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Copley, Barberton, Norton win fire station alerting grant

6/19/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

COPLEY — Three local communities are big winners with the awarding of a $300,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Copley, Barberton and Norton collaborated on the grant application for a computer-based fire station alerting system that should improve response times to emergencies in which more than one department typically would respond, said Copley Fire Chief Michael Benson. The communities were notified in May they won the grant, he said.

Through mutual aid agreements, equipment and personnel from more than one community respond to emergencies like structure fires, Benson said. The computer-based fire station alerting system will allow one dispatcher to alert multiple fire stations at the same time — turning on lights, sounding a tone and opening radio channels, he said. The new system will augment and enhance, but not replace traditional radio system alerts, he added.

Currently, dispatchers place individual radio calls to stations. If station personnel are sleeping or not actively monitoring radio traffic, it could take anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes for each radio call to be answered, Benson said.

“It can take a lot of time to get through all the fire stations,” Benson said.

Using the new system to alert fire stations that a call is coming in will cut response time, he said.

“If there’s a fire in a structure in Norton, [the alerting system] can send all three [departments] at once, eliminating the delay,” Benson said.

Dispatchers have the ability to notify one or more departments, depending on the call, Benson said.

“The right people get notified at the right time,” he added.

Benson said the communities are just beginning to evaluate equipment and software for the project. They have received information from one company and will seek information from others, he said. Benson said he hoped the communities would be able to issue a request for proposals by this fall. The grant allows 12 months to complete the project. Benson said he anticipated the system would be up and running by May 2015.

Each local community is responsible for $10,000 for a total of $30,000 in local matching funds, Benson said.

Copley, Bath and the cities of Fairlawn and Norton in 2009 won a $800,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant that allowed them to upgrade a radio tower to be compatible with 800 megahertz radio systems currently in use.

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