Chilton group putting first response training at forefront with new nonprofit

Published 11:25 am Friday, January 19, 2024

By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Residents from Chilton County have come together to form a nonprofit organization that will go directly towards the training and preparedness of first responders in Chilton County. The Chilton County First Response Endowment Fund, a new 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, is starting the effort to provide financial assistance to first response organizations in Chilton County.

“A group of citizens knew we needed things like a new firing range (for police officers) and some things, and we are trying to keep the financial burden off the city,” Clanton Police Chief Erick Smitherman said. “They wanted to help us create a firing range by getting donations, and creating that 501 (c) (3) is how they are wanting to do it.”

Brandy Clackley with the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce, Brain Jones with Clanton Outdoors, Debbie Street with the City of Clanton, Chris Whittle with the Clanton Police Department and Darren Wilson with River Bank & Trust formed the organization to solicit financial contributions to help offset the rising costs of equipping and training emergency response personnel.

“Although our municipalities and county government make every effort to provide adequate funding for first response personnel, the increasing costs of equipment, training and certification and the effects of inflation continue to erode the operating budgets of these departments” a press release from the group said.

According to its mission statement, the organization will “Solicit financial support for first response agencies and organizations in Chilton County, Alabama to assist in the development of infrastructure and the acquisition of equipment to better serve and protect residents and visitors through improved training, response capability and community engagement.”

First response personnel in Chilton County are asked to serve 45,000 residents, and must be equipped, trained and available to respond to accidents, incidents and other events throughout the county, and on the busiest highway in the State of Alabama, Interstate 65.

To help make sure first responders are prepared for anything and everything, one of the first projects for the Chilton County First Response Endowment Fund is to gather contributions for the completion of a training facility and firing range for law enforcement officers in Chilton County. Right now, the City of Clanton police force is utilizing the City of Thorsby’s firing range, and Chilton County does not have a firing range to use right now.

The nonprofit plans for the facility to begin as a place for qualifications and proficiency training, among other types of continuing education. Eventually, the facility could be expanded to include training for firefighters and other first response personnel.

Smitherman said they are trying to include the fire departments in it as well, and make it more like a training facility for first responders as a whole.

 

“A place where they can train the firefighters, train the police officers and have a safe place for them to go out and hone their skills,” Smitherman said. “This money (raised by the group) will be put into a fund and have a board that oversees it, and it can be utilized for anything law enforcement needs, which will also help take some of the financial burdens off the city. We want to thank the citizens for helping us understand the importance of the law enforcement officers and firefighters being well trained, and we pride ourselves in thinking our first responders are very well trained in this community. We are glad they wanted to help to keep them well trained.”