Grant enables Fire Department to replace outdated radios

April 6, 2011

The Fire Department will receive nearly $36,000 to replace outdated radios needed to communicate during emergencies.

The 22 new radios will offer more reliable access to mutual aid channels so Wauwatosa can correspond with other emergency response agencies during large-scale disasters, such as floods, snow storms or an attack on private communications networks.

"Radios communications in the Milwaukee area can be very confusing to say the least," Deputy Fire Chief Bill Rice said.

The department's old VHF radios will become obsolete within a year due to re-banding, so new radios are necessary, Rice said. The grant money will buy mobile radios to mount on rigs. The city will need to find funding in its budget to buy portable radios for each firefighter to carry at emergency scenes.

With some additional programming, the radios will be compatible with the Wisconsin Interoperability System for Communications, which is anticipated to provide 95 percent mobile radio coverage across the state. It's expected to launch in July, but it could be a slow process, Rice said.

Still, this marks major growth in coordinated emergency communications, state officials contend, because only 5 percent of the state's public safety agencies had access to mutual aid channels in 2003.

The radio equipment grants are funded through federal Homeland Security dollars and divvied out by the state's Office of Justice Assistance.


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