New radio network for first responders

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First responders in Alberta now have a single, province-wide communication system thanks to a new two-way radio network that took eight years and $438 million to build.

The Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System — or AFRRCS — became available to first responders on July 1, although it was used extensively during the Fort McMurray wildfire.

“The AFRRCS was absolutely crucial for us and all of our partners as we battled the Fort McMurray wildfire,” Brad Grainger, deputy chief of that city’s fire department, said in an Alberta Justice press release.

“The system allowed us to communicate efficiently with 32 different fire departments during the biggest crisis in our region’s history.”

Until now, all police, emergency medical, and fire services in Alberta used their own stand-alone radio systems that generally did not communicate with one another. Creating the new system required building 332 towers (the final four will be completed this summer).

“The AFRRCS system will help participating first responders to fully co-ordinate joint responses to emergency scenes; improve and integrate radio communication among first responders from different agencies; and reduce the cost of radio system infrastructure,” said the press release.

“AFRRCS will provide radio coverage in major urban centres and in the remote locations where public and officer safety are equally critical,” said Marianne Ryan, deputy commissioner of Alberta RCMP.

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