Idaho VFD seeks to use CARES Act funds to buy radios for every member

Moscow Volunteer Fire Department officials say the purchase would prevent members from needing to share radios, which could increase COVID-19 risk


Garrett Cabeza
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

MOSCOW, Idaho — The Moscow Volunteer Fire Department hopes to utilize about $700,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds the city received to purchase 104 portable radios to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Fire Chief Brian Nickerson said 104 radios would outfit almost every first responder in the department with their own radio, instead of having to share the devices like some in the department do.

The Moscow Volunteer Fire Department is seeking to use $700,000 in CARES Act funds to purchase individual portable radios for each member, which would prevent members from needing to share radios.
The Moscow Volunteer Fire Department is seeking to use $700,000 in CARES Act funds to purchase individual portable radios for each member, which would prevent members from needing to share radios. (Photo/Moscow Volunteer Fire & Ambulance)

The radios are estimated to cost $703,135.68, according to a memo from Moscow Informations Systems Director Jesse Flowers to City Supervisor Gary Riedner.

The Moscow City Council authorized the request for the CARES Act reimbursement at last Monday's council meeting. Nickerson said he hopes to learn in the next week or two whether the proposed purchase meets the CARES Act funding criteria. He said other municipalities in Idaho have used CARES Act money to purchase portable radios.

If approved, Nickerson said he hopes to receive the devices by the end of the year.

He said the radios would be used to communicate with fellow MVFD firefighters and emergency medical technicians, as well as other agencies, like Whitcom and mutual aid partners, in the region.

"It's just one more little thing that we can do to try to reduce any risk or anything like that and it's going to improve our communication overall anyway," Nickerson said.

In a memo from Nickerson to Riedner, Nickerson said the MVFD has seen a sharp increase in calls for emergency medical services and ambulance transport for COVID-19 symptoms. The memo said the department implemented several increased hygiene measures and provided additional personal protective equipment to reduce risk whenever and wherever possible, including sanitizing equipment and vehicles.

Nickerson told the Daily News MVFD personnel are required to wear N95 masks when responding to calls and that many also wear a cloth mask over the N95 mask to help protect the mask for future use. He said most responders also wear safety glasses.

"Currently the Department has an insufficient inventory of portable radios to provide all active volunteer responders with individual-use radios," Nickerson told Riedner in the memo. "Acquisition of individual-use portable radios would add another level of protection to our volunteer EMS and Firefighters. Shared radios act as another potential vector for COVID-19 exposure, placing our volunteers at risk."

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(c)2020 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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