NOVEMBER 07, 2007
Millions of dollars in federal Homeland Security grants are supposed to help local and state agencies protect the public and enhance disaster response time, yet fire departments in one state have used the money to beef up their gyms and their biceps.
Administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the taxpayer money that goes to fire departments nationwide is intended to enhance their ability to protect the public and fire service personnel from fire and related hazards.
Just this month FEMA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, announced that it has awarded 156 grants totaling more than $1.5 million to fire departments throughout the nation in 2007 alone. Several south Florida fire departments have used quite a bit of the money to purchase expensive gym equipment, including treadmills, bikes, Nautilus weight machines and step machines.
The Pompano Beach Fire Department spent $220,000 of its federal disaster grant money on fitness equipment and Hialeah Fire Rescue used nearly $100,000 to buy seven step machines, seven treadmills and a Nautilus weight machine. Broward County firefighters spent $86,410 to enhance their gym.
The purchases are allowed under FEMA guidelines because the grants are intended to support the wellness and fitness of firefighters, according to the troubled agency. One fire department chief pointed out that many firefighters die from heart attacks and therefore the nation needs firefighters to be in the best shape they can be.
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