Baltimore County fire departments receive $1.8 million in federal grants to update equipment

Two federal Homeland Security grants totaling $1.84 million will provide equipment to many of Baltimore County's 25 career and 33 volunteer fire stations, with several of volunteer stations in the 21227 ZIP code among those that would benefit.

One grant provides $1.75 million for the purchase of an estimated 60 Life-Pak 15 units, automated external defibrillators (AED) which assist in emergency resuscitation and chest compression, according to Mark Hubbard, assistant chief of the Baltimore County Fire Department.

"This right now is state of the art, and we're trying to (distribute) the equipment throughout the county," Hubbard said. "We're trying to replace (existing equipment) with monitors that can do more."

Hubbard said the exact number of monitors purchased with the funding will be determined by a competitive bid process.

According to Olga Maltseva fromSen. Barbara Mikulski's office, an AED costs from $25,000 to $30,000.

Mikulski joined Sen. Ben Cardin, U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in announcing the grants Jan. 19 at the Parkville Fire Station.

Mikulski is on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Cardin is on the Finance and Budget committees. Ruppersberger served as Baltimore County Executive from 1994-2002.

"In these times, with budgets being down and everybody scraping pennies, to hear that Baltimore County was awarded a grant was a good shot in the arm," said Doug Brinkley, chief of the Lansdowne Volunteer Fire Department.

Brinkley said his company currently has an older model Life-Pak unit.

"It does an excellent job," he said. "But the cardiac capabilities of a current Life-Pak can help us a little more at the scene of an emergency."

Nicholas Hannigan, chief of the English Consul Volunteer Fire Department, said the timing of the grant was also helpful.

In January, two of its AEDs became obsolete, leaving the department with only one, he said.

"It's just hard, because wherever that one is, it's the only place you can work somebody," Hannigan said.

He said the new equipment is an improvement over the older model, noting that Life-Pak 15 units provide readings —for blood pressure, for example — that Life-Pak 12 units don't.

The Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department currently has a Life-Pak 12 on its ambulance, said Doug Simpkins, captain of the Arbutus fire house.

"It still does the job," he said. "But the ones that are coming out have a couple more bells and whistles."

By the middle of February, Simpkins said, he expects the company's new ambulance to arrive and that would need to be outfitted with a Life-Pak.

A second federal grant of $90,000 will provide the department on Southwestern Boulevard with the funds necessary to install a sprinkler system in the pre-existing part of its fire house.

Simpkins said installing the new system will cover the offices and the bingo hall and provide complete sprinkler coverage for the building.

"It's not just a social hall," Simpkins said. "If something really bad happens around town, they're going to use our hall to congregate people."

Word of the two grants has encouraged Simkins about the future.

"We're in really, really good shape now," he said.

The Violetville Volunteer Fire Department does not have a medical unit and will not benefit from the federal grant.

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