The Rochester Fire Department received a $24,769 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grants program to support firefighter health and mental wellness.

The Rochester Fire Department received a $24,769 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grants program to support firefighter health and mental wellness.

File photo provided by the Rochester Fire Department


FEMA grant to help keep Rochester firefighters healthy

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 6, 2018

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Fire Department was recently awarded a $24,769 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grants program.

FEMA officials said the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program provides the funding for critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operational efficiencies, foster interoperability and support community resilience.

“It is critical that firefighters and first responders have access to the tools and resources they need to keep their communities safe,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said in a statement. “This funding will help ensure that first responders across southeast Michigan are properly equipped to respond when emergencies arise.”

Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said the department will use the grant to support firefighter health and mental wellness.

“It’s a one-year funding, but the city’s intent is to continue to fund this activity as a wellness effort for the firefighters,” he said.

According to a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, nearly two-thirds of firefighters will develop cancer — some while on the job, some after they retire — compared to just 20 percent of the general population. Because cancer is now the No. 1 killer of firefighters, Cieslik said the department will use the grant to pay for a baseline physical, medical surveillance and a cancer screening for Rochester firefighters.

Another health issue that firefighters often battle, Cieslik said, is cardiac disease.

“The grant will help pay for counseling for healthy eating so that when we cook our meals, we’re doing a better job with fruits and vegetables and healthy eating,” he said.

The FEMA grant will also pay for grief and stress debrief counseling for firefighters.

“Another thing that’s killing firefighters a lot now is suicide, and that’s because every day they respond to bad things. People might have one bad day, but we respond to six bad days every day, if you think about it,” said Cieslik.  

This latest FEMA grant is one of three that Cieslik recently applied for, and two that FEMA has granted thus far. In August, the Rochester Fire Department was awarded a $2.4 million grant to hire 15 full-time-equivalent firefighters through FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program. The SAFER grant will be paid out to the city over three years.

“The third grant we haven’t heard anything on, and that’s for public safety, which if we get that one will help with getting smoke detectors, carbon dioxide detectors into high-risk groups, which would be senior citizens right now. We’re hoping that grant will go good too, but so far, two out of three is pretty darn good. I’m happy with it,” said Cieslik.

City Manager Blaine Wing said the city has been very fortunate to receive the FEMA grants.

“This has been a good year for us to be receiving grants,” he said. “We’re stretching our taxpayer dollars when we do get these awards.”

For more information about the grant, visit www.fema.gov/wel come-assistance-firefighters-grant-program.