McNABB – McNabb and Lostant fire departments recently were awarded Assistance to Firefighters grants from the Department of Homeland Security for their joint grant application to purchase a Life Pack 15 Cardiac Monitor for each department.
The equipment totaled $90,000 and allowed each department to replace outdated equipment that is no longer serviceable. Without funding, it would have been a five- to six-year commitment to raise funds to purchase it new.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, toured the Putnam County EMS building Tuesday and got the opportunity to learn about the lifesaving equipment purchased through the grants.
Putnam County EMS Director Andy Jackson told Kinzinger that the equipment is used on nearly every call to evaluate patients’ heart rates and health, and, in fact, it had just been used to diagnose a massive heart attack in a man who otherwise would have died at home had he not been evaluated.
Kinzinger asked how recruiting is going for the next generation of firefighters and emergency responders. Jackson, Granville Fire Chief Brad Popurella and Cedar Point Fire Chief/Putnam County EMS Allen Haeffner agreed that the answer is not good.
Popurella said he started out at 15 years old learning the ropes, but there doesn’t seem to be an interest in a firefighting career like there used to be.
“I hate to sound like the old guy that says ‘back in my day,’ but we just don’t see an interest in public service careers like there used to be,” he said. “Kids don’t want to commit the time to this and it’s a big commitment with the time and education required.”
“It’s a public perception problem,” Haeffner agreed, “After 9-11 first responders, police were all heroes but that all died down.”
Jackson blames much of the lack of interest on low pay and benefits. He said local fire and EMS must accept responsibility for a lack of marketing those jobs to the younger generation of workers.
Kinzinger said he foresees a need to shift education over the next 10 years, pointing out the exclusivity universities create by pricing out many students of average means.
“We need to start more recruiting out of high school,” Kinzinger said.