December 10, 2015
Everything is bigger in Texas.
As the second-largest state in the U.S. in both population and land mass, Texas covers approximately 268,580 square miles spread across 254 counties. And for every Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio, there are hundreds of smaller cities and towns that most of Texas’ nearly 27 million people call home.
It’s in these smaller communities that firefighters and emergency responders play an important role in keeping people safe. Unfortunately, equipment and training can be pricey, and budgets are often slim. This makes the ability to save lives exponentially more difficult, particularly when it costs as much as $27,000 to properly train and equip just one firefighter.
For decades, Flint Hills Resources (FHR) and Koch Pipeline Company (KPL) have been providing financial support to fire departments around the state to keep their communities safe and their first responders better-equipped. But in 2012, this initiative earned a fitting name of its own – Helping Heroes.
The Helping Heroes grant requirements are simple. Applicants must service an area near an FHR or KPL location and then provide information on the department’s equipment or training needs. Additionally, applicants must also detail how that equipment or training will benefit the community.
To decide award allocations, safety team members from both companies review applications and make their decisions. Grants range from $2,500 to $10,000 and have been used to purchase equipment such as thermal imaging cameras, as well as to provide fire prevention and other types of training.
Since starting the grant program in 2012, the Helping Heroes program has awarded more than $500,000 to departments across Texas. In 2015 alone, the program awarded $175,200 to 38 fire departments serving 20 different counties.
For the Lumberton Fire Department in Lumberton, Texas, a Helping Heroes grant allowed for the purchase of fire extinguisher training equipment to teach local businesses how to properly use their fire extinguishers.
In addition to benefiting local businesses, this training equipment will also be used to teach local students basic fire-safety techniques and what to do in the event of a fire at home. It’s an initiative that Lumberton Fire Chief Robert Simonson is hopeful will help inspire the next generation of first responders within the Lumberton community.
Another community that has benefited from a Helping Heroes grant is Corpus Christi, Texas. Over the last three years, the Corpus Christi Fire Department has utilized grants for emergency notification systems, software and training. But this year, Deputy Fire Chief Richie Quintero and his team are investing in communication equipment that will keep responders in constant contact while answering calls.
“At various times, depending on the event, the severity of the event or if it happens to be a chemical, we may be required to put on protective equipment utilizing a fully encapsulated suit,” says Quintero. “Unfortunately, the barrier that protects us from these chemicals makes it very difficult to communicate, either face to face, via radio or any other means. So the equipment that we’re purchasing with this donation is going to be used to augment our ability to communicate.”
It’s a grant that Quintero is thankful for because his department will be better prepared for the “what if” scenarios it faces on a regular basis. And it’s a partnership that Quintero says has helped create a more resilient community in Corpus Christi. For other communities or departments considering applying for a Helping Heroes grant in the future, Quintero says “go for it.”
“What we’ve learned in this entire process is that, despite our best effort and despite our intent, there is normally not any one entity that is able to cover every single extenuating circumstance,” adds Quintero. “So it’s in developing partnerships such as this that we’re able to lean on one another … and cover a spectrum of possibilities.”
To learn more about Helping Heroes, visit helpingheroessupport.com.
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