Helping Our Own Coordinates National Efforts to Re-Equip Gulf Coast First Responders

Michigan Center, MI – As Gulf Coast communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana begin to shift the focus of their energies from search and rescue to salvage and rebuild, they desperately need to restore the capacity of local fire departments and other emergency response organizations. Helping Our Own (HOO), an IRS 501(c)(3) designated nonprofit organization that provides free used but usable and refurbished firefighting equipment and apparatus to under-funded volunteer fire departments and other first responders throughout the United States, will coordinate this critical effort.

HOO began coordinating pledges of firefighting equipment and apparatus designated for communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina even as the storm was reorganizing itself in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Mark Warnick, HOO Founder and Chief of Operations, “We weren’t sure exactly where it was going to land, but we could see Katrina’s potential for destruction and knew we had to be ready to help communities rebuild.

The recognition of the importance of this effort has been national in scope. Chief Warnick indicated that HOO had more than a $1 million worth of firefighting equipment which was being loaded on the trucks by the time the storm moved inland. As of last Friday, local fire departments, other emergency response organizations and corporations throughout the nation have made available more than $10 million worth of vital firefighting and other emergency response equipment for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

According to Chief Bill Davis who has worked in the affected area, “the morale of many local first responders in that region of the country is very low and needs to be addressed. Many are tired, overworked and in many cases have lost their own homes, yet they continue to work to help others. Equipment in many areas has been damaged or lost and needs to be replaced so that they (the fire departments) are in a position to meet the ongoing emergency needs of people in their communities and support reconstruction initiatives. In several fire departments in the storm damaged area, the department has lost everything including their firehouse. Restoring their pride by restoring their capacity to serve is a critical first step in ensuring local confidence in the rebuilding and preservation of each community.”

Tim Swope, President of HOO, said HOO is uniquely qualified to address this vital need because of its established network of equipment and apparatus donors and its track record of providing equipment to more than 500 volunteer fire departments throughout the nation over the past five years. “Our challenge,” Swope said, “will be to secure the necessary funding to move available and critically needed equipment to hurricane-ravaged communities in the south. Public and private contributions will be necessary.”

Swope shared that volunteers make a major contribution in support of communities served by HOO. He indicated that it will cost HOO about $800 to help equip a fire department which will provide between $20,000 and $25,000 (used value) of firefighting and emergency response equipment to each department. Swope said, “The equipment is immediately needed and available, our challenge is to make it immediately accessible.”

Those who understand the vital importance of this effort are encouraged to make a financial contribution through the Helping Our Own Web site (http://www.helpingourown.org) or by sending a check or money order (please do not send cash) to Helping Our Own, P.O. Box 413, Michigan Center, MI 49254-0413.

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