In late 2019, the City of Erie (PA) Fire Department was awarded a grant from the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation for personal safety systems (PSS) and related training. This grant, in the amount of $12,000, was provided by the Foundation in partnership with the Fire Hooks Unlimited. Grant funding will provide 46 department members with PSS and training they need to escape if there are no other ways out.

“We experienced a close call in 2017 when a lieutenant and a firefighter from a ladder company were caught in a dangerous position during a primary search of a second floor and attic, but became cut off by heavy smoke and a sudden fire extension…Although the lieutenant had located an exit, they were not equipped with safety rope systems that could have been used in this serious situation,” recalls Chief Guy Santone. “With substantial deficits facing the City of Erie, our department did not have the financial capability to purchase personal safety rope systems.”

Over the last six years, the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation grant program has awarded over $472,000 to departments in need. Established in Joey’s memory in 2013, the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation holds firefighter training events that support its grant program. It also relies on the generous support of our sponsors and partners to help train and equip firefighters.

In 2005, Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo, known to his friends and colleagues as “Joey D,” was critically injured in a Bronx apartment fire where two firefighters perished, and three others were also badly injured. A personal safety rope system, carried by fellow Rescue 3 Firefighter Jeff Cool, helped both Joey and Jeff to escape the flames by lowering themselves as far as they could from the four-story jump. After the incident, Joey traveled around the country training firefighters and sharing his story to help other firefighters. His foundation will continue this work, helping firefighters in the United States and Canada.

“Thanks to everyone who has supported the Foundation and its mission to keep firefighters safe. Together we carry on Joey’s legacy and work to prevent other tragedies from occurring. We’re grateful to all of our grant partners, sponsors, and donors for their generosity,” says Chief Joe DiBernardo, Foundation President and Joey’s father.

The Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation will continue to train firefighters and provide grants to departments to ensure the safety of firefighters across the United States and Canada. To learn more about the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation’s grant program for personal life safety rope systems or to apply visit: