Homeland Security

Funding for Radio Communications and Interoperability

Proposal

The Laredo Fire Department responds to emergencies not only in the City of Laredo, but also in the County of Webb. As such, there is a dire need to increase the radio communication coverage in certain rural areas of the county.

The ability to operate our radios is essential to the safe and effective response to the different emergency calls that we make on a daily basis. In addition to this, there is a need to communicate in a seamless manner with other responding agencies during a multi-agency response whether in our community or surrounding areas.

Background

Laredo, Texas is located on the US/Mexico border in Webb County. The City’s jurisdictional boundaries consist of 83.44 square miles with 40% of this land area being utilized for residential purposes. An additional 43% is used for commercial, industrial, or institutional purposes according the Laredo Development Foundation. The Laredo Fire Department is the primary provider of Mutual Aid to the surrounding counties of Zapata, Jim Hogg, La Salle and Webb counties.

Radio coverage is inadequate when responding in rural areas, resulting in no communication operability for responding units. Over 40% of our primary response area falls into the category of inadequate coverage, or no communications operability for our first responders.

The problem is more acute in the northeastern part of the County between Interstate Highway 35 and State Highway 44 as well as between State Highway 359 and Farm-to-Market Road 649 located in the southeastern part of the County. These areas include populated rural towns such as Mirando City, Oilton, and Bruni.

 

In many instances, our dispatch center has attempted to communicate with our units and have failed to do so because of the lack of radio coverage. There are documented cases where Laredo fire crews requested assistance while fighting wild land fires in the County and were unable to communicate, endangering the lives of firefighters, because of this problem.

 

To illustrate the Laredo Fire Department’s activity in rural area, consider the following trends. In 2008, Laredo Fire responded to a total of 105 wild land fires, 305 in 2009 and as of August 2010 the number skyrocketed to 293. If this trend continues, we expect to see the busiest wild land fire season in recorded department history.

 

The danger is also evident when Webb County Sheriff’s Deputies attempt to relay directions to our units when responding to medical emergencies. The information is transmitted from the deputies in the field to their dispatcher, who in turn conveys it to our dispatchers who then attempt to contact our units via radio. This process adds minutes to a situation where seconds count.

 

Furthermore, as the nation’s largest in-land port, our department is the primary Fire and EMS responder to motor vehicle accidents on our highways and roads. The daily commercial traffic count on our international bridges exceeds 15,000 trailers laden with goods, with a significant portion of these being hazardous materials.

 

Interoperability with other agencies is provided via radio gateways that have been applied during emergencies. This is only successful where we have proper overlapping coverage.

 

The National Preparedness Guidelines require jurisdictions to work together at all levels of government. Our request addresses these national priorities: Expand Regional Collaboration; Implement NIMS and the National Response Plan; and Strengthen Interoperable and Operable Communications and enhance our Mobile Command Unit (MCU) Capabilities.  The Interoperable Communications Equipment requested in this grant is a major equipment item necessary for each Homeland Security Mission Area.

Contact

Steve Landin
Fire Chief
616 E. Del Mar Blvd.
Laredo, TX 78045
Phone: (956) 718-6020
Fax: (956) 728-7119
Email: slandin@ci.laredo.tx.us