Bad reception and outdated radio equipment will now be a thing of the past for five urban fire detachments in southern Alberta, thanks to new funding from Lethbridge County.
On Aug. 1, Lethbridge County council approved $289,467 in funding to go towards implementing the Alberta First Responders Radio Communication System (AFRRCS) in its five surrounding fire departments.
It’s a change that the Town of Picture Butte fire chief says is long overdue.
“We’ve been using the same technology for the last 30 years,” Fire Chief Frank West said. “It’s due for an upgrade and it’s going to be very much appreciated.”
“Radio communication is a vital part of emergency response for everything — from receiving our dispatches to being able to communicate on the scene of an emergency,” he said.
Picture Butte is just one community receiving these funds. The towns of Coaldale, Coalhurst, Nobleford and the Village of Barons will also see their share of money.
The money allotted by Lethbridge County will pay for 50 per cent of the new two-way radio network, which is operated by the provincial government.
Since 2016, many first responders across Alberta have switched over to AFRRCS, due to its upgraded digital technology and enhanced reception coverage.
And since AFRRCS is maintained by the government of Alberta, West said being able to utilize this new system will also help alleviate other budget issues the town had previously encountered.
“It takes that burden off of us to have to maintain the infrastructure,” said West.
“We also cover a large area so there were some spotty areas, reception wise, which this new system should help alleviate.”
Lethbridge County said some of the five outlying detachments have already purchased these new radio system — such as the town of Coalhurst — and for them, the funding will go towards reimbursement.
“Some fire departments have already gone ahead and installed it on their own,” said Lorne Hickey, reeve of Lethbridge County.
“It was just time to move ahead and get everybody up to date, and to reimburse those people that have already done it.”
The funding is set to be doled out immediately.
West hopes to see his team with the new radios in their hands by the end of the year.