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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The Oxnard City Council, February 16, adopted a resolution to submit six grant applications to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The grants will be used to purchase a ladder truck, gym equipment, wellness training, Paramedic certifications, medic monitors, Automated External Defibrillators, Tactical Emergency Services training and equipment, and handheld radios.
The Assistance to Firefighter Program is a trio of grant opportunities used primarily for training, equipment, and vehicles.
Fire departments across the country have $360 million of funding available to them.
The City of Oxnard, over the years, received over $200,000 for Hazardous Materials Training, a $227,000 Behavioral Health Grant, $227,000 for wildland training and equipment, $1.5 million for a ladder truck light & air unit, and $291,000 for Paramedic training.
In his video presentation to the council, Fire Chief Alexander Hamilton said the city's next grant that is not ready is the Fire Prevention & Safety Grant (AFG), a smaller grant with $35 million of funding for smoke detector installation programs.
"They also have a grant for Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER), and it has a similar amount of funding the AFG does, and that is for staffing," he said. "We still need to evaluate whether or not we will apply for that grant this year."
In 2021, the city will focus its applications on training, wellness, and a vehicle application.
"We're applying for some regional grants this year," Hamilton said. "The fire department can be a lead on a single regional application but then can participate in as many regional grants as there are fire departments. In the last couple of years, the Oxnard Fire Department has taken the lead within Ventura County to make sure that we maximize the opportunities with grant funding. All four fire departments will be applying for regional grants.”
The city has a 10 percent match for grant awards based on the size of the jurisdiction.
"For this year, the Fire Department will be applying for a wellness grant," he said. "Our firefighters need to stay in top physical condition. Some people describe them as industrial athletes. We're applying for a grant to replace exercise equipment that's anywhere between 15-20 years old that needs replacement as maintenance costs continue to go up. That grant will also provide training for internal fitness instructors, so personnel can help each other with not only workouts but reducing the chance of injury by being shown proper form."
The city will also apply for a Paramedic Training Grant to send five candidates to school.
"The whole process takes approximately nine months," he said. "It's an expensive endeavor, so we're hopeful that grant comes through."
The Oxnard Fire Department will be the regional lead for a new ladder truck, a $1.5 million application.
"If we are successful, it will allow us to retire an old ladder truck that's done 20 years of service," he said. "Separately, we are going to participate in Ventura Fire Department's application for Tactical EMS (TEMS) training and equipment. Oxnard Fire Department has tactical EMTs and Paramedics that work with the Oxnard Police Department when they're doing riskier work. Our personnel works with their SWAT Team to ensure that if there are any injuries in those high-risk operations that are close by, we can provide immediate medical assistance."
Ventura County Fire Department will be the regional lead for new handheld radios, Hamilton said, and the Oxnard Fire Department has asked for 50.
"These radios are all band radios," he said. "These radios allow us to work anywhere in the state; depending on what the local jurisdiction has in terms of their system, we'll be able to plugin to that system because we have an all band radio. It will allow us to keep pace with technological advances in public safety communications."
Hamilton said the Fillmore Fire Department would be the lead on new defibrillators, and Oxnard requested seven paramedic monitors.
"And additional automatic defibrillators to ensure that we have a good inventory of those pieces of medical equipment on all our vehicles," he said. "If we are successful in that grant application, we will evaluate our old defibrillators to see if they can be used at public buildings the city owns."
The local cost-share for the City of Oxnard is approximately $250,000.
In council comments, Mayor Pro Tem Bryan MacDonald said he's a big advocate for getting FEMA grants, even if there is a matching fund requirement.
"I was happy to see the discussion on TEMS," he said. "This is something we have not done before, and I think we should have done it a long time ago. Fortunately, we've never had an incident where TEMS would have made a difference in the immediate past. I'm glad you included that on there, and it's on the tabletop, and it's well worth it."
Councilman Gabriel Tehran asked where the city's matching fund comes from.
"In my reading of this, I believe the ladder truck and the paramedic certification; the needs are pretty self-explanatory, for the benefit of the public," he said. "I was hoping we could elaborate on the other three grant applications, which would be the gym equipment and wellness training, the Tactical EMS, and the handheld radios."
Hamilton said the matching funds would come from the general fund.
"The total match would be if we won every one of these applications, which would be a huge win for us," he said. "The Oxnard Fire Department has been part of a wellness and fitness initiative for close to 20 years. One of the biggest killers of firefighters on the actual fire ground is heart attacks. Good cardiac health is incredibly important for our firefighters. All Oxnard fire stations are outfitted with a basic set of gym equipment. The majority of that, treadmills and weights, are close to 20 years old. The other part of that application is to train our personnel as peer fitness trainers."
Councilman Bert Perello said he thought the city just purchased new radios because there were dead spots in the coverage area.
"Radios and communication equipment are a big source of frustration for me because the requirements and technology are constantly changing," Hamilton said. "The radios we recently purchased were narrow-banded, and they work in a much smaller band of the radio spectrum. That was a federal government requirement. At the time we purchased those radios, all band radios were prohibitively expensive. They were over $10,000 per unit. At the time, we didn't feel it was necessary to purchase those radios. Now that the price is coming down and we are continually running into issues when we operate in neighboring jurisdictions, that necessitates the need to purchase new radios. We're not doing away with the radios we have. They function well for our everyday uses and on the vast majority of wildland incidents."
Mayor John Zaragoza asked about the defibrillators that will move into city buildings, and he wanted to know if the city will train people on their operation.
"Our intent is to evaluate the old defibrillators to make sure they are worthy of continued use," Hamilton said. "Some of them are getting a little bit old. We will absolutely be out there providing training and strategically placing them in city buildings."
The item passed unanimously.