Russell County volunteer fire department grant on hold because - WRBL

Russell County volunteer fire department grant on hold because of gov't shutdown

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RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. -

Improvement plans at 11 Russell County volunteer fire departments are on hold because of the government shutdown.

About three months ago the Russell County Firefighters Association was awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, grant to purchase new radios to fix communication black-outs. But, no one is available at the federal level to give them access to the funds.

When responding to emergencies in low-lying areas many of the volunteer firefighters in east Alabama have problems trying to communicate with dispatch or other area fire departments.

Seale Volunteer Fire Chief Danny Sandlin said sometimes it can take a little longer to call for assistance. "Two vehicle accident, one serious injury... We had a hard time contacting the Russell County Sheriff's Department to try to get more support. So evidently,we ended up going to our cell phones."

"Those hand-held radios have a very limited range," said Bob Franklin, the director of Russell County Emergency Management. He said firefighters may be talking into their walkie-talkie, but no one is hearing them because the antenna, also known as a repeater, isn't picking up their signal to retransmit the call,

The $374,000 grant will buy 166 new radios and five repeaters to help eliminate the dead-spots. Franklin said they were ready to buy the equipment two weeks ago, but a couple days later the government shut down and now there is no federal employee available to release the funds.

"We're sitting here on wait mode. We can't go ahead and order it because the company that got the bid is a small business. They don't have the money to float it 90 or 60 days," said Franklin. He's afraid once the government reopens it will take even longer than the average 30-45 days to get the money because of a backlog.

Franklin is afraid once the government reopens it will take even longer than the average 30 days to get the money because of a backlog. He said the grant hold-up won't impact firefighters or their jobs, it just means it will take longer to make the improvements.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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