Brewer proposes $26 million bill to help rural Nebraska fire departments update radios

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — When it comes to responding to emergency calls in rural areas, communication is key.

In Nebraska, only 27 of the over 400 rural fire departments and ambulance services have radios that can connect to the Statewide Radio System.

“Proper communication is oftentimes going to make or break the success or failure of a call,” said Lt. Aaron Hofeling with Eagle Fire & Rescue. “If we don’t have our departments, our trucks, our personnel outfitted for the appropriate communications, we are just setting ourselves up for failure.”

That is why Sen. Tom Brewer is sponsoring Legislative Bill 511. It would allocate $26 million to address the shortage of portable radios.

Rural departments like Eagle’s are in support of the measure.

“This bill would allow the upgrade of two portable radios and two truck radios to basically work off the Nebraska State Radio System,” Hofeling said.

According to a legislative fiscal note, the total expense per department for this equipment is estimated at $52,000.

Eagle Fire & Rescue said it has radios that are 18 years old and were donated by a law enforcement agency.

The department said many of these radios are outdated and do not have access to the Statewide Radio System.

Hofeling said that during last year’s wildfires, one of the main problems was radio communications.

“Everybody is coming from different parts of the state, and everybody works on different frequencies,” Hofeling said.

LB 511 was discussed last week at the Appropriations Committee. No one spoke in opposition.

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