Multiple fire and EMS agencies in Berkshire County, which collaborated this spring through designated regional operation centers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, were awarded a COVID-19 Assistance to Firefighters Grant by the Federal Management Agency (FEMA) in August.
The reimbursement grant, in the amount of $140, 961, will go toward COVID-specific expenses, accrued by the 18 agencies through the three regional operation centers based in north, central and south county. Participating agencies include those from Pittsfield, Adams, North Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Florida, Blandford, Lanesboro, Savoy, Stamford, Williamstown, Stockbridge, Sandisfield, Great Barrington, Sheffield Fire Department and Northern Berkshire EMS along with Adams Ambulance.
Awards to the agencies reflect varying amounts based on their submitted requests.
The grant, which is hosted by the Pittsfield Fire Department, was written and submitted by Amalio Jusino, of Emergency Response Consulting and the Coordinator of the Northern Berkshire COVID Operations Center.
Deputy Chief Neil Myers of the Pittsfield Fire Department explained that he contacted Jusino while working at the Central Operations Center in May and they discussed the need for collaboration of a regional grant for reimbursement of agency expenses specific to COVID, as well as, the need for future funding of PPE throughout the county. In light of the successful collaboration among the centers and its many agencies, a regional grant was viable, Myers said.
Jusino agreed and Myers offered Pittsfield Fire to be the host agency.
“This is the first regional FEMA grant hosted by PFD and a huge win for the entire county. These funds are a direct result of the true collaboration and hard work amongst so many key players in Berkshire County emergency response. This PPE will help our departments protect the men and women who continue to go into harm’s way day in and day out,” said Myers, who noted that he and Jusino knew that a regional grant would have a greater impact for the region versus individual grants. .
“This is certainly great news for the City of Pittsfield, the Pittsfield Fire Department, and the entire Berkshire County region. In the midst of immense challenges to public health, agencies from across our county joined forces, ensuring the health and safety of our neighbors, friends and loved ones,” said Mayor Linda Tyer. “I am so proud of everyone who worked hard to make this collaboration a success. We truly know how to get things done in the Berkshires.”
The agencies communicated daily through conference calls and received critical information through a communication app that Jusino co-developed while coordinating the Northern Berkshire center called Nex-GenVCP.
“Operating in this capacity and with the utilization of new technology, the region’s three operation centers were unified in their operation, and ultimately, supported every city and town in the region as central hubs for information, equipment, and response capabilities,” Myers said.
Grant funds will be used to purchase the following : goggles, gloves, face shields, gowns, Tyvek suits, N-95 masks, respiratory adapters that attach to the existing facemasks that firefighters currently use and have been fit tested for, EMS half-face reusable respirators, and surgical masks. Additional items will also include sprayers and disinfectant product.