CHARLESTON -- Local paramedics will have more storage room in ambulances with new equipment the fire department received through a state grant.

The Charleston Fire Department was recently awarded $1,300 from the Illinois Department of Public Health EMS Assistance Grant to purchase four Pedi-Mate Restraint Systems, a more compact restraint system for children.

CFD Chief Steve Bennett said they are required by law to have a restraint system for children in ambulances at all times. Up until this week, the Charleston ambulance units had to simply use a regular car seat like ones anyone would find at the store.

The size of these seats has become an issue.

“We don't transport pediatrics all the time, so having that big car seat in there kind of takes up a lot of room,” he said.

The Pedi-Mate will replace these car seats in each of the four vehicles. The mat-like harness rolls out and is used to restrain a child to the ambulance cot. These restraints can safely transport children ranging in size from 10-100 lbs.

“It is just another tool in the toolbox that we can use,” the fire chief said.

It has an added bonus of being very portable and easy to clean, he noted.

Firefighters are training with the equipment currently, and it will be in service by the end of the week.

The department has received this state grant for several years now. Last year, the department received helicopter landing strobes to mark where a medical helicopter should land.