CCE area fire departments receive grant for better communication

Northern Michigan fire departments depend on each other for mutual aid and when responding to a scene, being able to communicate is a key.

A large grant that will equip almost 30 fire departments with better communication tools.

Fire departments in Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties will get a big chunk of change, in the tune of $789,000, to increase communication capabilities.

â??All departments will be able to talk with each other, which is a big plus, we don't have those capabilities now, so yeah, the interoperability within the three counties will be great," says Resort Bear Creek Fire Chief Al Welsheimer.

The Resort Bear Creek Fire Department applied for the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. Itâ??ll equip the 28 fire departments in the tri-county region with better and more up-to-date radios and pagers and will also help better communications at the Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet, CCE for short, 911 Dispatch Center, the brain of emergency services in the tip of the mitt.

â??It's going to allow us to put in some side channels, more side channels, and get them off the main dispatch channel to keep that clean," says Bob Bradley, CCE 911 Dispatch Center Executive Director.

This is particularly important for situations like the snowstorm last weekend, when radio frequencies were tied up with chatter about power lines being down. Now, there will be other channels that can be used and the main channels will be more focused on priority emergency situations.

All of the fire departments in the three county region use older radios. Theyâ??re 15 years old and completely outdated. Theyâ??ll have new radios to put in their trucks, ones that meet new FCC requirements and will play a big part in keeping the region safe.

â??There's a lot of departments out there that can't afford to replace all their radios in their trucks," says Welsheimer.

It's not a part of this grant, but the CCE is also constructing a new communications tower north of Harbor Springs. This will be a transmission boost for the northwestern part of Emmet County, and a key to public safety.

The new equipment will be extremely beneficial for situations during weather emergencies as it'll give crews a direct link to other departments if they need help.