Tenn. firefighters sharpen skills

Copyright 2006 Chattanooga Publishing Company

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee) 

Chattanooga firefighters soon will be able to rescue people from high-rise buildings and underground disasters using equipment and training made possible by federal Homeland Security money.

The Chattanooga Fire Department received $1.25 million in grant money for equipment and training to provide disaster relief to a 10-county homeland security district in Southeast Tennessee, fire officials said.

"We will be able to act if people are stranded washing windows on a building downtown or changing light bulbs at Finley Stadium, or if a crane malfunctioned," training Chief Chris Adams said.

Firefighters are nearly halfway through a four-phase urban search and rescue training program they hope to complete by the end of September, officials said.

Daniel Hague, a safety officer, said the department also is using the federal money for hazardous material and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives training and equipment.

He said instructors from a Georgia-based company are training personnel on how to use ropes, pulleys, harnesses and patient-moving equipment.

Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson expressed concern at a December 2004 council meeting about the fire department being responsible for responding to catastrophes outside its jurisdiction.

But Mr. Benson said Thursday that if there was a catastrophe in this area, local first responders including the fire department probably would assist anyway.

"It puts a lot on us," he said. "But at the same time, we're going to receive the benefit from this equipment and training."

The 10-county district includes McMinn, Bradley, Polk, Meigs, Rhea, Sequatchie, Marion, Grundy, Bledsoe and Hamilton counties, said Don Allen, vice chairman of the 18-member District 3 Homeland Security committee.

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