The Forest Park Fire Department will soon receive a new radio system that will allow for better communication with the fire departments in North Riverside, Cicero and Stickney.
As part of the West Suburban Fire Network, which shares the same radio frequency among towns, the group was awarded a $130,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for upgrading their radio equipment in order to become compliant with bandwidth regulations set forth by the Federal Communications Commission. FEMA also provided a secondary grant of $30,000 for the purchase of new portable radios.
Most of the current equipment at the Forest Park fire house is at least 20 years old, said Fire Chief Steve Glinke.
“The system will be a substantial improvement than what we’ve had in the past,” he said. “Any time you have obstruction, walls or concrete basements, you are going to have some difficulty with two-way radio.”
But with the newer technology and upgraded infrastructure, the firefighters are expecting a stronger signal, better coverage and more reliable reception.
As an example, Glinke said that right now a firefighter in Cicero could key up his radio and firefighters in Forest Park would not hear it. However, with the new equipment, they will be able to hear other calls so they will know when not to interrupt one another’s transmission.
What’s more, if extra help was needed from the neighboring fire departments to put out a blaze, they would know about it “much quicker,” Glinke said.
The grant money covers the bulk of the cost, but each town is expected to share the remainder and pay an additional $10,000.
“For all practical purposes, we’re getting a brand new radio system for $10,000, which is a bargain,” Glinke said.