Six-figure federal grant to largely fund radio upgrades for local firefighters

AUG. 16– The Hardin County Fire Department has received a federal “Assistance to Firefighters Grant” for $325,546 from the Department of Homeland Security.

Under the grant requirements, the local department is to contribute 10 percent – or $32,554. According to county Fire Chief Melvin Martin, the entire combined total of $358,100 will be used for a complete overhaul of the department’s communications equipment.

“Communications is a vital link in everything we do – if we don’t have solid, effective communications we can’t do our jobs. It’s a vital link between us and 911 dispatchers, our response, between each other, and ensuring public safety,” Martin said.

The grant award says the purpose of the Assistance to Firefighters program is to “protect the health and safety of the public and firefighting personnel against fire and fire-related hazards.”

In the grant, HCFD is named as the host department for handling the application process and administration of the grant, but the communications project will also benefit the Savannah, Saltillo and Crump fire departments.


Martin explained that HCFD applied for the grant to replace the current analog radio system, which has been in place since the 1980s.

“The goal is to go to an all-digital system, which we expect will give better coverage and clearer communications, as well as options for data transmission, texting, and automatic vehicle location,” Martin said.

“I don’t know what all features we’ll actually use, but those are some of the benefits. More importantly, even in areas where you don’t get cell service, we’ll be able to communicate – and that will be a big benefit.”

The upgraded communication equipment will include base radio stations at each department, mobile radios in each vehicle, and portable radios to be carried by individual firefighters to communicate clearly with each other and the wider system network.

Under the grant proposal, HCFD is to receive 22 base radios, 90 mobile radios, and 101 portable radios, at a total cost of $301,100.

The Savannah Fire Department will receive two base radios, five mobile radios, and 10 portables at a total cost of $23,500.

The Saltillo Fire Department will receive one base radio, four mobile radios, and eight portables, at a total cost of $15,800.

The Crump Fire Department will receive one base radio, three mobile radios, and six portables, for a total cost of $13,600.

Martin said that under the grant, the county has one year to implement the project, and he expects the project will be completed well within that timeline. 

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