July 6, 2012 is the last day that fire and rescue departments can apply for FEMA grant assistance to upgrade communications systems to comply with FCC, DHS, FEMA, NFPA, OSHA and SAFECOM standards.
The FCC says you must be narrow band compliant by the end of 2012. DHS says you should have interoperable channels installed in your radios. Both NFPA and OSHA say that your personnel should have hearing protection, and SAFECOM says that all communications equipment should be "standards" based (currently defined as meaning analog or P25 digital).
The good news is that the AFG funding program can pay for helping you comply with these requirements. You have essentially three choices if you decide to apply for a communications grant:
Apply for a grant to meet minimum compliance based on continuation of analog technology which means paying for narrow banding and FCC licensing fees if applicable. Any radios that cannot be narrow banded will have to be replaced or taken out of service. If additional repeaters are required, they can be included, and it wouldn't hurt to ask for headset protection for personnel in noisy vehicles or operating pumps that exceed OSHA noise level standards. Since the request would be relatively small, the chances for approval should be good.
Your second option would be to apply for an individual department upgrade to digital communications - not MotoTRBO, and not NEXEDGE. There is only one approved digital standard and that is P25! Funding for 2012 has been drastically reduced, in particular for rural volunteer fire departments so you want leave out the bells and whistles.
The third option is to apply for a regional grant based on either analog or P25 digital. We don't think this is a good year to apply for a regional grant. The option is open, but not recommended. Regional grants will be closely scrutinized to avoid some of the mistakes of the past several years. If you do decide to go for P25 digital, you need to get the best value for the money spent, and that doesn't mean going for a proprietary centralized trunking system (Click here for more information).
As a vendor, we can help you. We can't prepare your grant application but for those that need budgetary prices on analog equipment, we have prepared a free planning guide which is available at www.info4u.us/afganalogguide.pdf
We have extensive information available for P25 on our Blog site, and we have some recommendations for the best portable and mobile based on features, performance, warranty, size/weight, reliability, and price. The best selection for a P25 portable is the American made KNG T2 series priced at just $1,178. Nothing else even comes close! We also offer the Midland STP portable for $995 which is an outstanding value, but our overall best recommendation for P25 portables is the KNG T2 by Relm Wireless.
The grant submission period closes on July 6th which means you have less than 30 days to get your project completed and submitted. If we can be of service in any way, please give us a call at 205.854.2611. The Falcon Team - At your service!