By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Following the tremendous success of the state’s Student Awareness of Fire Education grant program, the Department of Fire Services decided to expand the program to educate seniors as well, and Amesbury will be among the first communities to take advantage.
Fire Chief Jon Brickett announced this week that Amesbury has been awarded the first annual Senior SAFE grant, which will fund fire education and awareness initiatives geared toward local seniors.
In addition, the city will also receive the original SAFE grant as well, which funds fire education programs for children. According to Brickett, Amesbury has received the SAFE grant every year it has been offered.
Specifically, Amesbury will receive $4,686 for the SAFE program and $3,018 for the Senior SAFE program. Brickett credited firefighters Jeremy Bean, who doubles as the city’s SAFE coordinator, and Gerry Morrill, who has been heavily involved in the program for many years, with taking the initiative to apply for the grant and bring the funds back to Amesbury.
“I cannot take one ounce of credit for the success of the grant submittal and award other than that my name was on the top of the letter saying ‘Congratulations, Chief, you’ve been awarded the SAFE grant for FY14 and the new Senior SAFE grant,” Brickett said.
The SAFE program was first created 19 years ago to help educate young children about fire safety, and according to DFS, the average number of annual child fire deaths has decreased by 72 percent since that time. Given the program’s success, the DFS decided to expand the program this year to seniors as well, and this year Amesbury was one of 205 communities to receive funds.
“Seniors are the most vulnerable of populations at risk of fire-related deaths. This program is aimed at educating seniors on fire prevention, general home safety and how to be better prepared in the event of a fire,” said state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan in a letter to Brickett announcing the grant. “It is our hope that with this opportunity we can recreate the success with our older population that we have had with children.”
The Senior SAFE program will focus largely on helping seniors improve the safety of their homes, and will include installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, testing and replacing the batteries in these devices, installing heat-limiting devices on stoves, in-hood stove fire extinguishers and nightlights to help seniors avoid falling.
The program will also include fire safety education and also a technological aspect that will help improve the department’s ambulance service’s ability to access a patient’s medical history through the use of a personal thumbdrive in the event of an injury or an accident.
“What type of medical history they have, what kinds of medication they’re on, what they might be allergic to, what your diagnoses are,” Brickett said. “That’s going to help us mitigate the illness or injury that you might be experiencing in the ambulance quicker and faster.”
As part of the effort, the fire department will partner with the senior center to help implement the program, much like the department has worked with the school system over the past few years to help reach out to children. Brickett said the program has had a major impact on the children of Amesbury over the years, and that he’s hopeful that the Senior SAFE program will have a similar effect on local seniors.
“As fire chief, this is really important to me,” Brickett said. “I’m really proud of the people who have taken on these initiatives.”