Evergreen Fire-Rescue gearing up for radio-frequency shift

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By Sandy Barnes

Evergreen Fire/Rescue is switching from wide- to narrow-band radio to meet a federal mandate that took effect the first of the year.

Using $700,000 in grant funds from the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and an additional $234,000 recently received, the district is converting its radio program from ultra-high frequency to very-high frequency.

“That was the big reason we got the grant,” said Fire Chief Mike Weege.

After applying for federal funding with Clear Creek and Gilpin counties and the Black Hawk Police Department in 2009, the cost of making the change increased, said Weege. 

When extra funding became available from the Urban Areas Security Initiative of the Homeland Security Bureau, the project was able to continue, Weege said.

“Working with the federal government is a slow process,” said Weege. 

The Evergreen fire district had to match 25 percent of the cost, which totaled $1.2 million.

For the district, an integral part of the process is aligning its frequency with other area emergency services.

“This will help dramatically with wildland fires,” said Weege. “Everybody around us is VHF.”

After receiving an extension from the Jan. 1 deadline, the fire district’s new deadline for having all equipment purchased and in place is April 30. 

To assist with the process, the district hired Pericle Management. 

“They came with the design for the system,” said Weege. 

Chris Johnson, IT coordinator for Evergreen Fire/Rescue, also has played an important role as the point person for the transition, he added.

“We’ve eliminated risks of the frequencies,” Johnson said while discussing the project at the Jan. 8 meeting of the Evergreen Fire Protection District board. “It’s a very slow, frustrating process.” 

Both Weege and Johnson expressed concern about meeting the April 30 deadline and possibly losing grant funds.

“We may get one more extension on the grant,” said Weege.

“There’s going to be some sprinting at the end,” said Johnson.


Code Red in place

Replacing a problematic emergency-notification program with Code Red — a system designed to enable local government officials to quickly record, send and track personalized messages to citizens — is going to make a positive difference in emergency communications with residents, said Weege.

“We’re trying to make a big awareness push,” he said. “For everybody, that will help.”