SIKESTON -- The City of Sikeston has received a federal grant for communications equipment, which will update the Department of Public Safety's current radio communication system.
The Department was recently notified that it would receive $39,500 by the state of Missouri Emergency Management Agency of Missouri, according to a Thursday news release from Sgt. Jim McMillen, DPS public information officer.
The department hasn't finalized how the funds will be allocated but tentative plans are to replace one of the communication base stations at the headquarters and purchase handheld radios that would be compatible with the new system, McMillen said.
The need for public safety agencies and other first responders to have the ability to communicate with one another in the event of emergencies has been realized by the Department of Homeland Security and the Emergency Management Agency.
"Large scale emergencies often require a joint effort with various agencies and other organizations participating," McMillen said. "Communication is the key in organizing rescue efforts and other immediate tasks."
Hurricane Katrina serves an an example with several agencies that responded, but encountered obstacles in their ability to effectively communicate with one another, McMillen said. The equipment could be helpful in the Sikeston area should there be a crisis with the New Madrid fault line, he continued, although it will also be beneficial for smaller emergencies where other agencies assist.
In fact, lessons learned from other emergencies has led to an upgrade in radio systems across the country, moving from the old analog communication systems to the digital "narrow band system." All departments must change to the narrow band system by 2013.
"Ultimately, our department will be required to have this narrow band system," McMillen said, adding that it is expensive, but invaluable in the event of a large emergency. "This grant is a beginning step toward this requirement."