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Captain Katie Collins-Kalbaugh discusses the departments SAFE grant funds at the City Council’s June 18 meeting.
Reminder Publishing screen capture by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — The Chicopee Fire Department received over $10,000 in student awareness of fire education grant funds to be used for safety education for different age groups in the city.

The SAFE program provides grants to local fire departments to teach fire and life safety to children in schools while Senior SAFE is a grant program that helps fire departments teach fire safety to older adults.

The Fire Department received $8,500 for student awareness for fire and life safety education and an additional $2,900 for senior awareness for fire and life safety education.

Captain Katie Collins-Kalbaugh is from the Fire Department’s Community Risk Reduction Office and explained how these grants are used including the smoke and carbon monoxide installation program and lock box program.

Collins-Kalbaugh said the smoke and carbon monoxide installation program has been very successful.

Since 2015, the Fire Department has been going into owner-occupied single-family homes and installing free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and Kalbaugh added, “Some of the money is used for our very successful smoke and carbon monoxide installation program. So, when we go in, we do approximately 50 to 100 homes per year, and we leave the home to the state fire code if it was built before 1975.”

The lock box program started in 2019 where residents who sign up have a lock box installed on the side of their home so that firefighters and police officers who have a master key can then retrieve the house key inside to respond to an emergency quicker and with less damage.

The Chicopee Fire Department has also partnered with TRIAD program as part of sand for seniors which provides sand as a preventative measure to use on sidewalks, walkways and driveways during the winter months.

Collins-Kalbaugh said these grants will also go toward multiple programs that will take place throughout the year including at the third Annual Summer Carnival hosted at RiverMills Center Chicopee Council on Aging that just took place.

“The Senior Center is having a carnival, our booth will actually be safety games so when people come up they’ll participate and learn safety information and then they’ll get a prize. We take every opportunity to educate our older adults with the SAFE grant.”

The Fire Department also conducts presentations at other facilities when invited and pass out information on fire safety.

“We also offer any old housing or anywhere else that wants to have a fire and life safety educational program. We do all of that out of this senior safety grant,” Collins-Kalbaugh added.

The Chicopee Fire Department also uses the SAFE funds to teach important fire safety topics to children based on the age and grade students are in school education programs.

In the past, the department has provided kids with lessons on fire safety and also take-home materials to help enforce the learning. Examples of past lessons include creating a home fire escape plan and creating fake smoke alarms in class to discuss their importance.

Mayor John Vieau said, “We’re excited about this grant, we get it every year.”

Ward 4 City Councilor George Balakier, who was in favor of both grants, said, “It gives people an opportunity especially the seniors to get involved with fire safety which is very important. I think it’s a great idea, the more people that are aware of this in terms of fire safety and things of that nature. It’s a very good grant for the city.”