New ra­dios on the way

12 Ch­ester County fire com­pa­nies get funds to pur­chase 200 por­ta­ble de­vices

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twitter

Ra­dios serve as life­lines for first re­spon­ders across the coun­try, al­low­ing them to com­mu­ni­cate with their fel­low of­fi­cers and learn what dan­gers and ob­sta­cles await them as they per­form their du­ties.

Soon, 12 Ch­ester County fire com­pa­nies will be bet­ter equipped to op­er­ate on the county’s new voice ra­dio sys­tem. Two fed­eral grant awards is­sued by the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity will pro­vide those com­pa­nies with funds to pur­chase 200 ad­di­tional por­ta­ble ra­dios, equip­ping that many more re­spon­ders with those tech­no­log­i­cal life­lines.

Lionville Fire Com­pany in Uwch­lan acted as a host ap­pli­cant for one grant ap­pli­ca­tion to ben­e­fit fire com­pa­nies along the Main Line and east­ern ar­eas of the county, while the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Com­pany in East Marl­bor­ough hosted a grant to ben­e­fit the county’s south­ern com­mu­ni­ties. To­gether, the two grant awards to­tal $500,000.

Lionville’s grant will ben­e­fit the Paoli Fire Com­pany, Malvern Fire Com­pany, Rad­nor Fire Com­pany, East White­land Fire Com­pany and West White­land Fire Com­pany. They will re­ceive a to­tal of 84 new por­ta­ble ra­dios at a cost of $2,500 each, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease is­sued by the county last week.

“This news couldn’t come at a bet­ter time as we have re­cently tran­si­tioned to our county’s new ra­dio sys­tem,” said Lionville Fire Chief Michael Holmes. “Ev­ery one of our fire­fight­ers will now

be equipped with a ra­dio.”

The Po-Mar-Lin grant ben­e­fits fire­fight­ers from the Union Fire Com­pany of Ox­ford, West Grove Fire Com­pany, Avon­dale Fire Com­pany, Ken­nett Fire Com­pany and Long­wood Fire Com­pany. To­gether, they will re­ceive $290,000 for the pur­chase of 116 ra­dios, the re­lease stated. Ear­lier in the year, the Honey Brook Fire Com­pany also re­ceived a $33,000 grant from the same grant pro­gram for more ra­dios.

Po-Mar-Lin Fire Chief Stephen Nuse said, “In­ter­op­er­abil­ity is ex­tremely im­por­tant. Sev­eral of our lo­cal de­part­ments rou­tinely op­er­ate with fire­fight­ers in other coun­ties and even other states. The abil­ity for all of us to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with one another is para­mount.”

These grants were ob­tained through the fed­eral As­sis­tance to Fire­fight­ers (AFG) Grant Pro­gram, which is­sues grants to en­hance the safety of the pub­lic and fire­fight­ers with re­spect to fire and fire-re­lated haz­ards by pro­vid­ing di­rect fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to el­i­gi­ble fire de­part­ments, the county said.

In Fe­bru­ary 2013, the county signed a con­tract with Har­ris Corp. for the pur­chase, in­stal­la­tion and main­te­nance of a new $42.1 mil­lion dig­i­tal ra­dio sys­tem which re­placed ana­log equip­ment from the early 1990s. In do­ing so, the county in­cluded the pur­chase of a se­lect num­ber ra­dios for vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers and emer­gency re­spon­ders. The new sys­tem went on­line ear­lier this year.

“Ev­ery firetruck in the county was is­sued at least three por­ta­ble ra­dios, but some ve­hi­cles carry more than three fire­fight­ers,” said Bobby Kagel, di­rec­tor of the county’s Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices. “It is im­por­tant for ev­ery fire­fighter to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with one another at an in­ci­dent scene.” Sev­eral fire com­pa­nies pur­chased ad­di­tional ra­dios while oth­ers sought grant op­por­tu­ni­ties to help off­set the costs.

Each of these grant ap­pli­ca­tions were writ­ten and de­vel­oped by John Sly, a lo­cal vol­un­teer fire­fighter and pres­i­dent of the West­wood Fire Com­pany in Val­ley, who op­er­ates a pro­fes­sional grant writ­ing firm.

“I per­son­ally know the strug­gles we as vol­un­teers face in or­der to raise money for the equip­ment we need to do our jobs,” Sly said in the county’s re­lease. “These grants are a tremen­dous help and re­lief to en­sure for our own safety. I’m very proud to have helped to bring this fed­eral money to a lo­cal level. This is a great ex­am­ple of our fed­eral, county,

“The abil­ity for all of us to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with one another is para­mount.” — Po-Mar-Lin Fire Chief Stephen Nuse

and lo­cal of­fi­cials work­ing to­gether for the ben­e­fit or our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Each com­mis­sioner was quoted as prais­ing the ef­fort to equip the com­pa­nies with ad­di­tional ra­dios beyond hat the county had pur­chased in its sys­tem up­grade.

“Our emer­gency re­spon­ders now have a sta­teof-the-art emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem and equip­ment, pro­vid­ing 99.8 per­cent por­ta­ble, on-street ra­dio cov­er­age and im­proved in-build­ing cov­er­age,” said Com­mis­sion­ers’ Chair­man Ter­ence Far­rell. “Pro­vid­ing this new sys­tem and equip­ment is one of the many ways we en­sure a safe and se­cure county.”

Vice Chair­woman Kathi Coz­zone added that the grants show a com­mit­ment to pub­lic safety in the county by mak­ing crit­i­cal in­vest­ments in emer­gency re­spon­ders, “as out­lined in our strate­gic plan.” Com­mis­sioner Michelle Kich­line said that as a for­mer town­ship su­per­vi­sor, she un­der­stands the value of sup­port­ing pub­lic safety. “The new ra­dio equip­ment re­moved a $9 mil­lion dol­lar im­pact from our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” she said. The fed­eral fund­ing eases the fi­nan­cial im­pact on mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties “even fur­ther.”

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, a for­mer county com­mis­sioner, helped to an­nounce the grant awards.

“Up­grad­ing ra­dio equip­ment and im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions ca­pa­bil­i­ties dur­ing real emer­gen­cies will make our com­mu­ni­ties safer and hope­fully will make the dif­fi­cult jobs of our ded­i­cated emer­gency re­spon­ders a lit­tle less dan­ger­ous,” said Costello, who is run­ning for re-election this Novem­ber against Wil­lis­town Demo­crat Mike Par­rish.

Ac­cord­ing to the county, FEMA’s As­sis­tance to Fire­fight­ers Grant Pro­gram will award ap­prox­i­mately $340 mil­lion di­rectly to fire de­part­ments and non­af­fil­i­ated emer­gency or­ga­ni­za­tions na­tion­wide to en­hance their re­sponse ca­pa­bil­i­ties and to more ef­fec­tively pro­tect the health and safety of the pub­lic and emer­gency re­sponse per­son­nel with re­spect to fire and all other haz­ards.

Since the in­cep­tion of the AFG pro­gram in 2001, fire com­pa­nies in the county have re­ceived more than $12.6 mil­lion in fed­eral grant funds for equip­ment and ve­hi­cles. Each year, more than 10,000 grant ap­pli­ca­tions are re­ceived and an av­er­age of only 2,000 are funded.

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