Grant boosts fire communications, improves safety

Grant boosts fire communications, improves safety

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The Federal Emergency Management Agency last week announced $59 million in direct assistance grants to 392 fire departments nationwide, including $390,600 to the North Providence Fire Department.

The grant, to pay for radios, portable radios and mobile repeaters, is through the agency’s 2019 Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

North Providence secured the second highest total among fire departments in Rhode Island, behind only East Providence at $691,336 for radios and breathing apparatus.

Fire Chief John Silva said the radios and repeaters are outdated by about 15 years, and the department can’t get any spare parts for them. Personnel are currently using the communications equipment until it wears out, he said.

With more reliable equipment that’s able to be repaired, the department will also have its backup system on these radios, similar to what police were able to acquire through its Google forfeiture funds. The new system will also be interoperable with other departments.

Overall, he said, residents can expect “clear and better communication” and increased public safety because the department will be able to respond and get to calls quicker and better. Transmissions are often broken now, he said, sending firefighters to the wrong address or being so garbled that it takes longer to understand. They won’t have to switch radios, as that will all be done on dispatch.

Because North Providence is so hilly, there are several areas of town where radio transmissions don’t work, including inside Our Lady of Fatima Hospital. Silva said his own neighborhood is in a gully and is also a dead spot.

“It’s definitely going to increase public safety,” he said of the new equipment.

It’s almost like having an old cell phone that doesn’t work anymore, he told The Breeze. If not for the grant, the purchase would likely take about five years instead of six months or so.

Since 2001, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.