Kirksville’s Fire Department is leading the charge to ensure that public safety employees have up-to-date radio equipment.  

The city was mandated to purchase new replacement radios in 2012 to comply with federal requirements. Deputy Fire Chief Jon Cook said at a budget planning meeting Monday that without regular maintenance, many pieces of equipment have developed problems since then. 

Over the last year, employees of the Kirksville Fire Department have conducted a dedicated inventory of the city’s radio equipment and identified ways to improve the current system. 

According to a staff report prepared by Cook and firefighter Cameron East, the top priorities are to: 

-Prioritize replacement of all public-safety portable radios that are no longer supported

-Improve fixed radio system monitoring and maintenance, and improve

redundancy and coverage

-Increase in-house maintenance and programming capability

-Reduce the number of unique radio models and assign to users by need

-Maintain an accurate inventory of all radio equipment

-Expand public safety by expanding access to the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network

Cook said the most important change is that all radio equipment will now be managed under one roof by the Fire Department. 

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to do this all on our own,” Cook said. “We solicited input from every department that uses radios, and we’ll continue to do that every year to make sure that the equipment they’re utilizing really does meet their needs.” 

Cook said the department now has a monitoring system in place that will ensure equipment is updated and receives needed maintenance.  

High priority for replacement are the Fire Department and Police Department’s collective 59 radios, all of which are Motorola devices of a model the company no longer manufacturers or supports. This will make obtaining replacement parts increasingly economically infeasible. 

“For the Police Department and Fire Department, a quality radio that works is critical,” Cook said. “For us, because of the environments we operate in, for the police because they do a lot of things on their own and they need to have that access to help when they need it.” 

Cook said the Fire Department plans to improve its capacity to maintain and update radios in-house to avoid paying for those services. He said the city will be able to switch over to using just a few radio vendors and simplify their maintenance needs. 

Cook also proposed that the Fire and Police departments each obtain radios that could access Missouri’s statewide radio system. The Missouri Department of Public Safety maintains a statewide radio system, the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network, which provides radio communications that can reach the whole state. The network is intended to provide reliable communications to statewide agencies like the Missouri State Highway Patrol and allow local agencies to connect to other local, state, regional and federal agencies if needed. 

Cook said providing Kirksville’s fire and police chiefs with access to the network could ensure they can quickly connect to the rest of the state in an emergency. 

City Manager Mari Macomber said she believes it is important for the city to stay up to date with radio communications. 

“To me, that is another safety tool for the employees,” Macomber said.