By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
During the search and rescue effort after the May 22 tornado, Joplin fire Chief Mitch Randles realized the need for some specific equipment that the department did not have.
On Wednesday, that need for those lifesaving tools was met when a national sandwich chain, Firehouse Subs, which does not yet have a store in Joplin, donated $19,000 worth of Res-Q-Jacks and Paratech systems purchased with donations made by customers and a fundraising auction.
The Joplin area has had to wait an hour or two for that type of equipment to arrive from other departments, Randles said. After realizing how much it was needed during the tornado rescue effort, “We were hoping to get this equipment, not only for us but for the regional area so that if one of our neighbors needed help, we would have it,” he said.
Jim Perkins, deputy fire chief, said the equipment can be used for such things as stabilizing an overturned vehicle or lifting portions of a collapsed building or trench for extrications. He said the equipment also can be used for a rescue from a confined space, such as a well.
Robin Peters, executive director of the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, said the donation was made through a program the restaurant chain offers that allows customers to round up the cost of purchases, with the difference going to donations.
Dave Johnson, the company’s area representative based in Kansas City, said money also was raised when several Kansas City Chiefs players donated items for an auction held by the Kansas City restaurants.
The company established the foundation in 2005 to help equip fire departments. The company’s founders, Chris and Robin Sorensen, are former firefighters who were inspired by the need they saw for rescue equipment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Peters said. The foundation also provides scholarships for training of emergency workers.
Nationally, the company and its customers have donated about $3.9 million to 374 communities since the foundation’s inception. That includes $52,000 that has gone to agencies in Missouri.
Firehouse Subs has 505 restaurants, with the closest located in Bentonville, Ark.
Johnson said the company plans to bring three or four restaurants to Joplin and is in search of a franchise buyer for that effort.
Randles said donations such as the one from Firehouse Subs “are all very appreciated.”
The Fire Department will be central to another event Saturday, when the city celebrates the opening of a new fire station, No. 6, at 5302 W. 32nd St.
A ribbon-cutting at 9:30 a.m. will be followed by open house until 11:30 a.m.
JOPLIN’S NEW FIRE STATION was built with money generated by the half-cent public safety sales tax approved by voters in 2006.