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Bangor Fire Department updates radio system after 20 years

The new radios are heat and waterproof, have an emergency button, and more. It's thanks to a $110,000 grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Fire Department is upgrading its radios thanks to a $110,000 grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program.

"The government covers most of that, the city has to cover 10% of that, and we were able to pay that out of our operating budget," said Bangor Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Chandler Corriveau.

Radio is the main form of communication between firefighters, EMS personnel, and police officers at emergency scenes.

The old radios were about 15 to 20 years old, they were not waterproof, and had limited channel capacity. Furthermore, they were no longer made by the manufacturer, making it hard to find replacement pieces to fix damaged ones.

"We certainly got our use out of them. Technology has improved so much," added Corriveau. 

Earlier this week, the department received 80 new portable radios and 64 new mobile radios, along with chargers, batteries, and accessories. The new technology is in the process of being installed and programmed.

"One of the main differences between the old and the new radios is that we have this emergency operation button. We press the button and it identifies us. Previously, that identification would be limited," said Jared Willey, President of IFF 772, the 88-member union of the Bangor Fire Department.

"But I would say that probably the biggest feature is their durability, how they are designed. They are designed for a firefighter to operate with a gloved hand, so they have bigger buttons, bigger knobs, the speaker microphone is bigger," said Corriveau.

Corriveau says changing out the old radios to the new ones will make a big difference when at emergency scenes because the new radios are more user-friendly and they are also water and heatproof.

"Our new radios are more of a public safety radio. They are designed for the harsh environments that the firefighters operate in," said Corriveau. "Without having the ability to communicate with radios, the members wouldn't be able to communicate at all."

When responding to any type of scene, radios are the bridge of communication between the department and the firefighter or EMS personnel assisting at a scene.

According to Willey, radio communication is crucial. "It's our lifeline to the outside, sort of speak."