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Fire dept. gets grant to boost radio signal

Published 6:13pm Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Eclectic Fire Department received word Wednesday that will receive a federal grant aimed at upgrading the communications equipment used by local firefighters and police officers.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant, offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was created in 2001 to “meet the firefighting and emergency response needs” of local first responders. The EFD will receive $28,000 to fund upgrades to the radio system used by Eclectic’s fire, police and dispatch personnel.
Graham said his application described the department’s radio communications infrastructure as aging and outdated.
The antenna and dispatch console are out of date, he said, and the coaxial cable that connects them has rusted and ruptured in places.
“It’s the original stuff we’ve had since the early 1980s,” Graham said. “It’s become weathered and deteriorated, so we don’t have the signal and output we need to cover the whole district.”
With the grant funding to replace the cables, equipment, console and antenna, “we should be able to talk to Wetumpka (FD) no problem,” he said.
The grant will also fund a repeater, putting EFD communications on a second radio frequency and further boosting firefighters’ communication reach.
Graham requested $30,000, but said they could complete the job with half that.
When U.S. Rep. Martha Roby called Mayor Michael Holton to congratulate him and the EFD Wednesday morning, Graham said, they knew the expensive project was finally going to get done.
Graham and Police Chief Gordon Ledbetter joined forces in March to explain to council members the dire situation the town’s emergency communications infrastructure was in.
Ledbetter described a scenario with an officer in a foot pursuit, struggling to dial his cell phone because the radio on his hip can’t get reception just a few miles from downtown.
Graham pointed out that a wide signal range makes a big difference in fire response. Sometimes the “mutual aid” of surrounding departments is needed, but it’s hard to find time to make that call in an emergency situation, if a simple radio call-out isn’t possible.

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