$4M in upgrades to help keep U.S., Canadian first responders in touch
Some new equipment will be tested out Wednesday, which should help local first responders stay in closer contact with their U.S. counterparts during future emergencies and cross-border incidents.
The Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management in Michigan's Wayne County received a $4-million grant which has been used to boost its collaboration with neighbouring agencies, including a handful in Canada.
Those funds have allowed for:
- An upgrade to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, so that radio coverage will now extend through the tunnel. Up until now, emergency responders had no radio coverage inside it.
- An upgrade to a communications tower in Ecorse, Mich., which will extend local radio coverage as well as on the Canadian side of the Detroit River.
- Additional installation of Gateway equipment, which allows authorities to share information quickly in emergency situations.
- The purchase of handheld radios which all partner agencies can use.
Phillip Berthiaume, the emergency management co-ordinator for Essex County, said that Wednesday's tests are to ensure that everything that has been put in place is functioning as expected.
"It's just the confirmation that the equipment has been distributed, that it is both operational [and] it covers the area that the project wanted it to cover and that we have initially staff trained on both sides of the border to operate the equipment," he told CBC News in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Berthiaume estimated that 50 to 60 people will be involved in Wednesday's tests on the two sides of the border. He estimated those tests will take about two hours to complete.
With the equipment and upgrades installed, Berthiaume said a new chapter begins.
"With the confirmation exercise tomorrow begins the real hands-on work at the local and agency level on how we access the equipment, how we use it and who may use it," he said.
Berthiaume said that involves developing all relevant training and operating for this equipment.
He said many jurisdictions in other parts of Canada and the U.S. will be closely watching what is happening in Michigan and Ontario.
"The technology is not unique, the equipment is not unique, but its use and its shared use across the international border, we are the exception, as opposed to the rule," said Berthiaume.