CARTERET—Last week, Mayor Dan Reiman appointed two firefighters to the Carteret Volunteer Fire Department as part of his administration’s new hazmat emergency preparedness agenda.
The expansion of Carteret’s team of firefighters has been made possible through a federal grant, according to Reiman, and necessitated by existing industrial chemical operations within the town.
In 2009, the Carteret Fire Department was awarded $216,760 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The grant has been provided through the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) program, which first provided grants to fire departments throughout the United States in 2005. Approximately $180.5 million has been distributed nationwide as of the new year.
The SAFER Grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained, “front-line” firefighters available in their communities. Each year, SAFER funds assist local fire departments to increase their staffing and deployment capabilities in order to respond to emergencies whenever they may occur. As a result of the enhanced staffing, response times should be sufficiently reduced with an appropriate number of personnel assembled at the incident scene.
Over the past six years, Carteret’s administration has focused on building formidable agencies of “first responders.” Superseding their traditional functions, Carteret’s Police, Fire, EMS, OEM, and First-Aid Squad are being trained and equipped for large scale crises that can occur unexpectedly. These departments recognize the potential for accidents involving toxic substances, many of which are transported to and from Carteret.
Through 2009, the Reiman administration pressed local industries to compensate the borough for the additional emergency service personnel and equipment they have necessitated. According to Reiman, the Borough Council recognized the potential demands big industry can place on emergency services and in 2005 passed an ordinance to require hazardous chemical to pay for the specialized equipment, training and supplies needed to respond to emergencies involving their hazardous material operations.
That year, Kinder Morgan and BP Amoco, two of the largest companies to be regulated by the ordinance, challenged Carteret, resulting in four years of litigation in a federal district court in Newark. A federal magistrate supervised settlement negotiations which resulted in the establishment of the Hazmat Funding Association, and a long-term emergency services funding program.
Beginning in 2009, the borough has entered into a 10-year contract with the chemical companies that store large quantities of hazardous materials in Carteret. For its first year the borough will receive a minimum of $270,000 from the Carteret Hazmat Funding Association, and an additional $275,000 endowment will be provided next year. Funding for the remaining eight years will be determined according to a cooperative needs assessment. The agreement also provides that $40,000 a year from the settlement be set aside for a future foam pumper fire truck by 2011.
“There had been an ongoing discrepancy between the specialized training and equipment our emergency services require, and how much of that was the responsibility of the chemical companies,” Reiman said. “The equipment and training associated with emergencies involving hazardous materials ought to be funded by the entities that have created that demand – not the residential taxpayer”
Carteret’s SAFER grant will allow for the addition of two full-time firefighters, enabling its local fire department to better comply with staffing, response and operational standards. The award will bring the department’s full-time career Firefighter/EMT staff up to 22, in addition to its 24 volunteer firefighters, and four full time EMT’s. Seven of its firefighters are certified Haz-Mat technicians.
The Carteret Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department currently operates on a budget of $3,569,200 for FY 2009.
“The efficiency of our first-responders can play a crucial role in the outcome of emergencies of any scale,” Reiman stated. “The Carteret Fire Department is instrumental in providing emergency services to the greater region, which being characterized as industrial is prone to larger scale emergencies.”
The new firefighters will be required to pass FFI and FFII, as well as having New Jersey Emergency Medical Technician Certification, with the ability to provide first-responder medical attention.
Appointee George Carpenter, 28 years old, a Marine Veteran with deployments to Japan, Korea, Guam, Kuwait and Iraq. He has been employed by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department as a Sheriff’s Officer since 2007.
Appointee Steven Green, 29 years old, has been employed by the Borough of Carteret for 10 years as a Laborer in the Parks Department, and has been a Volunteer Firefighter for over 10 years and is also an EMT, as well as Lieutenant in the Volunteer Fire Department.
They were ranked 1 and 2 on the State Civil Service List. Being a Civil Service community, the Borough hires its firefighters based upon their ranking following competitive testing, administered and guided by the NJDOP.
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