The City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown has received a $3,427 grant to buy and install vital laundry equipment at its Minor Park Station on Fairfax Street, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Chief Michael R. Terenzio announced.
The first responder grant was awarded by CSX Corp., a rail transportation company based in Jacksonville, Florida, “to support the health, safety and welfare of the department’s firefighters.”
CSX conducts freight rail operations in the department’s Allingtown response area and “is committed to supporting the first responders that make their operations possible.”
Terenzio said the funding will pay for a commercial washer and dryer that a crew of 20 firefighters will use to clean uniforms and gear to help avoid the spread of contamination when responding to emergency medical calls related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant was prepared and submitted by acting city grants writer Doug Colter and Deputy Chief Michael T. Esposito.
The laundry machines are part of an overall response protocol that requires the department’s men and women to change uniforms and shower after each coronavirus-related call and to wash all clothing before returning to their homes and families.
“This grant directly supports the first responders and addresses the health, safety and welfare of the crew and their families during a time when they are called upon for this extra hazard duty,” Terenzio said. “Due to overtime and sickout backfill requirements, some firefighters work back-to-back shifts, sometimes for days on end before returning home.”
As details of the coronavirus and how it is transmitted are learned, Terenzio said it has become apparent that the virus attaches to bacteria that help the viral particles survive for some time on soft surfaces, clothing and frequent touch points. The protocol for helping to stop the spread of the viral infection includes using personal protective equipment, sanitizing the ambulance and firetrucks after each coronavirus-related run, cleaning and sanitizing the firehouse’s frequent touch points, and cleaning uniforms and personal gear, he said.
Beyond the immediate emergency posed by the pandemic, firefighter clothing is often contaminated with fine particles of carcinogenic and hazardous materials that firefighters should not bring home, Terenzio said. The wellness portion of the project grant extends to protecting firefighters’ families by not exposing them to a lifetime of dangerous respirable contaminants, he said.
“All of these operations leave the crew and their families exposed to picking up chemical hazards and viral contamination on their uniforms and personal clothing,” Terenzio said. “The health and safety protocol for COVID-19 response and workplace safety includes the washing of all clothing before returning home to their families.”
Thanks to CSX, Allingtown firefighters are able to keep themselves and their families safe, said Terenzio, adding that the department is grateful for the company’s support.