Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Grant to supply radios, pagers for Fire Department

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 17, 2007

VERNON - Portable radios and pagers are in short supply for the town's volunteer fire department, but that should soon change with a $28,500 grant received Thursday that will update the communications system.

The Fireman's Fund Insurance Company awarded the grant, which will pay for new portable radios and upgrade the department's aging radio dispatch system, officials said.

According to Fire Chief Robert Kelley, all captains have radios, but some are very old and others were bought with personal funds.

Those will be passed down to the lieutenants - who right now don't have anything - and the captains will receive the new equipment, Kelley said.

As for the pager system, it was created in the 1980s and parts aren't available anymore, he said.

The system includes a collection of tone and voice pagers used to notify volunteers of an emergency call.

While more than 30 years old, at the time they were purchased they were the best on the market, Kelley said.

Today's models are packed with many bells and whistles - like multiple frequencies and vibrate modes - and that can sometimes make them less sensitive to reception, he said.

Both the radios and pagers are vital pieces of equipment, however, as they allow firefighters to conduct their job safely and effectively, and ultimately, help save lives, Michael J. Purcaro, town director of Emergency Management said.

The equipment can be quite expensive to replace.

Portable radios have come down in price over the last 10 years, from roughly $1,400 to $600, while pagers can cost upwards of $450 each, Kelley said.

With the grant, "this is something we don't have to go the town for," Kelley said, adding, "in the past, we'd try to squeak in the budget a new portable every year or so. But this will take care of everything and give every commander a radio."

The Fireman's Fund Insurance Company provides grants to fire departments through its Fireman's Fund Heritage program.

Employees are asked to nominate a department for the grant, and a regional task force of employees and agents reviews the nominations and selects a winner.

Donna Uboldi, whose father was at one time chief of the Vernon department and whose brother is now a captain, nominated the town of Vernon.

©Journal Inquirer 2007