One small but interesting item on the city council’s agenda for Tuesday night: Alameda’s firefighters are among a group of seven Alameda County fire agencies set to get a federal grant to help pay for radios that will allow the departments to talk to each other during emergencies.
The departments will get an $829,597 federal grant to cover most of the cost of the radios; they’ll have to pay the remaining 20 percent of the cost of the setups. If they get the council’s okay, Alameda’s fire department, which is getting enough radios for every on-duty firefighter, will pay its $26,091 of the cost through the city’s contingency reserve fund.
Right now, public safety departments operate off a jumble of radio systems that don’t allow them to communicate with one another during emergencies, and this purchase is part of a process to change that. Alameda County’s fire department began its efforts on this one in 2005.
In addition to Alameda, fire departments in Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, Newark, Union City and the Alameda County Fire Department, will benefit from the grant. They are among 35 agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties that are part of the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority, which is run by former Alameda County Fire Chief Bill McCammon (though perhaps notably, some of our closest neighbors – Oakland and Berkeley – do not appear to be on the list of participating agencies).
So far the authority, which got underway in September 2007, has collected $33 million of the $67 million it estimates it will need to cover the cost of the system, all of it from federal homeland security grants. The money is used to pay for radios, towers and other equipment to allow public safety departments across the East Bay to communicate.