Fire stations get surprise Christmas presents

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 26, 2003

What does the Selma Fire Department do when there isn’t a fire?

It studies.

According to Brett Howard, director of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, Selma’s five fire stations will each receive a computer with high-speed Internet access in the coming weeks. The computers not only give the fire department a time-saving tool, but also a training resource as well.

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The Internet offers a wide variety of training materials, Howard said. Texas A&M has weapons of mass destruction training online. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has online training resources. &uot;The textbooks FEMA send you are totally free,&uot; Howard said. &uot;Or you can just read the pages online.&uot;

The computers were received Dec. 18. Howard immediately began installing software as well as examining each computer. Once the installation process is complete, each fire station will have access to information about buildings in the area that house hazardous chemicals. If firefighters must respond to a fire at one of those buildings, they can use their computer to discover where the materials are located in the building as well as how to deal with them.

They’ll also be able to e-mail their daily reports to the main office instead of hand-delivering them each day.

The idea for the computers came about after a discussion between Fire Chief Henry Allen, Battalion Chief Mike Stokes and Howard. Howard told them that their fire fighters could train online, but Allen and Stokes said their department didn’t have computers.

Luckily, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency had just purchased new computers, which left several of their old ones sitting unused.

Howard inquired about getting the computers for Selma’s fire department in the beginning of the month, and about two weeks later they were sitting in his office.

A local Internet provider has donated high-speed Internet access to the fire department for its new computers.

Howard said the five computers most likely have a value of around $1,000. High-speed Internet access for each computer would have been around $40 to $50 each month.

Selma received the computers for only $25. That $25 paid for the monitors, speakers, keyboard, mouse and computer itself. The fee is a state requirement.

Howard said the fire stations would probably get the computers around the first of the new year.