By Jason Morton / Staff Writer / Tuscaloosa News / Posted Oct 24, 2018
City leaders have advanced almost $90,000 in funding requests for the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service.
Approved unanimously on Tuesday by the council’s finance committee, $20,756.82 of this would go toward the required matching funds for a wellness grant through the federal 2019 Assistance to Firefigters Grant program.
The remaining $66,441.87, if approved by the full City Council next week, will go toward two specialized firefighting programs that began this year.
“We definitely want to make sure we take care of our first responders,” said Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry. “That’s for sure.”
Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service Chief Randy Smith said the matching funds would help secure an overall $228,325 grant to fund wellness monitoring for all of the city’s nearly 245 firefighters.
These examinations, Smith said, would look for cancer and cardiovascular issues often associated with firefighting.
City officials said it’s more effective for the firefighter and cheaper for the taxpayer when these issues are caught early.
“If we do nothing, there would be a considerable cost,” Smith said.
Another $66,441.87 was approved for two Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service specialty teams.
Smith said that these funds, found through recovered dollars through the Appropriate Care and Treatment in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) non-emergency response program, would go toward permanently funding the fire department’s EMS Bike Team and Technical Rescue Team programs.
The bike team was rolled out during the first two home football games for the University of Alabama using firefighters on loan from the Mobile Fire Rescue Department.
While it was used to respond to emergencies within the stadium, Smith said the team could be implemented for triathlons, parades, air shows and other events or situations across the city.
“Our other uses are pretty much unlimited,” Smith said.
The Technical Rescue Team, or TRT, was created recently to provide specialized assistance with search-and-rescue operations, dive team scenarios, hazardous material spills and swift and surface water rescues, among other situations.
“This has been very successful for Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area,” Smith said.
The ACTION program was launched in January as a partnership between the city and University of Alabama.
The city, the University Medical Center and UA’s College of Community Health Sciences together launched the ACTION paramedicine program, which brings health care treatment to certain patients in their homes.
The program is aimed at “low acuity” patients, like those who call 911 over a nose bleed, stomach ache or flu-like symptoms, for example.
Officials estimated that about one-third of the city’s 911 calls fall into this category.