The Pullman Fire Department will be getting new portable radios, breathing equipment and special air supply safety packs thanks to a $758,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a 10 percent match from the city of Pullman.
“Those are the most key things a firefighter can have: radio for communication and a breathing apparatus for hazardous environments,” Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said. “Those are your two lifelines — this is a huge thing for us as far as firefighter safety and communication.”
Heston said the department’s current air packs and bottles are reaching the end of their 15-year useful life, as are its portable radios.
Heston said the new portable radios are digital, as opposed to analog, and signals will be clearer and able to better transmit through concrete walls and in buildings with electronic interference.
Heston said the new masks will be equipped with Bluetooth technology, so communication between firefighters will no longer be muffled as they talk through their mask and into handheld radios.
The new breathing equipment features fiberglass oxygen tanks that hold 45 minutes’ worth of oxygen, as opposed to the 30 minutes of air firefighters have with the current tanks.
“That buys you more time, not necessarily to work on the fire, but if something happens or you get trapped,” Heston said. “You don’t want to wear one-hour bottles — that’s too long to be working in a fire.”
Heston said the grant will also allow the department to purchase a rescue pack, which will include one hour’s worth of air, for each of the department’s fire engines. Currently, only the primary first-responding engines are equipped.
The new rescue packs are equipped with a universal fitting to fit any brand of air pack, so Pullman firefighters can provide extra air to firefighters from different agencies.
“If someone had a mayday issue we’d have extra air,” Heston said.
Just like the ambulances and firetrucks the department saves for annually, radios, breathing equipment and defibrillators are also considered big ticket items and are budgeted for annually by the department, Heston said.
He said radios were about $800 a piece when the department last purchased the devices more than 10 years ago. Now the department is in need of 80 radios, each costing about $3,500.
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