January 20, 2012
APPLETON — Local fire and emergency management officials have been racing to upgrade their radio systems by Jan. 1, 2013, to meet new federal guidelines.
More than two dozen agencies in Outagamie County are expecting a $1 million boost from the federal government that will help them purchase some of the needed equipment.
“Radio communication is critical for responders — whether it’s fire, EMS or law enforcement,” said Mike DeBruler, assistant fire chief in Grand Chute. “With the change of technology, the increase in call volumes and the increase in radio traffic, the new radio system will not only meet the challenges of today, but will (also) help us meet the challenges of the future.”
New radio frequency guidelines from the Federal Communications Commission require public safety agencies across the nation to switch to a broader, more agile radio system by 2013.
Fire and EMS agencies in Outagamie County will need to upgrade their frontline radio equipment to work with that new system.
The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security will help the departments across Outagamie County pay for hundreds of new portable radios, mobile radios, data radios and pagers. The total cost for radios and pagers is estimated at $2.3 million.
“The overall cost of the radio system is significantly higher because that’s all the infrastructure — the towers, the receivers, the repeaters, the controllers,” said Eugene Reece, deputy fire chief in Appleton.
Reece said the system upgrade would improve radio coverage throughout the county, enhance radio coverage inside buildings and unclog the bandwidth constraints that have choked the current system.
“We had municipalities where firefighters within their own townships were not receiving pages,” Reece said. “We saw that as a problem. … The new radio system is designed in a new format that provides better coverage throughout the county.”
Kaukauna Fire Chief Paul Hirte said the new system would improve “our ability to communicate within the county to our 911 dispatch center.”
“We’ll have more channels to communicate on,” Hirte said. “It will give us greater coverage to speak not only to other responding agencies, but (also) to communicate amongst ourselves while on the scene of an emergency call.”
Grand Chute’s DeBruler said the agencies haven’t set a target date for when they will buy the radios and pagers.
“We’re now going to start looking at that equipment itself and state the procurement process,” DeBruler said. “But as far as the actual go-live date of the new system, we don’t have that yet.”
When the radios and pagers arrive, DeBruler said most residents likely won’t notice the change.
“The benefit is going to be behind the scenes, specifically for incident command and firefighter safety,” DeBruler said. “Residents are still going to receive the benefit of emergency services regardless of their need. They’re going to get professional, courteous personnel showing up to help them with whatever they need.”
— Michael Louis Vinson: 920-993-1000, ext. 368, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @MichaelVinson
Twenty-six fire departments and Emergency Medical Service agencies in Outagamie County received a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to upgrade a slate of mobile radios, portable radios, data radios and pagers. The upgrade will coincide with a switch to a new radio system that uses a more expansive and nimble frequency range.
The participating agencies are:
» Appleton Fire Department (98 personnel)
» Bear Creek Fire Department (36 personnel)
» Black Creek Fire Department (37 personnel)
» Black Creek Rescue Service (27 personnel)
» Buchanan EMS Rescue (8 personnel)
» Buchanan Fire & Rescue (31 personnel)
» Center Fire Department (43 personnel)
» Combined Locks Fire Department (26 personnel)
» Dale Fire & Rescue (32 personnel)
» Ellington Fire Department (29 personnel)
» Freedom First Responders (11 personnel)
» Freedom Volunteer Fire Company (34 personnel)
» Grand Chute Fire Department (71 personnel)
» Greenville Fire-Rescue (56 personnel)
» Kaukauna Fire Department (37 personnel)
» Kimberly Fire Department (26 personnel)
» Little Chute Fire Department (48 personnel)
» Nichols Rural Fire Department (39 personnel)
» Osborn Fire Department (35 personnel)
» Outagamie County Regional Airport (9 personnel)
» Seymour City Fire Department (29 personnel)
» Seymour Rescue (23 personnel)
» Town of Seymour Volunteer Fire Department (32 personnel)
» Shiocton-Bovina Fire Department (46 personnel)
» Vandenbroek-Kaukauna Fire Department (39 personnel)
» Vandenbroek-Kaukauna First Responders (14 personnel)
Source: FEMA grant application