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Ohio fire department seeks grant to cut back injuries

The grant would cover the cost of two powered cots the fire department is looking to buy

By Brian Bondus
The Springfield News-Sun

URBANA, Ohio — The Urbana Fire Division is seeking a grant to help pay for new equipment that its chief said will help keep firefighters and patients safer.

The division has had five work-related back injuries in the last two years involving firefighters lifting heavier patients into ambulances on cots.

“We can’t really afford injuries,” Urbana’s Fire Chief Mark Keller said. “A lot of departments have people that can back-fill. We only have 21 guys here right now.”

Keller is planning to apply for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s Safety Intervention Grant this week and should get a response within the next three months.

If the agency awards the fire division the grant money, it will cover about half the cost for two new powered cot and loading systems for two of the city’s ambulances.

The two systems cost $85,000. The grant will cover $40,000 and the city plans to finance the remaining $45,000 over a three-year period.

The powered cots are battery-operated and help lift patients up from the ground. The powered loading systems would be installed inside the ambulance and assist firefighters getting patients in and out of ambulances.

Keller said the division made 1,800 ambulance runs last year and firefighters sometimes have to lift patients up to seven times on any given run.

He explained that with the aging population in Urbana and obesity becoming more common, the job is not getting easier.

“Unfortunately in our society right now we are not getting any smaller, and we still have to be able to lift and get them to the hospital,” Keller said.

Keller said the powered cots should help the city save money in overtime costs, because fewer firefighters will have to take time off due to work-related injuries. He added that the new systems should also save the fire division money in insurance premiums.

Tyler Wolf has been an Urbana firefighter for three years. He said he hopes the fire division is successful in getting the grant money for the powered cot and loading systems, because it will make his job safer.

“The less lifts we have to do means less risk of injury for us, and its less chance of injury for the patient,” Wolf said.

Keller said injured firefighters have missed more than three months of work over the last two years due to injuries.

“When we have less staffing that’s not only a risk to us, but its’ a risk to the the public,” Wolf said. “When we have somebody off on injury leave, that means an increased workload on us and less people to respond on emergencies to the public.”

The fire division did a test run of the powered cots in 2014 and they were welcomed by the staff unanimously, Keller said.

He said if the department does not get the grant money, the department will look at buying two powered cots itself, at the cost of about $15,000 each, and not get the powered loading systems.


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