Emergency services request upgrade in communication systems

From Staff Reports

   The Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Agency (EMA) has requested approval from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) to use a $20,000 Homeland Security Grant to upgrade two-way radio communication for emergency services personnel.
   Jim Burrough, EMA director, stated that the funds used to request the purchase of hand-held, two-way radios, two communication repeaters and duplexers, a communication link for Carter County Sheriff's Department, and a cascade unit for use by volunteer fire departments to refill air tanks.
   A survey was conducted among emergency services personnel in Elizabethton and Carter County to determine specific needs which were then prioritized in meetings with representatives from various emergency service organizations. The greatest need was to improve radio communication among service organizations throughout Carter County's rural areas.
   "I appreciate the cooperation among the emergency service agencies in establishing the priorities," Burrough said. "I would also like to express appreciation to TEMA for their support."
   Over the 2001 fiscal year, the Carter County Commission provided $251,998 to the volunteer fire departments, $320,000 to the emergency and rescue squad. The Commission also allocated $2,026,206 to the Sheriff's Department for operating funds.
   In addition to Homeland Security, grants are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Firefighters Grant Program. According to Kenneth O. Burris Jr., regional director of FEMA, 1,886 grants totaling $96 million were awarded to fire departments throughout the nation during the 2001 fiscal year.
   For the 2002 fiscal year a total of $360 million will be awarded to the fire operations. Firefighter safety, fire prevention, emergency medical services and vehicles are some of the services slated to receive funding. The seven volunteer fire departments serving Carter County and Elizabethton Fire Department may also apply for grants.
   There are 291 emergency services personnel, both paid and volunteers, in Carter County. The county has a population of 56,742 people that live in 341 square miles.