Emergency radio system gets additional funding boost

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WALLA WALLA — A recent grant will help Walla Walla County’s emergency radio system meet additional long-standing needs.

Steve Ruley, manager of the county’s public safety radio system, said Walla Walla Fire Department Chief Bob Yancey was notified Thursday that his department has been awarded an Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

The award will amount to $193,389, of which $36,677 is a required cash match from users of the system.

In a release, Ruley said the grant request had been submitted unsuccessfully for the past several years to replace failing equipment in Walla Walla County’s system. Fortunately, other funding to meet those needs became available earlier this year through the state’s Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program.

When those other funds were received, the Fire Department and emergency communications staff went to work to amend the AFG grant request to address the next most critical issues in the system, Ruley said, and that amendment was approved.

The money will be used for a range of improvements.

This will include equipment to keep the system working at its highest level without the need to wait until communication gaps are reported or technicians have time to visit the remote sites.

A remote notification system will also alert dispatch when problems arise, allowing the system to meet standards established by the National Fire Protection Association.

The grant will also allow installation of generators at two remote repeater sites that do not currently have emergency backup power, training for system technicians on maintaining newly acquired radios and covering system engineering costs.

The grant will also help replace the system’s remaining obsolete radios with new transmitters at Fire Station 2, Walla Walla City Hall and at a remote repeater site on Coppei Mountain.

Riley said the recent grant “was another extremely fortunate turn of events for our regional firefighters and other first responders, as it allows us to make some definite strides forward in increasing safety, service and reliability of our public safety system.”

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