Fire department gets new air packs

The North Shelby Fire and Medical District recently received new air packs to help keep firefighters safer while battling blazes.

Chief Michael O’Connor said the air packs, which were worth $125,000, were primarily paid for with a grant from the federal government. The government grant paid 90 percent of the cost, while Shelby County and the North Shelby Fire and Medical District split the rest of the cost.

The department received 23 of the air packs, which should be enough for every on-duty firefighter to use one. The department employs 37 firefighters.

The air packs allow firefighters to stay longer in buildings than they could before, O’Connor said.

“Their old air packs, they were getting about 15 minutes out of them,” he said. “Now they can get about 30.”

The department applied for the grant in April 2007, and staff learned they had been approved in February of this year.

O’Connor said the department also needed to standardize its equipment. Before, there were a number of different types of air packs that different firefighters used, making it more difficult to coordinate efforts. Now, everyone will use the same equipment.

“It’s important for the safety of the firefighters and their ability to perform (their jobs),” O’Connor said.

Also, the air packs have some safety features that make them essential. They have voice modification systems that amplify wearers’ voices, making them clearer and more easily understood over the radio. There’s also a display in the air packs to let wearers know how much air they have remaining.