The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD), along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the City and County of Honolulu’s (City) Mayor Rick Blangiardi, announced the award of a 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) for its Wellness Screening Program today.

The AFG’s purpose is to provide fire fighters with resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and fire fighting personnel against fire and fire-related hazards.  After a competitive selection process, the Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA awarded $454,363.64 to the HFD to implement its Wellness Screening Program, which will provide health screenings for early detection of fire fighter occupational diseases, such as cancer, cardiac arrest, and behavioral disorders through laboratory analysis, patient history, and a detailed physical examination. 

“Firefighting is one of the most physically demanding jobs in public safety. And the health of local firefighters is of the upmost importance to us all. I’m proud to see that the Honolulu Fire Department has prioritized employee health and safety with support from FEMA’s AFG program. It’s our hope that these efforts help keep firefighters safe so they can continue their mission to protect our communities in their greatest times of need,” said FEMA Regional Administrator Robert Fenton.

“I want to commend the HFD for its Wellness Screening Program submittal and receipt of this substantial grant,” said Mayor Blangiardi.  “I fully support the program’s intent to benefit the remarkable men and women of our Honolulu Fire Department via early health screenings.  I am confident that the HFD will continue to seek the best for its employees.”

The nature of fire fighting and associated stress that a fire fighter faces places them at a much higher risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease than the general public.  Occupational cancer and cardiac arrest are the leading causes of fire fighter deaths and disabilities.  

During their careers, fire fighters experience exposure to hazardous chemicals, many unknown carcinogens, overexertion, physical stress, sleep disruption, sleep deprivation, post-traumatic stress, extreme heat conditions, and injuries related to the physicality of fire fighting.

“Mahalo for this grant.  It’s a win-win for the HFD and the public we serve.  Our Wellness Screening Program will ensure the health and welfare of our fire fighters are proactively addressed,” said Acting Fire Chief Lionel Camara Jr.  “We are thrilled to accept this significant grant, which motivates our Department to foster and achieve a healthy workforce and environment.”

The AFG requires the City to contribute nonfederal funds equal to or greater than ten percent of the federal funds awarded or $45,436.36, for a total approved budget of $499,800.  

The HFD plans to collaborate with a local healthcare provider to implement its Wellness Screening Program.  It may take a few months to select the healthcare partner through the proper processing protocols.  The HFD intends to stagger the screening for fire fighters every two years, equating to approximately 600 or one-half of its fire fighters to be screened each year.  The program will potentially and proactively save the lives of fire fighters, which allows the HFD to maintain its highest standards of public service by providing our island communities with healthy and experienced fire fighters to respond to emergencies.