Firefighters get grant for emergency-response equipment

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 22, 2013

 Sterling Heights firefighter Jason Meyers shows Dawson Salim, 6, how to use the fire hose during Sterling Heights’ Fire Open House at Fire Station 4 Oct. 14.

Sterling Heights firefighter Jason Meyers shows Dawson Salim, 6, how to use the fire hose during Sterling Heights’ Fire Open House at Fire Station 4 Oct. 14.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Sterling Heights emergency responders will be able to help those suffering from heart attacks and cardiac emergencies with the most up-to-date equipment possible.

The Sterling Heights Fire Department will receive a $232,548 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. Since 2001, the AFG program has awarded about $5.25 billion to first- responder organizations.

Sterling Heights fire Training Chief Rob Duke explained that the funds will be used to purchase heart monitor/defibrillators and fire officer training for 30 firefighters.

“We use this equipment on a daily basis,” Duke said. He expected that the department would have the equipment in about six months’ time after completing a competitive bid process and researching the best equipment available.

“It’s pretty competitive,” Duke said of the process to obtain the grant. “We’re very excited.”

He said the training is essential with the large turnover of firefighters expected within the next two years, due to retirements.

Earlier this month, after nearly two years of negotiations, Sterling Heights firefighters and Sterling Heights city officials agreed on a contract that included wage and benefit concessions.

The Sterling Heights City Council unanimously approved labor contracts for firefighters, as well as for employees at the 41-A District Court at a Jan. 2 meeting.

Mayor Richard Notte said he appreciated the labor groups’ willingness to address financial issues facing the city.

The 83 members of the Sterling Heights Firefighters Association Local 1557 agreed to contribute more to the pension system — 8, rather than 5, percent; pay higher health care deductibles, co-pays and prescription costs; decrease the pension formula; and institute a hard cap on covered health care costs.

In May, the Sterling Heights City Council approved a $133.5 million budget with employee layoffs in a number of departments, including eight full-time firefighters.

Duke explained that the grant is very specific and may only be used for what was requested.

“We, (Duke and fire training officer Patrick Ranes) wrote for what we needed,” Duke said. “With the purchase of the new equipment, all monitors will be standard on all Advanced Life Support vehicles and all the equipment will be the same,” Duke noted.

Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said that more than 20 firefighters plan to retire in coming months, and the training will fund leadership training for newly promoted officers.

In a prepared statement, Notte thanked Michigan lawmakers Democratic U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, Republican U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Sander Levin for supporting the city’s efforts and “playing a major role in awarding the Sterling Heights Fire Department this needed funding.”