Firefighter Training, Firefighting

Phoenix (AZ) Radio Systems will be Unified

An East Valley emergency radio network will spend $1.8 million to mesh its fire communications with those used in Phoenix and other parts of the Valley and address long-standing complaints from firefighters who felt the competing systems compromised their safety, reports azcentral.com.

The issue, reported in an Arizona Republic story in May, came to a head this year when the leader of Mesa’s firefighters union publicly blasted the Mesa-led Topaz Regional Wireless Cooperative, and firefighters from across the Valley threatened to sue if the Topaz system was not unified with the larger Phoenix-led Regional Wireless Cooperative.

The existing situation, the firefighters said in a letter to Topaz, “puts firefighters and citizens at great risk of personal harm, as well as poses a substantial risk to taxpayers’ property.”

The new system will allow firefighters from across the Valley to talk with one another in fire hot zones without having to patch their radio systems together or, in some cases, actually carry two handheld radios into the heart of a fire.

Officials from the two radio cooperatives said they also are moving to unify their governing bodies, perhaps creating a system similar to the one that oversees Valley-wide bus and light-rail operations.

The news was welcomed by Bryan Jeffries, president of the United Mesa Firefighters Association and a former Phoenix City Council member, who had been among the most strident critics of Mesa’s system.

“We are thrilled that they’re making some progress,” Jeffries said. “Having emergency responders be able to talk to one another is a pretty big deal.”

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