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The City of Goose Creek Fire Department has been awarded a $179,728 FEMA grant – and the money will be used for a crucial communications upgrade for firefighters. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant was awarded to the City in July by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. After a 10 percent match by the City, the total grant will be $197,700. The money will be put to good use: according to GCFD Chief Steve Chapman, the City plans to upgrade the two-way radios used by firefighters to communicate with one another as well as other responding fire and police units. “This is very important,” Chapman said. “It will be a big improvement to our radio communications.” A total of 45 800MHz (megahertz) radios will replace the GCFD’s current radios, which use a VHF platform. The total number includes 12 mobile radios in fire vehicles, and 33 portable, handheld devices. In addition to better overall coverage and performance, 800MHz radios are important for two reasons, Chapman said. First, GCFD firefighters need them to be able to communicate with neighboring departments that have already switched to 800MHz radios, including all Charleston County fire and police departments, as well as the Goose Creek Police. Second, 800MHz radios have much better in-building penetration, allowing firefighters to communicate with one another in a more reliable manner during emergency calls. With the GCFD’s current radios, it is difficult for firefighters to communicate in metal buildings or structures, Chapman said. “The new radios will be much better,” he said. With the current radios, Chapman said firefighters have only two channels to use. Not so with the 800MHz upgrade: the new radios offer “hundreds of available channels,” he said. “They are not easily overwhelmed.” Chapman said that, while the new radios represent a crucial upgrade, they would not have been possible without the grant. “We would not be doing this in the city budget anytime soon,” he said. “Our priorities are staffing and building our fire stations.” The FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant began in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, in an effort to help “firefighters and other first responders to obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards,” according to www.fema.gov. This is the third time that Goose Creek has received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which can be applied for annually.