This page highlights how three counties in North Central Idaho came together to apply for an AFG Regional Grant .This page is intended for fire departments and nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Service organizations (EMS).
AFG Grant Provides Equipment and Training in Idaho
34 agents spanning three counties in north central Idaho that were not successful in acquiring individual AFG Grants came together in 2012 to apply for an AFG Regional Grant. Kamiah Fire Protection District served as the host applicant and was successfully awarded $635,414 for the group. These funds helped purchase communication equipment, training and a sand simulation table, all of which are now shared among the organizations.
“There haven’t been many 34-agent, 3-county endeavors,” said grant writer Debbie Evans, who is also an administrator for a variety of nearby cities. Lewis and Idaho Counties were home to 32 of the agents involved, and Nez Perce County was home to two.
There was little-to-no communication infrastructure developed and/or available in the area, and bad service prevented law enforcement from communicating with each other. It once even prohibited a department from receiving an emergency call because personnel was in a metal building for training. The emergency services in Idaho and Lewis Counties wanted to convert to narrow band but did not have the financial and technical resources to assist the individual fire districts or departments within their respective counties.
“There was a huge issue with emergency communication and everyone needed to be on the same page,” said Evans. According to her, Idaho County alone is the size of Rhode Island but only has one stoplight, which highlights the ruralness of the area.
Because of the AFG Grant, the counties were able to purchase 169 portable radios, 19 base stations, 69 mobile radios, 21 mobile repeaters, and four repeaters. One repeater was also relocated. Evans noted that the new mobile units can now be heard 90 miles away and provide clear, consistent and reliable communication for all personnel. The departments were also able to set up an alternative station in Kamiah on the state border just in case communication was lost in the two main counties. After that station was set up, the major phone line was accidentally cut during routine maintenance. If not for the alternative station, 911 calls would not have been able to connect to the county dispatch in both Idaho and Lewis Counties. The grant also brought all departments up to P25 compliance.
In addition, the grant provided funds for departments to train their personnel, which is 100% volunteer. Since bringing training to their local area, the departments have been able to “train the trainers” and in turn, educate more than 240 firefighters in Wildland I and II and Structure I and II training. Before the grant, volunteers would have had to travel several hours away to receive state training in Boise, which is a steep request for volunteers.
“They volunteer their time, but the expense was just phenomenal,” said Evans. She notes that now every firefighter now has the same training – locally and in-person, as well as online. The departments were also able to establish a multimedia library to support ongoing training.
The grant funds also financed the departments’ purchase of a “sand simulation table,” which is accessible by all the agencies. About the size of 3 x 6 table, it can be used as a training and debriefing tool, showing how fire reacts to adjustable measures like sand, wind and fire suppression. The portable device can be hooked up to a big screen TV to educate the public about fire safety. It also provides the opportunity for different departments to come together and get practical experience with fire while learning to be more prepared and working better together.
All equipment from the grant was used to help with a regional, mock, mass casualty demonstration. It was executed by Kamiah Fire Department with help from public health, local hospitals and other agencies, including medical and fire organizations. A bus was flipped in a city park and the event tested the skills of all those involved. According to Evans, the items purchased with the grant helped make the exercise a success.
The grant was awarded in April 2013, and purchases were made between July 2013 and May 2014. Evans found that monitoring the grant and corresponding with AFG staff was easier than she anticipated.
“During the wait, some of the needs of the fire departments changed,” she said. “They were very helpful. It took two week to close out the grant. Sometimes closing out a grant is painful but this wasn’t. They knew we knew what we were talking about, and they worked with us.”