The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have awarded a substantial grant to the Osceola Fire Department for necessary updates to the radio communications equipment. Chief Byron Jimmerson and Jeremy Rounds of the Southern Iowa Council of Governments (SICOG) worked together to write the grant proposal.
The FEMA grant provides $133,857 in federal funding with the requirement of a 5% matching contribution of $6,692 from the city of Osceola. With this generous award, the Osceola Volunteer Fire Department will be able to upgrade their dispatch system, all truck radios, and all handheld radio units to comply with Iowa’s new communication system. The Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System (ISICS) is Iowa’s statewide standard digital communications network that connects public safety agencies, schools, utility workers, and first responders across the state.
“The digital mobile radio (DMR) system we currently use was perfect for us when we acquired it ten years ago,” said Chief Jimmerson. “But technology moves fast and the DMR strands us on a communications island of Clarke and Decatur counties. These upgrades will allow us fast and efficient connection to emergency agencies across the state.”
With use of the 700 MHz public safety spectrum, the new radio system will be able to connect with Iowa State Patrol and other emergency agencies across Iowa with the click of a button. This will be exceptionally important for significant incidents, such as the snowstorm that shut down I35 and stranded motorists at Lakeside Casino. The DMR system created a delay in relaying shelter information to the Iowa State Patrol, but the new technology available through the communications system will keep that from happening in the future.
The Clarke County Emergency Management Agency will also benefit from Chief Jimmerson’s hard work. While applying for the FEMA grant for the fire department’s communications system, he also sent a grant proposal to the Schildberg Foundation on behalf of the Fire Department and EMA. The Schildberg Foundation was set up by E.F. and Sylvia Schildberg, founders of Schildberg Construction based in Greenfield, Iowa. With the $6,000 grant awarded by the Foundation, the Clarke County EMA was able to purchase a power cot for the ambulance and other safety equipment like reflective jackets or protective jumpsuits for the Fire Department volunteer Ambulance. The Schildberg Foundation also awarded a $3,000 grant to upgrade radio equipment for the ISICS in the EMA truck providing further communication assets to EMA and Incident Commanders on larger multi agency incidents.
“Chief Jimmerson is a key factor in our ability to maintain such an effective fire department and emergency management team,” said Ty Wheeler, City Administrator for Osceola. “The effort he puts into making sure we are ready and equipped to face every emergency goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
The Osceola Fire Department will also be receiving a supplemental Assistance to Firefighters Grant through the CARES Act for $7,171.62 with a local share of $358.58. This is for powered air purifying respirators, gloves, gowns, n95 masks, and other PPE for COVID-19 response by the brave men and women who act as first responders in Osceola and surrounding communities in Clarke County
“There are multiple efforts in play at any given time to improve upon what we have in Osceola and Clarke County,” said Byron Jimmerson, Osceola Fire Chief and Clarke County Emergency Management Coordinator. “some of these opportunities require a lot of leg work including data collection and research of products. Multiple folks are involved in these efforts and without this team we would not be able to accomplish neatly what we have.”