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Fire department to replace aging radio system

North Bay Fire and Emergency Services will be getting an overhaul of its radio communications system. 

Council awarded the $80,000 contract during Tuesday’s meeting, unanimously approving the decision with little resistance.  The new radios will replace an aging system which the department has been using for almost 20 years.

Greg Saunders, Deputy Fire Chief, says that the new communications system will be greatly welcomed by the fire department.

“What these new radios do is allow us to communicate so much more effectively than we were able to in the past. As you can imagine in a dangerous environment, having communications that we can count on is really quite important,” he said. 

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The new radios will be wirelessly connected through Bluetooth to firefighters’ breathing apparatuses. The communications system will be getting a complete overhaul, which Saunders says will actually result in fewer radios being needed. 

“We think that we can still maintain our effectiveness and not compromise the safety of our firefighters so we’ve decided to overhaul our whole fleet of portable radios,” Saunders said, adding that the new radios are higher quality, meaning they won’t need as many of them. 

Saunders also says that the new system will improve safety measures by being able to connect with firefighters’ breathing apparatuses. 

“With the old system, we’d go into a dangerous situation – like a fire – with the radio in our pocket and we’d actually have to take the radio out of our pocket and put it to our mask and try and speak through our mask while we’re trying to breathe on air and communicate what we’re trying to say,” he said. 

During the brief deliberation of the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting, councillor Chris Mayne wondered if the new system will also be able to communicate with police and paramedic services. 

Saunders says that the new radio system will function on a different platform than police and paramedics, adding that it would cost around $800,000 to put all three on one system. 

However, Saunders says that it wouldn’t be necessary anyway, given that emergency services already have a system in place. 

“In a significant emergency, we’ll actually set up an emergency operations centre and we’ll have a command centre with representatives from all the services that are being used to respond to the incident,” he explained. 

The new radio system comes as the fire department is trying to revamp its overall communications system. Saunders says that the project is being delayed due to the financial uncertainties brought on by the pandemic.

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