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Fire departments implement FCC mandate

Tuesday was a busy day for local fire departments as many people worked to update radio equipment in compliance with an ordinance from the Federal Communications Commission.

“All of our fire departments are narrowbanding,” said W.A. Neal, Luverne’s assistant fire chief.

According to a government web page from the National Institute of Justice, most public radio safety systems use 25 kHz-wide channels.

A mandate from the FCC requires all agencies using 25 kHz radio systems to change to 12.5 kHz-wide channels by January 1, 2013.

The change from 25 to 12.5 kHz-wide channels will allow for more frequencies to be used to communication.

In turn, this change has caused local fire departments to reprogram equipment, and even buy new equipment in some cases.

“All the pagers had to be reprogrammed, and we’ve had to redo repeater sites,” Neal said. While some radios feature support for the narrowband requirements, others have had to be replaced.

“We had five mobile radios at a cost of $500 each that we had to take out of service here in Luverne,” Neal said. “The county Homeland Security and EMA Office purchased several radios and distributed them to offset the cost.”

Neal also said that the County EMA and County Fire Association are still working to provide updated equipment for departments around the county.