Firefighters get $500,000 grant for radios



Twelve Chester County fire companies will soon be better-equipped to operate on the Chester County Department of Emergency Services’ new voice radio system, courtesy of  two federal grants issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Robert Kagel (bottom left), director of the Chester County Department of Emergency Services is joined by the Chester County Board of Commissioners, Congressman Ryan Costello, and members of the emergency services community.

The Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company of Unionville served as host applicant for a grant to benefit the county’s southern communities, and the Lionville Fire Company hosted a grant application to benefit fire companies along the Main Line and eastern areas of the county. Together, the two awards, obtained through the Federal Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Grant Program, total $500,000, a county press release said.

The AFG program 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.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, 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 in the release.

In February 2013, the county commissioners signed a contract with Harris Corporation 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 commissioners included the purchase of a select number of radios for volunteer firefighters and emergency responders.

“Chester County's emergency responders received a much-needed upgrade in critical, life-saving communications with the new Harris APCO P25 Phase 2 Digital Voice Radio System,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell said in the release. “Our emergency responders now have a state-of-the-art emergency communications system and equipment, providing 99.8% portable, on-street radio coverage and improved in-building coverage. Providing this new system and equipment is one of the many ways we ensure a safe and secure county.”

Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Michelle Kichline also applauded the new system as well as the fire companies’ effort to ease the financial burden on the county by pursuing grants to supplement the county’s allocation of radios.

“Every fire truck in the county was issued at least three portable radios, but some vehicles carry more than three firefighters,” Robert Kagel, the county’s director of emergency services, said in the release. “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.

The Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company was the host of the grant application awarded to benefit firefighters from the Union Fire Company of Oxford, West Grove Fire Company, Avondale Fire Company, Kennett Fire Company, and Longwood Fire Company, which will share $290,000 for the purchase of 116 radios.

“Interoperability is extremely important,” said Po-Mar-Lin Fire Chief Stephen Nuse in the release. “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.”

Since the inception of the AFG program in 2001, Chester County fire companies 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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