FEMA grant helps Delaware Fire School keep teaching

Sen. Tom Carper gets a demonstration of computerized patient simulator “Hal” from Delaware State Fire school instructor Matthew Gajda at Friday’s press conference. “Hal” is remotely controlled to speak and demonstrate various medical symptoms to emergency trainees.

DOVER — These aren’t just expensive, high-tech gadgets to play with that the Delaware Fire School has been purchasing with the Assistance to Firefighters Grants it has received from FEMA the past four years.

Rather, they are useful training tools and materials that help make the training and education of firefighters and EMTs efficient and safe.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., got a first-hand look at some of the kinds of training items those grants have been spent on over the past several years during a ceremony on Friday morning in which the Delaware Fire School announced it has been awarded a 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant for the fifth-straight year.

The latest grant will help fund a $435,500 project that will be used to purchase computers for a new computer lab, customized protective gear for instructors and training props, such as interactive computer patient simulators (Manikins). The federal share of the project will be $395,910.

Delaware State Fire school hazardous material instructor Craig Stephens Sr. showing some of the training equipment at Friday’s announcement.

Sen. Carper was wide-eyed as he saw some of the firefighting classroom tools that have been purchased in recent years, including a “back of an ambulance simulator,” a forceable entry trailer that has eight different things that can be taught to a firefighter from inside one trailer, an interactive computer patient simulator (Manikin) named “Hal,” as well as other classroom apparatus.

The ambulance simulator mimics the sounds and feel of an ambulance in motion with a patient aboard, which provides a more realistic experience to trainees who may not have access to training on a real ambulance.

Every piece of training equipment has a specific reason for being at the Delaware Fire School.

Sen. Carper noted that firefighters aren’t just called on to battle fires, but also are called on for vehicle accidents, train and tractor trailer mishaps, and a variety of other things.

“So many of the brave men and women who serve First State communities as firefighters volunteer their time, and they are often called upon to do far more than just fight fires as part of their work to keep us safe,” said Sen. Carper, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “We need to be sure to properly thank those who protect us, and the best way to do that is to give them the tools, resources and education they need.

“This school has really grown and expanded over the years and stands as a testament to all of us who are dedicated to making training more productive and safer for our firefighters.”

The Delaware Fire School was started in 1966 to provide a permanent training center for firemen and women, and has been supported by Governors, including Sen. Carper, legislators and firemen over the years.

Delaware State Fire School senior instructor Tucker Dempsey with Sen. Tom Carper announcing the awarding Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from FEMA of $435,500 to purchase computers, protective gear for instructors, and training props. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester were scheduled to attend Friday’s ceremony but were unable to make it. Both released statements to support the fire school’s efforts.

“For more than 50 years, the Delaware Fire School has been instrumental in providing First State firefighters with the knowledge and training to save lives and keep the public safe,” Congresswoman Rochester said in a statement.

“That’s why I’m proud to announce, alongside my colleagues, this grant which will ensure that both instructors and students have the proper resources and protective gear to keep themselves safe, so the next generation of Delaware first responders are well trained and ready to serve.”

Delaware State Fire School Training Administrator Tucker Dempsey said, “The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire-related hazards by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations and State Fire Training Academies.

“The funding is for critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operations efficiencies, foster interoperability and support community resilience.”

The latest grant will help fund instructor gear, which will cost $92,000 for 40 suits, and instructor masks for self-contained breathing apparatus, which will run $15,000 for 50. It will also cover $18,000 for a pair of battery operated Jaws of Life and $25,000 for multiple pieces of rescue struts.

The funds will also allow the fire school to purchase eight interactive computerized training simulators (Manikins) for $191,000 and 21 computers and laptops for $28,500, as well as three fire extinguisher training simulators for $54,000 and one gas meter training simulator for $11,000.

Chad Ingram, a training administrator at the fire school, said the money the school receives is always put to a good use.
“It’s extremely important to be able to keep things up to date and to teach the firefighters with the latest technology,” Mr. Ingram said. “It’s paramount for the residents and visitors to the state of Delaware.

“We’re really excited to be able to upgrade the structural fire gear for our instructors. Our instructors are the backbone of what we do here. They’re volunteers or professionals from Claymont to Delmar.”

Mr. Ingram added, “So to be able to keep them safe is really very, very important to us.”

Sen. Coons said that Delaware’s firefighters, the majority of whom are volunteers, are invaluable when it comes to protecting the safety of individuals in the state.

“When danger strikes, our firefighters are first on the scene to protect our neighbors and assess the situation,” he said. “Every day the brave men and women in our fire departments put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe and the least we can do to thank them for their work is to provide them with the resources and training they need to properly carry out their dangerous missions.

“Our nation relies on our local firefighters to be first responders to national emergencies, including natural disasters and acts of terrorism, and we owe them the support that they need to fill this role.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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