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Brandon Fire to improve communications with grant

February 23, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- The fire department will upgrade emergency communications in the township this year, paid for with more than $70,000 in grant money.

Fire Chief Dave Kwapis said a grant written by Oxford Fire Department Captains Ron Jahlas and Kurt Fechter for $225,339 in funds for communications equipment for three departments— Oxford, Brandon and Addison Township, was approved earlier this month.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) is offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will allow the three departments to back each other with the communications equipment in the event lines fail due to a power outage or other issues.

The Brandon Fire Department uses the Oakland County Sheriff's Office dispatching services. With the grant, if the communication line between the county and BFD is cut, the township will have backup capabilities with the Oxford Police dispatch. Currently, if communication is interrupted, there is a delay of a few minutes to restore dispatch.

"With the upgrades we will make with the grant money, if communication gets cut, it will be an almost seamless changeover to the Oxford Police dispatch instead of a delay," said Kwapis.

The grant will update all radio equipment to be narrowband compliant, which the federal goverment will be requiring of all municipal emergency service providers by 2013, he added.

Currently, the Brandon Fire Department operates in a 25 megahertz frequency range, considered wideband. Equipment purchased with the $71,850 in grant money that is Brandon's portion will include all new mobile radios on emergency vehicles, portable radios, replacement of a base station (central communication radio) at Fire Station #2, and installation of a repeater system which will allow clearer communication over the entire township.

The grant requires a 10 percent match, which will cost the fire department $7,200; however, without the grant, the township would have been forced to pay roughly $80,000 for the upgrades because of the forthcoming mandates.

"We are making upgrades that will provide us better communications to our firefighters," Kwapis said. "I'm ecstatic we were able to get this grant and have three departments that can use the grant and provide each other backup... During these economic times, it's huge. We would have had to struggle to come up with the money to replace the communications equipment and now we can use the money we would have had to use for other things we need to do."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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