First respondersDHS grant buys gear for Ohio fire department

Published 1 February 2011

A DHS grant will allow the Lancaster, Ohio fire department to upgrade aging equipment and purchase a sophisticated new wireless tracking system; the new system will allow commanders to track firefighters on the scene and can send out distress signals if the firefighter becomes trapped or is impaired; the DHS grant covered $57,000 of the total $62,000; another $300,000 DHS grant will pay for a new fire truck to replace an aging truck that dates back to 1983; Lancaster has suffered from budget shortfalls and was forced to lay off firefighters

In Ohio, the Lancaster fire department is set to purchase a sophisticated new wireless tracking system courtesy of a DHS grant.

The new system embeds wireless sensors in firefighting equipment to help detect and track firefighters at the site of an emergency.

As firefighters enter the scene, the incident commander can track them via a computer spreadsheet. Each responder is assigned a specific number and other agencies using the technology will also appear on the commander’s screen.

The sensors also have the ability to send distress signals to others in the event that the firefighter becomes trapped or impaired.

According to Fire Chief Steve Sells, “It’s a two-way panic button with a chip in it that lets us know if you’re on scene.”

The technology even has “the ability to provide a diagram inside, possible to tell what section of the house they are in A side or B side,” said firefighter Gary Hatch.

The new system will cost a little more than $62,000 with the DHS grant covering nearly $57,000 of the total. The Lancaster City Council agreed to pay for the remaining costs.

The city is suffering from budget woes and was forced to eliminate positions from its fire department.

Fire officials are thankful for the grants as their equipment has become increasingly outdated.

Lancaster recently received another DHS grant for a replacement fire engine.

Assistant Fire Chief Dave Ward said, “It really is great news.”

“Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office called to give us advance word that we were able to get a $300,000 grant for the purchase of a new fire engine.”

The DHS grant was made through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

DHS will cover 90 percent of the costs to purchase the new truck that will replace the department’s aging fire truck that dates back to 1983.

We can’t even find replacement parts for the 1983 engine,” Ward said. “Three years ago the steering went out and they had to machine a replacement part to get it running again.”

Lancaster will pay the remaining 10 percent.