Grant from Walmart will help fund radio system for ECFR

Equipment will improve signal and coverage

East County Fire & Rescue recently received a $1,000 grant from Walmart.

The funding will help offset the $2,500 cost of installing four external radio antennas and four power converters for the area coordination center (ACC) at Fern Prairie Fire Station 91, located next to the Grove Field Airport in Camas.

The ARES/RACES Group (Ham Radio operators who assist local government with emergency communication during disasters) will assist ECFR with installation of the equipment.

The ACC provides disaster dispatching and resource tracking when Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (Clark County’s 911 center) gets overwhelmed by extreme call volume, which can occur during severe weather events, large-scale emergencies (wildfires, chemical emergencies), etc.

CRESA has a finite number of dispatchers on duty at any one time. During normal operations, the dispatchers receive 911 calls, enter them into the dispatch computer, and then broadcast the calls and track responding emergency vehicles.

When too many calls occur in a short period of time, the dispatchers may only have time to answer 911 lines and enter CAD data. That is when the ACC is operated to prioritize calls, and dispatch and track fire/emergency medical services resources.

The East County ACC dispatches fire and EMS calls for ECFR and the Camas-Washougal Fire Department. Specialized ACC volunteers assist local firefighters in staffing the ACC.

Currently, portable radios are utilized to broadcast calls. The portables have low broadcast power, limited reach and operate on batteries.

Installation of outside antennas and 110-volt to 12-volt power converters will allow the implementation of mobile radios with stronger signals and improved coverage.

The East County ACC is one of four spread throughout Clark County. They coordinate operations with the county-wide emergency operations center at CRESA in Vancouver.

The East County ACC provides disaster dispatch service to approximately 44,000 people in Camas, Washougal and the 60 square miles of fire district that surround those two cities.

ECFR Chief Scott Koehler said the district appreciates this donation from the Walmart store on Southeast 192nd Avenue in Vancouver and the Walmart Foundation.

The portion of the antenna installation paid for by this grant should be completed in January.