EMS awarded $5,000 grant

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Osceola County EMS will become increasingly efficient in not only the local area, but regionally and across the state, thanks to a $5,000 grant from TransCanada.

The money, which is expected to be matched by the county department, is slated to help the department purchase up to four portable 800 megahurtz radio systems that allow the county's first responders to communicate more effectively with other first responders in the state of Michigan. The radios will be distributed between Meceola Central Dispatch and Osceola County EMS.

According to Osceola County EMS Assistant Director Joel Yonkman, the system was created after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to help all first responders communicate with each other by using the same frequency. Before it was not an option and made it difficult for multiple departments to communicate as one.

"The radios will give us a better local, regional and statewide communication," Yonkman said. "It affords us better safety and increases our capability. For our purposes, it almost doubles our capability."

In the past, he said the departments have borrowed the radios from the state to assist in emergencies including the flooding that took place in spring of 2013. The borrowed technology was able to provide communication with hospital staff at a patient's side as they were transported to a facility, more control on and off emergency scenes and increased ease in coordinating with local and statewide first responders.

Ross Momany, Reed City area manager for TransCanada and local firefighter, was happy to provide assistance to the emergency medical services team.

"The first responders are one of our first points of contact when we have an emergency and they support us if we have one," Momany said. "It's great to help them out and it's nice to give something back to the community."

The company has an amount of money they are able to grant to regional entities each year, he said. In addition to Osceola County EMS, the business has assisted the Marion Fire Department and the robotics club at Reed City High School.

The radio technology doesn't run cheap.

"It's really expensive," Yonkman added. "But what that does is allow us more flexibility to communicate."

In addition, the new radios will have an increased range, will free up local communication channels and will allow communication with hospitals, AeroMed and fire departments. Whereas the geography of the county, including around the U.S. 10 corridor could block communication signals from other types of radios, it will have no effect on the 800 megahurtz radios, Yonkman said.

"It's getting rid of 99 percent of those dead spots and now we'll have radio coverage," he added.

Yonkman is thrilled to receive the funds and the opportunity to purchase the equipment as soon as possible.

"It's absolutely wonderful that we have organizations in the community that want to help support the response systems," Yonkman said. "We're excited about the grant and the opportunity to get the radios. We want to get out there and show people we're putting the money to valuable use."