"The grant money can be used for purchasing up to 99 portables, 24 mobiles, and 11 base station radios for local fire departments," Clay County Emergency Management Director and Lewis Township Volunteer Fire Chief Bryan Husband recently told The Brazil Times. "These radios are a state priority so all response agencies can communicate with each other while carrying only one radio. These radios will also help in times when we have to call in multiple agencies to assist us when natural disasters occur."
Husband said agencies responding to assist any local emergency effort would have to be able to connect to Clay County emergency responders, which do not all have 800 MHz radios.
"Having radios with 800MHz capabilities is very important," Husband said. "Having everyone on the same radio channel will make communications with all local, state and federal authorities possible."
According to Husband, if all departments have radios that are statewide capable, when a local department should be deployed to a disaster in any part of the state, they will be able to maintain communication with that county while en route and local dispatchers here in case anything else happens.
"The only downfall with these radios is they are very expensive," Husband said. "That is why we wrote this grant for them. If we didn't receive a grant, most local fire departments could not afford them due to their limited budgets."
According to the Grant Programs Directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations.
Since 2001, funding from AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.
For the 2005 fiscal year, Congress reauthorized the grant to extend through 2010.
While the Lewis Township Volunteer Fire Department applied for the grant, Husband said it is a regional grant that will benefit all Clay County fire departments. All a department has to do is decide how many radios are needed, create an order and pay 10 percent of the cost.
"It's a great deal," Husband said. "These radios are upwards from $2,000 each. In essence, a department could order 10 radios and end up only paying the price for one. This is going to help a lot of departments in the area and I would really like to thank the Clay County Commissioners, who allowed me to have the time to work on this grant at the EMA office. Gathering all the required information was the hardest part of the grant process and without their allowing me the time to work on it we most likely would not have gotten it."