EATON — The Ohio Department of Commerce Division of State Fire Marshal recently awarded seven fire departments in Preble County Multi-Agency Radio Communications Systems (MARCS) grants totaling $320,938.
The grants will allow the departments to purchase equipment and pay user fees for the radio system. Officials hope this will improve communication efforts between the departments as well as other emergency personnel.
Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Jeff A. Hussey visited Eaton Station No. 2 on Monday, April 10, to award local fire chiefs the money. “We’re excited to award you the funds to put MARCS radios in Preble County. We hope this is a great opportunity for you and we look forward to working with you,” he said.
This is the third year that the MARCS grant is being awarded to Ohio’s fire service. According to Preble County EMA Director David Anderson, for the past years he had compiled the applications from the different fire departments and put them together into a county-wide application, but this year they switched to an online application and he was not in control of what departments submitted. West Manchester and West Elkton Fire Departments did not submit an application and thus were not included in the funds awarded.
According to Anderson, they are eligible to submit an application next year. “I’ve been told, not only by the fire marshal, but by the sheriff, to make sure that they submit for equipment and there is a very good chance that they will get it then,” he added.
City of Eaton Fire and EMS Chief Brian Smith spoke regarding the funds received. “[The money] is going to allow us to purchase the MARCS radios, that we need to switch to, a lot quicker and a lot more efficiently,” he said. “If we were to make this a budgetary item, it would take us several years to accomplish what we are going to be able to do this year. I know for a lot of smaller departments in the County it is going to help them tremendously in that aspect.”
He explained why it is necessary for the departments to switch to this radio. “The MARCS system is a state wide controlled system. I think it is the hopes of the State to have every county on MARCS at some point.” He added, the sheriff’s department has already switched to MARCS and the grant will allow Eaton’s Fire and EMS to communicate with other departments easier.
Captain John Glander spoke on behalf of the Village of West Alexandria’s Fire Department.
“This will be excellent to improve our communications,” Glander said. “To help us communicate with our surrounding communities. Mutual aid calls, a lot of times we go, they work on MARCS radios and we don’t. There is a lot of missed radio traffic. Now that we are all on one system, we can be more unified and have better response. We all know where everybody is at and we are on the same page.
“It will be an excellent addition to our department. It will improve our response time. We can actually do better at serving our community.”
Lieutenant Aaron Forrer with Camden Somers-Township Fire and EMS spoke for his department.
“The almost-$3,000 we will receive from the grant will allow us to purchase the radio without spending any of the tax money that we collect,” he said. “We can save that and spend it on equipment as we feel fit.”
In June 2016, Governor John R. Kasich approved the allotment of $3 million to be used for the grant.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH