By Daniel Silliman
Standing in front of a fire truck in an engine bay, Clayton County Fire Department Chief Alex Cohilas received an oversized check in the amount of $5,000, and smiled.
The grant, from Gresham & Associates and Fireman's Fund Insurance, will pay for four, fully equipped, medic mountain bikes, which the department will use to provide emergency services at special events.
"We will now be able to deliver EMS services in a non-conventional method," Cohilas said. "There has been an increase in specialized events within the county over the past few years. The large crowds at these events have made it difficult to respond as we normally would during an emergency. These bikes will enable our medics to reach patients faster than in a traditional vehicle," he added.
The chief said he's been looking at the EMS bicycles for three years, but couldn't find the funds to pay for them. They bicycles are different from standard mountain bikes, he said, because they have a heavier frame, a strengthened suspension system, a rack carrying emergency medical supplies and are equipped with medic lights.
A deputy chief ordered the bikes, last week, and the department hopes they will be ready for use by the second weekend in October. Then, the county will have an estimated 15,000 people attending two major annual events.
Tony Gresham, with Gresham & Associates, said he was proud to be supporting the fire department and helping to start this "important new program."
When Gresham was 10, his house burned down a few days after Thanksgiving.
"Having grown up in the panhandle and having an experience with a home fire, I appreciate this fire department first hand," he said. "We don't really know what started it," he said. "We went out the window and stood on the roof of the garage."
Gresham & Associates is an independent wholesale insurance broker. The firm joined with Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, a 144-year-old insurance company providing personal and commercial insurance. The Fireman's Fund donates a portion of its profits to support local fire departments. Through its philanthropic arm, the Fund's Heritage program, it has awarded more than $13 million in grants since 2004.