The Mifflin Township Division of Fire has at its disposal new self-contained breathing apparatus equipment this week, thanks to voter approval of a 3.8-mill operating levy in May 2011.
Deputy Fire Chef Fred Kauser said part of the last levy effort was dedicated to improve firefighter safety.
"We spent $160,000 to update four of five companies with the new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)," he said. "One unit already had SCBA. The old SCBA didn't meet current standards. They were usable but didn't have the most recent engineering."
Kauser said the equipment helps firefighters perform their work and makes their jobs safer.
"It's a critical component of their firefighter ensemble," he said. "Placing them in up-to-date equipment translates to better service to the community."
Mifflin provides fire, rescue and emergency medical services to Gahanna and the unincorporated portion of the township that has an estimated population of 40,000.
Lt. Jason Strohmeyer said he appreciates voter approval of the operating levy because the purchase wouldn't have been possible without it.
Strohmeyer, who started managing the SCBA program in 2005, said the air packs the fire division has been using are 10 to 12 years old.
"We purchased 27 new air packs that have all the latest technology," he said. "These have so many features that our old ones didn't have."
If a firefighter is low on air, each SCBA has a buddy breathing attachment to help a co-worker.
The new packs, weighing about 25 pounds each, also are more durable as the back frame is made of aluminum instead of plastic.
Each pack, manufactured by Scott Safety, has enough air for 20 minutes of work.
"We have packs for rapid intervention teams (RIT)," Strohmeyer said. "The RIT is to go after downed or injured firemen. Another new feature is a pack tracker. All air packs have motion sensors. If a firefighter isn't moving, it gives an audible tone that goes into full alarm mode. It makes a loud, obnoxious tone so people can find you.
"The pack track is neat, new technology. Only we and DSCC (Defense Supply Center Columbus) are the departments that have it in this area," he said. "Hopefully, our neighbors will get it, as well, because we do a lot of mutual aid. If a firefighter is down, there will be an audible tone. Each pack sends radio signals. The tracker will tell you which pack."
The masks for the SCBA also provide a greater field of vision than the old ones, Strohmeyer said.
He estimates the new safety gear should last 12 to 15 years.