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Federal grants to improve emergency communications in Pottawatomie County

 First responders learned hard lessons in the aftermath of the May 19, 2013 tornado outbreak that damaged substantial portions of CPN’s jurisdiction. In the early stages of the rescue and recovery efforts around Bethel Acres, Okla., radio communications across the county quickly were overwhelmed. Emergency responders working in the afflicted areas received busy signals when trying to communicate via the county’s existing radio signal infrastructure.

CPN Tribal Police Dispatcher Brian Scott had a front row seat to the confusion.

“CPN had more personnel out in those areas in the immediate aftermath of the tornado than the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Pottawatomie County Sheriff, but we were only able to communicate with our officers by using an older system of 150MHz radios,” said Scott.

Following those experiences, Scott, under the direction of Tribal Police Chief Dr. Jim Collard and CPN Emergency Management Director Tim Zientek, explored options to avoid a repeat of that situation.

“This was a problem that took down emergency radio communications in large parts of the state during those days where Oklahoma was inundated by severe weather,” said Zientek. “We had to find a better way of communicating during these situations, and through funding from the Department of Homeland Security, the entire county will be better prepared.”

A $230,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Strategies will meet the needs of a growing police force by streamlining interdepartmental communication as well as communication  between officers and sister agencies. The grant funds will provide much needed equipment for dispatch as well as other radio equipment upgrades.  Additionally, the grant provides for priority dispatch ProQA call-taking software, and emergency medical dispatch and emergency fire dispatch training.

In addition to the Department of Justice grant, funding was granted $637,000 from the Department of Homeland of Security’s (DHS) Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DHS’s national preparedness system aims to organize communities across the U.S. in case of all manner of emergencies.

The grant strengthens the Nation’s communications capabilities by funding the installation of additional radio equipment. The equipment will assist in coordination with Pottawatomie County’s other emergency responders. Once in operation, the four channel repeater will be capable of hosting eight different communications streams for police, fire and rescue personnel working across the county.

“This was a problem that took down emergency radio communications in large parts of the state during those days where Oklahoma was inundated by severe weather,” said Zientek. “We had to find a better way of communicating during these situations, and through this funding from the Department of Homeland Security, the entire county is better prepared.”