Grant buys fire radios

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, March 18, 2004

By Staff
John Dilmore Boone News Service
Thanks to the recent purchase of 16 new radio units, fire departments throughout Escambia County will be better prepared to coordinate their efforts in the event of a major emergency that requires many or all of them to respond.
The radios are being purchased with about $10,000 worth of homeland security monies made available by the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA).
They will be used to bridge the gap between different frequencies used by city departments, like the Brewton Fire Department, and the network of volunteer fire departments which cover many of the unincorporated areas of the county.
These new radios, which can be mounted in fire truck and other emergency vehicles, will allow everyone to be on the same page when it's required. And that will prove valuable in the case of a major fire or other emergency, according to David Jennings, the county's director of emergency management.
"One of the biggest things we face in this county, and it's a statewide and national problem, is our inefficient inter-operability – basically, we can't talk to each other.
"This (the new radios) is not a perfect solution. But what it does is, for the first time, gives us one common thread of communication between our fire departments."
The county is home to 15 volunteer fire departments, which are using UHF or 800 mhz radio systems. Meanwhile, the city departments are using VHF systems – and the various frequencies are incompatible.
The new radios – which will installed in each department's primary emergency vehicle – will allow everyone to talk on a common VHF frequency while en route to an emergency and keep communicating once they've arrived on the scene.
Jennings' vehicle will also be equipped with one of the radios.
The new radios will come in handy in the event of a major fire or other emergency, said Brewton Fire Chief Lawrence Weaver.
"Just to give units out in the field the ability to communicate will help," Weaver said.
Jennings added that he wanted to commend the County Commission for their support of purchasing the radios.
"They know what these guys (the firefighters) face out there, and we're trying to better equip them to serve all of us," Jennings said.

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