Federal grant allows Carroll County to purchase new radios for firefighters and EMS staff – Baltimore Sun

Carroll County’s firefighters and emergency medical services staff will soon be outfitted with new two-way radios for improved communications, thanks largely to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a county news release.

A FEMA grant of $797,227 is anticipated to cover 90% of the costs associated with the equipment, with the Carroll County government responsible for a 10% match of $79,723.

In its grant application, the Carroll County Department of Public Safety requested funds for the purchase of 73 portable radios and 126 mobile radios, Chris Winebrenner, the county’s communication manager, stated in an email.

Scott Campbell, the county’s director of public safety, stated in an email that a portable radio is similar to a walkie-talkie, in that it’s battery-powered and carried by hand, much like a smartphone.

“They are most often carried on emergency apparatus, but not physically attached to them,” Campbell stated. “Rather, they ride in ‘chargers’ that constantly keep them ready for use and easily and quickly removed by first responders.

“Mobile radios, on the other hand, are mounted in (physically attached to) emergency apparatus and are powered by the vehicle’s electrical system, similar to how an old CB radios were mounted in personally owned vehicles,” he stated.

Campbell said that operationally, the two radios have the same technological capabilities, such as the ability to talk to groups and talk with a jurisdiction’s radio system.

“The primary difference is a portable is designed and intended to be carried by an individual (firefighter, EMT) and a mobile is intended to remain with/attached to the various types of emergency apparatus (eg, ambulance, fire engine, ladder truck) ,” he stated.

The actual number of radios purchased could change, Winebrenner stated, because the grant application was submitted to FEMA in December and costs have changed since that time. The county’s public safety department is evaluating the options to determine how best to proceed with the purchase.

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners announced the grant in a news release Tuesday. The radios will be distributed by the county’s Department of Fire and EMS among its staff and the 14 county volunteer fire companies it oversees.

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Grant funding came from FEMA’s fiscal 2021 assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which began in 2001 with the goal of helping firefighters and other first responders to “obtain critically needed resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.” Funding is provided for personal protective equipment, vehicles, training materials, and other necessary equipment.

“State-of-the-art equipment is critical in protecting the public and our emergency personnel,” Michael Robinson, director of the county’s Department of Fire and EMS, stated in the news release. “The radios to be purchased with this grant funding will result in improved and more reliable communication, which in turn results in better protection of and service to our communities.”

Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, who represents District 1, stated that public safety is the county’s top priority.

“We greatly appreciate receiving this FEMA AFG funding as it will enhance our efforts to afford state-of-the-art communications capabilities in support of fire and emergency medical services providers,” he stated.

US Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, also shared comments in the news release regarding the federal funding.

“Our firefighters put themselves at risk to protect us in emergencies and times of crisis, and it’s our responsibility to ensure we meet their needs,” Van Hollen stated. “That’s why I’m proud to deliver this federal investment to Carroll County fire and EMS to help them keep our communities safe.

“I’m grateful for the sacrifices of all of Maryland’s first responders and will continue working to support their important mission.”

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