FEMA grant to help improve firefighting communications

Eleven firefighting agencies across Mesa County will be able to communicate directly with one another by late summer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a $922,000 grant to Grand Junction to purchase 454 radios, which operate at the 800 MHz frequency. The grant will provide radios for all fire-safety agencies in Mesa County as part of an $8.9 million project.

“This is quite the achievement for the fire agencies,” Grand Junction Fire Chief Ken Watkins said. “It has everything to do with interagency operations during emergencies.”

Communication among agencies will be eased with all agencies on the same frequency, Watkins said.

Law enforcement also is migrating to the same frequency, which will allow for direct communications, he said. Emergency dispatchers have had to “patch” fire and law enforcement agencies together, Watkins said. With a shared frequency, that no longer will be necessary, he said.

Agencies also will be able to switch to tactical channels so that more than one emergency can be handled at a single time without confusion, he said.

“The wildfire season this year has already shaped up to be an aggressive one, making it all the more important that our public-safety officers have the proper equipment to safely do their jobs,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., announcing the grant.

Officials will go through the normal purchasing process, so the installation of the radios should be complete by late summer, Watkins said.


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