Taking advantage of federal funds, the Norwalk Fire Department is using a $200,000 grant to upgrade its equipment.
The 2012 FEMA assistance to firefighters grant (AFG) totaled $180,607. It was a 90-10 match, so Norwalk had to kick in $18,000.
"We had to get an extension (on the grant) because the air packs we ordered. ... There were some problems testing, which delayed us getting them," said Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson.
The department used the money on 25 air packs. "Each air pack comes with an extra bottle so, basically, we got 25 air packs and 50 bottles," Soisson said. "We also took delivery last year of four defibrillators and $12,000 in officer training."
It's a long and entailed process getting these grants, Soisson said.
"When we applied, they do a community profile. ... Is there a need for this equipment," Soisson said. "They send that to FEMA and then they look at it before awarding the grants.
"We have to explain how this will put us in compliance with today's standards and the benefits of the equipment we are going to purchase.
"In our air-pack situation, the bottles we use have a 15-year life. We have several expired now and several that will expire in 24 months. We showed the need the city didn't have that kind of money ($1,000 per bottle). The air packs we got with the two bottles were $4,900."
The city has applied for another grant for fiscal year 2013, which would be used for water-rescue equipment, extraction equipment (numeric air bags), and rope rescue in confined space equipment.
"The grant we did for 2013 ($45,000) is all about technical rescue equipment.
"When you are dealing with tight budgets like we have you have to do your due diligence to find any money you can. ... The general fund money is just not there."