Obtaining new, adequate, and safe personal protective equipment (PPE) is an ongoing struggle for volunteer fire departments across the U.S. and Canada. To help address this need, MSA Safety, DuPont Personal Protection, and the National Volunteer Fire Council have been working together since 2012 to annually donate new gear to departments through MSA and DuPont’s Globe Gear Giveaway. In 2023, 13 volunteer fire departments were selected to each receive four sets of turnout gear and four helmets to better protect their responders.
Final awards were made to the following departments in October, November, and December:
- Freehold Fire Department in central New Jersey is made up of 86 volunteers. Major state highways and commuter buses intersect in the town, making it a heavily trafficked area. The all-volunteer department also oversees a large quantity of hazardous materials, some being transported by a freight line and others being stored at a nearby manufacturing plant. More than half of the fire department’s members are using turnout gear that is more than 10 years old. This makes the gear non-compliant and poses a serious risk to the firefighters’ safety. However, even with strict budgeting, the department does not have the capacity to purchase new PPE.
- Taylor County Volunteer Fire Department is located in the small town of Butler, Georgia. The department oversees an area of 380 square miles and 8,000 people. Dirt roads make up 50% of Taylor County, the other half being two major highways that experience heavy traffic volumes daily. The lack of infrastructure and widespread poverty make it difficult for the county to provide critical emergency services. The department consists of 31 volunteers, 14 of which are using turnout gear that is more than 10 years old, and five of which do not have assigned gear. This lack of gear has had a negative impact not only on the safety of the department’s members, but also on its recruitment and retention.
- Ellis Grove Volunteer Fire Department (EGVFD) serves a population of 1,000 people in the Village of Ellis Grove and surrounding area in southwestern Randolph County, Illinois. The district has one major state route, two major rivers, and one major railroad. The area is home to a federal lock and dam, a state park with camping area, a historic home, and a scenic river overlook area, which brings an influx of visitors during the spring and summer months. The EGVFD’s 18 volunteer members provide a multitude of emergency and non-emergency services including firefighting, fire prevention, fire code enforcement, rescue, water rescue, emergency medical, hazardous materials, and building inspections. However, the department does not have enough turnout gear for all its volunteers – 10 sets are worn or obsolete according to national safety standards, and five members have no gear at all.
- Ripton Fire & Rescue is in a small mountain town of approximately 700 residents in Vermont with additional seasonal visitors to the satellite college campus, ski areas, and fall foliage season. Over 70 percent of Ripton is national forest. Ripton Fire & Rescue provides fire protection and medical first response; year-round wilderness rescue for hikers, skiers, and hunters; and support for community events and fire and life safety education. Fundraising efforts have allowed the department to replace an antiquated vehicle and establish an SCBA upgrade and replacement schedule. However, it has proven difficult to provide all 27 volunteer firefighters with adequate personal protective equipment. Ten members do not have assigned turnout gear and another nine are using gear that is more than 10 years old.
- Bell County Volunteer Fire Department in Pineville, Kentucky, is made up of 72 volunteers who believe that helping their neighbors is the right, and necessary, thing to do. When they’re not running calls, you may find members installing smoke alarms in the homes of community members for free. While each volunteer has the desire and drive to show up for community members during their most trying times, the department’s inadequate supply of personal protective equipment has made it challenging to do so. Members are sometimes unable to respond to calls due to a lack of turnout gear, and training can be difficult as they need to share gear.
- Broadway Volunteer Fire Department Inc. is comprised of a crew of 50 volunteers who serve the 157-square-mile response area of the Broadway, Virginia. The department receives more than 1,000 calls per year, with incidents ranging from transportation accidents to hazmat emergencies. In addition, the department provides mutual aid to seven fire departments across two counties. While the department makes every effort to supply its members with compliant personal protective equipment, limited funding has made it difficult to do so. A priority system had to be established, with Firefighter 1-certified members being first in line to receive NFPA-compliant gear. This has impacted recruitment initiatives as new members often have to use turnout gear that is more than 10 years old.
- Scotts Hill Fire Department is located in southwest Tennessee and is made up of 25 volunteers who serve a population of nearly 900. The all-volunteer department is very involved in its community; it runs a smoke alarm program, provides fire education at schools, and helps local businesses develop fire plans. Calls vary from structure fires to vehicle accidents and medical emergency calls. Department members are currently using personal protective equipment that has been handed down several times. The gear is showing its age via worn cuffs, torn buckles, and colorized shields; this has created apprehension amongst responders when on-scene and in training.
For more than a century, MSA has been committed to providing workers all around the world with the equipment they need to help keep them safe. This program with the National Volunteer Fire Council supports our valuable volunteer firefighters so they can help keep their communities safe and be there when their neighbors are in need.