Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced more than $130,000 in federal funding for Erie County Fire Departments. The money was allocated through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). The Buffalo Fire Department will use its $69,971 in federal funds to create a health and wellness program for firefighters as well as expand their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) capabilities. This Health and Wellness Program will be run through the Wellness Institute of Buffalo, which will allow firefighters to train and exercise. The Buffalo Fire Department’s expansion of its EAP capabilities will also allow the department to better assist firefighters with a vast array of difficulties including mental health counseling and overall wellness. The West Seneca Fire District will use its $67,222 to purchase six mobile radio units that will be fitted in fire trucks and 29 portable radio units, all of which will permit better communication between emergency dispatchers and firefighters. Mobile radio units cost approximately $2,800 per unit and portable radios cost approximately $2,100 per unit. These radios will replace the West Seneca Fire District’s more than 20-year-old radios and are more energy efficient, as the batteries last longer.
“These much-needed funds will allow these Erie County fire departments to invest in the resources and equipment they need to do their jobs effectively and save lives,” said Senator Schumer. “With this funding, the Buffalo Fire Department will be able to invest in training and health and wellness services for its firefighters. The West Seneca Fire Department will now be able to provide its firefighters the radios and technology they need to communicate during emergencies. Making sure the brave men and women that serve in our fire departments have the proper resources has always been a top priority of mine, and I will continue to do whatever I can to provide our firefighters with what they need to protect life and property.”
“This is a much needed investment for Erie County,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Buffalo Fire Department and West Seneca Fire District will be able to purchase critical equipment that allows firefighters to maintain their health and better communicate during emergency situations. This funding will provide the tools these first responders need to better serve their community and save more lives.”
“We’re going to be utilizing these funds to develop a wellness program through the Wellness Institute of Buffalo to help mitigate some of the physical issues our career fire personnel might experience,” said Garnell W. Whitfield, Commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department. “This will also help our EAP capacity. Our guys see the worst of the worse out there, and we want to support them. We want to do everything we can to make sure their careers are as long and as prosperous as possible.”
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be receiving this grant,” said Tom Gasiewicz, Commissioner of the West Seneca Fire District. “These new radios are going to vastly improve our communications and make sure our firefighters can talk to each other and remain safe. Our old units were 20 years old. This is a really big help.”
The Assistance to Firefighters Grants are administered by the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the Department’s United States Fire Administration. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that most closely address the program’s priorities and demonstrate financial need. More information on the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program can be accessed at http://www.fema.gov/firegrants.