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Upgrade communications technologies for rural fire agencies

I am the fire chief of the Le Grand Volunteer Fire Department. The department, and all the proud public servants that make up Marshall County rural fire agencies, have been trying to upgrade its outdated and dangerous land mobile radio system for years. My peers and I were disappointed after reading a letter dated Feb. 13 written to your paper titled “Is upgrading the E-911 system necessary?” written by an R. Ray Sommers.

Historically, many Marshall County first responders and politicians have been leaders with respect to critical life safety communications technologies — but only as it pertains to digital P25 technologies deployed and in use by Marshalltown Police and Fire, State Center Police, Melbourne Police and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. Virtually all the volunteer fire agencies do not get the enhanced coverage, security, reliability and interoperability benefits of P25-based technology. The departments have been forced to use a circa 1970 land mobile radio system that has been outdated and at the end of its useful life for years. The system and the patchwork, band aid, ignore at all cost approach to maintaining it are putting both my peers and the public in jeopardy. This ‘ignore the needs of rural fire’ mentality must end.

It is long past time for leaders in Marshall County to stop trying to repair an outdated system that doesn’t meet the needs or ignore there is a problem at all and high time to invest in the same P25 technology that works so well for Marshalltown Police/Fire and the Marshall County Sheriff’s office.

Instead of trying to find the naysayers, we urge elected leaders to listen to your subject matter experts — those people who put their lives on the line every day. Those experts have studied the issue for years, priced every reasonable alternative and are proposing the best, most cost-effective solution that will serve citizens needs now and into the future. We recommend the same technology that has been adopted in nearly all neighboring rural fire jurisdictions — Jasper, Story, Tama and Grundy counties…

Marshall County Board of Supervisors — Thank you for your service. Please ignore the uneducated naysayers and pay close attention to the clear and consistent message from the subject matter experts in the Marshall County rural fire community. Please fund this much needed upgrade. Lives are at stake.

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