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Evergreen Park Gets Grant for Firefighter Accountability

Thanks to a federal grant, new computer software will keep track of Evergreen Park firefighters like never before.

With over 100 firefighters working for the , it can be difficult to keep track of who's on the scene. That's where technology comes in.

After receiving a $147,000 grant through the Department of Homeland Security, the EPFD bought 29 radios, two Toughbook computers and computer software to run a state-of-the-art accountability system, said Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhaus.

At the last Village Board meeting, trustees unanimously approved the purchase, which will cost the village $15,716.13, 10 percent of the total cost. The grant assumes the remaining 90 percent.

Once the firefighters switch on their radios, the department can monitor who's on the scene until the firefighters get back to the fire house.

“We've been very fortunate,” Kleinhaus said of the grant process. “I'm not going to lie. Everybody is out to get this grant. If you can't show that you're providing for the safety of your fire fighters, [you won't receive one].”

Supervised by fire service professionals from across the country, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program has certain prerequisites fire departments must fulfill.

Along with a strong safety record in the field, the EPFD showed that their workforce is large enough to qualify for the grant. Moreover, they had to list the amount of emergency calls firefighters responded last year.

“It's a little more involved than just applying for a grant,” Kleinhaus said of the program, which receives over 20,000 grant applications every year from fire departments nationwide.

Application questions include: How will the grant benefit your firefighters and community; what are the certification levels of your staff; and why can't you pay for the any equipment yourself?

This is the sixth year the fire department has received the grant. In the past, they've purchased an exhaust system that prevents diesel fumes from lingering in the fire house, an air compressor for tanks that attach to breathing masks and new radio repair software for high frequency communication in the field.

Make no mistake, Kleinhaus said, everything is “necessary for the safety of the firefighters and the community they protect.”

Kleinhaus also attends workshops every year for writing the grant, which certain firefighter magazines call "the most equal and well-deserving of all the federal grants out there." 

“We're not the only department in this area that's received more than one grant,” he added. “We've always written grants for things that we needed, that we couldn't afford...to provide for the department and the community.”

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