City of Muskegon to Hand Off Unused Radio Equipment to Amateur Emergency Group

Radio equipment that Muskegon’s fire and police departments can no longer use will change hands to an amateur group that volunteers at large emergencies and public events.

Members of the Muskegon County Emergency Communication Services, Inc. (MCECS) are licensed amateur radio operators who help support many emergency groups in and out of the county by positioning themselves around the county, communicating emergency messages when necessary.  They help out at water rescues, training exercises and fires. They also provide ground support at large-scale events, like running races where radio communications may be needed. They also run the Muskegon County Mobile Command Vehicle.

In a letter obtained from the City of Muskegon signed by Muskegon County Emergency Coordinator and one of the heads of MCECS James Duram, states that the group supports Muskegon County Sheriff’s Volunteer Dive team, the American Red Cross of Muskegon and Oceana counties, the county’s hazmat squad, the National Weather Service’s Skywarn Program, Mercy Health, and the Blue Lake Township Fire Department’s search and rescue team, among others. Their website claims they have been vital to rescue of several people.

The Federal Communications Commission has regulated the use of certain radio frequencies for police, fire and other government emergency entities. With stricter regulations, some agencies’ VHF equipment had to be updated. In some cases, unused equipment remains in good shape, but professionals are prohibited from using it for official business or emergencies.

As licensed amateurs and not professionals, MCECS is in fact allowed to use the devices. Since the professional responders couldn’t, the group asked the City of Muskegon if its non-professional responders could use the equipment.

The request made its way to the city commission for a vote through city public works director Mohammed Al-Shatel. When asked by Commissioner Byron Turnquist who would be supervising the handoff, Shatel indicated the city’s radio and telecommunications expert, Darrell Hogston.

The commission voted unanimously to pass the measure, and will work with MCECS to pass along any unused, decommissioned equipment.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst