The Bittinger Volunteer Fire Department was awarded, on behalf of all of the volunteer fire and rescue companies in the county, nearly one million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Department of Homeland Security.
The funding was announced by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin as well as Rep. David Trone through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) opportunity. The award will be used to purchase communications equipment; providing local first responders with advanced tools and technology.
The AFG program goal “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 […and others]” according to their website. A condition of the grant is to self-fund 10% of the amount of the award.
The Board of Garrett County Commissioners has committed to fund the required 10% share in the amount of $90,706.
Bittinger Volunteer Fire Department Chief Justin Orendorf said, “I would like to publicly thank the Commissioners for their efforts and commitment to cover the volunteer portion of this grant award. This funding is going to help the fire and EMS community tremendously.”
A mobile radio will be placed in nearly every essential ambulance, firetruck, chase vehicle, and specialized unit in the county to total about 70 radios. Plus, about 10 portable radios will be purchased for each of the fire and rescue departments to be carried by personnel. Without this federal award, each volunteer department would be looking at an out-of-pocket expense of $80,000 to $100,000.
“This award is the result of a multi-part effort by the Garrett County Department of Public Safety and each of the local fire departments. We sincerely appreciate the hard work and dedication of these agencies as their efforts will save our taxpayers about one million dollars,” Garrett County Commissioner Paul Edwards stated.
The new equipment is tri band radios capable of connecting to the new Maryland First Responder Radio System Team (FiRST) statewide radio structure. Also, the technology improvements with the new radios will allow for better response to the neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia needs.
John Frank, Director of Garrett County Emergency Services impressed, “Our current communication technology situation is outdated and we appreciate our elected officials, FEMA, and Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) for working together in helping us meet this critical need.”
More information on the award’s implementation timeline and funding allocation will be shared as it is received.