The Hinesville Fire Department recently received $957,068 — with a required match of $239,267 — from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant to buy interoperable radios and related components. The grant was a joint effort through Liberty County and the city.
"The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant is to meet the firefighting and emergency-response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations," said Donita Gaulden, assistant director for the Hinesville Community Development Department. "Since 2001, 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."
The new radio system project is included in the current SPLOST funds and the match will come from those dollars, according to Liberty County Public
Safety Communications Director Tom Wahl.
"For many years, VHF radio technology has served the public-safety agencies of Liberty County well," Wahl said. "However, as early as 2004, Federal Communications Commission mandates, spotty coverage, increased demand for airtime and an aging infrastructure made it necessary for Liberty County to seek an alternative to the existing system.
In late 2006, after exploring a number of available solutions, Liberty County Public Safety Communications, with the support of its advisory board, made recommendations to the Liberty County Board of Commissioners and Hinesville’s mayor and city council for the design and deployment of a digital 700 MHz trunked radio network meeting APCO Project 25 (P25) standards for public-safety digital radio.
This new system and the radios purchased with the AFG funds will provide the county’s fire departments with efficient communications tools.
Where currently all operations are conducted on a single channel, the new technology will allow for individual fire-scene channels.
In addition to normal dispatch uses, local fire departments will be able to create training channels so departments can conduct training or drills and not interfere with normal operations.
"AFG will make it possible for this new technology to be added to the firefighting apparatus and in the hands of firefighting personnel throughout the county," Wahl said.
The new Liberty County system is expected to be operational by the end of the year. The HFD will begin using the system to enhance the level of service that is provided to residents.
"The new communication system will allow each incident to be controlled separately without interference," Hinesville Fire Department Capt. Kris Johanson said. "This will also provide for more safety for the firefighters with the enhanced capabilities of new radios. There will be more focused monitoring of emergency radio traffic, thereby allowing a quicker response to not only the citizens in need but firefighters when they encounter trouble."
"I just want to commend Tom Wahl for this grant," Hinesville Fire Department Chief Lamar Cook said. "He came to us to partner with the county, and he has been chasing this grant since day one. Without the grant funding, who knows when we would be able to purchase these radios or the infrastructure. This grant has kept the burden off of the taxpayers of Liberty County and Hinesville residents."