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Emergency equipment acquisition aides Helper's positive fire rating

Sun Advocate reporter

The new state-of-the-art brush truck purchased by Helper city will increase the local fire department's efficiency and response capabilities. Last year, the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency and fire administration awarded Helper city a $126,000 grant from the assistance to fire fighters program. The city recently used the federal grant revenues to buy the truck. The acquisition of the emergency vehicle may also affect the rates paid by local businesses and property owners in Helper city to obtain fire insurance coverage.

Last year, the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency and fire administration awarded Helper city a $126,000 grant from the assistance to fire fighters program.

The award was recently usedby the department to purchase a new brush truck.

"This truck is state-of-the-art," pointed out Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis during a recent interview. "Look at all these features."

The acquisition can do more than add to the department's ability to fight fires and respond to emergencies. The truck also can also affect the cost of fire insurance in the municipality.

"I know people sometimes see the money that is spent on fire protection and rescue services and it seems like a lot," explained Zamantakis. "But what most people don't realize is that the better the equipment, the more positive fire rating a community gets."

"Many people are surprised to learn how high our fire rating is for a volunteer fire department," added the chief. "Most volunteer departments, especially for towns our size, are ranked a seven on a scale of one to 10 in the fire rating business. We are ranked a five. That kind of ranking keeps individual property owners and business fire insurance rates lower than they would be if we were ranked higher."

Fire insurance ratings are done by the Insurance Services Office periodically on all municipalities.

The ratings are based on four systems, including the water supply available, the fire equipment, the personnel and the alarm or paging system used to notify responders.

The grant program is designed as an opportunity for the U.S. Congress to work with FEMA to enhance basic fire service delivery across the nation. More than 5,000 departments will receive $360 million to support fire protection, emergency medical services delivery, vehicle purchase and prevention programs.

"The men and women of both volunteer and career fire departments confront new and changing life safety challenges everyday," noted USFA administrator David Paulison. "It is our hope this grant assistance program will demonstrate our commitment to improving fire and life safety across the country and will provide the necessary incentive for all Americans to join in supporting these brave men and women, as they face the challenges of today."

The new truck will provide fire department service for many years.

Zamantakis pointed out that there is some new equipment for the truck, but more is needed.

"We have been able to get some of the stuff we need for the truck," he stated. "But there are a lot of things we still need. Some of that will come to us through our fund raising activities, such as the firemans ball on Feb. 14."

Zamantakis demonstrated many of the new pieces of equipment on the truck and showed how a lot of it worked.

"See that plug in there," said the fire chief, pointing an electrical connection on the truck that was plugged into the department's power system. "That charges all our electrical gear on the truck. When there is an emergency our guys don't even have to take the time, sometimes valuable response time to unplug it. The minute they turn the ignition, it automatically pops out so the plug and receptacle won't be damaged."

The purchase of the new truck replaces a unit that is over 20 years old, but still in good shape that is parked next to the new one in the station.

The vehicle is for sale and a number of departments around the country have already voiced an interest in the unit.

More than 19,000 fire departments applied for grant awards last year.

The request submitted by the Helper City Fire Department has been through a national peer review process.

The process involved review by more than 300 fire service leaders.

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