In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media from the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal. (stock photo)
STOW – Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Massachusetts Firefighting Academy (MFA) Acting Director Maribel Fournier announced today, October 4, the Academy has received $500,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funding to purchase two mobile props that will replace aging, outdated equipment and enhance training opportunities for fire departments across Massachusetts.
The FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) funding will allow the Academy to purchase a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) maze prop and an Emergency Vehicle Operator (EVO) driver simulator prop. Both props will be trailer-based, allowing them to provide training at multiple locations.
“Firefighter training is key to firefighter safety,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This funding will improve the Academy’s ability to teach recruits new skills and help veteran firefighters sharpen theirs. It builds on our Administration’s commitment to occupational safety, health, and wellness in the fire service.”
“Every day, firefighters put their lives and safety on the line to protect others,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These resources will allow them to practice and refine their skills under controlled circumstances, leaving them better prepared to respond to emergencies and crisis conditions. The Assistance to Firefighters Grants reflect a smart investment to protect these brave first responders and the communities they serve.”
“The curriculum we offer at the MFA reflects the fact that firefighters do much more than put out fires,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “The equipment funded through this grant will improve the quality and accessibility of training we provide for 366 departments across the Commonwealth, help firefighters develop and maintain critical knowledge, and elevate municipal preparedness for any emergency they respond to. And because these are mobile props, we can literally deliver this high-quality training to fire departments statewide.”
“The Department of Fire Services provides invaluable service to local communities through their dynamic training program,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “They regularly pursue opportunities to prepare the next generation of firefighters and continue professional development for those currently on the job. Providing access to these tools will increase positive outcomes for our communities faced with dangerous fire.”
“On behalf of all residents of the Commonwealth, I thank our federal partners for investing in Massachusetts public safety,” said Homeland Security Undersecretary Jeanne Benincasa Thorpe. “We know that every second counts in an emergency. Our brave and courageous firefighters will use these training resources to save lives.”
The SCBA mazes are the Academy training props most frequently utilized by local fire departments, with about 500 firefighters utilizing them each year to simulate the dark, enclosed areas with limited ability for movement that they could encounter in a burning building.
The Academy currently operates three of them: one is a fixed installation on the Stow campus, the second is a trailer-based mobile prop based on the Springfield campus that serves departments in western Massachusetts, and the third is another mobile prop based at the Bridgewater campus.
While this prop’s maze is operational, the trailer on which it sits is more than 20 years old and at the end of its useful life.
The grant-funded trailer will replace it as a mobile training prop serving eastern Massachusetts and allow the aging trailer to be used as a stationary maze at Bridgewater.
The EVO trailer will likewise replace an outdated simulator that currently operates on a limited basis because its decade-old technology is almost obsolete. The new EVO simulator will feature a multiple-screen cockpit with two reactive operator chairs that pitch, roll, and heave the way fire apparatus does during an emergency response, as well as a full dashboard with analogue gauges, radio, siren, steering wheel, and pedals. It will also have a separate instructor station to monitor and control the training. Where the Academy’s current EVO simulator is currently used only as necessary, the grant-funded simulator will allow a transition to proactive training in vehicle skills that are crucial for the fire service.
FEMA offers the Assistance to Firefighters Grant to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and non-affiliated emergency medical service organizations. State firefighting academies have been eligible for this grant program for only eight years. The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy has been successful each year and received a total of nearly $3.4 million in funding for vital training resources.
The Academy has purchased several training props through the AFG program: the forcible entry prop, a maze trailer (based out of Springfield), the flashover training prop, search and rescue training props on the Bridgewater and Springfield campuses, and a Mobile Extraction Unit to clean large quantities of firefighters’ gear of contaminants and chemicals that can contribute to occupational cancer.