Grant supports transition to better emergency communication
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
One step at a time, the Grayling Fire Department is moving out of the dark ages with its radio equipment into the digital age that allows for more reliable communication.
TransCanada, a natural gas pipeline transportation company and natural gas storage company, gave a $5,000 grant to the Grayling Fire Department on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
David Hogerheide, a mechanic and operator for TransCanada, said underground storage facilities are used to store natural gas. The gas can then be delivered when frigid temperature arrives.
“We are able to deliver large quantities of natural gas when it’s really needed,” Hogerheide said.
TransCanada has nearby facilities in Frederic and in Kalkaska County. Its pipelines are located throughout Michigan, Minnesota, Canada and the United States.
“We have tens of thousands of miles of pipeline, where we can literally move gas all over the country,” Hogerheide said.
TransCanada awards grants to municipalities and agencies near where their where their facilities are located through a community investment program. The funds are targeted to support environmental, safety and community improvement initiatives.
The grant funds will be used to purchase an 800 megahertz radio for the Grayling Fire Department.
The State of Michigan operates the 800 megahertz system on a digital format and multiple towers allows for better communication throughout the state. In contrast, high-band or VHF radios, which are 20 to 25 years old, can only be used within Crawford County and are dependent on a repeater to maintain steady communication. In some cases, there are areas where communication is dropped due to the landscape or a large amount of other electronic devices.
The Grayling Fire Department covers the City of Grayling and Grayling Charter Township, which has the largest span of land in Crawford County, through a contract between the municipalities.
Grayling Fire Department Chief Russell H. Strophaul Jr. said the fire department has three handheld 800 megahertz radios for use by commanders for the department. The new handheld radio, which is more costly than units that go into fire trucks and other vehicles, will be used on fire scenes when firefighters have to enter into homes or buildings.
“That’s more where we need it than anywhere else, so we can communicate,” Strophaul said.
Todd Hatfield, the assistant chief for the Grayling Fire Department, learned of the grant through TransCanada and helped process the application for funding.
With tight budgets, Strophaul said the fire department counts on outside funding to upgrade the department’s radio system.
“That’s why every little bit helps,” he said.
Eventually, Strophaul aims to have enough 800 megahertz radios so that emergency responders can communicate with central dispatchers, and other fire departments, and have radios in the fire trucks and in other vehicles.
“It will go full circle once we get everything in place,” he said.