer fire companies throughout southern Erie and Cattaraugus counties. They protect a rural area comprising 500 square miles of heavy agricultural businesses within nine towns, three villages and a large sovereign territory. Under their current low-band radio system, coverage is severely limited within line-of-sight or even non-existent.

These funds, provided through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program of DHS and FEMA, will allow these 17 fire companies to acquire new interoperable radio equipment. An upgraded communications system will allow the departments and companies to operate according to industry standards. This equipment is essential to efficient coordination of emergency efforts in the region and will help to ensure safety of residents and emergency services personnel.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, established by DHS and FEMA, is part of an effort to increase the nation’s emergency response preparation. This program provides federal funding to first responder organizations for the acquisition of personal protective equipment, firefighting vehicles, and emergency response equipment. The funds will also help provide emergency response training to firefighters.