New London firefighters set to become in-house fitness trainers
New London ― A professional firefighter’s shift, especially in a call-heavy city like New London, doesn’t leave a lot of time for training, even for something as important as physical fitness.
For years, the New London Fire Department has contracted with a third-party provider to offer exercise training to its staff, part of an ongoing effort ― and a required one for new hires ― to ensure its members have the endurance and strength to haul heavy coils of hose up flights of stairs, ferry victims from fire scenes and possess the stamina to battle hours-long blazes while draped in heavy turn-out gear.
But slotting in times for such training can be challenging, a problem department officials said would be addressed with the help of a recently awarded federal grant that will help train several firefighters to be “peer fitness” instructors.
“For instance, if we had a private training scheduled for this morning, there’s no one here because everyone’s out on calls,” Chief Thomas Curcio said on Monday, pointing to the empty bays at the department’s Bank Street firehouse. “This peer training gives us flexibility.”
The $30,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant issued through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will cover the cost of training 24 firefighters to become in-house fitness instructors, said Battalion Chief Mark Waters.
“The goal is for our people to learn as a team and as individuals, to be knowledgeable about fitness and be able to develop their own regimes,” he said from inside a headquarters work-out room filled with free weights, elliptical machines and other gym equipment ― much of it purchases with previous AFG grants. “We want our guys working out every shift.”
During a visit to the fire station on Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, noted the AFG program was initiated in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to ensure firefighters and other first responders had the specialized equipment and training they need to do their jobs.
Courtney praised the department and city Grants Coordinator Adriana Reyes for their “hustle” in successfully applying for the competitive grant.
Residents set to get new smoke alarms
Fire officials also thanked Courtney for his help in securing an $18,150 federal Fire & Safety Grant that will be used to buy and install up to 500 high-tech smoke detectors in city residences.
Fire Marshal Vernon Skau said the new devices possess two key features previous models lacked: A silencing button and an embedded battery with a 10-year lifespan.
“Up to 50% of smoke detectors we find are without a battery, because people remove them and use them for other devices, something you can’t do with these models,” he said. “The other reason for an inoperable detector is people disable them when they go off because of things like cooking smoke.”
Skau said the silent feature allows residents to quiet a detector for 10-second intervals, long enough for smoke from a charred dinner to dissipate.
The two-year Community Risk Reduction smoke detector program will cover the cost of the devices and installation. Skau said his office will begin advertising the new units by next month on the city’s social media page and municipal webpage.
“We’ll be able to go in, inspect a residence and figure out the best place for installation,” he said.
Anyone interested in getting a new smoke detector can call the Fire Marshal’s Office at (860) 447-5294.
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