The Surf City (N.C.) Volunteer Fire Department was awarded a FIRE Grant to purchase 800 MHz radios to improve radio interoperability throughout its county, Chief Demetrius Batts. The county currently is transitioning from a VHF to an 800 MHz system, so grant monies were used to purchase nine mobile and 15 portable radios to ensure the volunteer department could support countywide radio interoperability.

The rural department needed such radios to communicate with surrounding first-responder agencies during large incidents but couldn’t afford to purchase them through its $113,000 annual operating budget that is used to pay for overhead costs and training for 30 volunteer firefighters who respond to 200 calls per year. So Batts hired a grant writer for $550 to help complete the application. Although he recommends using a grant writer, he said the county’s transition to the 800 MHz system and the need for radio interoperability was the core reason the grant was awarded.

“Give that the county as a whole was going to a different type of radio system helped us out quite a bit,” he said.

Batts recommended that rural departments use the federal grants to procure equipment. “It is very hard to for volunteer departments to purchase such equipment in order to provide coverage to taxpayers,” he said. “So I would advise small department to try grants because the money is out there.”

Updated 6/14/10