Although the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) is wrapping up for St. Clair County, the program continues to leave its legacy for local emergency response units that will help long after the program has ended.

St. Clair County Central Dispatch and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office were greatly impacted by CSEPP through new communication tools they would not have otherwise been able to afford.

Central Dispatch Director Bill Richvalsky said his department was fortunate enough to gain 20 radios, and the sheriff’s department also received 20 radios (10 mobile and 10 handheld radios), allowing both departments to greatly enhance their communication abilities.

Richvalsky said Central Dispatch also received  new Motorola digital turbo system radios, which serve both digital and analog systems.

“The digital radios seem to be a coming thing now,” Richvalsky said. “The Moody Fire Department recently went to the digital radios and then the Moody Police Department followed suit. They have also been in discussion in Pell City about moving to them, and the St. Clair County Fire and EMS Association has recently gotten a grant from the federal government to change all their radios to the digital turbo systems.

“Central Dispatch, in order to be able to communicate with all of those moving to the digital systems, has to have base stations which could communicate with both digital and analog systems,” he explained. “These new radios will allow us to be able to talk on the same radio, and it will improve our radio signals.”

He noted that because of the ever-growing age of technology, some departments in St. Clair County will likely have to find methods of finding similar radios in order to keep up with the advanced capabilities that the digital turbo radio systems offer.

St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Patrice Payne noted that the EMA has supplied the radios to agencies in St. Clair County who are compliant with National Incident Management System (NIMS).

NIMS is a system used in the United States to coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management among various local, state and federal agencies.

The 20 radios that the Central Dispatch acquired are mobile editions that will serve as base stations, and Richvalsky said that because of items such as these, there are plans to even further modernize the communication efforts between law and emergencies agencies in St. Clair County.

“We want to create an alternate Public Safety Answering Point, and there will be enough radios to furnish that,” said Richvalsky. “That will probably be somewhere else in the county, and maybe in a place that is more isolated. It would have everything, including radios and telephones and it would be similar to what we have (at the St. Clair County Emergency Operations Center) but not to that magnitude.”

Payne noted the EMA was also able to procure 62 radios for law and Central Dispatch.

“The EMA was very fortunate to have the funds  thanks to CSEPP to help enhance communication in our county,” said Payne. “With previous funding, we were also able to purchase radios for fire departments in our county that are NIMS compliant.”

In order to keep up with the ever changing world of technology, Richvalsky it is important for St. Clair County to keep its equipment as modern and up-to-date as possible.

“We have to be ready for whatever technology that may come down the pipe,” he explained. “Modern equipment will enable us to upgrade our communication abilities and keep up with the times.”

Investigator Gary Cone of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office called the gain of the 20 radios “a great and wonderful thing.”

“We had radios in the cars every year, but every year as we added cars, we knew the radios were getting older and we are adding the new radios to the newer cars,” Cone said. “The mobile radios we will put in the cars, and the handheld radios will be used if maybe someone needs a replacement radio or something like that.”

The sheriff’s office is currently in the inventory process with the radios and said the budgeting process is also underway, with a new fiscal year set to begin Oct. 1. Cone said obviously the acquisition of the radios will ease the budgeting process somewhat, and said he is also grateful that the county, the St. Clair County EMA and CSEPP came through once again in a big way to help local law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff’s department.

“It is exactly right that the program has served local law agencies well,” said Cone. “The CSEPP program has just been a great help to all emergency responders.”