After three years worth of saving on the part of both the town and county of Stettler, the Stettler Regional Fire Department is poised to transition to a new radio system.
With funding secure, the Stettler fire department will be transitioning to the Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System (AFRRCS).
AFRRCS is a province wide digital radio network provided by the Alberta Government for first responders of all types that has been in service since July of 2016.
According to fire Chief Mark Dennis, provincial RCMP and EMS services are already on the system and that connecting to it themselves will allow a level of interoperability between agencies that they don’t currently have with the legacy communications system.
“A number of fire departments are already on AFRRCS,” said Dennis.
“We’re all slowly migrating over to this.”
The project does come with significant cost though.
All told, the project will be costing an estimated $670,000; however, Dennis highlights that this switch is a long-range decision.
“The decisions we make today will likely go another 20 to 25 years,” said Dennis.
Dennis noted that the fire department’s legacy radio system was brought into service in 1999 and, though it has served the department well, is nearing the end of its service life due to repair “becoming a bit of a problem” because of a lack of parts for the older equipment.
“It’s mission critical equipment,” said Dennis.
Dennis stressed that the legacy, analogue, radio system will continue in operation as a redundancy as long as they can keep it maintained.
Part of the reason for the high cost of the project is the provincial government specifications of equipment to be used with the radio network.
According to the Town of Stettler council request for decision presented to them at the Jan. 12, 2022, council meeting, “only the radios on the permitted radio list” are allowed on the network.
Dennis did put the project out for tender through the provincial purchasing website and received two bids for the project, both from companies in Red Deer.
At Dennis’s recommendation, both county and town council chose Bearcom (formerly Communications Group) to supply the equipment and training on the new equipment as the other bid did not meet the project’s technical requirements.
Between installation, set up and training on the new equipment, Dennis anticipates the new system to be operational possibly by July, though he suggest there are still “some unknowns with the digital system” which could cause that to change.