The Springfield Fire Department is beefing up its fire prevention and safety education efforts to the tune of $27,000.
On Tuesday it officially accepted the grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It requires a five percent match from the department. Officials will use the money to expand existing fire safety efforts, including purchasing 1,000 smoke alarms, 250 fire extinguishers, 50 escape ladders and a part-time program coordinator.
According to the department, each year there are more than 500 residential fires in Springfield. Those result in, on average, more than three deaths, 17 injuries and millions of dollars in property damage each year.
“Our fire death rate is much higher than the national average,” said Springfield Fire Chief David Hall in a news release. “This problem is due in part to high levels of poverty in Springfield. It also disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our community—children under the age of 5.”
Fire safety programs offered by the department have included free smoke alarms, educational materials and free programming. SFD says in the last three years officials have provided educational messaging to more than 130,000 citizens and installed nearly 2,000 smoke alarms and some 2,000 batteries. It recently partnered with Springfield Public Schools’ “Parents as Teachers” (PAT) program to provide fire safety education in the homes of children under age 5. Through that partnership, the department found 53 percent of PAT families did not have adequate smoke alarms.
“This grant is going to make a world of difference to citizens in our community” said Hall. “It will protect children, reduce property damage and fire injuries, and maybe even save lives.”
SFD says the new part-time coordinator to be hired as part of this grant will work with families to create escape plans; teach them how to use fire extinguishers and how to install and maintain smoke alarms.