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County EMA receives grant to enhance communications

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

The Chilton County Emergency Management Agency received a $23,000 grant from Alabama Homeland Security to purchase equipment for using the reserved emergency services 700MHz frequency.

Director Derrick Wright said the grant will purchase three vehicle mounted radios and three portable radios. The funding becomes available in March.

Wright said the EMA and Chilton County 911, which received a nearly identical grant from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, aim to adopt the new technology at the same time. This will be another step closer to emergency services in Chilton County being on the same reserved wavelength, which would reduce interference to communications between responders.

The public shares the current wavelengths used by emergency services. The move will reduce interference because the Federal Communications Commission reserves parts of the 700MHz range for emergency services.

“Our neighboring jurisdictions are moving toward 700 MHz … this will provide interoperability with them and … resources statewide as needed,” Chilton County 911 Director Dan Wright said. “There is a great deal of coverage in the county already.”

According to Dan Wright, there is already some infrastructure in place to support the new communications system. The agencies will be able to tap into this when they receive the proper equipment using the grant funding.

The communications improvements fall in line with the ALEA’s Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan, outlined in October 2013 as a plan to “create a unified and integrated … communications platform … to allow first responder and public safety agencies at the state, county, tribal and municipal levels to communicate to safely, effectively and efficiently protect the people of Alabama.”