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Radio upgrades boosted by $1M grant

Federal money will help speed improvements to equipment used by first responders.

September 16, 2013

Burbank Water and Power received a $1-million federal grant to upgrade the city's radio system, which officials said will help Burbank firefighters and police officers better communicate during natural disasters and emergencies.

The system improvements, which the utility had originally planned to fund internally over several years, are now slated for completion by February 2014 because of the grant.

"Being able to get grant funding to support the upgrades not only saves us money internally, but also allows us to do the whole thing a little faster," said Gregory Simay, assistant general manager for the utility, which oversees capital improvements and maintenance for the city's radio system.

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The grant was issued by the Urban Areas Security Initiative and will elevate Burbank's radio system to meet the latest interoperability standards — something officials said is important given that the vendor support provided for the city's current system is slated to expire late next year.

As more agencies upgrade to a standardized system, Burbank will be able to provide wider coverage to first responders.

"Over time, the number of agencies we can communicate with will only grow," Simay said. "In an emergency situation where you need several different first responder agencies cooperating, it makes it much easier using radio communications to keep everybody informed and aware."

Starting this month, utility workers will replace or reprogram various pieces of radio equipment as part of the upgrades.

The city will front the money for the improvements and get reimbursed within 60 days of the project's completion, city officials said.

Officials expect the system will be used for nine years, according to a city report.

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alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

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